Week 2 takeaways: examining run differential
It’s still too early to draw too many meaningful conclusions, even when looking at things as basic as run differential. We know that run differential tells us more about how good a team is than its current record, but we’re still about 60 games shy of learning whether a team’s run differential is actually indicative of something. That being said, when looking at record compared to run differential, we can identify whether a team’s record jibes with its ability to score and prevent runs. Let’s look at three teams with notable run differentials at this point in the season.
Kansas City Royals: +28
The Royals haven’t just started hot -- it’s a start you can believe in. With a run differential of +28, they’re second in MLB in the category, trailing only division-mate Detroit. There are a couple reasons the Royals are still so far down in the power rankings.
1) They opened the season at only 10 percent on the playoff odds, and though they may not have shown as big a delta as the Mets, jumping 12 percent (up to 22 percent) in only 12 games is quite impressive.
2) The Tigers dominant opening to the season means that the Royals have merely been keeping pace. Had the Tigers suffered the same sluggish start as the Nationals, it’s likely the Royals would rate alongside the Mets in terms of ground gained.
It’s also worth noting that the Royals have the second-best offense in baseball after 12 games. Pitching and defense normally lead the way in KC (and those elements aren’t too shabby), but it’s hard to complain about the job the offense has done thus far.
Oakland Athletics: +24
The very reason Russell Carleton did the research on when run differential matters was the Athletics’ torrid pace to open the 2014 season. This A’s team (and it is markedly different), won’t inspire the same research, but at 6-7, it’s worth noting that Oakland’s losing record belies a winning style of play. Its pythagorean win-loss record stands at 9-4. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything just yet, but if the A’s can continue to play the way they have -- an open question, to be sure -- they should be much better in the win-loss column going forward.
Boston Red Sox: -1
Unlike the Athletics, the Red Sox represent the team with the best winning percentage while still maintaining a negative run differential. Boston’s offense is doing its part, as expected, ranking seventh in MLB. The pitching, a source of concern over the offseason, continues to be just that. Red Sox pitching has allowed the fourth-most runs in baseball, and there’s a jekyll/hyde nature to so many of their starters (Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Kelly). It’s fair to expect the Red Sox to improve in the run differential department, but it’s also fair to question just how much they can do so with the rotation as limited as it is.
Stats as of end of action on Sunday, 4/19.