It is no secret that baseball is a game of numbers. No other sport is as enthralled with the numbers game as the American pastime. The key statistic of course when evaluating the success of a team is wins and losses. Most coaches often give the “Ra-Ra” speech that if the team plays hard and leaves it all on the field, they will end up as winners. But the truth of the matter is that win/loss record is the key in all sports across the board. The Yankees have only missed the playoffs one time (2008) since the infamous 1994 strike that supposedly killed baseball as we know it. Making the playoffs is the bare minimum in the Bronx, anything short of a World Series is considered a failure. In Baltimore, expectations are a little different.
The second statistic that I always look at when evaluating a team is run differential. Sure, numbers such as VORP, OPS+, RCAA, and WAR are fun and hold significance, but there is only one number on ESPN.com within the MLB standings page that uses colors. That would of course be none other than run differential. A positive run differential is represented in green, while a negative one is shown in red. You better believe that there is a definite reason for this.
Just two teams have qualified for the postseason in the past decade with a negative run differential: The 2005 San Diego Padres and the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks. San Diego limped into the playoffs back in 2005 with a very mediocre 82-80 record, and was promptly swept in the NLDS by the St. Louis Cardinals. The 2007 version of the Arizona Diamondbacks somehow managed to post the best record in the National League (90-72), despite their -20 run differential. The Diamondbacks were swept in the NLCS by divisional foe Colorado.
Heading into play today, 15 of the 30 MLB teams had negative run differentials. Only one of them would be in the postseason if the regular season ended today. That would of course be none other than the team who has finished in the AL East cellar four consecutive years. Baltimore somehow enters play today in position to capture a wild-card spot and just one game behind the New York Yankees (+97 run differential) in the AL East, despite a -24 run differential. A commonly used expression these days in sports is “Numbers never lie.” The Orioles may hold the best record in games decided by one-run in baseball, but numbers never lie.
The past decade has embodied the rule of run differential. A positive run differential is basically mandatory when looking to play in the postseason. Only two of the eighty teams to qualify for postseason baseball in the past decade have posted negative run differentials during the course of the 162 game journey that we like to call the regular season. No American League team has overcome the rule of run differential to qualify for the postseason during the course of the past ten years Nearly 145 games into the 2012 season, the numbers don’t lie. Baltimore has made a heck of a run, but lady luck eventually runs out. Though it will be heartbreaking for Orioles fans to fail to win the AL East and possibly come up short in ending their 15-year playoff drought, the rule of run differential is against the O’s and on the side of the Yankees. Continue reading The rule of run differential