The odds are against us

There is a perception that the Rangers have played well against good teams and badly against bad teams this season. Funnily enough, my “other” team, Arsenal, exhibited the exact same behavior last year, having winning records against the others of the “big four” teams, but losing some shockingly bad games to some very lowly teams. In both cases, I almost feel like there’s a relaxation when they get to these games, where they think they don’t have to work for the whole game to get a result, almost as though they’re destined to win. Arsenal have a strong recent winning history, which suggests that they might do this, or at least be able to do this, but the Rangers have been struggling for so long it’s surprising they would think the same way. After all, you shouldn’t be thinking that you can relax against “the bad teams”, when you are one of the bad teams.

In their last four series, the Rangers swept Seattle in four games, a team that is now 13 games ahead of the Rangers. Then they were swept in Kansas City against a team that is horrible, yet still now a half game ahead of the Rangers in the standings. They then went and won two out of three in Cleveland, a team that is leading it’s division and fully fourteen games ahead of the Rangers. But then they went to Canada, and were swept by the Jays (are they still the Blue Jays? Their shirts said Jays, and I know they were trying to drop the Blue from their name a while back), who are now 8.5 games ahead of the Rangers. If you’d pick a series to be swept in out of those, you’d certainly have laid your money on the Cleveland trip.

Using some math from the excellent Diamond Mind site, I calculated that the odds of the Rangers being swept by the Royals, given their respective winning percentages, was 12.1%. That’s about one in eight. The odds of their winning two out of three against Cleveland was 25.6%, or a quarter. And the odds of being swept by Toronto were 18.8%, just under one in five. Put it all together and the odds of their doing exactly what they did in the road trip was .5%, or about one in 160. Does that seem excessive to you? Yeah, possibly, although if I were to expand this study to more teams, I bet I’d find similar results all over the place, any time a team goes into a slump they’re upsetting the odds. What does all this mean, though? Let me put it this way: the odds of the Rangers winning two out of three against KC and Toronto, and being swept by Cleveland, were about five times higher than what actually happened.

Okay, never mind all that. How about we just say the Rangers sucked on the road trip? They scored 28 runs in 9 games, an average of 3.11, take out the one game where they scored 9, and the average drops to 2.38. They conceded 53, for an average of 5.89. In other words they lost 6-3 on average. Once again, only McCarthy seemed to be pitching anything decent, although Gabbard did have a good start.

Here’s how the first inning went for the Rangers today: Cat homered on a 1-2 pitch. Kinsler struck out on three pitches. Young singled on 1-0. Sosa singled on the first pitch. Nelson Cruz struck out on 3-2. Wilkerson struck out on 1-2. At that point, the end of the first, I thought to myself that hey, we got a run, and it seemed like everyone had gotten to two strikes (which of course they hadn’t, four out of six did). I had barely even noticed there were three strikeouts, I was pleased because they’d made the Toronto pitcher throw 22 pitches in the first inning. Of course, their pitcher, McGowan, ended up going into the 9th, throwing 106 pitches, so after the first he averaged just 12 pitches an inning. Not good.

On the other side of things, it didn’t even register with me that McCarthy was throwing so many pitches in his first inning, I just noticed the walks. Turns out he threw 31 pitches that inning, ended up with 104, just two less than McGowan, but McCarthy only made it through six innings. Letting guys take you deep into the count, especially early in the game, is what will end up hurting you, and that does seem to have been McCarthy’s biggest flaw, throwing lots of pitches but not many innings. In fact, six times now he has thrown 100 or more pitches this year, and another five over 90, and in all that time he’s only gotten past six innings one time. McCarthy really needs to work on getting that down, because the number of pitches he’s throwing is too high. As a matter of fact, just tonight Sal Baxamusa on The Hardball Times had an article on just this very thing, which says that the average number of pitches per plate appearance last year was 3.8.  McCarthy’s throwing about 4.06, which doesn’t seem much higher, but if you think of him facing 26 batters, like he did today, that’s almost an extra seven pitches, which is almost an extra two batters (hopefully two outs) that the bullpen doesn’t have to face.  How much happier would you be with a pitcher throwing 6 2/3 innings each time, rather than 6?  Of course, you’d get even better results if he threw more strikes, and wasn’t walking a batter every other inning.

So what’s coming up?  Home for Oakland, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.  Normally you’d say wins all around, but the way they’re going, I wouldn’t count on it.  Normally I’d say it’ll be a 6-3 or 7-2 homestand, but unless they’re embarrassed during their long plane home ride tonight, they may come crawling home with their tails between their legs, and go and get dumped on by some of the worst teams in baseball.  Leading us, once again, to the conclusion that hey, the Rangers are one of the worst teams, and have been for a long while now.

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