36 Game Check-up

So, a lot of us are wondering what the hell is going on so far. This team leads the league in runs scored, but also has been shutout more than any other team. I seriously can't recall a "normal" game where we won 4-2, pitched well, manufactured a couple runs, and hit one (singular) homerun... just a quality start and an offensive performance that mirrors the way a "good team" would win ball games day in and day out. I wrote an article in the offseason about how many wins/losses you could expect from a team that distributed runs the way the 2012 A's did, and the amount of variance you could expect from chance alone.

So what's the problem, well it's still early... the variance of our run differential is high (mostly because we've only play 36 games), but let's take a look at the difference between this year and last year.

2012 Oakland A's

2013 Oakland A's

Average Run Differential



Standard Deviation of Run Differential



Correlation of Runs Scored/Allowed



What stands out? On average we're winning by less than we were last year, sign of a team that isn't as good (don't worry, at this point this doesn't mean much). There's more noise in our data- wins/losses are by a larger margin, which makes it hard to tell how good we really are, and oddly the correlation of our runs scored and allowed is negative- when we score a lot, we give up a little, and vice versa. If you're pitching performance has nothing to do with you offensive performance on the same night, you'd expect a correlation close to zero, like we saw last year.

What to expect? Well, nobody knows what the run differential will be by the end of the year. I'd love to see .5568 again but time will tell. Here's an example of how our uncertainty in what our current run differential changes throughout the season due to the increase in sample size. Remember, this year's run differential is really just a sample (36 of 162) and even a whole season is really only a sample of a team that plays an infinite number of games.


In short, we'll have about twice as much confidence after 162 as we do after 36 games. Right now the standard error is about .75 runs per game and after 162 games it will be .35 runs per game. You don't need to understand this chart, just visually seeing the impact of an increased sample size should help conceptualize things. If you're asking wouldn't we gain twice as much confidence going from 81 to 162 games? No, because the confidence doesn't change linearly, but rather by the square root of time.

If we assumed this year's team is exactly as good as last year's team we probably would have won 22 games (most likely). But at the same time we'd have 18 wins or less 19.90% of the time - this is assuming we simulated 1,000 seasons with a run differential and variance of run differential identical to last year's team. We're a little unlucky thus far, but it's not exactly like being struck by lightning either. If we keep scoring and giving up runs the way we currently are, we're probably going to win 86 games with about a 5% chance that we win 94 games or more... but that assumes we don't play any better than we have been, I think this team has better baseball in it than what the first 36 games have shown. These estimates change with every game we play, and if we did the same thing at this point in time last year we probably would've been on pace to lose 100 games.


So, what to take from all of this? Nothing really, I just wanted the waste some of your time and make you think a little bit. There are a few odd things thus far that should change by the end of the season, we're a little unlucky thus far and it's too early to really tell much. Hopefully the starting pitching stabilizes a little bit, that's been the difference from a fundamental standpoint. We know the offense strikeouts a lot, and hits a lot of homeruns and the bullpen is lights out. Our starting pitching is just distributing runs too wildly. Our wins should be a function of the offense's wild run distribution with the pitching being fairly constant- instead they're both wild leading to the uncertainty and prolonged win/loss streaks. If/when this happens we'll starting playing more of those 4-2 games that help us sleep a little better at night. It's really not that bad of a start thus far. We're doing a lot right, just lacking some consistency.

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