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Bobble Heads
2004-06-14 18:59
by Mike Carminati

Mediocrity would always win by force of numbers, but it would win only more mediocrity. —Ellen "Jack" Glasgow

The Yankees appear to be pulling away from the pack in the AL since they have won 16 of 19 and are on a pace to 106 games on the year, while they prepare to gorge themselves on the mid-season offerings from soon-to-be non-contenders. Oakland (with an 8-game win streak) and Boston who have had their share of success and are on a pace to win in the high 90s.

Meanwhile in the senior circuit, the leaders seem to be content to skirt mediocrity. No team has a winning percentage over .571, meaning that none will win over 93 games if they keep up their current winning percentages.

No second place team is more than 1-1/2 games behind the division leader. Indeed, there are ten teams clumped within four games of each other in the league:

St. Louis3627.571-
Los Angeles3228.5332.5
Chicago Cubs3329.5322.5
San Diego3329.5322.5
San Francisco3231.5084

Well, so what's the big deal? How unusual is that?

Here are the only league leaders in winning percentage who have had a sub-.575 percentage and what the did in the postseason:

1974AL.562Baltimore OriolesLost ALCS
1983NL.562Los Angeles DodgersLost NLCS
1959NL.564Los Angeles DodgersWon WS
1915FL.566Chicago WhalesN/A
1967AL.568Boston Red SoxLost WS
1982NL.568St. Louis CardinalsWon WS
1980NL.571Houston AstrosLost NLCS
1989NL.574Chicago CubsLost NLCS
2001NL.574St. Louis CardinalsLost NLDS
1964NL.574St. Louis CardinalsWon WS

Surprisingly, they have not done that badly in the playoffs. Given the odds resulting from the number of team in the playoffs in those years, one would expect the teams above to win slightly 2.875 World Series and they have won three. Only one of those World Series championships came in the expansion era, however. And after the playoffs expanded, it seems to negatively impact the teams. One would expect 2.75 of the six expansion era teams to win the league championship, but only one (the '82 Cardinals) actually did. Of course, we are dealing with an extremely small sample size so luck plays a large role. But it is odd that in the 1980s, there were 4 league leaders with sub-.575 winning percentages but only one since.

So what does it mean? If you're looking for a Cinderella team, this year's 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, or 1980 Carl Spackler, then if things stay relatively the same, the wild card team in the NL could be that team. Right now, that's the Cincinnati Reds, losers of six straight.

Of course, this is all just an exercise in sublimation for a Phillies fan who is concerned that given their head-to-head performance, the Phils will never overcome the Marlins and hopes the wild card route will spell victory. I can dream, can't I?

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