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The Halves and the Halves Not, Part III
2004-09-09 12:22
by Mike Carminati

Parts I and II.

The Best of Halves, The Worst of Halves

One other thing about the Braves, as well as the Cards, they have a winning percentage well over .700 in the second half (.706 and .750 as of Monday, respectively). Here are the teams that sustained a .700+ winning percentage for an entire half season:

.775Cleveland Indians1954Second55160
.773Oakland Athletics2001Second58170
.768St. Louis Cardinals1942Second63190
.753Brooklyn Dodgers1953Second55180
.753New York Yankees1998First61200
.750St. Louis Cardinals2004Second39130
.741Montreal Expos1994Second2070
.740Atlanta Braves1993Second54190
.732Chicago Cubs1935Second60220
.724Seattle Mariners2001First63240
.720Baltimore Orioles1970Second54210
.716Oakland Athletics2002Second53210
.714New York Yankees1977Second50200
.714New York Yankees1994Second2080
.712Arizona Diamondbacks1999Second52210
.712Brooklyn Dodgers1942First52210
.711Boston Red Sox1949Second54220
.708Brooklyn Dodgers1952First51210
.708St. Louis Cardinals1944First51210
.707Seattle Mariners2001Second53225
.707New York Yankees1939First53220
.706Atlanta Braves2004Second36150
.705Cincinnati Reds1970First62260
.704Boston Red Sox1948Second57240
.702New York Mets1986First59250
.701Boston Red Sox1946First54230
.701Cleveland Indians1995Second54230
.701New York Giants1951Second54230
.700New York Yankees1961Second56240

By the way, the Cardinals fell from fourth (.765) and the Braves from ninth (.735) with losses yesterday (two by the Braves).

Now, for the losers: the Diamondbacks (.220) and Brewers (.294) have been horrific in the second half. Let's look at the all-time worst halves:

.197Philadelphia Athletics1943Second156137.5
.213Boston Braves1935Second176342
.215Washington Senators (1901-60)1949Second176238.5
.218New York Mets1962Second176134
.220Arizona Diamondbacks2004Second113920
.247Detroit Tigers1975Second185530.5
.257Detroit Tigers2003Second185228.5
.263Philadelphia Phillies1945First215926
.263Pittsburgh Pirates1952First215934
.266Texas Rangers1972Second174721
.266Oakland Athletics1979First256930.5
.270Philadelphia Phillies1941First205430
.272Detroit Tigers2003First256726
.273New York Mets1965Second215628
.275St. Louis Browns1939Second225833
.275St. Louis Browns1935First195025
.276Toronto Blue Jays1981First164219
.276Philadelphia Phillies1942Second215539
.279San Diego Padres1974Second174421.5
.280Philadelphia Athletics1954Second215436
.280Philadelphia Phillies1942First215432
.280New York Mets1962First235931.5
.281St. Louis Browns1937Second256434
.282New York Mets1963Second225626.5
.282Philadelphia Phillies1997First246132
.284Pittsburgh Pirates1952Second215328.5
.284St. Louis Browns1939First215331.5
.284New York Mets1964First235827
.286Philadelphia Phillies1939Second246032.5
.286Washington Senators (1901-60)1948Second225533
.288Philadelphia Phillies1941Second235727.5
.288Boston Braves1935First215229
.288Chicago Cubs1981First153717.5
.290Toronto Blue Jays1977Second204929.5
.292Cleveland Indians1971Second215125.5
.293Seattle Mariners1980Second245826
.293Florida Marlins1998Second225325.5
.294Milwaukee Brewers2004Second153623.5

The D-Backs are fifth all-time, right behind the expansion-year Mets and well ahead of last year's Tigers, both halves. It's too bad that they were just bad and not abysmally so in the first half or we would have one of the worst teams of all time. They do project to 113 losses which is pretty bad though. Maybe they can try a bit harder, lose their last 23 games, and tie the Mets for second in the most losses by a team ever. Still at 113, they will come in tied for sixth. Here are the leaders:

Cleveland Spiders189920134
New York Mets196240120
Detroit Tigers200343119
Philadelphia Athletics191636117
Boston Braves193538115
Pittsburgh Alleghenys189023113
Washington Senators190438113

Pythagorean Pathos

The Red Sox are now just two games behind the Yankees, something that seemed extremely unlikely for large segments of the season. It seemed that they were 10-1/2 games back for months. Many statheads (including me) pointed to their Pythagorean expected winning percentage and said that the Red Sox caught catch the Yankees.

So does a Pythagorean winning percentage that outdistances the actual winning percentage in the first half of a season augur improvement in the second half of the season?

Here are the 25 teams that had expected winning percentages at least 75 points higher that their actual winning percentage in the first half of the given season. For each, the improvement in their (actual) second half winning percentage is listed:

TeamYrPyth DiffPCT Diff
New York Mets1993.119.116
Florida Marlins1995.117.208
Cleveland Indians1947.109.046
Houston Astros2000.108.215
Pittsburgh Pirates1984.107.170
Baltimore Orioles1967.107-.007
Kansas City Royals1999.092-.010
Houston Astros1975.090.091
St. Louis Browns1945.088.080
Chicago White Sox1966.088.137
Philadelphia Phillies1961.085.021
Philadelphia Phillies1936.084-.037
Houston Astros1984.083.024
Chicago White Sox1987.080.158
Oakland Athletics1986.080.206
Baltimore Orioles1999.080.146
Milwaukee Brewers (1970-97)1980.079-.053
Detroit Tigers1956.079.168
Boston Braves1951.079.066
Pittsburgh Pirates1986.079-.050
New York Giants1949.079-.051
New York Mets1995.077.224
Chicago Cubs1954.077.100
Cleveland Indians1984.075.123
St. Louis Browns1941.075.149

The Red Sox actually don’t even make the list. Their expected winning percentage was just 24 points better than actual in the first half. However, a bigger issue in the division was that the Yankees were well outperforming expectations.

