A Quick Note On Wins Versus The Central
When you’re looking at any kind of statistic, the context always matters. It’s why we talk about things like park effects, changing league norms, and number of opportunities where a player had the platoon advantage. The environment around you has an impact on your results, and when you’re trying to use results to project future performance, you have to account for those variables.
So, when the Mariners go 25-13 since the all-star break, it’s necessary to point out that those 38 games include seven wins against the Royals and three wins each against the Twins and Indians. Since the All-Star break, the Mariners are 13-1 against the AL Central, and 12-12 against the AL West/East. There’s no question that the team’s recent winning streaks have been influenced by the amount of games they’ve played against bad AL Central teams.
But, adjusting for context doesn’t mean you just throw out the positive results against weaker opponents. After all, everyone gets to play the AL Central at different times of the year, and not everyone goes 13-1 against them over a month’s worth of baseball. So, in the interest of putting these recent victories in their proper context, here is each AL team’s record against AL Central opponents this year:
New York: 17-15
Tampa Bay: 13-17
Kansas City: 20-24
It should not be surprising that the Tigers have fared well against the Central, as they get the most games against their division rivals and — most importantly — they don’t have to play themselves. While KC, Minnesota, and Cleveland’s match-ups include games against Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder, the Tigers don’t have to play intra-squad games and instead get to beat up on the weaker vessels.
But, notice that even with that advantage, no team has performed better against the AL Central than the Mariners. The Mariners are 10 games over .500 against that division – the Rangers, Yankees, White Sox, and A’s are a combined 11 games over .500 against the Central. The Rays are four games under .500 against the Central. The Angels are a game under .500 against the Central.
Put simply, the Mariners just beat the brains out of three teams that are not good baseball teams, but no other AL team has exploited those three to the same effect. Even if we just limit the records to vs CLE/MIN/KC, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Every team in the playoff race (and no, I don’t count the Mariners among those teams) in the AL has a winning record against MIN/CLE/KC, but no team is even close to the Mariners mark against them.
So, yeah, the quality of competition lately hasn’t been very good. But, no, the way in which the Mariners just ran through the weaklings of the American League is not normal. And a big part of being a legitimately good team is beating legitimately bad teams.
Remember how we said the Mariners are 13-1 against these three clubs since the All-Star break and 12-12 against everyone else? Well, in this case, everyone else is Tampa Bay (six games), New York (six games), Texas (three games), Anaheim (three games), Baltimore (three games), and Toronto (three games). In other words, the Mariners held their own against five of the better teams in the American League and (and one mediocre team), and then destroyed the bad teams they played.
That’s exactly the Yankees do most every year. Last year, when they 97-65 and won the AL East, they went 25-27 against the other four 90 win teams in the AL (TB, BOS, DET, and TEX) and 72-38 against everyone else.
The reality is that no one really runs over other good teams. Whenever you see a team on a prolonged winning streak, odds are really good that there were some bad opponents involved. Winning records are produced by holding your own against quality competition and then beating up on inferior clubs. And that’s exactly what the Mariners have done since the All-Star break.