A division turned upside down

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(AP Photo/LM Otero)
  1. Blue Jays (4-1, +17 run differential)
  2. Orioles (4-1, +9)
  3. Yankees (3-2, +4)
  4. Rays (0-5, -15)
  5. Red Sox (0-5, -21)

Those are the AL East standings as of this morning. The teams in Baltimore and Toronto are overachieving due to pitching and timely hitting while the Rays and Red Sox have fallen victim to a lack of offense and pitching, respectively. Tampa has scored seven runs total in their five games and haven’t even held a lead yet all season. Seriously, they’ve been nothing but tied or behind in 2011.

And then there are the Yankees. Right in the middle of the division, winners of three (really should be four) games and the only club in the East doing pretty much exactly what was expected of them. The offense is averaging just over six runs a game but is doing so with heavy reliance on the long ball. Take out their league-leading 13 homers, and they’re hitting just .190 with a .261 OBP as team. Of course it doesn’t work like that, those homers count so we can’t just take them out to fit a narrative, but at some point the balls won’t be flying over the fence with the same frequency. Neither the team ERA (4.89) or FIP (3.56) represents the pitching staff’s true talent level, which is probably somewhere in between those two numbers. We’re still well short of the point where some of these statistical indicators stabilize, so there’s no sense in obsessing over numbers just yet.

While it’s certainly fun to watch Boston and Tampa struggle out of the gate, we know it won’t last. The Red Sox will win a game soon enough, and if it doesn’t happen against the Indians this afternoon, then there’s a really good chance that it’ll happen against the Yankees over the weekend. That will probably begin a stampede toward to top of the standings. The Rays’ offensive ineptitude (.212 wOBA) won’t be around to make fun of all season, unfortunately. On the other side of the coin, eventually the Orioles’ team ERA will climb north of 2.00 (probably once their .212 BABIP and 87% strand rate returns to Earth). Reality will slap the Blue Jays in the face once they stop playing games against AL Central and AL West opponents.

There’s nothing special about the first five games of the season, at least not when it comes to predictive value. We just happened to remember these games more because we’ve been baseball-starved for the last five months or so. The first five games are really no different than a randomly selected five-game stretch in June, it’s just one small slice of the bigger picture. We’re talking about five games people, which is just slightly more than three-percent of the season. If the season was a nine inning game, there wouldn’t even be one out in the top of the first yet. That how much is still left to be played.

By all means, enjoy the Rays inability to get a hit (.152 BABIP) and Boston’s hilariously bad pitching performances (8.25 FIP) while they last. Reality is going to rear it’s ugly head soon enough, crashing through the wall like the Kool-Aid guy saying “OH YEEEEAH!!!” The standings right now are pretty much the exact opposite of what one could reasonably expect coming into the season, but the power of small sample sizes can work in mysterious ways.

Is delaying Freddy's start the right move?
Doctors push Feliciano's time table back
  • Manny

    This means we will be AL East Champions.

  • Owen

    Yeah, but it’s still fun to check out a Sox blog and see someone comparing Carl Crawford to Julio Lugo.

  • Hughesus Christo

    I feel like the AL East potentially has 5 “85 win teams” (quality-wise, but that can’t happen in the same division). I don’t really see much reason to expect Baltimore or Toronto to collapse at some point, but yes it has been encouraging for the Yankees overall.

    • Hughesus Christo

      “85+ win teams”*

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t think collapsing is the right way to think of it. Mike’s whole point is that this is a 5 game sample, predictive of nothing. If half way through the season the Orioles are in first and finish the season in last… that I’d call a collapse. If they don’t sustain a team ERA of 1.8 all season… that’s called obvious, not collapsing. No AL team has had a team ERA below 3.5 in the past two seasons… 1.8 is just ridiculous. Their offense is not actually hitting well, it’s all pitching. Their pitching is not actually that talented, though, and was viewed as a weakness going into the season. Maybe they’re this season’s Rangers pitching wise, but even then I don’t think they make the playoffs from the AL East.

      The Blue Jays’ question marks are largely off to hot starts, and if Kyle Drabek and JP Arencibia are 1-2 in the ROY race and Bautista can maintain his 2010 success… maybe they can legitimately contend. Some of my own skepticism from them was about whether Bautista could maintain and their rookies could perform. 5 games doesn’t actually answer those questions, but it’s not a great sign either.

