The Unluckiest Teams In Baseball


On Friday I took a look at the teams who have benefited from the most good fortune when it comes to their actual records in 2012. This time around, I want to examine the teams on the opposite side of the spectrum, the clubs who have been shunned and left standing on the street corner cold and unwanted by Lady Luck. Lady Luck isn’t really a very nice person unless you’re the Baltimore Orioles or something.

For the purpose of this post (and the last one), I will compare each team’s actual record to their Pythagorean record. Pythagorean records take into account what a team’s record should be based on how many runs it has scored and given up. I’ll also throw in run differential (which is of course how many more or less runs a team has scored than its opponents through all of their games so far) for good measure. After all, it’s a very big part of the whole Pythagorean record thing. All of the numbers in this post are as they stood after the end of play on Friday, August 3rd.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: Actual record 57-49, Pythagorean record 64-42, +102 run differential

The Cardinals are a whopping seven games worse than their Pythagorean record says they should be. Their expected record and run differential are actually the best in all of baseball, yet the St. Louis team finds itself in third place in the NL central and scrambling to try and earn a playoff berth. The Cardinals are first in baseball in OBP, second in runs scored, and fourth in slugging percentage. On the pitching side of things, they’re also 11th in ERA and 14th in WHIP despite consistent bullpen struggles. The high octane offense is boosted by several stellar seasons. Among the owners of such seasons are Matt Holliday (.961 OPS), Yadier Molina (.872 OPS, career-high 16 HR), Carlos Beltran (.886 OPS, 24 HR), and Allen Craig (.919 OPS, 34 XBH in 246 AB). If things even out for the Cardinals, they could be on their way to another late season surge.

T2. Boston Red Sox: Actual record 53-54, Pythagorean record 57-50, +29 run differential

The Red Sox have dealt with a ton of injuries to almost every key player on their roster, sent Kevin Youkilis out of town, and seen Adrian Gonzalez stop walking and hitting for power. Despite all of these issues, Pythagoras thinks this team should be seven games over .500 and vying more closely for a playoff spot. The Sox have still outscored their opponents, are third in baseball when it comes to scoring runs, and sixth when it comes to slugging. With most of their lineup now healthy (Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia have missed plenty of time), the Sox might be in position to reel off some wins and try for one of the two AL wild card spots. Catching the Yankees, on the other hand, is not likely to happen.

T2. Seattle Mariners: Actual record 51-58, Pythagorean record 55-54, +1 run differential

This entry actually surprised me, as the Mariners and their ultra-weak offense don’t seem like they should even have the 51-58 record that they do. They’ve outplayed that record by four games according to their expected mark, though, thanks to a solid effort from the team’s pitching staff. The Mariners have the ninth best ERA in the game and the second best WHIP. Having Felix Hernandez certainly isn’t hurting matters. The Mariners aren’t a playoff threat, but their pitching staff deserves some credit for keeping the team above water.

T2. Milwaukee Brewers: Actual record 48-57, Pythagorean record 52-53, -5 run differential

It seems like the Brewers have fallen a long way from where they stood a year ago. Milwaukee, which made it to the NLCS in 2011, currently sits firmly in fourth place in the NL central. The Brewers would actually be only one game under .500 if their Pythagorean record counted, a mark four games better than where they currently are. Ryan Braun is having another phenomenal season (29 HR, 1.009 OPS) to lead an offense that is 10th in runs scored and ninth in slugging.

T2. Colorado Rockies; Actual record 38-66, Pythagorean record 42-62, -107 run differential

The Rockies have been downright terrible, but maybe they shouldn’t have quite as ugly a record as they do. Like the three teams directly above them on this list, Colorado should have a record four games better than they do according to their expected figure. That would still put the team 20 games under .500, but you can’t deny the powerful nature of this offense. The Rockies are eighth in runs scored, third in slugging percentage, and 10th in OBP. Coors Field helps that lineup, but it’s also part of why the team is dead last in ERA, WHIP, and batting average against. Well, that and the pitching staff is awful.

The recently on fire Diamondbacks and solid Blue Jays narrowly missed making the list of the most unlucky teams around, as both squads have outplayed their actual records by three games. Those three games would make quite a difference to Arizona in particular as they attempt to flag down the Giants and Dodgers before the end of the season.

If Brian’s writing strikes your fancy, read his work at StanGraphs and follow him on Twitter at @vaughanbasepct.