Math Sucks

Posted on October 12th, by John Rhadigan in All, Baseball, Texas Rangers. No Comments

Damnit they told me there would be no math in this job. So when the Bill James Pythagorean Theorem was brought to my attention I scoffed. In part because I had enough trouble with the work of ole’ Pythagoras in geometry class and in part because I did not want to believe that the theory could be applied to a Rangers team that was having so much fun and winning so many games.

It is actually a hybrid of the Pythagorean Theorem which asserts that runs scored vs runs allowed is a better indicator of a team’s future performance than actual winning percentage. This results in a formula which is referred to as the Pythagorean Winning Percentage.

The Blue Jays knocked the Rangers out for the second consecutive season.

Call me old school, oh hell call me old if you want, but I don’t want all the numbers and the analytics to be right. I want to be able to look at a guy and know if he passes the eye ball test. I want scouts to scout and managers to make decisions with their gut.  But the truth is ole Bill James may have gotten  this right as it relates to the Rangers.

The most amazing stat of the year was when Texas was 30 games over .500 and had a negative run differential. It was then that the mathematicians and the sabrematricians began to squawk about Pythagoras. In the end, Texas scored 23 more runs than the opponents at home but scored 27 less than the opponent on the road. That means the overall run differential was -4.0. By contrast the Blue Jays had a run differential of +108. The Cubs were the best in baseball with a +225.

Rangers’ Manager Jeff Banister is no stranger to analytics, but like me he scoffs at this application of the Pythagorean Theorem, “Look at the numbers and how we played all year long, the comeback wins, the one run wins, that is not luck.”  Banny continued, “I’ll argue with anybody that wants to say it’s luck. It’s a case where they continue to play.  They’re very talented. And so I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The fact that Banny agrees with me is heartening, still the Rangers did nothing to disprove the theory. As they prepare for next year they will not do much different. They will be a good team again. Their top three pitchers are back, that is Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez. Colby Lewis is a free agent but wants to come back and most likely will. Beltre, Andrus, Odor, Lucroy, Choo and Mazara will form the foundation of a good offense. The signing of Ian Desmond could loom large for a team wants to be strong up the middle, so with Lucroy at catcher, Elvis and Rougie as the keystone combination, all they need is a good center fielder to accomplish that goal.

Especially if they are a good team, I hope they spend 2017 running up the score. Build that run differential up. While that won’t allow them to disprove any theories, it might allow us to keep math out of the equation.

John Rhadigan

John Rhadigan has called Texas home for nearly 24 years, having spent 11 years at NBC 5 as a sports reporter/anchor and 12 years as an anchor at Fox Sports SW. Rhadigan is the recipient of more than a dozen Emmy Awards for sports reporting and anchoring.

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