      • Kosmo

        I agree with what you say except the “their pitching is not that talented“,Britton,Arrietta,Tillman and Matusz are all highly touted and Guthrie is a solid veteran pitcher.There may be gapping holes in their bullpen but this young crop of pitchers could help the Orioles to a .500 finish.Orioles have an OK lineup.

        • Ted Nelson

          I didn’t say it’s not talented, just that it’s not that talented. I don’t think it’s league leading ERA talented anyway, but 4 of 4 young pitchers all having break-out seasons simultaneously would be amazing. Even all 4 becoming solid MLB starters would be great luck.

          Right after that quote I compared their best case to the 2010 Rangers. No one thought much of their pitching going into the season, and rightly so: their opening day starter was Scott Feldman, followed by Rich Harden. It wasn’t a hot start like the Orioles and it wasn’t all young guys, but the Rangers had a lot of “luck” with the seasons they got from converted reliever CJ Wilson, former-phenom/former-bust Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter… then they got Cliff Lee.
          Perhaps the Orioles can get that lucky with 4 of their 4 highly touted pitchers all hitting the nail on the head at the same time.

          Basically, their offense is better than it looks, but their pitching is a lot worse than it looks (again, right not they’re at 1/2 the ERA any AL team posted in 2009 or 2010). I think they could finish .500, but I don’t think they’ll compete with the Yankees and Sox and possibly Rays.

  • http://hardballtimes.com Dan Novick

    What’s with the link to Kevin Brown?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      My bad, fixed now.

  • Jon in CUO

    I heartily approve of the KAM reference.

  • Teh Comp Pick

    I wonder what the MSM would be screaming if it had been Cashman who signed that 90 million dollar #4 starter pictured above to go with his 90 million dollar #5/long man from Japan and the #5/reclamation project they extended for like 70 million.


  • Camilo Gerardo

    an always fugly picture of Lackey is always good for the header of an article, eh

  • Mike M

    The best part about this is the MSM LOVES overreacting. The Red Sox may as well be 0-82 right now the way panic articles are coming out. After a winter of them heavy petting the Sox, it’s great to have these to read.

    • bonestock94

      Hahaha so true. It’s so dumb, I think by the 3rd game I saw a headline that said “Red Sox Nation has a reason to be worried.”

      • Mike M

        The thing is I think they do have a reason to be worried. Not because they’re this bad, but because of the way they thought this team had no weaknesses. The Yanks pitching concerns should have been just as big a fear for the Sox, but it wasn’t. The glaring hole at catcher should have been a fear, but it wasn’t. This was TEH PERFECT TEAM!!!1!111! If you had those sort of expectations I think you really would have cause to worry.

        • bonestock94

          I find it hard to believe that the real fans didn’t know that stuff already though, that’s just media hype. But I get what you’re saying.

          • Ted Nelson

            I don’t know where you draw the line as far as “real fans,” but I think most Red Sox fans were drinking the kool-aid all offseason. Who knows what will actually happen this season based only on a few games, but Sox fans were generally pretty confident that Beckett would turn it around (and maybe Dice-K and Lackey to some degree), that Buchholtz is an Ace, that their bullpen rivals the Yankees (or anyones really, just that the Yankees are largely their comp), that their team would be healthy all year, and that their line-up is by far the best in baseball. Each one of those things are still very much possible. However, all of them happening in one season would be extremely lucky, not a fair expectation.
            They also seemed to believe that no one on their team could get worse or have an off-year: that the CC and AGone acquisitions had built some sort of all-encompassing momentum that would engulf their whole roster. And that the Yankees were old and in decline.
            As a group they seemed so incredibly confident the Sox would win the division and probably the WS. Of course when you set your expectations that high there’s a whole lot that can disappoint you. They could still very easily win the WS, but the chances are just–and have always been–a lot higher that someone besides the Red Sox (or any one team) wins it all than the Red Sox (or any one team).

            • bonestock94

              Sawks fans that are into advanced statistics and stuff, kinda like the people here. Then again plenty of people here drink the koolaid, you saw it a lot in the playoff game threads last season.

              • Ted Nelson

                I guess I just don’t think there are that many rational fans in general. Certainly rational ones recognized a few flaws/potential flaws, and that projections for a season have a large margin for error. Even if we can say that something is likely to happen, doesn’t mean it will happen.

