I find these early season posts harder to write than the off-season posts. Part of it is the desire to write about the games occurring, while at the same time trying to provide something worth reading. There are only so many ways to write about the improbability of Yuniesky Betancourt’s at-bat against Justin Verlander yesterday*. With that in mind, I’m going to shamelessly steal a topic from Dave Cameron’s 2009 early season posts: Wins in the bank.
Dave’s original post was followed by Sky Kalkman expanding on the topic by applying it to the CHONE standings through that point. The concept is explained by both, but I’ll rephrase it here for originality’s sake. Say the Orioles start off 6-4. CHONE projected the Orioles to win 75 games, or 46% of their games. That 60% win rate seems to be overachieving, but don’t trip into the Gambler’s Fallacy line of thinking that the Orioles will go 3-7 at some point to ‘even things out’.
No, instead you give the Orioles credit for those earned wins while respecting the projections heading forward. 46% of 152 equates to 70 wins. Add those six they already racked up, and the Orioles solid start improved their expected record by a whole game. Of course, this can be applied at just about any time throughout the season. Say the Rays go 35-20 and we still have reason to expect them to be a 90 win team, then they would improve their expected record by four games. In that division, in that race, that’s a huge swing.
It’s early and easy to get swept away in some paranoia and hyperbole. But yeah, the results matter, and they can make a difference.
*I posed the question: How improbable was that?
Betancourt has 2,473 career plate appearances. He has 32 home runs, which means 1.3% of his total plate appearances have ended in jogs … okay, that’s not true, let’s say trots. Per Baseball-Reference, Betancourt has 141 plate appearances that went to a full count. That’s, oh, 5.7%.
On to Justin Verlander. He’s faced 3,580 batters throughout his career and has allowed 81 homers; or a shade over 2%. He’s went to a full count 500 times, or 14%.
Multiply that out and the probability that all of it happens during one plate appearance is roughly: .0002%.