The Meaning Of One Run Losses

Dave · August 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Losing three games in a row by a single run each time really sucks. Losing on Friday night because two outfielders ran into each other sucked. Losing last night because Chone Figgins couldn’t catch a fly ball and then couldn’t get a bunt down sucked. And losing today because Kevin Millwood gave up a home run pitching in weather that baseball was not meant to be played in sucked.

Inevitably, someone is going to say or write something tomorrow about how losing these games shows that this team just isn’t quite ready for prime time. That they fattened up on the weak part of the AL Central, but when it came to playing with the big boys, they just didn’t have that kind of winning mentality that you need to overcome adversity. That they’re too young to win, and these are the kinds of games they’ll learn how to hang onto when they’re older.

It’s all going to be BS, and if you want proof, just look at the records of MLB teams in one run games this year. The two teams that met in the World Series last year are 13-21 (STL) and 16-16 (TEX) in one run games this year. Presumably, these two teams are veteran enough to know how to win and all that jazz, but in close games, they’ve lost more than they’ve won. The defending World Champions actually have the fourth worst record in one run games in all of baseball, coming in just ahead of the Blue Jays, the Cubs, and the Astros.

You know who’s been really good in one run games? The Orioles, who are 23-6, and not exactly a club loaded with veterans who have been through the wars. You know who else has been really good in one run games? The Indians (15-8), who are a legitimately bad baseball team and dumped their older players as the season went along.

The Yankees are one of the most veteran teams anyone has ever seen, as they have the oldest group of hitters and the second oldest group of pitchers in the AL. They are 15-18 in one run games.

Think a progressive manager makes a huge difference, and lets you squeeze out wins that an old school guy does not? Well, the Rays are 18-21 in one run games despite having Joe Maddon at the helm, so they don’t really support that theory very well.

The reality is that the results of one run games are mostly random, with the deciding factors often being something like two outfielders running into each other and knocking the ball loose so the winning run can score from second base. Okay, so that specific situation doesn’t happen all that often, but the idea is that things mostly out of a team’s control are often crucial factors in picking the winners of games decided by a single run.

The Mariners got swept this weekend. That sucks. The Mariners went to Chicago, threw three pitchers not named Felix Hernandez, and were outscored by a total of three runs in three days. That’s pretty good.


20 Responses to “The Meaning Of One Run Losses”

  1. Tim B. on August 26th, 2012 8:53 pm

    The Mariners offense, on the road, is third highest in runs produced per game. The road ERA for Mariners pitching is fourth lowest…basically, Safeco masks a decent offense and a pitching rotation that really isn’t all that great, apart from Felix, and Vargas, who is a #3 starter. But this young team will only improve next year, and pitching help is on the way.

  2. Westside guy on August 26th, 2012 10:03 pm

    The White Sox are significantly more “veteran” than the Mariners, yet in the first two games it seemed like they were falling all over themselves to give the M’s extra chances to win. While the Mariners did return the favor, it’d be hard to reconcile those Sox screw-ups with the narrative of “kids don’t know how to win while veterans do”.

  3. Transient Gadfly on August 26th, 2012 10:24 pm

    I dunno–I may be overestimating sportswriters in general, but I don’t know how you could have watched that series and come away with any other opinion than the fact that sometimes the breaks just don’t go your way.

    We’ll see what gets written come Monday, I suppose.

  4. The_Waco_Kid on August 26th, 2012 11:59 pm

    Thanks, Dave. Valid points and a good pep talk.

  5. maqman on August 27th, 2012 2:04 am

    Geez Dave you sound like you are beginning to like this team. I agree one run games inherently have a higher fluke factor.

  6. Gibbo on August 27th, 2012 3:48 am

    Yep agreed with the last poster regrading luck playing a part in 1 run games, but great to see us going into many series now and thinking hey we can win this.

    Out of interest what is the Mariners record in 1 run ball games this year?

  7. djw on August 27th, 2012 6:08 am

    a pitching rotation that really isn’t all that great, apart from Felix, and Vargas, who is a #3 starter.

    Millwood has been considerably better than Vargas this year.

  8. markatoolio on August 27th, 2012 6:19 am

    Would it have been three one run games if the White Sox had a chance to play three extra innings over the course of the three games?

  9. stevemotivateir on August 27th, 2012 7:22 am

    As tough as it is to see losses like these, I’m still happy to be seeing more competitive baseball.

  10. Paul B on August 27th, 2012 7:52 am

    Millwood has been considerably better than Vargas this year.

    How do you figure?

    Millwood is replacement level, Vargas has been over 2 WAR.

  11. Paul B on August 27th, 2012 7:54 am

    Out of interest what is the Mariners record in 1 run ball games this year?


  12. thurston24 on August 27th, 2012 8:06 am

    While I’ll agree with Dave on this, I do think that the least game should have been won but Wedge screwed up. Millwood was obviously struggling and people were ready in the pen. There was a slight rain delay and Wedge decided to leave Millwood in and the next batter hit the game wining home run. The non move cost the game.

  13. marcus_andrews on August 27th, 2012 8:09 am

    Fangraphs has Millwood at 2.3 WAR and Vargas at 0.9 so you seem to have it backwards. Is BRef the opposite for them?

  14. MMonkman on August 27th, 2012 9:19 am

    Thanks for this tidy summary on the randomness inherent in one run games. In particular, I appreciate the insight that one shouldn’t read too much into it — there is no narrative.
    But about the White Sox and/or US Cellular Field? Is that distorted perceptions, or is there really a story there?

  15. make_dave_proud on August 27th, 2012 9:26 am

    Dave is exactly right, although I think there could be *some* extrapolation of value in exploring the results of one-run games. A team constructed around pitching and defense should play lower-scoring games than an offense-heavy, defensively-deficient lineup. A game decided by 9-8 is different than a game decided by 2-1. Seems worth exploring the ratios of the results in one-run games against defensive and offensive statistical measures.

  16. kenshabby on August 27th, 2012 10:56 am

    Always look on the bright side of sweeps… *whistles*

  17. dennismk on August 27th, 2012 11:28 am

    Dave, thanks for the perspective…not a lot of news coverage from the online Seattle papers, incidentally.

    Question: I think there are three teams that are the Mariners’s worst case opponents: White Sox, Orioles and As…is this supported by the facts? It seems that the first two are always the teams that cause the Ms to trip up and stagger…or twist the knife after it’s in.

  18. Westside guy on August 27th, 2012 11:32 am

    …not a lot of news coverage from the online Seattle papers, incidentally.

    I fully expect a reaction piece to be written and posted by a certain mainstream media member within the next two days. It’s been a somewhat regular pattern.

  19. Paul B on August 27th, 2012 12:36 pm

    Fangraphs has Millwood at 2.3 WAR and Vargas at 0.9 so you seem to have it backwards. Is BRef the opposite for them?

    B-Ref has Millwood at zero WAR and Vargas at 2.3 WAR.

    Really odd that Fangraphs is roughly the opposite, especially since the two of them have almost identical xFIP this year.

  20. PackBob on August 27th, 2012 3:21 pm

    How unfair, Dave, to use actual baseball results and numbers to back up your stance.

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