                I think a lot of somewhat advanced stats savvy Sox fans, though, bought in pretty hard based on Beckett’s previous bounce backs, Buchholtz’ age (up and coming) and Crawford’s age (“prime years”), AGone’s move out of Petco, the Pedroia’s history of relative health, etc. Stuff that you can use stats to say is x likely to happen (x being somewhat or even very likely), you just of course can’t use anything to say definitively what will happen.

                Even all the statistical models had the Red Sox fairly comfortably ahead of the division. Rightly so, and they all said up front that these are not predictions of the future… just the most likely outcomes based on projections. There seemed to generally be, though, an overriding narrative all offseason that the Yankees were doomed and the Red Sox couldn’t fail.

  • CountryClub

    Logic tells us that the pitching for the Sox will turn around. But I still think everyone except Lester is a question mark for them. A young guy who had a somewhat lucky yr last season, 30+ yr olds that are both clearly on the downside (plus Beckett has always been overrated) and Dice K is just flat out below average.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    at some point the balls won’t be flying over the fence with the same frequency.

    When it warms up, they’ll travel better. Stop whining, the homers will come!


  • Bpdelia

    I can envision a scenario that has beckett beinginjured and awful all yr. that sees lackey settle in as the pitcher wwe saw last year, that has dice k continue to suck, that had clay b regress to an era in the high 3s and suddenly the sox are in a dogfight for the playoffs. this is not unlikely. and the investments in beckett and lackey rival any mistakes ny has made if yhis plays out

    • Mike M

      Dice-K doing his best to be a WORSE signing than Igawa. The K man has 2 things going for him:
      1) Did less damage, in fact didn’t do that much at all
      2) Sweet sweet sunglasses

      • bonestock94

        Impossible, 10 WAR so far

        • Mike M

          Kei Igawa is the all time SWB wins leader and cost half of Dice-K! He also looks cooler and, according to wikipedia, enjoys shogi. If thats not worth 10 WAR idk what is…

          • bonestock94


        • Ted Nelson

          Yeah the $46 mill investment in Igawa still looks horrible even next to $103 mill in Dice-K…

          • Mike M

            Tough to rationalize posting for Darvish after all this

    • Ted Nelson

      Very possible.

      Of course the mainstream overreaction this early on is just silly, but if the scenario you mention plays out and the Sox are not dominating the division and people are surprised they only have their own over-hyping of the Sox all offseason to blame. It’s sort of like pre-draft hype in NBA or NFL where without playing a game a prospect can magically jump way up draft boards… without playing a game the Red Sox problems were all fixed…

  • Warren

    I only check the divison standing in June each season.
    With 162 games to play the standings just don’t get a meaning until a third of the season is played.
    It does make nice news fodder for the sports radio though.

  • rek4gehrig

    Dirt will always settle to the bottom and cream will always rise to the top.

    Ps. KC is atop the centra :-)))

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      You know what? That KC team isn’t really all that bad. I don’t expect them to win the Central, but I could see them hanging around the .500 mark all year long, maybe finishing only 7-10 games back.

      They don’t have any aces, but their rotation of Hochevar/Francis/Davies/Chen/Mazzaro is basically five #3s. It’s not Nationals/Pirates bad, certainly. The bullpen is full of quality hard throwing, high-K guys in front of Soria; it’s probably going to be one of the top 10 bullpens in all of baseball. The lineup is a little short outside of Butler and Ka’aihue, but Moustakas should be up soon, and Aviles/Gordon/Betemit/Peña etc. are all serviceable, and they play good defense.

      The Twins, White Sox, and Tigers all aren’t as good as they’ve beem made out to be this winter… I see the Royals hanging around. 75+ wins would be a great success, especially with all the talent they still have coming up the pipeline.

      • Tank the Frank

        I will say I wanted Cash to get Francis. I was in wait and see mode as to how angry I would get but so far he’s put in two very good starts. I don’t think Cash wanted to hand out anything but minor league contracts though.

      • Ted Nelson

        “They might not be completely god-awful, merely quite bad” isn’t that bold a prediction. They won 75 games in 2008, too.

        I don’t think many people thought the Twins/Tigers/Sox were going to be all that great, just all over .500 (by various amounts) and contenders for the AL Central crown. The Twins return basically the same team that won 94 games last season, but with a different middle IF and their closer healthy. The White Sox and Tigers both added a middle-of-the-order bat to 88 and 81 win teams. The White Sox also have a good, deep rotation. I don’t think those teams were particularly over-hyped.

