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The Padres' Cadre
2005-08-16 22:06
by Mike Carminati

The NL West has become a vast wasteland. With the best player in the game, Barry Bonds, ostensibly sitting out the year due to injury, a number of other stars (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Steve Finley, etc.) recently departing, and still others underachieving (where have you gone Todd Helton?), the division is the polar opposite of the NL East.

While the East has all five highly mediocre teams all over .500—some ever so slightly above—, the NL West features a pennant race in which a team, the Giants, may still be in the hunt—they are 7 games out—while being a staggering 15 games under .500. The Padres have led for much of the season, but they were just swept by the Phils at home over the weekend, their second sweep at the hands of the Phightins' in less than a month, and they have been over .500 for just five days in the last three weeks.

That said, it seems nearly impossible that any of the other sub-par teams in the division will topple the Pod People. Arizona, who is rebuilding and would be nowhere near a pennant race in other year, are just three games back. The Dodgers, or as they should be known for the enigmatic ways, the Cubs West, haven't been over .500 in two months, but linger 5 games back.

It appears that whichever execrable franchise survives the regular season, they will quite possibly have the worst record for any playoff team or division winner in a non-strike-shortened season. They could be the first non-strike team to make the playoffs with a losing record. (Oh, and let's not even think about the wild card: the D-Backs are in eighth, 8.5 games back in the wild card hunt, and the Dodgers are behind the lowly Reds.)

The only other teams to "win" anything with a losing record were the 1994 Texas Rangers and the 1981 Kansas City Royals. The 1994 Rangers "won" the AL West despite losing ten more games than they won when the season abruptly ended on August 12 with a strike.

The '81 Royals were the second-half champs in the AL West after baseball went to a split-season following another work stoppage. They were in fifth place in the first half with a 20-30 record. They won the second half by one game with a 30-23 record. Given that the first-half champs, the A's, were in second place in the second half and given the arcane rules that were imposed that year, the Royals could have finished second and still made the playoffs. Thankfully, that codicil of the rules was never invoked since no first-half champs won their division in the second half. Looking at the season overall, the Royals were 50-53, in fourth place, eleven games behind the A's.

Here are the worst teams to ever make the postseason:

TmYrWLPCTExp PctSeries WSeries LSeries PCTGWGLG PCT
Kansas City Royals19815053.485.49101.00003.000
New York Mets19738279.509.51511.50066.500
Houston Astros19978478.519.57401.00003.000
Kansas City Royals19848478.519.49101.00003.000
Minnesota Twins19878577.525.489201.00084.667
Cleveland Indians19978675.534.52921.667108.556
Colorado Rockies19957767.535.50101.00013.250
Baltimore Orioles19968874.540.52311.50045.444
New York Yankees20008774.540.531301.000115.688
Los Angeles Dodgers19957866.542.51801.00003.000
Atlanta Braves20018874.543.55711.50044.500
Boston Red Sox19908874.543.52301.00004.000
California Angels19798874.543.55501.00013.250
Chicago Cubs20038874.543.52711.50066.500
Pittsburgh Pirates19748874.543.56101.00013.250
St. Louis Cardinals19968874.543.53311.50064.600
Texas Rangers19988874.543.53501.00003.000
New York Yankees19957965.545.53901.00023.400
Seattle Mariners19957966.545.55311.50056.455

Of these, the '87 Twins and 2000 Yankees are the only ones to win a World Series.

So let's say the Padres win their division with a record somewhere around .500. Does that mean that, historically speaking, they will be at a severe disadvantage when the postseason rolls around? Does the regular season matter when October begins?

Well, regular-season winning percentage correlates slightly to postseason series winning percentage (0.2185) and postseason game winning percentage (0.2242).

Perhaps expected winning percentage is a better predictor? Well it is slightly better but still not great (coefficients of 0.3009 and 0.2896, respectively).

Maybe, that's not the way to look at it though. What if we look at individual series? Do teams with better records win more often?

The answer is that teams with better records have won 114 postseason series and lost 102 (and there have been four series in which teams with the same record have faced off). That's a .528 winning percentage, which translates into 85 or 86 wins in a 162-game schedule.

Maybe lumping all postseason matchups together is a mistake. What if we look at just those series in which one team had a winning percentage at least 25 points better than the other team? In those series, the team with the better record won 57.66 percent of the time (79-58), which equates to a 93-win season. For a disparity of at least 50 percentage points, the "better" team wins 64.38 percent of the time (47-26), a 104-win equivalent. A 75-point regular season advantage has resulted in a 25-6, .806 record or a 131-win season. At a 100-point edge, we get 9-3, .750 and a 122 wins.

So let's say the Padres, who since I started this have evened their record at 59-59, meet the Braves in the first round (given that a division winner can garner no worse than a third-place seeding). The Braves have a 71-point advantage at this point and are gaining. One could say from the historical record, the Braves will have a 4-to-1 advantage. Then again, these are still the Braves and their first-round history may overrule the historical advantage.

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