If you believe the nerdlingers experts at Baseball Prospectus, the Angels and the Rays are insanely lucky.
According to something called the “pythagorean over-under,” the Angels, by rights, should subtract nine wins from their total for the year. They’re closer to a 62-win team (see Minnesota and the White Sox) than the 71-win squad that sits atop the AL West. Maybe because they play so many games against sorry AL West teams. But Tampa? BP calls them a 61-game-winner, not the 67W team that leads Boston by three games. They don’t have Anaheim’s cupcake schedule, so I can’t imagine why no love for the Rays.
Actually, I don’t have a clue what any of it means. But BP is always good for some nyuks. So, let’s peek at the American League through the Coke-bottle, Buddy-Holly-style, masking-taped glasses of the folks at Baseball Prospectus.
They love the White Sox and Boston. They hate Minnesota, Texas and Baltimore. BP gives the Red Sox the highest rank in the American League, despite having five fewer wins than Anaheim and two fewer than Tampa. And you can make a pretty good case for that, actually. The Red Sox score .88 more runs per game than they allow – the most favorable margin in the AL. And the White Sox differential is .60, the next best in the league.
BP believes that, because the baseball season is so long, that there aren’t many flukes when it’s all said and done. A team that averages more runs scored than it allows is going to be a winner. And so, if you believe BP, Boston is going to shake its hard luck and will heat up like a blowtorch over the next two months. And the White Sox are soon to open up a big lead in the Central.
Minnesota, on the other hand, despite sitting nine games over .500 and just a game back of the White Sox, is a fraud. They outscore their opponents by less than a quarter run per game and are way behind the Sox in BP’s ultra-dorky “VORP,” both pitching and hitting. VORP is an acronym for “value over replacement player” and measures players’ and teams’ performance against an average replacement. Or a mean. Or some shit. So, Twins fans, enjoy it while it lasts. Hey, I didn’t say it. Baseball Prospectus did.
Texas? Oh my god, forget it. They’re the only team in the league whose pitchers are worse than the bum-off-the-street VORP guy. The Rangers would be better served if they fired all their pitchers and brought up faceless replacement robots. And though they score a ton of runs, their difference between runs scored and runs allowed isn’t what it was a few months ago. Oh, and they play the worst defense in the league. So, great story this year, Rangers. Now run along.
Most people would agree that Baltimore isn’t nearly as awful as they were projected to be. People – including Baseball Prospectus people – predicted apocalyptic numbers for the O’s. They play in a brutal division. And, though they’re in last place, they’re only four games under .500. But BP’s not buying it. Like Texas, the Orioles allow more runs than they score and that spells B-A-D. Their pitcher VORP is the second worst in the American League – behind the Rangers, who are off the VORP charts. It all adds up to a 21 ranking out of 30 major league teams.
So, I don’t know. Are the Rays as good as their record? Are the Angels lucky? Is it possible that Boston actually doesn’t get the credit it deserves? Will the White Sox really murder their division the rest of the way? BP makes bold claims to know the answers.