Deep, deep sabermetrics
The M’s have a bad record in games they score fewer than five runs. This is because the average AL team, in an average game, scores just under five runs (right now, it’s 4.48, but it’s early in the season… it’ll perk up).
If you score fewer than that in any given game and you have average pitching and defense, you’re likely to lose. You won’t lose every game, because sometimes the other guy scores three, or two, or one, but in general, you’re going to lose.
I know, shocking, isn’t it?
Here’s a 2005 Studeman article, “Runs Per Game” that helps illustrate this, and includes this handy table of runs, team win percentage, and how much that last run increased their chances
RS Win% Diff 0 .000 1 .077 .077 2 .208 .131 3 .339 .131 4 .471 .132 5 .593 .122 6 .686 .092 ...
Going from no runs to one run is good, but it’s not nearly as good as runs 2-5, or even six. The importance of piling on only really goes down at run 8.
So here’s the M’s so far
Or, as Studeman put it,
For instance, if your league averaged five runs a game, and your team scored exactly five runs in every game, it would typically have a .600 winning percentage instead of .500, even though it had scored the average number of runs. That is the power of looking at distributions instead of averages.
Yup. Of course, as I ranted recently, you can’t build a consistent offense like that. Power-and-walk teams slump, contact-and-steal teams slump. All offenses are inconsistent.
But to return to the meandering point — if a team only scores four runs consistently with average pitching, you can expect them to win only about 45% of their games (and that’s me taking a guess looking at the win percentages).
Moreover, though, looking at Studeman’s research, and others, the thing that really sticks out is not that the fourth or the fifth run is particularly important — it’s that scoring that next run is always important. If you’ve got an anemic offense, scraping out that extra run a game however you can do it, be that player upgrades, an improved lineup, or whatever you want, makes a huge difference in how often your team will win. You don’t have to go to being an offensive powerhouse.
Hopefully the M’s can juggle Clement and the rest of the lineup and start winning games with the bats.