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# Another way to show just how improbable this season is.

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 08:33 PM

We had some discussion on the main page about whether the Cubs are doing something really implausible by posting a 0.391 winning percentage.  This follows from a couple of summaries of Cub peripheral statistics suggesting that they should be a 0.530 team or better.

Here is the important number: 0.027.  That's the Cubs' "net" OPS: the offense has an OPS of 0.707 and the Cubs pitching + fielding has allowed an OPS of 0.680.  (In a brain cramp, I wrote that this was 0.037: whoops, took the kid to the zoo earlier and the neurons still were not working.)

Let's say that the Cubs ended the season with a net OPS of 0.027.  How should they do?  Below are the net OPS of all MLB teams from 1962 - 2012:

That's 1338 teams, showing a very tight correlation between the OPS Garnered minus OPS Allowed and winning percentage.  (Net OPS correlates tightly with runs scored / allowed, and run differential correlates tightly with winning, so this shouldn't be a surprise.)  Basically, for every 0.01 a team increases it's Net OPS, you expect 2.14 wins.

So, that means that the Cubs should be on pace to win 87 of 162 games: and with luck, you can make the playoffs with 87 wins.  However, the Cubs winning percentage of 0.391 would give them only 63 wins: a whopping 23 below expectations!

But, you say, OPS is only part of winning.  (Or, you say, it's a made-up stat because your Topps cards didn't have it in 1972.)  With a bit a bad managing, non-clutch hitting, pitching and fielding, and this can happen.  All we need to do is compare the Cubs to other teams that missed by so much....

.... except that there aren't any.  This shows the difference in actual and expected wins, with "actual" based on winning percentage x 162.  (Sometimes teams play 161 or 163 games, so this standardizes for that.)  Net OPS actually explains 80% of the variation in winning percentage, so we actually didn't have much room for many teams on pace for 26 over/under expectations.  Indeed, 50% of teams win within 3.5 games (one way or the other) of expectations.  Only one team, the 1994 Padres, had a winning percentage so far off that they would lose 20 games: but because 1994 was the strike year, they were on pace to lose 20 more games than you'd expect given their net OPS.  (I wish them many more, as I still hate them for defying odds in the other direction 10 years earlier.)  S, the Padres had a record over 0.100 under expected after 117 games, not after 162 games: and had they regressed to their mean (0.500), then they would have come in at about 15 or 16 under.

The biggest "underachievers" over 162 games are the 1965 Red Sox, who managed 17 fewer wins than expected, and two other teams (1962 Mets and 1993 Mets) managed 15 fewer wins than expected.

Now, will the Cubs keep this up?  Almost certainly not.  Let's just say that the Cubs keep playing +0.027 OPS ball.  There have been 118 teams in the last 51 years that finished with net OPS between 0.022 and 0.032 (i.e., with 0.01 of the Cubs).  Only 11 of these teams finished with records under 0.500.  Three more finished at 0.500: which is where the Cubs will finish if they "regress" to the expecation for a +0.027 OPS team.

Of course, the other reason why this won't happen is that if the Cubs aren't a 0.500 team in July, then there is going to be a sell-off: and the remaining team won't be a +0.027 OPS team (probably).  As we don't expect the Cubs to crawl back to 0.500 until the very end of the season, this seems assured!

However, when we start asking "why" then we probably should exclude answers that would apply to whole teams over an entire season.  For example, there have been a lot of really bad managers over the last 51 years: but nobody has managed their team to 23 wins under expectations.  There is the "clutch" aspect: and, of course, as "clutch" over any stretch of games fails to predict "clutch" over the next stretch, this suggests that the bad luck (especially when it comes to slugging with men on base) can't continue.  (I mean, it can't, can it?!?!?)

And, of course, we have to wonder if this isn't a small blessing in disguise.  Is this really a +0.027 team?  Are Wood and Feldman really pitching as well as their OPS Permitted suggests?  Is Valbuena going to keep hitting like this?  An 86 or 87 win team is just tantalizing enough to "go for it": but it's probably not going to make it, especially in this year's NL Central.

However, that's food for another discussion.

Gods don't play dice with the universe, they are the dice of the universe: our job is to figure out how many sides and dice!

### #2 Luke

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 08:50 PM

Another way to look at this:

The front office, despite shopping for much of the postseason in the bargain aisle, actually built a roster that (if we assume all players are performing as expected per talent level) would be in contention for a Wild Card.

That's not such a bad thing.

### #3 Mike Taylor (no relation)

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 11:32 PM

It would have been even better if Garza and Baker were healthy, then, no need to sign Jackson, making Feldman the #5 and Villanueva in the pen. No need to re-sign Camp, Rusin makes the pen out of Spring Training, and we only lose a few games from the pen.

### #4 FFP

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 03:30 AM

I don't like how this is shaping up for our major league team after June, but this analysis makes me optimistic at least for the next month.

Except for this bit:

the bad luck (especially when it comes to slugging with men on base) can't continue.  (I mean, it can't, can it?!?!?)

makes me want to inspect hitting coaches/hitting philosophy/strategy more closely.

### #5 Brett

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 05:22 AM

This is fantastic, Doc. Mind if I promote it to the main page?

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 07:01 AM

Sure: although I just realized one mistake: I meant to cut or caveat the 1994 and 1995 seasons because of the strike!  I got the deviations in winning by winning percentage and 162 games.  Sure, a couple of teams play 161 games or 163 games some years, but that's not going to affect the differences by more than a small fraction.  However, I completely spaced that those two years had far fewer games.  At any rate, the upshot is that the Padres were on pace to lose 20 too many games.  Regression means that they probably would have ended up with the 1965 Red Sox or so.

Gods don't play dice with the universe, they are the dice of the universe: our job is to figure out how many sides and dice!

### #7 OCCubFan

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 09:54 AM

This is excellent work.

In addition, the OPS difference is due for some regression. I did some rough calculations based on assuming BABIP for both the Cubs and their opponents regressed to .300, with everything else the same. My rough calculation indicates that the Cubs' OPS would improve by about .018. However, the Cubs opponents' OPS would improve by .034. Thus, the OPS difference would be reduced by .016. This would bring the Cubs closer to .500. Basically, the Cubs hitters' bad luck is exceeded by Cubs pitchers' good luck (obviously not Jackson).

### #8 FFP

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 01:01 PM

Hey, OCCubFan, it may have been one of your observations in post you made last year (#7 here)

that I was thinking about when considering if in fact our our "bad luck (especially when it comes to slugging with men on base)" can or cannot continue.

Also, I am grateful to Doc for the analysis here. Doing that kind of number crunching is beyond me, but it sure makes sense the way its graphed now (and it is fun trying to figure out who the other outliers might be). Thanks.

I guess I am off to compare our slugging% with RISP vs. with the bases empty.

### #9 Greenroom

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 01:14 PM

This is great. Damn I love science. Science sure does offer some great explanations for the "unknown". Can I ask what program you are using? SPSS, STATA? or even excel? (not sure if excel can handle this). thanks

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 05:02 PM

I now use R for a lot of this stuff.  For really hardcore things, I write programs in C, although I'm starting to get with the late 90's and am using more C++.

Gods don't play dice with the universe, they are the dice of the universe: our job is to figure out how many sides and dice!

### #11 Rick Vaughn 99

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 06:43 PM

This was really encouraging. Thanks, Doc

- die hard fanclub member #001

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