Wednesday, May 19, 2010

At the Quarter Mark... Well, Almost

I had been planning on writing a season-to-date review at some point. My first thought was 20 games, but I figured that was too small a sample. Then I thought maybe it would be better after 1/5th of the season, but it seemed odd to try to split the season into quintiles, and I was swamped with work anyway. Conclusion? The quarter mark...until I realized that I'll be traveling on the day after our 40th game. So, here's a quick quarter review after the first 39 games. 40 isn't even a perfect quarter anyway.

The team currently sits atop the NL West with a record of 23-16. Better than that, though, is that we seem to deserve the distinction. According to Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings, our record ought to be either 23-16 or 24-15, and they measure it three different ways - actual runs scored versus runs against, equivalent runs scored versus runs against, and adjusted equivalent runs and runs against. All of that dovetails with our actual +41 run differential so far this season.

In contrast, last season we had two decent months - May and August - in which we finished right around .500. However, in each of those months we had a negative run differential. That happens to everyone - sometimes there are a bad couple of games in there that can skew the month - so it's not necessarily a death knell, but it doesn't provide a warm and fuzzy feeling. On the other hand, we may only be 8-8 so far in May, but we have a +12 run differential for the month. I'd rather have a better record, but if we're going to be .500 over a stretch, this is the kind of short-term .500 I prefer.

Part of the reason for our internal optimism throughout the winter and spring was that in contrast with the first five months of the season, in September/October last year we went 18-11 with a run differential of +17. That +17 made the 18-11 more real, so it's great to see the team build on that through the first month and a half of this season. I'm not sure exactly when, but at some point it becomes a trend.

There are a number of other ways to evaluate this season to date that could provide either comfort or caution. The good news, again, is that most of these evaluations provide comfort. For instance, if you want to win the division, you generally need to play well within the division. After all, it accounts for 72 of the 162 games, and a win for you is a loss for someone else in the division. Last year we went 33-39 in the NL West. So far this year we're 13-10.

Another way to look at it is home/road. It's hard to win on the road, and only the best teams win consistently on the road. Really good teams - ones that win 90 or more games - typically finish at least 39-42 on the road and more often than not slightly over .500. Last year we were 33-48. This year we're 11-7.

This next one ties back to run differential. While one run games can often go either way, the best teams usually win a majority of games decided by at least five runs. This year we're just 7-7 in one-run games. We certainly hope that gets better, but I'm glad we're not 23-16 overall and 13-1 in one-run games, because that success would be completely unsustainable. On the other hand, last year we were just 10-32 in games decided by at least five runs. This year? We've already won seven, and we're 7-3 overall. In fact, we've only lost one game by more than three runs in our last 30 contests! When we lose, we don't lose by much, and we've shown the ability to win comfortably. That's a good combo.

I intended to get into our pitching (tops in the NL in ERA), our defense (second in MLB in defensive efficiency), and our hitting (um...not as good as our pitching and defense), but I'll have to address those in a later post.

The bottom line is that it appears as though we deserve our run differential, and consequently, deserve our place in the standings. That's a reassuring feeling at the almost quarter mark. The challenge now is to keep it going, because there's still a long way to go.

9 comments:

Christina said...

I'm so used to the team NOT hitting consistently that it has been a rather pleasant surprise this season when they do, at least, get a timely hit or two to push some runs across.

Still, it is frustrating to hear people talk about how the Padres *best* hitter would barely make it in the starting lineup of most other teams. And statistically, they are right. The strikeouts are tortuous.

BUT - this team is FUN. They scrap. They pitch their brains out and play defense and steal bases and are just so much more entertaining now.

As you said - long haul - but I do like the start!

Wonko said...

I know this is slightly off topic, but there is no one I could think to ask except you, Paul. I noticed in the Fort Wayne box score yesterday that the starting pitcher was Daniel Sarria. I don't recall us drafting him and I don't see any numbers from previous seasons. Who is he? Where did he come from?

Paul DePodesta said...

Christina,

We may not have hit a lot so far, but our opponents have hit less!

I doubt we'll be able to keep this pace up on the mound, but I also suspect we'll hit more than we have this month. Let's just hope it happens concurrently.

Paul DePodesta said...

Wonko,

You're locked in!

Felix Feliz and Ysrael Rojas signed Sarria for us last November. He's 22 years old and was originally born in Cuba.

TFree said...

Hi Paul,

Can you talk a little about minor league options? How many times can a player be sent back to the minor leagues before he has to clear waivers? Finally, how many more options does Adam Russel have left?

Hotblack Desiato said...

Count this Dodgers fan as being impressed. We miss you, Paul. I love what you guys are doing down there. I admit to seeing you guys as something of a mirage in the early going, but the longer you keep winning, the more real you appear to be. I wish our front office was blogging about equivalent runs and defensive efficiency. *sigh*

I fled from the southland to the Pacific Northwest about 10 years ago but I'm taking a trip through CA in July and one of my stops will be my inaugural visit to Petco. At least you're playing the D'backs so I don't have to feel bad if I start cheering. Hell, I'm as much a San Diegan as a Los Angelino - just don't tell anyone I secretly like the Pads.

Paul DePodesta said...

TFree,

I'm write another post about that at some point, because I need the space. The short answer (and this applies to Russell) is that players can go up and down numerous times in one season, and it counts as just one option. One season, one option.

Paul DePodesta said...

Hotblack,

We'll win you over yet!

Paul DePodesta said...

There was also a comment from "Jordan" which I declined to post. However, Jordan, please write another comment with your email, and I'll try to respond using that avenue.