Both the Best and Worst MLB Teams Need a Little Luck: A Look at Those Most Impacted by Chance
Los Angeles Dodgers Among Teams Bitten by Misfortune
The Dodgers have it all, right? Well, a quick glance at the expected win-loss records shows that the glitzy bunch in La La Land may be due for some fortune on the diamond, as crazy as that sounds. Let’s take a closer look at the best and worst MLB teams, at least as it relates to luck, and examine some of the reasons why they’ve befuddled bettors this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Simply put, the Dodgers struggle to win close ones. They can overwhelm opponents with their talent-laden roster, with 15 wins already, by at least five runs. That tilts the Pythagorean standings one way, as teams that display such dominance are expected to win more. But they are just 4-7 in one-run games – the worst mark in the National League West – and an MLB-worst 0-4 in extra innings.
Those tight games are so often decided on an odd play or an unlucky break that makes all the difference. Apparently, for the Dodgers, there have been enough of those oddities and bad breaks to keep them close to the pack in the NL West, where contenders San Diego and San Francisco are exactly in line with their expected win-loss totals at this point in the season.
There was the game late last month against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have been among the luckiest teams. Los Angeles took a one-run lead into the ninth but a walk, a wild pitch, a single, and an error by Freddie Freeman allowed the lowly Pirates to a 6-5 win.
That scenario, with those teams in that situation in that stadium – could play out countless times and you’d very rarely get a Pittsburgh victory.
That’s one reason why the Dodgers, with their run differential of +111 leading the NL, are not running away with things, and why they’ve cost bettors a bit on moneylines. They have a five-game discrepancy between their actual and expected win-loss marks. Interestingly enough, they are used to this sort of thing.
Here’s another team that has been destroyed in one-run games, but unlike the Dodgers, they seem to play in one every other night. Miami has been in an MLB-high, 24 of those contests, losing an MLB-high, 16 of them. Conversely, it is 9-5 in “blowout” games, those decided by five runs or more.
One cause of the Marlins’ tendency to lose in close games is a bullpen that ranks 23rd in baseball with a 4.41 ERA. Manager Don Mattingly has been accused of having too quick of a hook, and some questioned his decision to yank a dominant Sandy Alcantara in Monday’s game at Philadelphia.
Alcantara left with two outs in the eighth and a 2-1 lead, only to see the Phillies tie it in that frame and win it in the ninth. He was at 113 pitches, a very high number by today’s standards, but getting one more out from him to complete the eighth seems like it would’ve satisfied Marlins fans.
That’s how those moves have gone for the Marlins this year, whose record of 28-33 is five games worse than their expected win-loss mark (33-28).
Boston Red Sox
For Boston, the formula for a little bit of bad luck is simple. The Red Sox have crushed the baseball at times, picking up 10 blowout wins since the start of May, Wednesday’s 10-1 win over Oakland being the latest. They own a run differential of +54, better than anyone in the AL other than the New York Yankees.
However, a bullpen that was a question mark going into the season is tied for the MLB odds lead with 13 blown saves and 14 losses (only Texas and Baltimore have more among relievers). Boston has an MLB-high six extra-inning losses (in eight tries), although it was 0-6 in extras at one point. Perhaps the fact that the Sox have won their last two in extra innings, as well as four of their last five one-run games, is a sign that things are normalizing.
Entering Thursday, Boston’s expected win-loss record of 38-25 was four games better than its actual mark. With a little luck, it could consider itself among the best teams in MLB betting.
Glancing at MLB team stats makes it clear how bad the Detroit Tigers really are. They rank last in baseball in runs scored, 40 fewer than the 29th-ranked Oakland A’s. They rank last in baseball in home runs, 15 fewer than the 29th-ranked Oakland A’s. They rank last in baseball in stolen bases, slugging, OPS, and, well, we could go on.
This is a historically bad offense backed by a capable staff that features a pretty solid bullpen. The result is a boatload of low-scoring games and a team that’s been able to get on the right side of the score just enough times to avoid the dreaded “1962 Mets” talk.
Consider that in their last 10 games, the Tigers have three wins – all by two runs – and seven losses that include scores of 13-0 (twice!), 10-1, and 6-0. They aren’t even competitive many nights, and their MLB-worst 18-44 expected record reflects that.
We mentioned that wild win in Chavez Ravine earlier. Like the late, great Ray Liotta (as Shoeless Joe) once said to Ray Kinsella: “There are others, you know.”
Like the 7-6 win over San Diego on April 30, when the Pirates erased three deficits, the last with two runs in the bottom of the 10th. Or the time Pittsburgh was…ahem…held to no hits by Cincinnati and still won a game, scratching across the game’s only run on three walks and a groundout. Or how about the time the Bucco’s got a walk-off two-run shot by rookie Jack Suwinski after being held scoreless for the first eight frames vs Arizona.
This all might be evening out, as Pittsburgh had lost nine in a row prior to Wednesday’s 6-4 win at St. Louis. Still, it enters Thursday as perhaps the luckiest team in baseball, with an expected win-loss record of 19-43 which is six games worse than its actual mark and the second-worst run differential (-102) in the game.
New York Mets
The Mets have seen their NL East lead shrink from 10½ games to four games since the start of the month. That gap will get smaller as long as the Braves keep winning. Some pending misfortune might also tighten the race, as New York ranks among the luckier teams in the early going.
Make no mistake, the Mets are good. In a rundown of the best and worst MLB teams, they’re up there with their crosstown rivals, the Dodgers, the Braves, and others. New York’s run differential (+62) is fourth-best in the majors.
Going undefeated in extra innings will be difficult, especially with the condensed rules in the 10th and beyond. But somehow the Mets are 5-0 so far in those situations, the best mark in baseball.
The Mets bullpen gets a lot of credit, but something quirky is bound to go against them in one of these prolonged games – consider that the pen has a middle-of-the-road 3.76 ERA overall but an MLB-best 2.10 mark in the ninth inning or later.Follow us on Twitter