Close Games | The Process Report

Close Games

A few weeks ago, Joe Maddon was quoted as saying he believes the teams that get to the postseason are the ones that make the most of the one-run games throughout the season. Last night, the Rays were involved in their 33rd such game of the season and incurred their 16th loss in those situations. The data, in recent years, does not fully back that up.

From 2000 through 2012, the correlation coefficient between teams’ one-run game winning percentage and their overall winning percentage is 0.5393. If we filter that to just playoff teams during that span, the correlation coefficient is 0.5466. Thus, approximately 29 to 30 percent of the variance between the two percentages is related.

Last season, Baltimore made it to the postseason on the strength of their efforts in one-run games going 29-9 and their .763 winning percentage in those games is the best of all playoff teams since 2000 by a full 63 points. 76 percent of playoff teams during that span have indeed posted a winning percentage better than .500 in one-run game, but others have been able to overcome that issue. Four teams have gone on to win the World Series in seasons where they did not do well in one-run games:

  1. 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks: 23-25 (.479)
  2. 2004 Boston Red Sox: 16-18 (.471)
  3. 2006 St. Louis Cardinals: 22-27 (.449)
  4. 2007 Boston Red Sox: 22-28 (.440)

The worst effort by a playoff team belongs to the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies who won 89 games that season despite being just 14-23 in one-run games. Most recently, the Detroit Tigers made it all of the way to the World Series despite being just 21-27 in one-run contests.

In 2013, the league is evenly split as 15 teams are playing at least .500 baseball in one-run games while 15 are not. Last night, the Rays just happened to lose to the team with the second-best record in those situations as the Dodgers won their 18th one-run game in 29 tries. While some may point to this being the current difference in the American League East standings, the fact the Rays are now 33-37 against teams playing .500 or better baseball while the Red Sox are 35-31 against those teams better reflects the two-game difference between the two teams in the standings.

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