The rule of run differential

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

Is history on New York’s side?

The good guys head into play today with the best record in all of baseball. They also find themselves making a mockery of baseball’s very best division, the AL East (currently up by 8 games). The second-half of the season started with a bang on Friday. Now the Yankees look to put the pedal to the medal as they try to claim number 28. Fortunately for the team out of the Bronx, history is on their side. Or is it? One would think so considering they possess the best record in all of baseball to date.

Here is a little history tutorial. The Yankees have been a member of the mighty American League East since 1969 (year of the Miracle Mets). During that time, the Bombers have captured seven World Series titles and eleven pennants. Not too shabby for most franchises. New York not only wants to win every year, but they expect to win every year. The AL East took its current form (with the current five teams) back in 1998. Since 1998, the Yankees have made the playoffs 13 of 14 years, won six pennants, and four World Series. Oddly enough, in two of those four most recent World Series seasons (2000 and 2009), the Yankees did not enter July 15th in sole possession of first place in the AL East. In 2000, they were tied with the Toronto Blue Jays (crazy I know) and in 2009 they were three games behind that team who must not be named.

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Showalter makes antagonistic remarks; Yanks/Sox indifferent

Recently in a very entertaining interview with Men’s Journal, Buck Showalter made some bold remarks. “The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout. Our guys are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s screaming at Derek Jeter.’ Well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets – and yes, he [ticks] me off.” From there, the Baltimore skipper shifted gears in candid fashion to the Boston Red Sox. “I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay [Rays] payroll…You got Carl Crawford ’cause you Continue reading Showalter makes antagonistic remarks; Yanks/Sox indifferent

A glimpse at the prospective AL East rotations through CAIRO

The age-old pitching adage states that a quality starting rotation goes a long way in producing wins. Given the plethora of historical data to back this philosophy, it’s quite clear why just about everyone in Yankeeland is sitting a little less comfortably in their figurative seats of late. After all, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre aren’t the most stellar of options. Now, I’m not going to tell you to step away from the ledge because I’m not in love with the idea of those two guys either, but I will encourage you to hold off from taking the plunge at Continue reading A glimpse at the prospective AL East rotations through CAIRO

The AL East crown is within grasp

Thanks to the efforts of the preeminent lefthander of our time, one Bruce Chen, the Yankees are now in the driver seat for the American League East title.  This is a drastic shift from even a week ago, when it seemed a fait accompli that the Rays’ easy schedule over the final week of the year would enable them to cruise to the division title.  But baseball isn’t always so simple. As it is, the Yankees’ magic number to clinch the division is now 3, meaning that if they win the final three games of the year they’ll clinch the Continue reading The AL East crown is within grasp

Dual overarching 2010 storylines of A.J. Burnett being terrible and Blue Jays (and Vernon Wells) positively owning Yankees collide in 7-5 laugher

The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 7-5 Monday night, continuing what has been a season-long stretch of dominance over New York. The win improved the Jays’ season record against the Yankees to 9-7 (only the Rays have beaten the Yankees more times, with 10 victories), a mark that includes a 5-2 record at Rogers Centre. Unless the Yankees can win the next two games they will set a new record for futility on the road at Toronto in the Unbalanced Schedule Era, as they’d never previously won less than four games at Skydome since 2001. Here’s some startling news: The Continue reading Dual overarching 2010 storylines of A.J. Burnett being terrible and Blue Jays (and Vernon Wells) positively owning Yankees collide in 7-5 laugher

Yankees vs. Blue Jays VI: Oh, it's you again

The Yankees and Blue Jays meet in Toronto for what feels like the 300,000th time this season though in actuality will be the sixth and final match-up between the two. I was already sick of Toronto in the last Series Preview, and I can’t say I’m exactly thrilled to see Mr. Newest-Member-of-the-50-Home-Run-Club yet again. The Blue Jays have been a thorn in the Yankees’ side all season, and at 8-7 (4- 2 at Rogers Centre) are one of only three teams with a winning record against the Yankees this season — the others being the Rays and Phillies. As I’ve Continue reading Yankees vs. Blue Jays VI: Oh, it's you again

The starting pitching depth in the AL East

Given the success of the young starting pitchers on our divisional rivals who have made the Yankees look silly for the last three games, I wanted to take a quick look at how the starting pitchers on all five teams in the AL East have fared this season to see if there were any interesting conclusions to be drawn. I included almost every pitcher who has started a game for the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays, with the exception of starters I assumed aren’t going to figure into their teams’ respective starting mixes after this season (i.e. Continue reading The starting pitching depth in the AL East

Yankees vs. Orioles V: This Time it's Personal

The Yankees last saw the Orioles nearly three months ago, having played Baltimore 12 times in a span of about six weeks and going 10-2 in those contests. The last time the two teams played Baltimore snapped the Yankees’ 10-game winning streak against them by countering with the Yankee baseball equivalent of a wooden stake or silver bullets: a rookie starting pitcher making his Major League debut in Jake Arrieta. That, or an off-speed pitcher with a ruthless changeup. And if you’re able to combine the whole rookie-making-his-MLB-debut thing with a starter who can’t break 90 and has a 77-mph Continue reading Yankees vs. Orioles V: This Time it's Personal