I was an outstanding student in high school. My real strength was math. I had to take trigonometry twice because I loved it so much. Eventually, I graduated with a 2.0, went to four different colleges, changed my major three times and got a B.S. in seven years. Yep, I’m an outstanding student.
Needless to say, I like my baseball with less math and more beer, but an article in the Post today got me thinking about a concept I vaguely remember from 10th grade: The Pythagorean Theorem. In the infinite nerd-dome of Bill James, he was able to apply Pythagoras’ sixth-century B.C. BS to baseball. Apparently, if you simply take a team’s total number of runs scored squared and divide it by the team’s runs scored squared plus the team’s runs allowed squared you will come up with the team’s actual winning percentage … or close to it.
Don’t tell James, but the D’Backs are about to become the fourth team in MLB history to crack the “Pythagorean winning percentage” formula:
“The Diamondbacks, despite being 20 games above .500 (88-68) actually have been outscored by their opponents by 14 runs this season … their Pythagorean winning percentage (.487) and their actual winning percentage (.564) are at odds with each other in a way rarely seen in history.”
Exciting shit, I know. But as the article goes on to point out, it’s pretty amazing that Arizona is about to win the division. They don’t have a single player hitting over .300, they have one good starter, they don’t have any 100 RBI guys, and they start six rookies. They do have seven guys with .300+ OBP, but their leadoff hitter Chris Young isn’t one of them. He is, however, the only player with more than 25 HRs.
And just to flex my math muscles, I ran the numbers on the Nationals. They’re Pythagorean winning percentage is 43%, and their actual is 45%.