Wednesday night's dispiriting disaster against the Reds was Arizona's third defeat in a row, and as a result, we are now enjoying the return of Tankapalooza 2010 - the Diamondbacks' quest for the best available draft pick next June. Having locked down the #7 choice with the return of Barret Loux to his natural environment, that loss also gave Arizona sole possession of the third-worst record in the majors, which is were they currently stand after the Reds completed the sweep on Thursday.
With 22 of our next 25 match-ups being against teams currently above .500, it might be a while till the team posts a three-game wnning streak, retiring Tankapalooza again. So, after the jump, we'll take a look in more depth at the current standings: what makes a "bad" team, and where might Arizona end up?
To start, I should explain the less-obvious columns in the table above. RS + RA are Runs Scored and Runs Allowed. SOS is Strength of Schedule, compared to average. Pyth is the expected record, based on RS and RA. And the last seven columns are the record in Extra Inning games, games decided by one run, against opponents with winning records, teams with losing records, and over the last ten, twenty and thirty contests played. Can I just take a moment to say I love baseball-reference.com? Thank you.
Let's look at the teams ahead of Arizona. Boy, the Pirates suck, don't they? On pace for 108 losses, and they're "lucky" to be at that - based on the runs scored/allowed, they're scheduled to go 47-115, and based on their recent run, that would be more likely. This will happen when you are 6-30 in games decided by five or more runs, including a twenty-run thumping. On the other hand, the Orioles are now performing well under new manager Buck Showalter, who has led them to a 11-6 record - the Twins are the only AL team doing better since he took over. Blah-smalllsamplesize-blah, but it seems a new manager can make a difference. Just not in Arizona...
The Diamondbacks are currently 6 1/2 better than the Pirates, and four ahead of the Orioles, a gap which will be difficult to close, unless Baltimore continue on their current tear. However, only six@ games cover third and ninth place, so there's still scope for a lot of shuffling between now and the end of the season. Rising up the charts with a bullet are the Cubs, who have lost 18 of their past 22 as Pinella's last season winds down. But Lou's experienced, and that's what matters, isn't it? Seems likely that his parting gift to whoever replaces him at Wrigley, will be a nice, high draft-pick in 2011. The Indians, with two wins in their last ten, are also moving up fast.
Worth spending a paragraph on one-run games. There is little evidence here correlating overall performance to the record in these. The major-league team with the best one-run record is...the Brewers, who are on the chart. The major-league team with the worst one-run record is...the Cubs. Who are also on the chart. Actually, nine of the ten perform worse overall, than their record in one-run games - exactly what you'd expect if one-run game outcomes are random, as teams should cluster around .500. And lo and behold, we see five of the ten teams within three games of even, with two better and three worse.
There's no doubting the weakest division in baseball. Indeed, there may be an arguable case for the NL Central as the worst of all time; I can't think of any other season where the same division had four of the worst ten teams in baseball. And that's despite a relatively easy schedule - wouldn't you fancy your chances playing, as the Brewers have so far, 39 games against the Cubs, Astros and Pirates? In contrast, the struggles of the Orioles make sense when you realize they have faced the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox 36 times to date. They are 11-25 in those match-ups: wonder what our record would be with that schedule?
That said, 85 of our 122 games to date have been against teams above .500, which is more than any other team listed. However, the gap in our winning percentage against winning teams (..365) and losing ones (.432) isn't enormous. As a result, even if we'd played 60 games, like the Mariners, against losing teams, rather than 37, it would be worth little more than one extra victory for the Diamondbacks, assuming our W% remained the same [if you want the math, (60 x .432) + (61 x ..365) = 48.2 wins]. Even as our Pythagorean record shows us as "unlucky," we can't really claim to be the poor victims of cruel misfortune.
As noted above, the schedule doesn't favor Arizona the rest of the way, with only two series - at home against Houston and in Pittsburgh - against losing opponents. Of the 40 games remaining, ten are against first place teams (the Padres and Reds), and we have nine against the Giants, currently in the mix for the NL wild-card. So almost half of remaining contests are likely to be "meaningful" for the opposition - and that's discounting any late push by the Rockies (nine games) and Dodgers (six). The Diamondbacks need to go 16-24 down the stretch to avoid losing a hundred this year. I'm not recommending you bet any important limbs on us managing it.