The guys at WaitingForNextYear do a great job covering Cleveland and Ohio State sports. They have a semi-regular column done by their “stats” guy Jacob Rosen, who is a great follow on Twitter, is called “The Diff.” This column looks at statistically significant and interesting issues with the 4 teams they cover. The most recent The Diff looks at the Cleveland Indians Season and some interesting data behind it.
I looked at data from 1985-2010 to provide a solid sample size for this research. My conclusion: a team with less than 70 wins per 162 games has then improved by 9 wins per 162 games the next season. The Indians have already improved by 19 wins – nearing a franchise record.
Twice earlier this season – when the Indians were 26-18 and when they were 45-38 – I wrote about historical playoff odds for teams with that record. Both times, Cleveland’s odds were hovering around the 50 percent mark in the Wild Card era.
Now, because of a spectacular 16-6 start to the month of September, the Indians have defied those odds in the positive direction.
- Not surprisingly teams with bad records the year before struggle to make huge improvements the following year. In a sport with no salary cap, where players rarely move, teams struggle to make huge changes from season to season. Unlike the NBA where 1 player can impact every possession, baseball players are more limited in their impact ability with 9 players batting around and rare touches in the field. Even pitchers who are dominate are less impactful as they only pitch every 5 days and most often don’t have complete games and give way to a bullpen. The closest thing to the change that can happen in the NFL is a pitcher, but even then compared to the impact of a franchise quarterback, it is minimal.
All 162 games in 2012: 5.25 ERA, 45.1% quality starts, 6.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .284/.351/.451 line
First 87 games in 2013: 4.62 ERA, 41.4% quality starts, 8.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .262/.335/.427 line
Next 70 games in 2013: 3.11 ERA, 50.0% quality starts, 9.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, .240/.304/.359 line
- Really amazing that for the first 87 games the team had less quality starts even though they had a lower ERA, more Ks and a lower “slash” line. The improvement over the next 70 games are outstanding with an extreme drop in ERA, rise in quality starts and strikeouts with a drop in walks and slash line. How we performed in non-quality starts is almost more interesting.
Last season, the downfall of the Indians was not only their abysmal starting pitching, but also their inability to compete when behind. The average AL team had a .313 winning percentage in non-quality starts. The Indians finished by far a league-worst 15-74 (.169) in such occurrences – including finishing the year on a 5-47 (.096) mark in this split. They had a slightly above average record of 53-20 (.726) in quality starts.
This season, they’re 31-55 (.360) without a quality start and 56-15 (.789) with one. That’s some incredible regression to the mean (thanks to improved starter efficiency, duh) in terms of overall record in non-quality starts. That .360 winning percentage would have ranked third-best in the AL last season.
- So the average is .313, last year the Tribe was .169 last year and this year they are at .360. As we discussed in previous posts, including this one this week, our performance in quality starts has been amazing as shown by their almost .800 winning percentage.
All 162 games in 2012: 4.12 runs/game, 6.9 XBH%, .251/.324/.381 line
First 46 games in 2013: 5.17 runs/game, 9.6 XBH%, .267/.336/.459 line
Next 111 games in 2013: 4.25 runs/game, 7.1 XBH%, .247/.322/.386 line
- On the opposite side of the pitching information is the run production decline over the second half, which is still better or similar in all areas to last year. The run differential is significant. The Indians may be able to ride their pitching staff but at some point they will have to put up some runs.
All of these stats lead me to this one final point: The 2013 Cleveland Indians are 29-17 (.630) in one-run games and 10-2 (.833) in extra-inning games. Those two records rank second-best and best in baseball this season.
Those are some extraordinary marks and represent an incredible turnaround from the 68-win Indians of one year ago. But alas, they’re also untrustworthy with one famous example staring Cleveland right in the face.
In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles shockingly improved from a 69-win club to a 93-win club. At the heart of this improvement: An MLB record 29-9 (.763) record in one-run games and similarly unfathomable 16-2 (.889) mark in extra-inning affairs.
- A huge concern moving into next year is regression following a great year in 1 run games. While some can point to moxxy, veteran presence or Tito Francona, it will be tough to keep it up, so improvements in other areas will be required.
The entire article is a great read for the in-depth look at the Indians season. What stats stood out to you in the article? Any concerns for this year or the playoffs?