Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Every win counts!

Of course, they all count. But this season is turning out to be very, very special in this regard. Last night, Ryan Howard showed he is, indeed, the man. As I've contended before, the Phils might be well served to trade away some of their veterans, even if they don't get much in return, because some of their best players are under 27. Howard, Madson, Myers, Utley, all making near the minimum, all top contributors for the Phils.

But anyway, last night we could have easily lost the game, and instead won. This was huge. Why? According to Baseball Prospectus, the wild card team will probably win 86 or 87 games this year, with enough teams in the mix that the Phillies cannot count on another team's implosion to back them into the playoffs. The Phillies W3 percentage (explained here, my favorite predictive stat) is only .513, which pretty much means the Phillies are expected to break even over the remainder of the year.

Last night was one of those famous one-run games. The more I learn about baseball, the more obvious it is that performance in one run games is what separates good teams from great ones. Is one run game performance random? I don't think it is entirely. I'll more thoughts on this at a later date, but if you agree or disagree, the irrefutable fact is that one run games will make or break a season for almost all teams, unless they are incredibly good or incredibly bad.

Anyway, in the overall scheme of things, last nights' win barely affected the W3 percentage of the Phillies. But it affected their total wins by 1. So starting today, their base wins for the rest of the season is 49, not 48. This marginally improves their chances of getting to 87 wins. Over the rest of the season, as games get fewer and fewer, those one run games will be less and less likely to even out. The more of these kinds of games the Phillies win, the more likely they will reach the promised land of the playoffs.

Look at it this way: given the W3 percentage, of the final 70 games the Phillies are playing, they are likely to win 36 of them (not adjusting for home/road difference or for strength of opponent). By winning last night, that means they should end up with 85 wins. By losing, they would be shooting for 84. With 87 being the goal, those "random" one run results become more and more important. Every one run game won basically means another half game outperforming our expected win total. If, over the rest of the season, we win 4 more one run games than we lose, we should hit the 87 win jackpot, all other things being equal. Had we lost last night, we would have had to win an extra 6 one runners to get there.

I wonder if Ryan Howard was considering all this when he launched that bomb last night?


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