In the eyes of many Dodgers fans, the Dodgers stumbled their way into September. In this narrative, the 2018 Dodgers lucked their way into a tie for first into game 163, and the Dodgers newfound ace mowed down the superior Rockies, giving the Dodgers an “aw, shucks we made it” 6th consecutive NL west title.
While some of that narrative may be accurate, a deeper look shows that it may be just a bad coat of paint. Let’s take a look at the Dodgers 2018 record, along with their Pythagorean W/L record.
OK, here’s a little exposition. “Pythagorean W/L record” or “Pythagorean Expectation” is a sports formula originally devised by the father of modern statistics, Bill James.
Broken down into the simplest terms, it estimates the amount of games a team “should have” won based on the number of runs scored, and the number of runs allowed. It’s a slightly more complicated expansion on assigning some meaning to a team’s run differential.
If you look at the Dodgers record (92-71) compared to the P/W/L, it’s a 10 game difference. That’s a pronounced difference. They outscored their opponents by 194 runs, good for tops in the NL, and third in all of baseball (behind Boston and Houston.)
It says the Dodgers were a better team than their record indicates. An obvious explanation for this, (especially for Dodger fans who watched most of the 2018 season,) was the Dodgers tendency to have offensive explosions in some games. In other games, they had a tendency not to score any runs at all. This could not have been more pronounced than in their FIRST series against the Giants. In that series they scored 14 runs, allowed only 2, yet split the series.
The Pythagorean win/loss also tells a story when you look at the Rockies.
The Rockies finished with the same 162 record as the Dodgers. Their P/W/L says they were inferior to the Dodgers P/W/L by 17 games, though. They outscored their opponents by only 35 runs.
- Dodgers 2018 Run Differential: 194 runs
- Rockies 2018 Run Differential: 35 runs
Whether you like advanced analytics is irrelevant when you look at that kind of disparity. The Dodgers, at least on paper, were a FAR superior team than their record shows, and clearly a far superior team than the Colorado Rockies.
Comparing statistics to themselves can always paint a picture with a control in place. The 2017 Dodgers, one of the best Dodger teams (perhaps) of all time had a slightly closer P/W/L compared to their record, and even they underperformed compared to it by 2 games. 2 games at least falls closer into a margin of error.
The Effect On The 2019 Dodgers
The Dodgers lost Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from their roster of players who played regularly (Kyle Farmer we hardly knew ye, and we miss you.)
They’ve since added A.J. Pollock. They will almost certainly be giving far more ample playing time to Alex Verdugo and possibly Andrew Toles. From a simply eye ball comparison, it appears the Dodgers will be missing some home run power based on that, but not by a whole lot.
A.J. Pollock’s offensive ability is certainly within the comparative margin of error next to Matt Kemp. He’s also way better in the outfield. Alex Verdugo isn’t a known quantity yet, but his hype and stature as a prospect certainly points to a high ceiling. The addition of a healthy Corey Seager brings the Dodgers closer to the gap of losing Puig/Kemp. Losing Alex Wood hurts, but losing his performance in the 2nd half of 2018 hurts less.
Based on that, the 2019 Dodgers look comparable their 2018 team who should have won 100 games.
Baseball has become (or maybe always was) a game of aggregate contributions. The Dodgers front office knows this, and they’ve always found ways to plug in contributions from the players they’ve signed or acquired. Still, all of this is predicated on the idea that the results of wins and losses are based on the number of runs scored and allowed in 162 games. The Dodgers could still outscore their opponents by almost 200 runs and barely win 90 games. As math has proven time and time again though, this isn’t likely.
The 2019 Dodgers are better than many Dodger fans are considering them to be.
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