The Big Red Mirage
Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician and philosopher, had a lot of influence on philosophy and religion in the late 6th century BC. In the 21st century, his teachings can help make you some money at the sportsbook.
Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage, given their runs scored and runs allowed. Developed by Bill James, it can tell you when teams were a bit lucky or unlucky. It is calculated by
(Runs Scored)^1.83 + (Runs Allowed)^1.83
That formula had smart bettors betting against the Washington Nationals during the second half of last year, despite their fast start. Another team to pay attention to this year is the Reds. Using this formula, their winning percentage should be .541 instead of the .704 clip they are playing at thus far this season.
Now, you don’t need to be a mathematician to know something is a bit fishy about the Reds’ torrid start. Looking at the newspaper on opening day and seeing Aaron Harang as the starter had to make you wonder how this team could possibly escape the NL Central cellar. Bronson Arroyo has been a godsend early on, but how will he do the second time around the league? The aforementioned Aaron Harang has a 4-1 record, but a very mediocre 4.35 Earned Run Average. Brandon Claussen and Dave Williams have ERAs over 6.00. This kind of pitching will clearly burn out a bullpen and catch up to the Reds as the season progresses. The ballpark, which is one of baseball’s easiest-to-hit homeruns, will further tax the pitching staff.
Speaking of that soon-to-be-overworked bullpen, was anyone racing to grab closer David Weathers in your fantasy draft? Weathers has a reputation for having a rubber arm more than actual “stuff.” And even that rubber-arm reputation is up for debate. In each of the last two years, he has faltered in one of the last two months of the season. Last year, he had a 7.15 ERA in September and in 2004, he had a 6.75 ERA in August.
No one can dispute that the Reds put out a very competitive lineup every game. Adam Dunn is one of the league’s top power hitters; Edwin Encarnacion is a promising young hitter; and Rich Aurilla, Austin Kearns and Brandon Phillips have all turned their careers in the right direction. All this, and Ken Griffey, Jr., will soon return.
The Reds lead the NL in on-base percentage with .364, but the pitching staff is near the bottom with a 1.40 WHIP. This is a team that will play a lot of 10-9 games. That’s no way to win a pennant, and games like that will eventually wear out the offense as much as the pitching staff.
Don’t be fooled by their fast start. This team will be a lot of fun to watch, but this is not the Big Red Machine you’re witnessing; it’s the Big Red Mirage. Bet the over when the Reds are playing, but be ready to bet against them as the season wears on.