        I would not call Kyle Davies a #3 starter. Mazzaro was replacement level in 2010, and just above it in 2009. Bruce Chen has been a #3-ish starter like 2 out of 10 seasons, Hochevar for 1 season… granted both were just last season, so that’s encouraging. Francis is a big question mark, though he could be a #3 with health. If their rotation holds up and performs all season it would be a minor miracle. Certainly possible, but really lucky.

        Moore has done some creative duct-taping and maybe it will hold, a duct-tape roster can come apart pretty easily, though, too.

      • Ricky

        In what world is Bruce Chen a #3 starter?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Eh, he was worth a win and a half last year. That’s servicable.

          • Ted Nelson

            That’s one season, though… He’s been around for a decade now and had two seasons like that.

  • Tampa Yankee

    Fun fact I heard this morning… the best record by a team that started a season 0-5… 49-113 by the 2003 tigers.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      The problem is that most teams that start 0-5 are indeed shitty teams.

      While the Sux are not what the MSM intimated they are, they are not, IMO, a shitty team.

      But it’s still great to see them 0-5 and hear all the Nation angst,

    • Rick in Boston

      I’m not sure that’s 100% correct. Two teams started 0-5 (actually 0-6) and made their league’s LCS: the 1974 Pirates and 1995 Reds.

      • Chris

        Not to mention the 1988 Orioles who started 0-21 and finished the season at 54-107.

      • Ted Nelson

        I have absolutely no idea, but maybe that’s since 2000 or something.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Pedroia batting 3rd? with a little league bat?


  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    While it’s certainly fun to watch Boston and Tampa struggle out of the gate, we know it won’t last. The Red Sox will win a game soon enough,

    I don’t know that for a fact. The Red Sox could very well indeed go 0-162. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility.


  • Mister Delaware

    Boston hasn’t won in 186 days. Houston is the only team that has gone longer without a victory, by 6 minutes.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      (gets grave-dancing shoes)

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    I’ve watched the last few Red Sox games and while they’re too small of a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions, they have some obvious issues that the “BEST TEAM EVAR” narratives seemed to have glossed over. Concerns about their offense are largely overrated, Youk Gonzalez and Crawford are going to get their hits. Ellsbury I’m not so sure of, and Scutaro hasn’t had a good swing yet.

    It comes down to Beckett and Dice-K though, both looked pretty terrible. Beckett was actually decent in his first two innings, then fell apart. Dice-K was Dice-K, throwing too many balls then leaving balls up and over the plate in hitter’s counts.

    I’m sure the Red Sox will turn it around but they have serious issues at the back of their rotation… just like we were saying all along :)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Concerns about their offense are largely overrated, Youk Gonzalez and Crawford are going to get their hits.

      It’s not Youk, Gonzalez, Crawford, or Pedroia they should be worried about, it’s the other 5/9ths of their lineup. They’re all decidedly meh or worse.

      Those “1000 runs” predictions don’t even seem laughable anymore, they seem downright insulting to our collective intellect. How were we really supposed to buy the Sox being an offensive juggernaut when a third of their lineup every single day will be occupied by some amalgam of Saltalamacchia, Varitek, Scutaro, Lowrie, Ellsbury, and Cameron?

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        Well you left out Drew – who is a pretty solid player despite his fragile reputation – and Ortiz, who continues to put up solid numbers even though we expect him to fall off a cliff every year. At least 2 spots in their lineup will always be weak, but they’re going to score their runs. They’re not doing it right now, which makes thing seem worse than they are.

        I still think the pitching is the larger issue. If Beckett and Dice-K don’t get their act together their rotation is as questionable as the Yankees’ is if not more.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          At least 2 spots in their lineup will always be weak, but they’re going to score their runs.

          Three. CF, SS, and C. Oh, and J.D. Drew, who was always better than Sox fans gave him credit for, might have finally declined into the supbar player with old man skills they’ve been complaining about for the past half decade. He looked like a shell of himself last year (and there’s no real BABIP shenanigans), and he’s 35 now. I’m not ready to concede that he’s not a black hole in the making either.

          I still think the pitching is the larger issue. If Beckett and Dice-K don’t get their act together their rotation is as questionable as the Yankees’ is if not more.

          Seconded. Add Lackey to that mix, too.

          • Chris

            Don’t forget Buchholz. His problem (both minors and majors) was a propensity to give up too many home runs. That wasn’t the case last year and he was good. So far, the outlook for 2011 isn’t too rosy.

          • Ted Nelson

            JD Drew’s wOBA the past three seasons? .400, .389, and .346. If you want to talk about him as a question mark you have to consider most of the Yankees hitters question marks too.

