Yesterday over at Business Insider I showed why it is so important to reach 94 wins. In short, if you can reach 94 wins, you will go to the playoffs no matter what the other teams do. If you fall short of 94, you will need some help.
So far this season, the Rays are 9-10 due in large part to some shaky hitting. On the other hand, the pitching staff has been solid. Prior to last night’s game, the starting pitchers were fifth in the AL with a 3.58 ERA and the relievers had the best ERA in the AL (2.57).
If the pitchers continue to pitch this well (which seems realistic), the offense doesn’t need to score that much, right? Well, sort of. They don’t need to score much, but they do need to plate more runs than they are scoring right now. A lot more.
To figure out how good the hitters need to be, we will work with the Pythagorean Win Percentage formula. This formula looks at how many runs a team has scored, and how many they have allowed and determines what the team’s winning percentage should be based on those numbers. Typically, we would use this formula to determine if is a team has been lucky or unlucky, with most teams usually falling within 2-3 wins of expected.
For this post, we will work backwards. We know what we want the winning percentage to be: A 94-68 record is a .580 win percentage. So working backwards, we just need to know how many runs a team needs to score (and allow) to reach that mark.
The result is the following chart…
The blue line represents a 94-win season. We can see that if a team only allows 500 runs (3.1 runs per game) over the course of a full season, they need to score about 600 ( 3.7 r/g) to win 94 games. At the other end, we see that if a team scores 1,200 runs (7.4 r/g), they can still allow 1,000 runs (6.2 r/g) and win 94 games.
In the case of the Rays, they are currently giving up 3.9 runs per game (vertical red line). That projects to 631 runs over the full season. If the Rays keep up that pace, they would need to score 753 runs (4.6 r/g) to reach the magic number (horizontal red line).
Unfortunately, the Rays have only scored 67 runs, or 3.5 per game in the first 19 games. That is a pace of just 571 runs, or about 180 runs less than what they need. So to reach the 753 run mark with the offense, they will need to score 686 more runs over the remaining 143 games. That is 4.8 runs per game. Last year, the Rays averaged 5.0 runs per game.
And of course, this is all assuming the pitching staff keeps pitching as well as they have (they allowed 4.0 r/g in 2010). If that unit starts to slip up, the offense will need to be that much more productive.
In theory, a team need not worry about what other teams are doing. If the Rays can score a certain amount of runs, and give up a corresponding number of runs, they will win about 94 games. And if the Rays win 94 games, they will be playing baseball in October. But so far this season, the offense is way off the pace. If they don’t increase their scoring rate soon, this could be a long season.