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I’m going to be Captain Understatement and say that this 2010 season has been a disappointing season for Cardinal fans. The team is now 8 games out of 1st and has less than a 1% chance of making the postseason. Most projections and pundits had the Cardinals running the table in an easy division. As it has turned out, the Cincinnati Reds are pretty darn good at baseball. They were the only team I feared could win, and as in the case of  Job, that what I have greatly feared has come upon me.

But have the Cardinals really been outclassed by Dusty Baker’s Reds?  Are they really 8 games better than the Cardinals?  There’s a few ways we can look at this and make some guesses from there. One is by looking at each team’s BaseRuns to date. I won’t get into the math behind BaseRuns, but suffice to say it is a kick-booty run estimator. It’s designed to give a more exact model of the process of scoring runs and its accuracy holds up extremely well, even in the craziest of contexts. You can read up on it more here and here.

Anyway, according to BaseRuns, the Cardinals’ actual record should be 76-67. The Reds’ record should be 78-67. So they really only should have a .7% better winning percentage than the Cardinals, but thanks to randomness the Cardinals should be happy to win 85, while the Reds are on pace to win more than 90 games. Due to bad luck, bad breaks, bad timing or whatever you want to call it, the Cardinals look a lot worse than the Reds than they probably are.

We could also look at WAR to give us an idea of how big or small the gap is between the two teams. The Reds’ hitters have 24.5 WAR.  Their pitchers have 7.5 WAR. The Cardinals have 19.6 WAR for their hitters,  and11.2 WAR for their pitchers. Yep, the difference between the Reds and Cardinals is 1.2 WAR. This is according to Rally’s WAR found on Baseball Reference, to be specific. I’m not saying this is the perfect way to solve this problem, but you get the basic idea.

To put it plainly, I think the difference between the two teams talent-wise isn’t worlds apart. If time stood still and the players somehow could magically play the 2010 season ten thousand times in a row, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals and Reds finished with near identical records. But a lot of weird things can happen over 162 games. Sometimes standard deviation can be a cruel mistress.

In a recent piece at Fangraphs, Matthew Carruth talked about using BaseRuns as a reality check for a team’s performance to date in the early goings of the season. BaseRuns is touted as king of all run estimators. It’s designed to give a more exact model of the process of scoring runs and its accuracy holds up extremely well, even in the craziest of contexts. You can read up on it more here and here.

So when we look at BaseRuns, we should get a good idea of how many runs the team should have scored or allowed. It’s good at telling off  on who has been the beneficiary of some good or bad luck. John Wright used his Excel knowledge to give us a daily-updating spreadsheet for 2010 Pythagorean Wins with BaseRuns.

Sweet nerdy goodness.

With his help, let’s look at the NL Central and see what’s going on.

  • The Cardinals are who we thought they are. Or who we think they are. That Dennis Green quote has received an unfortunate amount of miles. I digress. The Cardinals have scored 105 and allowed 73 runs. Their BaseRuns scored/allowed  is 109-74. Their actual record is 15-8, their Pythag record is 15-8, and BaseRuns says they should be 15-8. If this team keeps playing this well, BaseRuns says they’ll win 109 games. Of course they won’t, but the Cardinals remain the easy favorites to win the division.
  • The Reds are not what their record indicates. The Reds are on pace to win 85 games, with a .522 winning percentage, but according to BaseRuns they’re really on pace for 68 wins. They’ve scored 7 more runs then they actually should have, and allowed four less.
  • The Cubs are better than this. The Cubs “should” have scored 5 more runs and allowed 13 less runs then they’ve actually have. According to BaseRuns, the Cubs should be 14-10, not 11-13.
  • The Pirates and the Astros are legitimately bad. Both are on pace to lose 110 games by the way they’ve been playing. The Astros offense is averaging 2.9 BsR per game. The Pirates pitching has allowed 6.4 BsR per game. That’s bad. Real bad.
  • The Brewers offense giveth, the Brewers pitching taketh away. Brewers are 2nd worst in baseball behind Pittsburgh in BsR allowed (137), but are 1st in the majors in BsR scored. (132).

Download the spreadsheet, check it from time to time.  It’s sort of a nice little “power ranking” and helps you understand how teams are playing up to reasonable expectations.

© 2011 Gas House Graphs Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha