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The True Massiveness of Competitive Imbalance


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#1 Eric Van


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 01:58 AM

Baseball Prospectus, as part of their Adjusted Standings report, attempts to calculate a strength-of-schedule adjustment. According to them, the average AL team is 1.1 wins better than their record, while the average NL team is 1.0 wins worse. (It's the difference between the D2 and D3 columns in the report.)

Is that correct? Given the 149-103 edge the AL had in interleague play, does that make any sense at all? Why would a bunch of .506 teams play a bunch of .494 teams . . . and compile a .591 winning percentage? It can't possibly be right.

The reason why BP massively underestimates the effects of competitive imbalance (within divisions as well as between leagues) is clear. They make a simple, single, strength-of-schedule adjustment. The clubs the Red Sox have played have averaged .510 Pyth; therefore the Sox are not a .598 but a .607 Pyth club.*

And they stop there. They do one adjustment pass. And that is clearly wrong.

Once you have adjusted everyone, you have to paste the adjusted numbers over the original numbers and recalculate everything again. Because the Sox opponents were not .510 Pyth clubs; after this first round of adjustment, they are revealed to be .519 clubs. They weren't just good teams; they were good teams, who like the Sox, were even better than their records indicated.

In fact, you have to do this again and again until the numbers stabilize.

Back in 2002 through 2004, I regularly calculated Adjusted Standings based on exactly this methodology and posted them to Usenet. I thought I'd pull out and update that spreadsheet.

The results are startling:

--The average AL club is actually 5.2 wins better than their record; the average NL club is 4.6 wins worse. By Pyth, it's 5.6 and 5.0. So there's at least a 10-win difference in quality; a .500 AL team is a 91- or 92-win NL pennant contender.
--The six best best clubs in baseball (and 7 of the best 8) are AL clubs, based on actual W/L record. Based on Pyth, 8 of the best 9 clubs are AL clubs.
--Nine of the ten worst clubs are NL clubs, by actual record. By Pyth, 12 of the worst 14 clubs in MLB are in the NL.
--Four of the six best clubs in MLB by W/L record, and the three best clubs by Pyth, are in the AL East.
--The Royals would be tied with the Dodgers for the NL East lead.

Schedule imbalance has affected the pennant races:
--The Mets are looking pretty good for the playoffs, but their schedule has been 2.2 games easier than the Brewers and 2.6 games easier than the Phillies.
--The Angels' 2.5 game lead on the Rays for best record in the AL is completely a byproduct of playing a weaker schedule, which has given them a 3.2 win advantage. And the Sox would only be 2 games behind them instead of 5.

*The actual BP report uses EqA RS and RA rather than actual; tomorrow I'll update this report with those numbers as well as the numbers below.

Here are the clubs ranked by Adjusted Actual W/L (I've picked Sox red and Dodger blue to indicate the leagues):

Adjusted Standings, by Actual W/L
Team Act Adj SoS Pyth Adj SoS
TB .601 .644 6.5 .567 .611 6.8
LAA .617 .638 3.3 .547 .577 4.6
Bos .584 .624 6.1 .598 .634 5.6
NYA .542 .583 6.4 .528 .572 6.7
ChA .552 .583 4.8 .554 .587 5.1
Tor .535 .580 7.0 .569 .611 6.5
ChN .608 .578 -4.5 .613 .574 -6.0
Min .535 .557 3.4 .547 .573 4.0
Phi .561 .531 -4.8 .571 .537 -5.3
Cle .500 .523 3.5 .525 .549 3.7
NYN .558 .517 -6.4 .559 .516 -6.7
Mil .542 .515 -4.2 .529 .498 -4.9
Tex .484 .514 4.6 .458 .492 5.2
Oak .474 .510 5.6 .479 .515 5.4
Htn .526 .508 -2.7 .475 .453 -3.4
StL .519 .496 -3.6 .523 .491 -4.9
Fla .526 .492 -5.2 .502 .470 -4.9
Det .464 .492 4.3 .492 .524 5.0
Bal .438 .487 7.5 .465 .515 7.6
KC .452 .485 5.2 .432 .473 6.4
LAN .523 .483 -6.1 .529 .486 -6.6
Ari .500 .455 -6.9 .508 .463 -6.9
Cin .468 .451 -2.6 .452 .432 -3.1
Col .458 .418 -6.2 .452 .414 -5.9
Atl .439 .410 -4.4 .480 .448 -5.0
Pit .419 .410 -1.5 .416 .400 -2.4
SF .445 .406 -6.0 .424 .389 -5.4
Sea .370 .403 5.1 .406 .441 5.4
SD .387 .355 -5.0 .425 .390 -5.4
Was .374 .354 -3.2 .389 .369 -3.2


And here they are, ranked by Adjusted Pyth:

Adjusted Standings, By Pyth W/L
Team Act Adj SoS Pyth Adj SoS
Bos .584 .624 6.1 .598 .634 5.6
TB .601 .644 6.5 .567 .611 6.8
Tor .535 .580 7.0 .569 .611 6.5
ChA .552 .583 4.8 .554 .587 5.1
LAA .617 .638 3.3 .547 .577 4.6
ChN .608 .578 -4.5 .613 .574 -6.0
Min .535 .557 3.4 .547 .573 4.0
NYA .542 .583 6.4 .528 .572 6.7
Cle .500 .523 3.5 .525 .549 3.7
Phi .561 .531 -4.8 .571 .537 -5.3
Det .464 .492 4.3 .492 .524 5.0
NYN .558 .517 -6.4 .559 .516 -6.7
Oak .474 .510 5.6 .479 .515 5.4
Bal .438 .487 7.5 .465 .515 7.6
Mil .542 .515 -4.2 .529 .498 -4.9
Tex .484 .514 4.6 .458 .492 5.2
StL .519 .496 -3.6 .523 .491 -4.9
LAN .523 .483 -6.1 .529 .486 -6.6
KC .452 .485 5.2 .432 .473 6.4
Fla .526 .492 -5.2 .502 .470 -4.9
Ari .500 .455 -6.9 .508 .463 -6.9
Htn .526 .508 -2.7 .475 .453 -3.4
Atl .439 .410 -4.4 .480 .448 -5.0
Sea .370 .403 5.1 .406 .441 5.4
Cin .468 .451 -2.6 .452 .432 -3.1
Col .458 .418 -6.2 .452 .414 -5.9
Pit .419 .410 -1.5 .416 .400 -2.4
SD .387 .355 -5.0 .425 .390 -5.4
SF .445 .406 -6.0 .424 .389 -5.4
Was .374 .354 -3.2 .389 .369 -3.2

Edited by Eric Van, 21 September 2008 - 02:22 AM.


#2 roundegotrip

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 06:29 AM

How much of the AL's superiority can we chalk up to the fact that NL teams usually carry one less heavy hitter than AL teams? With the number of interleague games played these days, is the DH alone worth a 10 win swing on average, or is the talent level in the AL just that much higher?

#3 cwright

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 07:24 AM

Fascinating stuff, Eric. (Though I somehow knew that when you were done compiling your numbers, Boston would come out on top. Not that I mind!) I often wonder about the talent gap between the two leagues, and I really appreciate your work to quantify that difference.

In terms of predictive value, though, I wonder how midseason trades have affected the "true" talent level of each club. For example, the Dodgers are pretty mediocre by these numbers, but their actual composition now (adding Manny and even Blake) would rank them higher in terms of talent level. I was thinking about this in terms of predicting future performance (i.e. playoffs).

In other words, your numbers quantify where each team should have ended up at this point, but I'd be more interested to see where teams are going from this point forward. Where would the Dodgers stack up now in terms of true talent level?

Obviously, that's not an easy question to answer...just my early morning thoughts.

#4 Big Lee Smith


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 10:27 AM

How much of the AL's superiority can we chalk up to the fact that NL teams usually carry one less heavy hitter than AL teams? With the number of interleague games played these days, is the DH alone worth a 10 win swing on average, or is the talent level in the AL just that much higher?



Fair point. What was the NL interleague record in games without a DH? I can't find it so far.

#5 redsox11507

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 11:16 AM

How much of the AL's superiority can we chalk up to the fact that NL teams usually carry one less heavy hitter than AL teams? With the number of interleague games played these days, is the DH alone worth a 10 win swing on average, or is the talent level in the AL just that much higher?


FWIW the average NL starting pitcher contributed -.673 WS while batting versus an average of 5.01 WS for AL DHs.

#6 Eric Van


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 12:00 PM

As promised, here is the ranking based on EqRS and EqRA. The competitive balance is lowered this way to 4.7 vs. -4.1 runs, or about 9 runs total. So the AL clubs have been better than NL clubs at turning batting and pitching events into runs (growing the gap to 10.6 wins) and somewhat worse at turning runs into wins (reducing it to 9.8). All of that is likely to be random.

As you can see, the four best clubs in MLB at compiling season-long batting and pitching stats are all in the AL East --once you adjust for imbalanced schedules.

Adjusted Standings, By Pyth W/L Based on EqRS and EqRA Rather than Actual RS and RA
Team Act Adj SoS EqR Pyth Adj SoS
Bos .584 .624 6.1 .623 .652 4.4
TB .601 .644 6.5 .589 .626 5.7
Tor .535 .580 7.0 .552 .591 6.0
NYA .542 .583 6.4 .546 .581 5.4
ChA .552 .583 4.8 .541 .568 4.2
ChN .608 .578 -4.5 .605 .566 -6.1
Cle .500 .523 3.5 .528 .543 2.5
LAA .617 .638 3.3 .515 .542 4.3
NYN .558 .517 -6.4 .566 .528 -5.8
Min .535 .557 3.4 .501 .527 3.9
LAN .523 .483 -6.1 .558 .523 -5.3
Det .464 .492 4.3 .494 .519 3.8
Mil .542 .515 -4.2 .547 .514 -5.1
Phi .561 .531 -4.8 .537 .511 -4.0
Oak .474 .510 5.6 .478 .506 4.4
Tex .484 .514 4.6 .480 .504 3.7
StL .519 .496 -3.6 .523 .493 -4.7
Bal .438 .487 7.5 .444 .490 7.1
Ari .500 .455 -6.9 .521 .488 -5.1
KC .452 .485 5.2 .449 .482 5.2
Fla .526 .492 -5.2 .503 .478 -3.8
Atl .439 .410 -4.4 .492 .464 -4.3
Col .458 .418 -6.2 .491 .462 -4.6
Htn .526 .508 -2.7 .465 .445 -3.0
Sea .370 .403 5.1 .401 .431 4.5
SF .445 .406 -6.0 .440 .415 -3.9
SD .387 .355 -5.0 .433 .410 -3.6
Cin .468 .451 -2.6 .423 .407 -2.5
Was .374 .354 -3.2 .398 .380 -2.9
Pit .419 .410 -1.5 .370 .359 -1.7


#7 Rough Carrigan


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 05:38 PM

How much of the AL's superiority can we chalk up to the fact that NL teams usually carry one less heavy hitter than AL teams? With the number of interleague games played these days, is the DH alone worth a 10 win swing on average, or is the talent level in the AL just that much higher?

Whether or not that's true on the micro level, on the macro level, the issue is that at least half the teams in the NL are NOT trying to win. It's a silent conspiracy of indifference over there, especially in the NL Central and West. It's a joke what those teams spend given the revenues surging into MLB. A flat out joke. I wish they'd get a few owners with money who meant business.

Edited by Rough Carrigan, 21 September 2008 - 05:39 PM.


#8 Eric Van


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 06:01 PM

How much of the AL's superiority can we chalk up to the fact that NL teams usually carry one less heavy hitter than AL teams? With the number of interleague games played these days, is the DH alone worth a 10 win swing on average, or is the talent level in the AL just that much higher?

AL DH's had a 774 OPS, NL DHs in interleague play had 716. OTOH, NL pitchers were better, 355 to 312.

The rule of thumb is that 4 OPS points is worth a run over a full season. We are talking here about 9 games out of 162, so (774-716)/4*9/162 = 0.8 runs. So somewhat less than 0.1 wins of the observed difference in league strengths can be chalked up to the difference in observed DH performance. Considering that the guy who is at DH is not necessarily the extra bat added to the lineup, it might be more, but that gives you an idea of the order of magnitude of the effect: itsy bitsy.

#9 BG913

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 07:17 PM

As promised, here is the ranking based on EqRS and EqRA. The competitive balance is lowered this way to 4.7 vs. -4.1 runs, or about 9 runs total. So the AL clubs have been better than NL clubs at turning batting and pitching events into runs (growing the gap to 10.6 wins) and somewhat worse at turning runs into wins (reducing it to 9.8). All of that is likely to be random.

Am I being brain dead, or would the presence of an almost automatic out in NL lineups systematically reduce their ability to turn batting and pitching events into runs? 1st and 2nd, one out with the pitcher up is a very different potential run situation than 1st and 2nd one out and an AL #9 hitter up, isn't it (well, unless it's Kevin Cash or Alex Cora :rolleyes: )...wouldn't that also explain why the difference doesn't then translate into wins for the AL teams (since both teams playing have that advantage)?

#10 paulftodd


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 07:27 PM

Also, you have to consider that not only is the AL the toughest league, but the Red Sox are in the toughest division by far.

There were no real pushovers in the East this year. The worst team was Baltimore (12-6), and we were under 500 against the other 3 teams. Toronto and TBD were much improved, and the MFY despite being weaker, still play us tough.

The 96 or so wins we will finish with this year were against a much tougher schedule than last years, where we finished with 96 wins.

#11 Pumpsie


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 08:50 PM

Great work, Eric, as usual. I hope that you sent all this to BP. You kinda went medieval on their butts, ...in a statistical way.

And no wonder Toronto's such a pain in the butt.

This just goes to show you how competition makes everyone better. It all starts with the Yankees. Their payroll sets the bar. The Sox match them (via money and smarts) and then the rest of the AL East, and anyone else who wants to actually win a pennant (the Angels, White Sox) has to do the same. And playing each other so many times a year makes everyone in the AL East better as well. Teams become as good as they have to be to contend for the playoffs, but no better.

This might be yet another good argument for a balanced schedule.

#12 5belongstoGeorge


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 09:10 PM

I heard about SoSH because Schilling came here once, and then was lucky enough to become a member in 2003. I've kept coming back ever since because of threads like this.

I've been watching some Dodger games lately, since the trade, and from a "scout guy perspective" I was certain that the NL West was far inferior. Is that really bad "bad ball clubs", or do they all suck?

#13 Goosewptc


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 10:08 PM

I heard about SoSH because Schilling came here once, and then was lucky enough to become a member in 2003. I've kept coming back ever since because of threads like this.

Same here, but to a point. I just can't seem to follow these charts anymore. And sometimes I feel like challenging them as I would challenge a preacher explaining the Bible. Either way, I know I'm gonna get blasted for: A. ignorance and/or B. Not believing that compiling historic data has a damn thing to do with anything. Maybe I'm just frustrated with myself for not properly disecting something that is so obvious.

This isn't directed at you, brother 5btG, btw. I guess I'm to the point that predicting the future is just getting a little too much. Day-to-day and between the lines numbers aren't anything but adjustments to stats, IMO, and I can handle that, I guess.

I've been watching some Dodger games lately, since the trade, and from a "scout guy perspective" I was certain that the NL West was far inferior. Is that really bad "bad ball clubs", or do they all suck?

They all suck. But don't be surprised when an NL West team makes it to the WS this year.

Edited by Goosewptc, 21 September 2008 - 10:23 PM.


#14 Eric Van


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 11:09 PM

Am I being brain dead, or would the presence of an almost automatic out in NL lineups systematically reduce their ability to turn batting and pitching events into runs? 1st and 2nd, one out with the pitcher up is a very different potential run situation than 1st and 2nd one out and an AL #9 hitter up, isn't it (well, unless it's Kevin Cash or Alex Cora :lol: )...wouldn't that also explain why the difference doesn't then translate into wins for the AL teams (since both teams playing have that advantage)?

The formulas we use (BP's EqA, my own "Contextual Runs" variant on Dave Smyth's BaseRuns, Bill James' original Runs Created, etc.) to figure out how batting and pitching lines translate into runs take all that into consideration to the best of our abilities. It is possible that certain types of lineups translate differently, but by far the biggest variation is situational hitting which is largely random and swamps the smaller effects even if they're real.

Summing up the picture for offense (defense is simpler for obvious reasons):

1. Start with a complete team batting or pitching line
2. Mix in how well the batting order is constructed* (managerial skill; and, as you suggest, maybe easier in the AL)
3. Add baserunning (team skill)
4. Add situational hitting (probably 5-10% skill, 10% team psychology [probably more at any given point in time, but it swings up and down from week to week or month to month and tends to even out in the long run], and 80-85% luck)
= 5. actual runs scored

Our formulas very accurately predict 5 based on 1 and an assumption that 2, 3, and 4 are all average.

* A lot of the construction of the batting order already shows up in the batting line, e.g., if you bat your worst two hitters 1-2 like Evil Gerbil did in 1978, they accrue more PA and the team batting line suffers; and if you bat guys in spots they genuinely like or don't like, their individual numbers and hence their contributions to the team line change. However, there is also a difference created by, e.g., putting the table-setters ahead of the RBI guys rather than vice versa, or not batting the best hitter in the league between the four weakest hitters on the team, as a certain Sox manager even more regrettable than E.G. did in the 1986 WS.

Edited by Eric Van, 21 September 2008 - 11:20 PM.


#15 satyadaimoku


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Posted 22 September 2008 - 02:08 AM

Whether or not that's true on the micro level, on the macro level, the issue is that at least half the teams in the NL are NOT trying to win. It's a silent conspiracy of indifference over there, especially in the NL Central and West. It's a joke what those teams spend given the revenues surging into MLB. A flat out joke. I wish they'd get a few owners with money who meant business.

Yeah, there's definitely some implicit collusion going on there, especially out in the NL West. Not necessarily something easy to legally attack by the players union - although i'm sure they are thinking about it - but a casual understanding in that division that they are collectively better off avoiding an arms race. Which is a great strategy if your goal is to build small profitable franchises that still compete for playoff spots, but only at the cost of lowering the talent of the division. Meanwhile, the Yankees set the terms of competing in the American league a decade ago, we've had to spend to keep up with the Yanks, the Angels have had to spend to compete with us, and the race is on.

#16 paulftodd


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Posted 22 September 2008 - 02:43 AM

I've been watching some Dodger games lately, since the trade, and from a "scout guy perspective" I was certain that the NL West was far inferior. Is that really bad "bad ball clubs", or do they all suck?


Given that Manny has not had a 2 month stretch like this since 2000, I think that answers the question. Although he was hot before we traded him. Over his last 20 games he had went 388/.512/.657/ 1.169 . But in LA he has taken it to a new level .404/.490/.760/1.250, and some of that has to be bad pitching.


The top players in the NL are just as good as the AL me thinks. But the depth is not there, so Manny is facing a lot of Triple A quality pitching, and the NL West is the weakest division in the weakest league.

#17 Jnai


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Posted 22 September 2008 - 01:50 PM

Eric-

You said you had to run the model a number of times until it stabilized. Is there any chance you could create a chart or table showing the amount of error reduced in the model each run, to get a sense of how much the model changes each iteration? Another way of doing this would be to plot total a metric for competitive imbalance during the first run and then for each subsequent run.

#18 Eric Van


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Posted 23 September 2008 - 01:02 AM

Eric-

You said you had to run the model a number of times until it stabilized. Is there any chance you could create a chart or table showing the amount of error reduced in the model each run, to get a sense of how much the model changes each iteration? Another way of doing this would be to plot total a metric for competitive imbalance during the first run and then for each subsequent run.


Here's the Sox' winning percentage after each iteration:

.584 (raw, original)
.596
.604
.609
.612
.615
.617
.618
.620
.620
.621
.622
.622
.622
.622
.623
.623
.623
.623
.623
.623
.623
.623
.623
.623

IIRC, earlier in the season it takes longer to converge on a correct set of values, which is why the spreadsheet does so many iterations.

This is essentially solving for an equation with a gazillion variables. With the values calculated, if you take the number of games played by each team against each opponent and calculate the expected number of wins using the Log5 formula, and total them, you will get the actual number of wins for every team.

(The reason why the reported value is .624 rather than .623 is that, when you do this, you don't necessarily end up with the teams as a group playing exactly .500 ball, as a result of schedule imbalances, so everyone's win % is multiplied by a fixed factor -- in this case, 1.002 -- to compensate.)

Edited by Eric Van, 23 September 2008 - 01:10 AM.


#19 Eric Van


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Posted 05 October 2008 - 09:49 AM

Here are the final correctly adjusted standings.

I've given the Actual, Pythagorean, and EqRS / EqRA Pythagorean winning percentages (EqRS and RA being the number of RS and RA the team would have been expected to score based on their total hitting and pitching lines, according to Baseball Prospectus's Equivalent Average metric, which is certainly good enough for our purposes here.) Each is followed by the true version, adjusted for the imbalanced schedule.

"Talent" is the number of wins in 162 games you would expect in a balanced schedule, given the team's EqRS and EqRA.

"Sched" is the number of wins or losses due to schedule imbalance.

"Karma 1" is the number of wins or losses due to the ability to turn hitting and pitching events into runs or prevented runs. It is mostly luck, but includes real components of baserunning (and preventing baserunning via strong arms) and probably a small one for team clutch hitting. This is where Dice-K's ability to pitch out of jams (or luck at doing so) shows up.

"Karma 2" is the number of wins or losses due to the ability to turn RS and RA into wins and losses. It is mostly luck, but includes a real component of bullpen strength.

"Tot[al] Karma" is provided for convenience and accuracy (note the occasional rounding errors when you add Karma 1 and Karma 2).

And "Total" is just the actual number of games won this year, pro-rated to 162 games (one game was canceled in each league to weather, and of course the Twins and White Sox played an extra one.) Total = Talent + Sched + Tot Karma (plus or minus rounding error).

Final Adjusted Standings
Rnk Team Actual Adj Pyth Adj EqPyth Adj Talent Sched Karma 1 Karma 2 Tot Karma Total
1 Bos .586 .626 .590 .627 .619 .649 105.2 -6.3 -0.2 -3.7 -3.8 95.0
2 TB .599 .638 .566 .607 .584 .620 100.5 -6.4 5.0 -2.1 2.9 97.0
3 Tor .531 .575 .572 .612 .555 .593 96.1 -7.2 -6.0 3.1 -2.9 86.0
4 NYA .549 .591 .538 .580 .552 .588 95.2 -6.7 1.7 -1.2 0.4 89.0
5 ChN .602 .575 .610 .573 .604 .567 91.9 4.4 0.4 1.0 1.3 97.6
6 ChA .546 .577 .549 .582 .535 .562 91.1 -5.0 -0.8 3.2 2.4 88.5
7 LAA .617 .635 .543 .569 .518 .542 87.9 -2.9 10.8 4.3 15.0 100.0
8 Cle .500 .526 .526 .552 .522 .542 87.8 -4.1 -4.3 1.6 -2.7 81.0
9 Min .540 .564 .549 .575 .506 .532 86.1 -3.9 -1.8 7.0 5.2 87.5
10 LAN .519 .476 .536 .489 .564 .526 85.2 6.9 -2.1 -6.0 -8.1 84.0
11 NYN .549 .511 .551 .512 .556 .522 84.5 6.2 -0.1 -1.6 -1.7 89.0
12 Mil .556 .529 .539 .508 .547 .514 83.3 4.4 3.4 -1.0 2.3 90.0
13 Det .457 .488 .480 .515 .486 .513 83.2 -5.1 -4.3 0.2 -4.1 74.0
14 Phi .568 .533 .574 .537 .541 .513 83.0 5.6 -0.7 4.0 3.3 92.0
15 Tex .488 .519 .467 .500 .489 .512 82.9 -5.1 3.1 -2.0 1.2 79.0
16 StL .531 .507 .533 .501 .533 .502 81.4 3.9 0.9 -0.2 0.7 86.0
17 Oak .466 .500 .470 .502 .472 .499 80.8 -5.5 -0.4 0.5 0.1 75.5
18 Ari .506 .461 .509 .464 .528 .494 80.0 7.4 -0.5 -4.9 -5.4 82.0
19 KC .463 .496 .444 .484 .460 .493 79.9 -5.4 1.9 -1.4 0.5 75.0
20 Bal .422 .475 .451 .504 .435 .484 78.5 -8.5 -4.8 3.2 -1.6 68.4
21 Fla .522 .488 .502 .470 .508 .482 78.0 5.5 2.8 -1.8 1.0 84.5
22 Atl .444 .417 .485 .454 .495 .467 75.6 4.4 -6.0 -2.0 -8.1 72.0
23 Col .457 .416 .456 .417 .484 .453 73.4 6.6 -0.2 -5.9 -6.0 74.0
24 Htn .534 .514 .480 .457 .474 .452 73.3 3.2 9.2 0.8 10.0 86.5
25 Sea .377 .411 .413 .447 .399 .428 69.4 -5.5 -5.9 3.0 -2.9 61.0
26 SF .444 .405 .422 .387 .437 .412 66.7 6.4 2.9 -4.1 -1.1 72.0
27 Cin .457 .443 .441 .424 .414 .399 64.7 2.3 3.1 4.0 7.0 74.0
28 SD .389 .355 .417 .383 .423 .398 64.5 5.5 -4.5 -2.5 -7.0 63.0
29 Was .366 .347 .385 .366 .393 .375 60.8 3.2 -3.2 -1.4 -4.6 59.4
30 Pit .414 .403 .415 .400 .375 .363 58.9 1.7 0.5 6.0 6.5 67.0

Edited by Eric Van, 05 October 2008 - 09:50 AM.


#20 iowacityiconoclast

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 11:27 AM

Also, you have to consider that not only is the AL the toughest league, but the Red Sox are in the toughest division by far.

This had me wondering: is the 2008 American League East the most competitive division ever?

It has to be, right? I mean, there were a few years when the AL West had three competitive teams (2002, for instance), but none of those teams were the best in the league, never mind the best in the majors.

#21 mabrowndog


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Posted 08 October 2008 - 01:09 PM

This had me wondering: is the 2008 American League East the most competitive division ever?

It has to be, right? I mean, there were a few years when the AL West had three competitive teams (2002, for instance), but none of those teams were the best in the league, never mind the best in the majors.

If you're asking what year were the most teams in a division among the best in the league, I'd go with 1988. In the AL East, you had the Sox, Tigers, Jays, Brewers and Yankees all within 3.5 games of first place, and representing 5 of the 7 best records in the American League.

If you're talking division-wide competitiveness, then the 1991 AL West takes the gold. All 7 teams finished .500 or better and within 15 games of first place Minnesota. In 1991, the AL was also one of the most competitive leagues in the history of the majors. Amazingly, only 3 of the 14 AL teams finished below .500 that year: The Yankees (71-91, .438), Orioles (67-95, .414) and Indians (57-105, .352).

Oddly, the previous year, 9 of 14 AL teams finished below .500.

Bear in mind that before baseball went to the 6-division arrangement, schedules were a lot more balanced than they are now, and there was no interleague play.

Edited by mabrowndog, 08 October 2008 - 01:13 PM.


#22 iowacityiconoclast

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 01:46 PM

I made a semantic mistake using the word 'competitive.' I meant to ask: "Is the 2008 AL East the strongest division in baseball history?"

To me, the astonishing revelation in Eric's study is that the four best teams in baseball are all lumped together in one division. I guess what I'm wondering is whether or not that's ever happened before: have the four best teams in baseball ever been clustered in the same division?

1988 was a damned close race in the AL East, but none of those teams were objectively better than the Oakland A's, or the New York Mets. It was competitive, but it probably wasn't the strongest divison ever.