In December, I analyzed which teams I believed had a good chance to improve their win totals over 2022 and settled on the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The criteria were loose and free, but a a good part, but not all, of my thought process revolved around 1-run and extra-inning games, the theory being that teams tend to move toward .500 in these games over time and teams that those that were really bad at them were the victims of bad luck, at least to some degree, and would improve this season.
I found three teams that I believed to fit this criterion: Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees.
Like the old Meatloaf song says, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
What are the expected win totals for the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks?
Let’s start with Texas, perhaps the biggest surprise of the season.
2022: 68-94 2023: 37-20 Pace: 105-57 Pythagorean: 115-47 Fangraphs: 93-69
If you’re a believer in the Pythagorean Theorem in baseball the Rangers are on their way to a 47-game improvement over their 2022 record, which would be remarkable. Texas has definitely improved their roster and there’s no way they would repeat their 15-35 record in one-run games of last season.
They still aren’t very good in one-run games (4-7), but they aren’t playing many because they are crushing teams to the tune of +143 runs on the season.
While I expected improvement and noted their improved roster, especially on the mound, I didn’t believe the Rangers would be this good.
Right now, there’s a wide disparity on the projections for the rest of the season for the Rangers, but I’m personally closer to the Pythagorean number than the Fangraphs number.
New York Yankees
2022: 99-63 2023: 345-25 Pace: 94-68 Pythagorean: 92-70 Fangraphs: 91-71
This could certainly still happen, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet and it didn’t help that Aaron Judge attempted to steal third up by five runs early in the season, injuring himself and going on the injured list for 10 days.
Though the Yankees face less A.L. East competition this season, when they do face a team from the East they are very good, with every team in the division currently over .500.
While the Bronx Bombers could still get over the century mark in wins, they’d have to go 65-37 (.637) which looks less likely with each passing day and they could even miss the playoffs.
This looks like a flawed choice on my part.
2022: 74-88 2023: 35-24 Pace: 96-66 Pythagorean: 87-74 Fangraphs: 86-75
I expected modest improvement over the 74 wins of 2022 for three reasons: They were 17-29 in one-run games, were going to play less games against the Dodgers, Padres and Giants and I liked some of their young talent.
The Diamondbacks have turned around the one-run games to this point, going 10-8 in those contests in 2023, but are due for some regression according to the Pythagorean numbers. Still, a 13-game improvement year over year is nothing to sneeze at and more than I expected.
Projecting improvement is not an exact science, and some teams lose one-run and extra-inning games year after year. Still, even if that’s the case, as it is for the Rangers, it may not matter a lot if you improve your pitching staff and average 6.39 runs per game as the Rangers have.