            I think that’s the larger point. The mainstream projections seemed to be a good-ish case for every Sox player and a bad-ish case for every Yankee.

            The Red Sox were the #2 offense in baseball last season, though, so while they may not score 1000 runs they should be fine. Ellsbury’s .342 career wOBA in CF is not a hole in their line-up. It matches up pretty well with Granderson’s 2010 and 2009 wOBAs. If we’re questioning Ellsbury and Scutaro/Lowrie, we’re also questioning Granderson/Gardner and Jeter. I think it’s fair to question both, I just wouldn’t go to the opposite extreme of the MSM by expecting poor performances out of all the Red Sox players.

            BABIP shenanigans??? Drew’s career BABIP is .314… in 2008 he was at .307 and in 2009 he was at .319. I think it’s a lot more likely that he got unlucky at .282 in 2010 than that he got lucky 9 of the 10 seasons before that.

        • Owen

          Agreed. I think it’s a case of “what have you done for me lately?” The glow of the AGon/CC signings trumped the Cliff Lee/Garcia/Nova/Colon spectacle and took focus away from just how suspect the Sox rotation is. 1-3 are amazingly similar…great #1, young #2 likely to regress to a similar mean, insanely frustrating former Marlin at #3. I’d give the 4 & 5 spots to the Sox now but see the difference being less than the difference between Garcia and a Joe Blanton-type upgrade (not that I’m proposing that).

          • Owen

            Sorry – trade/signing.

          • Ted Nelson

            Yeah, I think it comes down to a MSM media narrative based on momentum… the Sox had positive momentum that the MSM extended to their whole roster, while the Yankees had negative momentum that the MSM extended to their whole roster. The rotation thing also probably comes down largely to salary/perception.

      • Tank the Frank

        Agreed. Definitely an overrated lineup. Lead by the Greek God of Overrated – Jacoby Ellsbury. Ever since he came up and rocked late in the 2007 season he’s been thought of like an All Star or something. He steals bases, I get it, but everything else about his game is very average. He’s the “wild card” so to speak because he’s shown some upside, but right now:

        Gardner > Ellsbury – subject to change… two young players
        Jeter > Scutaro – still
        Martin > Veritamacchia – Hell… Cervelli > Veritamacchia

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Lead by the Greek God Navajo Spirit Wind of Overrated – Jacoby Ellsbury.


        • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

          Well, you’re judging it through Yankee glasses. Compared to your average MLB offense, the Red Sox’ is pretty strong, probably #3 in the league behind NY and Texas when all is said and done. Like I noted earlier, scoring runs likely won’t be their problem.

        • Chris

          Ellsbury reminds me of Francouer in that regard. Obviously different skills/problems, but similar hot start and then regression.

        • Ted Nelson

          Ellbury isn’t an average CF… not anymore than Curtis Cranderson is.
          Gardner’s 2010 was very similar offensively to Ellsbury’s 2009 and similar defensively to his 2008… so I wouldn’t jump to conclusions there.

          Just because you perceive someone as overrated, doesn’t mean you have to ignore reality to underrate them…

          Jeter and Scutaro were almost identical in 2010. I’d put my money on Jeter in 2011 too (I’d put my money on Lowrie over Scutaro, though), but it’s tough to say definitely that he’s better than Scutaro or Lowrie.

          Lining up line-ups and counting who has the advantage at more spots also ignores the actual size of those advantages, so I don’t really see the point there anyway.

  • Tank the Frank

    It’s still scary to see the O’s and Jays off to such hot starts. I’ve always liked the Jays’ pitching and Bautista (and that entire offense) seems to be picking up right where they left off. The O’s are very talented but they obviously won’t sustain thier recent performance. I’m not surprised about the Rays though. I thought they were very overrated going into the season. They were a trendy pick to win the Wild Card over the Yankees but I’m not surprised at all they’re not scoring runs with that lineup…especially without Longo.

    • bonestock94

      Eh, this is third straight year the Jays have started hot I think. They always fall apart somewhat in the summer, and without Marcum I’m not scared at all.

      • Tank the Frank

        They didn’t exactly fall apart last season. Plus Morrow > Marcum. That kid has scary upside.

        • Ted Nelson

          Didn’t necessarily “fall apart,” but they were on a 95 win pace through May then were slightly under .500 the rest of the season…
          Likewise in 2009 they started on on almost an 89 win pace and then from there they were well under .500.

