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Preview, #125: 8/19 @ Padres

The line between success and failure on the road-trip is this afternoon. Or is it?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Today's Lineups

Jon Jay - RF Travis Jankowski - CF
A.J. Pollock - CF Wil Myers - 3B
David Peralta - LF Eric Hosmer - 1B
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Hunter Renfroe - LF
Eduardo Escobar - 3B Cory Spangenberg - 2B
Daniel Descalso - 2B Franmil Reyes - RF
Ketel Marte - SS Freddy Galvis - SS
Jeff Mathis - C A.J. Ellis - C
Zack Greinke - RHP Brett Kennedy - RHP

In a baseball season, virtually every team will win 60 times and lose 60 times (unless they’re the 2018 Boston Red Sox, but you know what I mean). It’s what happens with the forty-odd games in the middle that determines a team’s fate. That’s only about one-quarter of the schedule that “matters”, in the sense that separates the World Series champions from the #1 draft pick the following year, a smaller gap than in any of the other major sports. For comparison, here are the gaps between the best and worst regular season records in each of the four main pro sports last year.

  • MLB: 40 games (24.7% of the schedule)
  • NHL: 2712 games (33.5%)
  • NBA: 44 games (53.7%)
  • NFL: 13 games (81.2%)

I also suspect - though I haven’t been able to find any statistics - that baseball is one of the more even sports. By which I mean, bad teams beat good teams more often. Last year, while the six division winners all were well above .500 against teams with losing records, they averaged 39 losses each. Again, that’s almost a quarter of their schedules, that the best teams in the majors couldn’t defeat opponents for whom the playoffs were but a pipe-dream. Heck the worst-in-the-majors Detroit Tigers won the season series against the Boston Red Sox, and although beaten 4-3 by the Houston Astros, outscored them by ten runs over those games.

This is why I take the long view regarding this road trip, which sits at an even 4-4 against teams the D-backs “should” have beaten. Yes, it should have gone better, but the team still sits in first place and controls their own destiny. If the team ends up missing out on the playoffs, it isn’t their performance on this road trip which will have cost them a spot: it’ll be their failures over the 38 remaining contests. And while it would be nice in the short-term to run off an 11-game winning streak and open up some space between Arizona and the teams chasing them, I think I’d rather have that 11-game winning streak take place during the playoffs in October...