Baltimore Orioles Are Scoffing at the Pythagorean Theorem

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the better stories in 2012. It’s crazy to think that we are halfway through August and the Orioles would be apart of the MLB Playoffs, earning a wild card spot with their 63-53 record. Outside of of Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, they really don’t have a hitter one would consider to be elite or even very good. JJ Hardy is the only other player that has a fWAR over one and he is at 1.1. And outside of Jason Hammel – who is hurt – the Orioles don’t even have a very good starting staff. Wei-Yin Chen is the staff’s ace right now, even though he has a pedestrain 4.09 FIP.

But as the age old saying goes: It’s better to be lucky than good. The 2012 Orioles are living proof that luck sometimes triumphs over talent.

Now, one may claim that I am crazy to say a team is lucky when they are ten games over the .500 mark, which is a fair point. However, the Orioles have one of the worst run differentials not only of current playoff teams, but of all the teams in Major League Baseball. The O’s are sporting a Pythagorean record of 54-62, a full nine games better than what their actual record is. And if you’re old – like my father is – and don’t understand what Pythagorean record is, it’s basically a formally that was created to determine how many games a team should win based on their run differential.

Bill James, the godfather of sabermetrics, is the one who created the statistic. The following formula is from Wikipedia. It’s pretty simple, really.

\mathrm{Win} = \frac{\text{runs scored}^2}{\text{runs scored}^2 + \text{runs allowed}^2} = \frac{1}{1+(\text{runs allowed}/\text{runs scored})^2}

Entering today, the Orioles have scored 488 runs while allowing 531. That differential is fourth worst in the American League and is 21st in all of baseball. Needless to say, the Orioles aren’t winning games because they are better than the teams they are facing. So how are they winning games? One word. Bullpen.

The Baltimore Orioles have six relievers that have an ERA better than 3.50. Even their worst reliever, Kevin Gregg, has a respectable 4.14 ERA. What does the Orioles excellent bullpen do for them? Well, the Orioles have an astounding 22-6 record in one-run games and are 12-2 in extra innings. Those two marks are easily the best in baseball. This goes to show how important a good bullpen matters, but it’s also two things that even out over the course of the season. The Orioles are steering too close to the sun right now, eventually they are going to get burned.

Having said all that, if the Orioles end up making the playoffs over perennial powerhouses with their run differential the way it is, I will be utterly shocked.

But as The Rock would say: you can take your pythagorean record, shine it up real nice, turn that (you know) sideways and stick it straight up… well you get the picture.

Bryan is a featured writer for Rant Sports. Although he concentrates mostly on the game of baseball, you can find him covering things all over the Rant Sports Network.

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