Thursday, May 14, 2015


We are following the game from the "other side of the pond" for the next several weeks, and the run-up to that excursion has created a few more gaps in our coverage than usual (that is, from "some" gaps to a "total" gap) but we are back on it now, and will do what we can in the midst of so much else going on.

In the dawnings of the post-sabe age, we've seen glimmerings of folks measuring "luck" in ways that aren't completely tied to old, steadfast ideologies....that's tentatively a good thing. Several have focused on the Oakland A's, who seem to be discovering that one can't make assumptions that things will take of themselves when it comes to the pitching staff (particularly the bullpen).

And that is borne out in what we can see in teams' records in what Forman et fils likes to call "the non-save situation" (NSv, as we like to abbreviate it). This catch-all area for relievers who pitch in variable points in a ballgame, some important (game tied, behind in close games) and some not (blowouts on either end of the relative score) produce an aggregate .560 WPCT but don't always even out. In some cases, they go to almost shocking extremes.

So far, a tough season for the Oakland A's and their mascot, Stomper...
And that's where the A's are in 2015. Their relievers currently are 2-8 in these games. That's a lot of tie games that have been lost. While there are many ways to calculate "luck" these days, we prefer the simplest approach, which for the purpose here would be to adjust based on the probabilities involved with won-loss records for NSV decisions: for the A's, we would adjust from that 2-8 record to 6-4, or four extra games lost via this means thus far. (Thus the A's would be 17-19 for the year, not 13-23. That tracks closely with their Pythagorean Winning Percentage, which projects them to be 18-18.)

Just how bad is a .200 WPCT in NSv games? Well, it would be the worst record in the twenty-first century. The 2003 Mets had a .233 WPCT in NSv games (7-23), and last year's Cincinnati Reds got down to .273 (9-24), but they are the only two teams from 2000 to now who are under .300 in NSv WPCT. There are only 16 teams--about one a year--whose NSv WPCT is under .400 since 2000.

In the last three seasons, the A's had been solid-to-tremendous in this breakout, including a 2012 season (28-8, .778 WPCT) that placed them at the opposite spectrum. That 2012 performance is the best in the 21st at this point, though the Astros (9-2 this year) and the Royals (7-2) are looking to challenge it.

Where are the A's getting killed? One area that stands out: the seventh inning. They have a collective ERA of 7.00 when pitching in what is, for them, a most unlucky frame. They are also 0-6 in extra inning games, which would be the location of most of their NSv situation losses.