Expected wins and losses for the Indians vs. actual ones

Mike Zarrilli

This is a continued discussion regarding expected wins when applied to GameScores. This time we will try to determine if there is a correlation between team wins and the expected wins pitched by the starters.

Last week I postulated a theory regarding the difference between expected wins and losses for starting pitchers (based on the Game Score for each game, with 55+ being an expected win, 45 and below being an expected loss, and anything between being an expected no decision) and the actual wins and losses. I offered data points for the 2013 Indians and Tigers' rotations and it seemed both were pretty unlucky with a 20+ game difference in wins vs. expected wins for the starters.

But a data set of two is hardly conclusive evidence to support anything. As I had the data for the past 45 seasons of Cleveland starts, I'll stick with that. That takes us back to when the mound was lowered following the incredible numbers put up by pitchers around both leagues in 1968.

First, let's look at Tribe starters' actual records in games they started:

Year

Starts

Wins

NDs

Losses

1969

161

45

44

72

1970

162

55

47

60

1971

162

43

37

82

1972

156

56

36

64

1973

162

52

35

75

1974

162

64

31

67

1975

159

62

33

64

1976

159

57

42

60

1977

161

56

35

70

1978

159

49

38

72

1979

161

57

48

56

1980

160

66

28

66

1981

103

43

17

43

1982

162

52

44

66

1983

162

55

39

68

1984

163

50

47

66

1985

162

41

48

73

1986

163

55

55

53

1987

162

39

48

75

1988

162

65

35

62

1989

162

58

45

59

1990

162

56

44

62

1991

162

42

41

79

1992

162

44

53

65

1993

162

42

66

54

1994

113

48

35

30

1995

144

69

44

31

1996

161

69

50

42

1997

161

60

48

53

1998

162

66

45

51

1999

162

65

54

43

2000

162

64

47

51

2001

162

60

52

50

2002

162

55

46

61

2003

162

47

52

63

2004

162

49

64

49

2005

162

71

40

51

2006

162

62

43

57

2007

162

70

43

49

2008

162

62

44

56

2009

162

45

44

73

2010

162

51

40

71

2011

162

53

48

61

2012

162

48

38

76

2013

162

59

49

54

Total

7144

2477

1962

2705

Average*

162

55

44

62

*This total excludes the data from the three strike shortened seasons (1981, 1994, 1995).

Other than the known fact of some really bad teams in those 45 seasons, is the result that there are some really huge outputs of no decisions. 1993 and 2004 had seasons of 60+ and another six seasons had 50 or more. 1993 was an odd year where 18 different players started a game and 2004 was one of the poorest bullpens in recent memory (30 different pitchers were used that season).

Now let's see what the expected wins totals look like:

Year

Starts

Wins

NDs

Losses

1969

161

67

34

60

1970

162

75

26

61

1971

162

62

26

74

1972

156

83

28

45

1973

162

54

28

80

1974

162

71

32

59

1975

159

67

23

69

1976

159

68

22

69

1977

161

71

28

62

1978

159

66

28

65

1979

161

57

33

71

1980

160

57

29

74

1981

103

46

19

38

1982

162

70

28

64

1983

162

64

35

63

1984

163

50

29

84

1985

162

51

18

93

1986

163

57

35

71

1987

162

48

25

89

1988

162

68

33

61

1989

162

72

27

63

1990

162

58

34

70

1991

162

70

24

68

1992

162

60

38

64

1993

162

46

32

84

1994

113

45

19

49

1995

144

58

34

52

1996

161

63

31

67

1997

161

53

40

68

1998

162

58

41

63

1999

162

61

30

71

2000

162

68

26

68

2001

162

64

24

74

2002

162

59

33

70

2003

162

62

35

65

2004

162

60

29

73

2005

162

81

26

55

2006

162

58

37

67

2007

162

66

34

62

2008

162

65

31

66

2009

162

51

29

82

2010

162

58

38

66

2011

162

65

42

55

2012

162

47

39

76

2013

162

82

30

50

Total

7144

2782

1362

3000

Average*

162

63

31

68

*This total excludes the data from the three strike shortened seasons (1981, 1994, 1995).

Interestingly enough, the 2013 staff outpitched the 2005 staff. That was the one where five starters made 158 of the 162 starts (and the Tribe choked away their shot at the White Sox late in the season). And shocker of all shockers, the best expected winning season occurred in 1972. That happened to be Gaylord Perry's Cy Young season, who made 40 starts. The other two core starters that year were Dick Tidrow and Milt Wilcox. So how did that squad finish in fifth of six teams in the AL East? It was because of an awful offense. The majority of the hitting stats were tenth or worse (out of twelve teams).

The three worst pitching staffs according to the expected win metric were the teams from 1987, 2012, and 1993. The 1993 squad was discussed above. The 1987 team was a preseason favorite, but didn't have a regular starter with an ERA+ over 100, and the only core reliever above 100 was Doug Jones. That overall 48-89 expected wins/losses is very telling. And that 2012 team should be relatively fresh in everybody's mind. The top three starters by games in 2012 (Masterson, Jimenez and McAllister improved from 29-41 in 2012 to 48-23 in 2013, a massive improvement. And the staff itself went from 47-76 to 82-50, a huge 35 game improvement on the win side. [Thanks Callaway!!]

And here are the differences between expected and actual results:

Year

Starts

Wins

NDs

Losses

1969

161

-22

10

12

1970

162

-20

21

-1

1971

162

-19

11

8

1972

156

-27

8

19

1973

162

-2

7

-5

1974

162

-7

-1

8

1975

159

-5

10

-5

1976

159

-11

20

-9

1977

161

-15

7

8

1978

159

-17

10

7

1979

161

0

15

-5

1980

160

9

-1

-8

1981

103

-3

-2

5

1982

162

-18

16

2

1983

162

-9

4

5

1984

163

0

18

-18

1985

162

-10

30

-20

1986

163

-2

20

-18

1987

162

-9

23

-14

1988

162

-3

2

1

1989

162

-14

18

-4

1990

162

-2

10

-8

1991

162

-28

17

11

1992

162

-16

15

1

1993

162

-4

34

-30

1994

113

3

16

-19

1995

144

11

10

-21

1996

161

6

19

-25

1997

161

7

8

-15

1998

162

8

4

-12

1999

162

4

24

-28

2000

162

-4

21

-17

2001

162

-4

28

-24

2002

162

-4

13

-9

2003

162

-15

17

-2

2004

162

-11

35

-24

2005

162

-10

14

-4

2006

162

4

6

-10

2007

162

4

9

-13

2008

162

-3

13

-10

2009

162

-6

15

-9

2010

162

-7

2

5

2011

162

-12

6

6

2012

162

1

-1

0

2013

162

-23

19

4

Total

7144

-305

600

-295

Average*

162

-8

14

-6

*This total excludes the data from the three strike shortened seasons (1981, 1994, 19

At first glance, I see that while the rotation looks to have been lucky in some years and unlucky in others, when combined, the seasons do not "even out." There are many seasons on each side of things though, and if I take the median value, the figure for expected wins is only -5 (instead of -8). What stands out to me is the incredible increase in the number of no decisions. This seems to be due primarily to increase in bullpen usage and the volatility of bullpen performance (and of course there are also days when the other starting pitcher is just better). Intuitively, that seems to make sense, as the fewer innings a starting pitcher provides, the lower the correlation between the quality of those innings and the actual result of the game will be.

.

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