Pryor Inquires: What’s up with stats?

sportsBy Richard Pryor III
Executive Staff

Q: Richard, I know you love your stats. But sometimes what you use isn’t always right – it looks like the Yankees are leading the Red Sox in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) despite the Red Sox having a better record than them. What’s the deal?

  • Querying in Quintard

A: Thanks for asking, Querying. First, I’d like to note that WAR isn’t just for batters – it’s for pitchers too, and when you look at the two combined, the Red Sox do lead the Yankees (like they should, Go Sox!) But you do have a point; statistics do not always correlate to standings.

The great baseball statistician and analyst, Bill James, devised a formula called the Pythagorean expectation. By dividing 1 by the sum of 1 and the quotient of runs allowed and runs scored squared, he can generate an expected win ratio.

For example, the Atlanta Braves have allowed 654 runs and scored 758 runs. According to James’s formula, they should have a win ratio of 0.5735 – instead, their win ratio is 0.56. As such, they’ve won about one game less than we would expect.

However, a new form of the Pythagorean expectation, Pythagenpat, has been developed by David Smyth and “U.S. Patriot” and is more accurate. Instead of just squaring the quotient of runs allowed and runs scored, it is instead taken to the power of x, where x is based off of the amount of games played and the amount of runs in those games. For the Braves, x would be 1.8568 and the expected win ratio would be 0.5681, which is closer to their actual win ratio.

I recognize that stats can mislead us and that most predictions, whether influenced by stats or not, are usually wrong. However, what I like about stats is that so few people know much about them, so I can introduce them and not alienate any part of my audience if I stick to more qualitative data and either explain everything in painstaking detail or not explain it at all. This is a great happy medium, and I’m so happy that y’all find this interesting as well.