          Doesn’t mean history will repeat itself, but I’m not at all scared of the Jays.

    • Poopy Pants

      Well the Jays won’t be a problem once Bautista is busted for roids (as accused by everyone who posts on this board).

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        “Well the Jays won’t be a problem once Bautista is busted for roids (as accused by everyone a vocal minority of people who post on this board).”

        Fixed. Let’s not get it twisted.

      • Ted Nelson

        I’m not one to accuse any specific player of taking steroids, but I do think it would be naive to believe that MLB changed the testing rules and illegal PED use just disappeared.

  • JerseyDutch

    I kind of like that we’re not starting out white hot like the O’s and Jays. They’ll cool off eventually but if we keep chugging along taking 2 out 3 games every series, we’ll be right where we need to be come September.

    • Poopy Pants

      “I kind of like that we’re not starting out white hot”

      Do ya?

  • Nom Chompsky

    Here’s the thing about regression, though: it doesn’t correct for previous anamolies, it only smooths them out going forward.

    So if the Yankees and Tampa Bay are both 91-win teams, well, now the Yankees are on pace to win 2.5 more games. That’s not insignificant. In fact, just these 5 games have, in my opinion, erased the Red Sox preseason edge in talent, such that if both teams play exactly as their talent would suggest, neither team has an edge.

    In other words, this bad start was worse for the Red Sox than losing Adrian Gonzalez for a month would have been.

    The games are the games, yo.

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      I agree. A slow start isn’t a reason to panic, but a bad start also means they have less room for error over the course of the season, especially when you’ve already lost a series to a weaker team.

    • Ted Nelson

      Who says the Sox/Rays will regress to their normal level of production for the next 157 games, and not have a 12-0 stretch to cancel out the 0-5 start?

      Certainly you want the Red Sox and Rays losing whenever possible, but I don’t think a 5 game losing streak is anything but a small stretch of bad luck that they can overcome with a small stretch of good luck. The Yankees and Rays both finished the last 60 or so games of last season about .500 and still have the 2 best records in the AL.

      • Nom Chompsky

        Statistics say that. That’s not how regression works; you’re not “due” a hot streak because you start off cold. If a .500 talent team wins the first 12 games, they become an 87-win team. If they lose the first 12 games, they become a 75-win team.

        • Ted Nelson

          Statistics absolutely do not say that the Red Sox will not have a 12-0 stretch at some point this season. In fact, I’d venture to guess that it’s pretty likely they have some nice winning streaks. The Red Sox absolutely could have a 5 game losing streak followed by a 12 game winning streak. There is no statistical theorem that could possibly prove that to be impossible. Now suddenly 17 games into the season they would be on a 114 win pace.

          My point is that you are assuming the first 5 games are a previous anomaly and not part of their long-term level of production. You are looking at the season in a very linear way. They were due a 5 game losing streak at some point this season. That it happened the first 5 games doesn’t mean that they will now go on to play to exactly their level of production for 157 games. They will have hot and cold stretches.

          You are also not describing any meaningful definition of regression as it applies to baseball teams. That’s my point.

          “If a .500 talent team wins the first 12 games, they become an 87-win team. If they lose the first 12 games, they become a 75-win team.”

          This is just not true. You are arbitrarily assuming that they suddenly snap out of it after 12 games and find their “true” level of play for the rest of the season. Every single season is going to have some hot and cold streaks, whether they happen in April or any other month.

          • Nom Chompsky

            What I meant was that their normal level of talent isn’t 12-0. And to predict that they’ll have a 12-0 streak is statistically unsupportable.

            If they do have a 12 game winning streak, you’d adjust their projection.

            “They were due a 5 game losing streak at some point this season. That it happened the first 5 games doesn’t mean that they will now go on to play to exactly their level of production for 157 games. They will have hot and cold stretches. ”

            This is a pretty clear cut example of the Gambler’s Fallacy. They weren’t “due” for a losing streak, and they’re not “due” for a winning streak. Those hot and cold stretches are built into the projection.

            Let’s assume the Red Sox are a 98 win team.

            If they had won their first 6 games, they only have to go 92-64 to reach their projection. As it stands, they have to go 98-58.

            If you believe that their projection should not be adjusted, you’re basically arguing that the fact that they lost a bunch of games makes them more likely to win in the future. If anything, it makes them slightly less likely to win. Dave Cameron at fangraphs just wrote a piece about this.