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Monday, July 12, 2004

BREAK IT OFF
After all the pain, the injuries, the heartaches, and the slumps, the Lads enter the All Star Break a mere 2.5 games behind division-leading Texas, and a half-game behind division favorite Oakland. I am quite a skeptic about Texas; I have no belief that their pitching will hold up. That Texas should rank first in the majors in runs scored, given their firepower and ballpark, is no surprise. And though it's not as though their nineteen rank in ERA is exceptional, but it's better than we might have expected.

Here are the AL West contenders in park-adjusted Runs Scored Per 9 Innings and Runs Allowed Per 9 Innings, along with their Pythagorean Wins (which would be identical for park-adjusted and not) and Actual Wins:

      ADJUSTED           NON-ADJUSTED  ACTUAL

TEAM RS/9 RA/9 W L RS/9 RA/9 W L
TEX 5.42 4.81 48 38 5.67 5.02 49 37
OAK 4.92 4.57 46 40 4.96 4.62 47 39
ANA 5.23 4.71 48 39 5.15 4.64 47 40
As you can see, all three teams have been very close in terms of overall performance. The three teams are separated by 2.5 games in real life and 2 games in the Pythagorean standings, and each team is exactly one win off of their projections.

One thing I learned in doing this is that the Angels are second in the majors in runs scored on the road, compared to a ghastly 21st at home. Angels Stadium has decreased scoring by about 7% this season; that's fairly moderate, but it's enough to be substantial. You can see how Texas' offensive advantage over the Angels wilts after you account for the park, dropping from a 10% to a 4% lead.

It is, of course, disturbing that our pitching/defense is so close to Texas', but it's worth noting that the A's aren't that far ahead, thanks to their bullpen and the struggles of Barry Zito. While both can be reasonably expected to improve as the season wraps up, we might also expect Texas pitching to decline even further (unless you think Ryan Drese is gonna keep it up with his absurd 1.99 home ERA).

The Angels should also expect improvement from the pitching staff. And I'm staring right at the Big Mango. Consider this: if Colon had posted a 4.50 (i.e. a minimum quality start) ERA instead of his 6.38 to this point, he would have allowed 52 earned runs instead of 74, a 22-run improvement. Now, let's see, about 10 runs brings us an extra win, that would be 2.2 wins, and we're how many games out of first place? Bartolo Colon is almost single-handedly keeping us out of first, and a reversion to mediocrity could be enough to get us where we want to be.

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