Blowouts and one-run games

Mercifully, the Mets are done with the Diamondbacks this season after Sunday’s 14-1 shellacking. In six games against the 39-66, cellar-dwelling club from Arizona, New York finished 1-5. In those games, the club was outscored 47-19. The Mets were 1-2 in one-run games, 0-1 in games decided by three runs and 0-2 in games decided by five runs or more.

Many people grew up with the “baseball wisdom” that what separates the good teams from the bad teams is the ability to win one-run games. However, that is not really true. What separates good teams from bad teams is the ability to win blowout games. The division-leading Braves are 15-15 in one-run games but they are 17-10 in blowouts, defined as wins of five runs or more.

The six divisional leaders are 102-76 in one-run games. That makes an impressive .573 winning percentage. However, those six teams overall have a 365-260 record for a .584 winning percentage. The best teams in baseball have a worse record in one-run games. In blowout games, the six division winners have a 113-43 record for a .724 winning percentage.

Obviously, all teams will have a .500 record in both one-run games and blowout games. But while the Braves and Cardinals are barely .500 in one-run games, each of our six squads had a record of .630 or better in blowouts. Conversely, the six teams at the bottom of their divisions have a .463 record in one-run games, a .293 record in blowouts and a .375 mark overall. No team is more than seven games under .500 in one-run records while both Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 5-27 in blowouts.

While the good teams do better in one-run games, where they really do better is in blowouts.

Which brings us back to the 2010 Mets. Even after yesterday’s drubbing, the Mets are 16-10 in blowouts. Unfortunately they are 12-21 in one-run games. At nine games below .500 in those games, the Mets have a worse record then any of the six division trailers. The worst record in one-run games by any of those squads is the 13-20 mark by the Seattle Mariners.

There is some luck involved in one-run games. The first thing that jumps to mind is batting with the bases loaded. The average National League OPS in that situation is .745 and teams score an average of 76 runs in those situations. The Mets have a .526 OPS, which ranks last in the NL. They have scored 64 runs, which ranks 15th, ahead only of the dismal Pirates.

On the non-luck side, bullpen management is likely to have a key role in one-run games. The Mets have 22 bullpen losses, which is the third-highest total in the NL. Mets relievers lead all teams in the league with 157 walks despite being fifth in innings pitched.

Could a better manager have helped the Mets bullpen perform batter and pull out some of those one-run losses? The three NL managers with the most lifetime wins are Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. None of those managers have a bullpen with a losing record this season. The Mets are 16-22. None of those managers have a losing record in one-run games. The Mets are 12-21.

One year does not a trend make. But the past two seasons the Mets were under .500 both times in one-run games. Since 2008, the Mets are 47-64 in one-run games. You have to go back to 2007 to find a season when the Mets were above .500 in one-run games. That’s the last year that Jerry Manuel did not manage the club.

The Mets’ record in blowout games shows they are a good team. Their record in one-run games is indicative that they have had some bad luck and that their manager is not doing the right things to win games. Short of a voodoo ritual, there is little the Mets can do to improve their luck. But a new manager might give them a better shot to win close games.

3 comments for “Blowouts and one-run games

  1. Andy
    August 4, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I totally agree with your approach. Blowouts require a lot of talent on the team, because after all the manager cannot pitch, hit and field to score all those runs and keep the opposing team shut out.

    But a manager does make tactical decisions that can squeeze an extra run or two out that could make a difference in a close game. The manager can also have a motivational presence that inspires hustle in the players, which on the whole is not as important as talent but can make a marginal difference again in close games.

    I’ve been thinking someone should come up with a stat to measure this. Maybe simply subtracting a team’s record in games won by 5 or more runs from a team’s record in games run by 2 or fewer runs would tell you a lot about managerial effectiveness and separate it from the manager’s luck in simply having a good team. If the answer comes back negative, then the manager is probably dragging the team down.

    I’d be very curious if someone could crunch these numbers for the Stengel and Hodges Mets teams of the 1960s. Also, would be great if somebody could run these numbers for Wally Backman’s managerial career, and see if there really is a case to have him replace Jerry Manuel.

  2. August 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for reading and commenting Andy!

    I like the idea of comparing the record of Mets managers in blowouts and close games. That is a research-heavy piece and one I will try to tackle in the offseason. Thanks for the idea.

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