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By The Numbers: The Dodgers Are Better Than You Think

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10: Manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on prior to a game against the Oakland Athletics e at Dodger Stadium on April 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

In the eyes of many Dodgers fans, the Dodgers stumbled their way into September. In this narrative, the 2018 Dodgers lucked their way into a tie for first into game 163, and the Dodgers newfound ace mowed down the superior Rockies, giving the Dodgers an “aw, shucks we made it” 6th consecutive NL west title.

While some of that narrative may be accurate, a deeper look shows that it may be just a bad coat of paint. Let’s take a look at the Dodgers 2018 record, along with their Pythagorean W/L record.

2018 Los Angeles Dodgers season results clipped from Baseball-Reference.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pythagorean Expectation

OK, here’s a little exposition. “Pythagorean W/L record” or “Pythagorean Expectation” is a sports formula originally devised by the father of modern statistics, Bill James.

Broken down into the simplest terms, it estimates the amount of games a team “should have” won based on the number of runs scored, and the number of runs allowed. It’s a slightly more complicated expansion on assigning some meaning to a team’s run differential.

If you look at the Dodgers record (92-71) compared to the P/W/L, it’s a 10 game difference. That’s a pronounced difference. They outscored their opponents by 194 runs, good for tops in the NL, and third in all of baseball (behind Boston and Houston.)

It says the Dodgers were a better team than their record indicates. An obvious explanation for this, (especially for Dodger fans who watched most of the 2018 season,) was the Dodgers tendency to have offensive explosions in some games. In other games, they had a tendency not to score any runs at all. This could not have been more pronounced than in their FIRST series against the Giants. In that series they scored 14 runs, allowed only 2, yet split the series.

The Pythagorean win/loss also tells a story when you look at the Rockies.

2018 Colorado Rockies season results clipped from Baseball-Reference.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rockies finished with the same 162 record as the Dodgers. Their P/W/L says they were inferior to the Dodgers P/W/L by 17 games, though. They outscored their opponents by only 35 runs.

  • Dodgers 2018 Run Differential: 194 runs
  • Rockies 2018 Run Differential: 35 runs

Whether you like advanced analytics is irrelevant when you look at that kind of disparity. The Dodgers, at least on paper, were a FAR superior team than their record shows, and clearly a far superior team than the Colorado Rockies.

Comparing statistics to themselves can always paint a picture with a control in place. The 2017 Dodgers, one of the best Dodger teams (perhaps) of all time had a slightly closer P/W/L compared to their record, and even they underperformed compared to it by 2 games. 2 games at least falls closer into a margin of error.

The Effect On The 2019 Dodgers

The Dodgers lost Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from their roster of players who played regularly (Kyle Farmer we hardly knew ye, and we miss you.)

They’ve since added A.J. Pollock. They will almost certainly be giving far more ample playing time to Alex Verdugo and possibly Andrew Toles. From a simply eye ball comparison, it appears the Dodgers will be missing some home run power based on that, but not by a whole lot.

A.J. Pollock’s offensive ability is certainly within the comparative margin of error next to Matt Kemp. He’s also way better in the outfield. Alex Verdugo isn’t a known quantity yet, but his hype and stature as a prospect certainly points to a high ceiling. The addition of a healthy Corey Seager brings the Dodgers closer to the gap of losing Puig/Kemp. Losing Alex Wood hurts, but losing his performance in the 2nd half of 2018 hurts less.

Based on that, the 2019 Dodgers look comparable their 2018 team who should have won 100 games.

Final Thoughts

Baseball has become (or maybe always was) a game of aggregate contributions. The Dodgers front office knows this, and they’ve always found ways to plug in contributions from the players they’ve signed or acquired. Still, all of this is predicated on the idea that the results of wins and losses are based on the number of runs scored and allowed in 162 games. The Dodgers could still outscore their opponents by almost 200 runs and barely win 90 games. As math has proven time and time again though, this isn’t likely.

The 2019 Dodgers are better than many Dodger fans are considering them to be.

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-the-top-5-starting-pitching-prospects-heading-into-2019/2019/02/04/” type=”big” color=”red”] Dodgers: The Top 5 Starting Pitching Prospects Heading Into 2019[/button]

Written by AJ Gonzalez

AJ is a lifelong Dodgers fan who grew up in California. His whole family are also lifelong Dodgers fans. He lives in Tennessee with his wife, daughter, beagle, and strat.