Actually, there were a fair number of teams outdistancing expectations in the first half and many have returned to earth. Here's what I said about it a week before the break:

Keep in mind that the Reds also exceed their expected winning percentage by 86 points. They own a 44-38 (.537) record but by their run differential one would expect them to have won only 45.1% of their games. So surely the difference is caused by the smaller sample of games. Over a full season things will even out, but will the run differential change to fit the record or will the record change to more closely fit the run differential?...

That said, teams like the Yankees, Reds, Twins, Giants, etc. who have been outdistancing run-differential expectations may get their comeuppance in the second half.

So hat has happened in the second half to the teams that have outdistanced their first half expectations? Here are the worst offenders with the winning percentage difference for the second half:

TeamYrPyth DiffPCT Diff
Brooklyn Dodgers1954-.111-.037
San Francisco Giants1997-.107-.066
Baltimore Orioles1978-.104.063
Brooklyn Dodgers1940-.097-.156
Kansas City Athletics1955-.097-.064
Cincinnati Reds1970-.097-.164
New York Mets1984-.097-.049
New York Mets1972-.087-.070
St. Louis Cardinals1994-.084-.133
Boston Braves1938-.083.025
Detroit Tigers1945-.083-.057
Washington Senators (1901-60)1947-.082-.046
New York Yankees1998-.081-.099
Baltimore Orioles1959-.080-.079
Houston Astros1979-.080-.060
Atlanta Braves2003-.080-.076
Houston Astros1963-.080.061
Boston Red Sox1986-.079-.117
Chicago White Sox1947-.079-.035
Seattle Mariners2001-.078-.017
Cincinnati Reds2004-.077-.208
New York Yankees2004-.077-.043
Philadelphia Phillies1981-.075-.137
Washington Senators (1901-60)1948-.075-.162
Los Angeles Dodgers1985-.075.046
Pittsburgh Pirates1944-.075.020
Chicago Cubs1977-.074-.237
Boston Red Sox1980-.074-.026
Cincinnati Reds1995-.074-.080

The Yankees and Reds both appear on the list and both have had severe declines in the second half.

Actually, you'll notice on both lists that there are a good number of teams that defy their Pythagorean expectations in the second half. I checked the correlation coefficient for the two and found it was just .356, not all that convincing. Yes, teams generally do as their expected winning percentage dictates, but it's not a very strong correlation.

Mo'…Larry…The Cheese

Now that the Pythagorean formula is let us down as a predictor of future success, let's take a look at how much a strong finish affects a team in the next season. We are always told that the local nine finished strong last season, their midseason callups looked good, and it all bodes well for the current season. It's practically a mantra in Philadelphia.

Is their momentum from season to season? Does a team that finishes strong one year improve in the next? By the same token, do aging teams that decline in the second half continue to decline in the next season? Let's take a look. Here are the teams that improved the most in the second half and what they did the next season:

TeamYrPCT DiffYr Diff
Philadelphia Phillies1997.289.043
St. Louis Browns1935.279-.053
Oakland Athletics2001.268.006
St. Louis Cardinals1940.260.085
Los Angeles Dodgers1979.236.077
New York Mets1995.224-.041
Detroit Tigers1944.223.004
Houston Astros2000.215.130
Brooklyn Dodgers1936.213-.030
Boston Red Sox1996.213-.043
Florida Marlins1995.208.025
Oakland Athletics1986.206.031
Cleveland Indians1973.205.037
Washington Senators (1901-60)1941.199-.044
New York Yankees1984.198.065
Philadelphia Phillies1952.192-.026
New York Giants1950.191.066
Chicago White Sox1998.185-.028
Toronto Blue Jays2002.184.049
Baltimore Orioles1975.180-.023
Atlanta Braves1993.178-.045
San Francisco Giants1994.177-.013
Boston Red Sox1948.177.004
Chicago Cubs1935.176-.084
New York Mets2001.176-.040
Chicago White Sox1983.175-.154

Now here are the ones with the worst declines in the second half:

TeamYrPCT DiffYr Diff
Philadelphia Athletics1943-.239.149
Chicago Cubs1977-.237-.012
Minnesota Twins2001-.232.059
Milwaukee Brewers (1970-97)1975-.225-.010
Washington Senators (1901-60)1949-.225.110
Cleveland Indians1941-.221.000
Detroit Tigers1995-.218-.090
New York Giants1940-.207.010
Chicago White Sox1951-.207.000
Detroit Tigers1975-.207.101
California Angels1983-.205.068
New York Mets1991-.192-.034
New York Yankees1973-.187.056
Cincinnati Reds1991-.184.099
New York Giants1935-.184.003
Montreal Expos2000-.179.006
Philadelphia Phillies1995-.179-.066
Houston Astros1966-.179-.019
San Diego Padres1982-.174.000
New York Giants1953-.173.175
Texas Rangers1983-.171-.047
Baltimore Orioles2002-.169.025
Baltimore Orioles1986-.169-.037
New York Giants1938-.168-.043
Boston Red Sox2001-.167.065
Cincinnati Reds1970-.164-.142
Boston Red Sox1978-.162-.039

Again neither table appears to express a correlation between second-half success carrying into the next season. But let's run the numbers for every season.

I got a correlation coefficient of -0.0134, meaning that there is a slight trend in the opposite direction. Not only is there no evidence of momentum from season to season, if anything the trend tends to reverse ever so slightly.

To be continued…

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