There are lots of ways I like to break down a season. Yes, there is my old favourite the Bullpen Record. But my favourite way is one I inherited from my dad – the 62 games that decide the season. It may be convoluted, but I find it is a pretty good measure of any successful team.
Anyone who has read what I have written in the past knows I have a basic theory about baseball. Every team wins 60 games, every team loses 60. It is what you do in the other 42 that decide your season. My increasingly high baseball IQ wife pointed out that teams like the 62 Mets and the Astros after their tear-down a few years ago do not win 60 games. So I amended it to every team wins 50, loses 50, and it’s what they do in the other 62 that determines the season. I think that is closer to the mark. After all, even a great team is going to have a hard time winning, say, 35 of just 4’2 games. So, putting 62 games into the “toss up” category seems more accurate a 100 win team goes 40-12 in these kind of games.
Those 62 games, what I call “toss-up” games, are ones where both teams have played well enough to win. The 3-1 or 2-0 games. Also, anytime a team comes from behind to grab a game they looked sure to lose when the bottom of the 6th comes, that also goes into the “toss-up” group. So you see, this a very scientific way of looking at things. I am sure the folks at SABR are calling right now.
Defining the 50 Wins and 50 Losses
The way I think of the 50/50 is how the individual game is played. Its not a category that can be applied before the first pitch. You could argue that if you put a 10 spot on Kershaw or get a shutout from Kendrick those are games you “stole” and should go in the 62 game pile. But by my count, it is the actual way the game is played even if the betting line says it should play out differently. You might not agree, but because every good pitcher has bad days and bad pitcher has good days, I choose to focus just on how the game plays out. After all, the game is far more than just the name a manager pencils into the pitcher spot.
The 50 games every team wins are games like the ones we saw played the first two of the season – a 10-0 and the 5-2 – games that the way they played it is clear they are going to (or should) win the game by the end of the 6th (my dad always thought that was a good measure) . Every team no matter how bad will have those 50 wins. We saw that last year in what might have been the worst season in Rox baseball.
And the 50 loses? The blow-out on Saturday vs. the Cubs, yea, that is one of the games every team has, one of the 50 loss group.
Now, the last game in Milwaukee? That is a game the team trailed after 6. It wasn’t a blow-out (3 runs or greater), and so it looked like the Rox were going to lose one of those all-important 62 games. But then the Rox came back, and seemed to be about to had a win to Brooks Brown. After Hawkins lost the lead in the 9th, it took a big homer from the 10th, on the road, from a pinch-hitter to win it. So since they trailed 2-1 going into the 7th and they had to come back to steal a win in the 10th, it deserves to go in the 62 game group.
And then there was Friday’s home opener. Yes it was a mini blow-out, but when you get just 4 innings from a starter that usually doesn’t mean a game you win. But, okay, based on the score and the feel of the game, let’s toss that into the 50 win group.
Winning and Losing Close Games and Stealing Ones
Which brings us to Sunday and Monday. The Sunday game is one they should of and needed to win. In my other favourite way to measure the season, the Bullpen Record, it made the record 1-1. So I think based on the outcome and the 5-3 score at the end of 6, that game goes into the 62 games that will decide their season on the wrong side of the ledger. Not good – cannot start have too many of those in your 62 game count.
But then the team comes back and manages to win a 2-0 game, in San Fran, on their home opener, when they are getting their WS rings, in a game where your starter goes 5.1 with 6 walks and a HBP (WHIP of 2.35), and the other guy gets 7 from their starter (1.285 WHIP). That my folks is called stealing one. The Rox did have 14 base runners but where just 2 of 8 with RISP and needed a wild pitch, pitcher dropping the ball to score the second run. Yep, stole one for the 62 game count.
So, the Rox are at 2-1 in the all important 62 Game category.
So Can They Win the close ones? Is there hope for better than .500? The Bullpen Factor
As we think about the season, whether to be excited or not, a lot of factors go into evaluating. The fact that the bullpen has won 2 games for them this year (Brown was in line for the win in game 3 before Hawkins blew the save plus the save by the bullpen in the home opener after Matzek’s 4 inning clunker), and only lost the one is a positive way of thinking about the season so far. Last year they were 7-19 in bullpen games when I finally gave up counting in early June. This is a good (potentially great) bullpen, and I expect the Bullpen Record to stay on the plus side all season long -if they aren’t over-taxed or over-injured.
The Bullpen Record is another way of monitoring how the team is really doing, and is a key component in winning more than you lose in those 62 games. I like the Bullpen Record way at looking at things, but I still like my way of breaking of focusing on close games/stealing games. We already have 3 of the 50 that every team wins. They have only lost 1 of the 50 every team loses.
Oh, and best of all, they are 2-1 in the 62 games that will decide their season.
Things are still off to a pretty good start. They are actually 4-0 on the road, but have the next five on the road, and face Tim Hudson (who they struggle against) and Timmy Lincecum, who might be back, but since he owns the Padres like nobody I have ever seen, we don’t know yet. Then it is on to L.A. where they traditionally struggle. The Dodgers have not announced their rotation yet but it is a good bet they get both Kershaw and Greinke. Those will be tough games to win but either guy might have a bad day, so we will see.
Not Just the Bullpen Matters
As much as we might focus on how the bullpen will be necessary to get a majority of those 62 games, it also means we have to have good starting pitching enough of the time. And some timely at-bats. If you win a 2-1 game, it usually means you got a great start (but not always, as seen yesterday). If you win a 6-4 game, you probably had some good at-bats, and maybe you get a starter like Kendrick to give you 6 games only giving up 3 runs. And yes, it usually means you got pretty good bullpen work. That is why the bad starting pitching we have seen in 3 of the 4 past games should scare us. The team still battled in 3 of those games, allowing one of those games to become a mini blow-out and to come from behind to win in Milwaukee. And it was why they were able to steal one in San Fran. But I fear we will also see games like Sunday where too much pressure over too many games causes a very good bullpen to cough one up.
So here we go. Can they keep winning games that are challenges? Can they win enough of what is referred to as “High Leverage” games? Well that is why we watch! We never know if it is going to be a stinker (the 50 losses) and we can tune out early, or maybe it will be one of those nights they either dominate. Or maybe it will be one of those games where we won’t know the answer til the ROOT announcers throw it to the post-game. Baseball is fun, isn’t it.