Are we supposed to ignore the Orioles’ run differential?

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The Orioles have allowed far more runs than they’ve scored this year. In fact, they’ve allowed 44 more runs than they’ve scored, which has led many — myself included — to believe that they’ve out-performed their talent level this season and are due for a downward correction. Their actual record: 51-44. The record a team with their run-differential would be expected to have: 43-52. Something’s gotta give eventually, right?

Ken Rosenthal’s latest column has a part dealing with all of that and he says that it’s not a big deal, and even goes so far as to call the run differential thing a “myth”:

Some sabermetricians view that statistic as evidence that the Orioles will falter, but club officials see it differently. In their view, the Orioles’ run differential is easily explained.

First, the team’s inconsistent starting pitching produces an unusual number of blowouts. A mere seven games — two 12-run losses, one 11-run loss and four seven-run losses — account for a whopping minus-63.

The Orioles’ terrific bullpen, on the other hand, enables the club to win an inordinate number of close games — the O’s are 10-2 in extra innings and 19-6 in one-run outcomes.

Well, sure, that explains it. But it doesn’t in any way establish that their out-performing their run differential is sustainable. And that’s the key point that “some sabermetricians” would make.

Yes, the Orioles have erratic starting pitching that is prone to blowouts. But that’s no point in favor of the Orioles being better than they look. Usually teams with that kind of starting pitching have crappy records. Yes, they have been extremely fortunate in one-run games, but even teams with the greatest bullpens don’t see that level of success in close games over the long haul.

Would it be impossible for the Orioles to continue to out-perform their run differential all season? Of course not.  But thousands of team-seasons have been recorded since statistics have been kept, and it is pretty rare for any team to out-perform their run differential on the order that the Orioles are doing it at the moment for an entire season.  The Orioles are eight games ahead of their expected record. About a dozen or so teams have out-performed their expected record by ten games or more. Run differential analysis being on-point is far less of a mythological thing than a team behaving for 162 games like the Orioles have behaved for 95 is.

A good bullpen and erratic starting pitching may be skewing things at the moment. But it cannot be denied that if the O’s were to keep things up the way they currently are, it would be a historical exception, not the rule.

Report: Rangers to receive Matt Moore from Giants

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John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Giants have traded left-hander Matt Moore to the Rangers. The deal is pending a physical and has yet to be confirmed by the clubs. Shea adds that the Rangers are expected to receive several prospects in return.

Moore, 28, was brought over to the Giants in 2016 in a deadline swap for shortstop Matt Duffy and two minor leaguers. He went 6-15 in his first full season with the Giants, producing a 5.52 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 through 32 starts and 174 1/3 innings in 2017. Moore stands to earn $9 million in 2018 and has a $10 million club option (and $1 million buyout) on his contract in 2019.

According to both Shea and Henry Schulman, the move is part of the Giants’ ongoing quest to shed payroll this offseason. After missing out on Giancarlo Stanton, the club still needs reinforcements in the outfield and will have to fill a void at third base as well — all while steering clear of the luxury tax threshold. Right fielder Hunter Pence has reportedly been floated as a trade option, but has a full no-trade clause and will likely be harder to move. The Rangers, meanwhile, will add Moore to a starting rotation that already boasts left-handers Cole Hamels, Mike Minor and Martin Perez.