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    • Great article AJ Thanks…N0DH Completely agree with you the team stumbled out of the gate with Turner out and Jansen ineffective. The record the last half is more representative of the team Ias they had Turner back and Muncie playing. The team had a .552 percentage the first half and a .582 the second half.
      I have said from the start with a healthy and improved team and the weaker NL West this team should win 100 games barring injury.

  1. I read the article. The Dodgers record Should have been better than what it was in 2018 and the Rockies should have been worse than what it was. The bottom line, after 162 games the teams were tied and needed game 163 to decide the West. The ultimate question, how does the team avoid these abnormalities?

    • Hello Robin, I am not yet sure Dodgers can avoid the abnormalities ya mentioned. Another thing is, that games are played on the field first and it isn’t always just by the numbers

  2. I am not convinced that we are a better team than last year. Our catching situation is very weak and exploitable. Another pitcher would be better than Realmuto – and we could use Realmuto. No one knows how good or bad Verdugo will be. I think back to Greg Brock, Mike Marshall, and others of whom greatness was predicted, and most did not have even a mediocre career. I think we will win our division because it is relatively weak. Beyond that, I think we will be challenged to go very far in post season play. I hope I am wrong. After rooting on the Blue for 66 years, I would like to see us gain at least one more WS ring while I am alive. I am just not comfortable with this team at present. Go Blue!!!!

    • BLUE LOU! Greetings and ya know something? I completely agree here with you and so does PD Jr. !!!!!!!! We are still going to be vulnerable against LHP until Dodgers can show otherwise. And Verdugo is NOT Ted Williams or Lou Gehrig and I just wish people wouldn’t hype him. IMHO he’s just another LH bat, like Muncy is. But What may hamper Dodgers in the PS should they get there is if in 2019, we are seeing a plethora of marginal type players as a result of platooning and for now anyway, and I would hope to be wrong, but we will see platooning in LF, CF, RF, 2nd base and 1st base.

      • Azul, the last sentence of your post is very telling!!!!! Mediocrity is just what we do not need, but as your correctly state, we encourage it through our overuse of platooning. Two months, we both read that Roberts would not platoon as heavily in 2019 as he did in 2018. I bought into that line!!! Now, it appears we will platoon as much if not more!!!!! As you correctly state, platooning at 5 positions is a distinct possibility. How this will effect our overall results is anyone’s guess. Good post, Azul and PD Jr.!!! Go Blue!!!

    • That’s pretty negative to call Verdugo Brock who is an outlier as an example. Just bad. He was one of the most sought after prospects for 3 years and hit 324 in the minors best season. His defense is stellar and he already hit 260 under the worst circumstances as possible last season mostly pinch hitting.

      • MLB pitching, whether RHP or LHP is far superior to what one faces in the minors. I won’t call Verdugo Brock necessarily but he’s just another in a plethora of LH batters on this team and that won’t cut it in the long run, especially in games where it will matter the most, such as in the PS.

  3. I see this season as an addition by subtraction, not that we won’t miss Puig’s bat and cannon in right field, but less platooning may help stabilize the run/game inconsistencies. These guys need to play everyday, and DEFINITELY every game in the playoffs. Pollock allows them the freedom to spend $ elsewhere and gives them flexibility in picking up players if needed during the season. Verdugo is at a place where you play him or trade him…I like playing him.

  4. Seager will add power and average, Pollock was a monster before hurt and he is not injury prone. Buehler a whole season, Urias will be there, Verdugo is one of the top prospects and helps replace Puig/Kemp. A thinner Jansen and great Kelly addition. Belle and Taylor had horrible years and will most likely be better. Arizona will be crap and Colorado has issues. Can’t make all that sound like the Dodgers are worse. You have to be extremely negative to call the Dodgers worse.

  5. The Rockies were lucky. But in the Dodgers case it was not just bad luck. The Dodgers last year beat up on bad and mediochre pitching scoring many extra runs. But against really good pitching the Dodgers propensity for no contact controlled the outcome. I think management made this a major concern this offseason.

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