Well, we've reached the quarter-mark according to the Yahoos, so let's see how things stand. I went to MLB.com and plundered their standings page, trying to determine how teams will fare going forward. I did this using two stats I consider valuable:
1. The Pythagorean Record -- for those who don't know this very basic measurement of over- or under-achieving, it's basically: winning pct = (RS^2)/(RS^2+RA^2). It has its flaws, but it's been shown to correspond to actual winning percentage with frightening accuracy over the long term. It's also the number Bill James uses to determine the probability of a team winning a postseason series.
2. 1-Run Games -- This is my tweak. A team can defy their expected winning value by doing better than expected in close games. The more such games a team is involved in, the more they can throw a monkey wrench into things.
After the jump, the evil math and the projected final standings (when the dust clears).So now the math. First, I found a frequency for 1-run games. Then, I estimated that a team would have the same frequency of such games and the same run of success. (For all I know, this is a dangerous step, but it made sense to me.) The remainder of their games, being more "normal", would be won and lost based on their first-degree Pythagorean. So long story short, a team plays the way their runs indicate unless it's very close, at which point other factors come into play.
The end result is listed here:
New York: 82-80
St. Louis: 92-70
Los Angeles: 109-53
San Francisco: 84-78
San Diego: 63-99
Tampa Bay: 97-65
New York: 83-79
Kansas City: 67-95
Los Angeles: 68-94
Now, some notes:
* Teams helped the most by the 1-Run tweak are Clevelandand Tampa Bay. Cleveland jumps 11 games in the standings and goes from being the weak sister of the playoffs to a team with a shot. Tampa Bay vaults 8 games, going from third to a one-game playoff for first.
* The team that will most likely have their close game abilities haunt them is Toronto. If we went by pure Pythagoras, the Jays would be 94-68 and win the AL East by two games over Baltimore. Instead, they wind up eleven games out of first (although they still make the wild card game). Saint Louis loses 10 games due to the one-run tweak; it's not enough to cost them the Central, but it is enough that they would start the playoffs on the road against Atlanta instead of hosting them. (Texas also falls 10 games, but they retain home field throughout the AL playoffs anyway.)
* Other standings anomalies: Oakland goes from fourth place and 35 games out to second and 18 back; Boston falls from 9 games out of the AL East lead to 16; Pittsburgh jumps from an almost-100-loss team to a 75-win squad; Cincinnati will miss the playoffs by one game no matter what; Minnesota (though still likely the worst team) goes from 25 games out of second in the AL Central to 12 games.
* As for the Amazin's: well, Pythagoras is unkind to the Mets, who have lots a lot of big games and won a lot of small ones. As it stands, they're projected by pure Pyth to be 73-89, in last place by 22 games behind Atlanta. However, the tweak reveals that the team has been producing when they need to (and giving us heart attacks even when they don't), as the current 9-5 record in 1-Run games projects to a final subtotal of 34-19. (Insert "grission" comment here.)
So what does this all mean? First, the standings right now are probably going to remain similar to those in October. Second, teams that win close games will likely leave baseball experts shaking their heads. Third, the Mets are going to be a fun team to root for. Fourth, the AL East is tough, yo. And finally, when the smoke clears, expect the LA Dodgers to be receiving the trophy from Bud Selig.
Or not. Because baseball is weird like that.