Padres Editorial: The Padres Have Been Lucky This Year

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Mandatory Credit: Getty Images
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

The San Diego Padres have not lived up to their lofty expectations this season. They have struggled in every aspect of the game and have found themselves hanging around or below .500 all season. They have suffered through injury, inconsistency, and downright poor play. In actuality, the Padres are actually lucky to be in the position they are.

The Padres were riding a five game win streak (before being beaten up last night) and look to finally be jelling a little bit better as a team. This has brought about some cause for optimism. With that being said, this quiet five game winning streak must be kept in perspective. While the Padres have been unlucky in terms of injury they have greatly benefitted from luck on the field. In reality, they should have a worse overall record than they actually have.

To start off with, the Padres have actually outperformed their expected performance based on their run differential, their runs scored per game, and their runs against per game. Following their win last night the Padres currently sit at 44-49. Based on the Pythagorean projections for the Padres, they actually should be two games worse at 42-51. Basically what the Pythagorean win/loss projections system does is predict what a team’s record is expected to be given how many runs they score and how many runs they allow. For clarification on the specifics the formula is listed below. Basically the Padres have outperformed the expectation for their record based on how many runs they have scored and how many runs they have given up. 

Win % = Runs Scored (Squared)/ Runs Scored (Squared) + Runs Allowed (Squared)

Beyond that, the Padres have also outperformed their base runs projected record. While the Padres are 44-49 their base runs record actually sits at 40-53, which is even worse than the Pythagorean projections. This is a similar formula to the formula used in the Pythagorean formula, but is more focused on how many runs a team should have scored/allowed based on the team’s component statistics. This is thus an attempt to measure the true talent of a team and where their record perhaps should be. I will save you the complicated formula for BsR, but just know it is just a prediction of where a team should be in run differential, runs scored, and runs allowed based on their performance in several basic statistics such as hits, walks, etc.

While the Padres sit at 44-49 with a -43 run differential and 3.92 runs scored a game on average and 4.39 runs given up a game on average, the Base runs standings tell a different story. According to this projection, the Padres should be 40-53, as stated above, with a -60 run differential and 3.66 runs scored a game as well as 4.31 runs given up a game. This paints a bleaker picture for a Padres team that has been mediocre, but not quite terrible, up to this point on the season.

Now people might ask, what’s the point of this type of projection? Or why are the Padres projected to be worse than they actually are so far this year in terms of their win-loss record? I will start by answering the first question. These types of projections are an attempt to calculate and quantify the actual talent level of a team. Basically it’s an attempt to take any of the noise out of the actual record and calculate where the team actually should be based on their statistical performance. In this case the Padres have so far held a better actual record than they should have based on their statistical performance. The second question gets a little more tricky to answer simply.

Mandatory Credit: Getty Images
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

So yeah the Padres have actually had a better record than they “should” for all intents and purposes. But how come the Padres have two more wins than Pythagorean projections, or four more wins than base runs projections? This is where the concept of luck comes in. The Padres have just been lucky and that has helped their win-loss record despite the statistics that would say otherwise.

Now we aren’t necessarily talking about “luck” in the traditional sense, but more circumstance. To elaborate on what this means, it is important to focus in on the concept of cluster luck and what is has meant for the Padres season to this point. Basically cluster luck tells us how lucky a team, either on offense or defense, is in clustering hits together or in not allowing their opponent to cluster hits together. Basically this measurement elaborates on the difference between a team that gets one hit in each inning of a nine inning game and scores 0 runs, and a team that gets all nine hits in the same inning and scores 9 runs. At its most basic form, cluster luck just measures how some teams benefit from stringing hits together while other teams do not, or benefit to a lesser extent.

If we look at the cluster luck rankings, retrieved from, the Padres currently sit at 8th in the league. Their total score is currently 19.1 with 15.7 of that coming on offense and 3.4 coming on defense. Basically this measures how many runs a team is gaining or losing based on clustering, or not clustering, hits. If we calculate a win as equaling approximately ten runs, the Padres have gained around two extra wins this year based on their cluster luck. This means that their clustering of hits on offense, and not allowing other teams to cluster hits while on defense, has given those Padres those two extra wins. This could explain why the Padres have outperformed Pythagorean projections by exactly two wins. What is a little harder to explain is why the Padres have outperformed their base runs projections by four wins.

Based on these current standings, and the Padres expected standings according to both the Pythagorean standings and Base runs standings, the Padres have outperformed where they are expected to be. Beyond the current actual standings and expected standings, the full season projections all have the Padres finishing in the neighborhood of 78-80 wins. Those same projections systems estimate the two wild card teams to be somewhere in the vicinity of 88 to 90 wins. For the Padres to make the playoffs as the last wild card they would have to finish the season with a record of at least 44-25 with a more realistic record of 46-23 to really feel safe about getting a wild card spot.

For a team that has struggled to string two or three wins in a row before this five game winning streak, this is certainly a tall task. This explains why the Padres currently have a 6% chance of making the playoffs with a .3% chance of winning the World Series. Both the Padres luck this year, and their expected final record, should be enough to dampen the optimism of this current win streak and bring the true talent of this team to the forefront. This is a team with very slim wild card hopes that should be more focused on selling off key assets and preparing for the future in 2016/2017 then on trying to make an ill-fated playoff run this season. With or without those key tradable assets, this Padres team is not a playoff team in 2015 and should be deadline sellers. This may be a hard pill to swallow for many but both the Padres organization and Padres fans must focus on 2016 and 2017 and what could be a bright future in San Diego for the Padres.

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