The Mockingbird

Nerd Fight!

with 4 comments

You know you’ve made the big time when you start getting taken down by blogs. I feel like making an acceptance speech or something, because the Southpaw just called B.S. on me calling B.S on the myth of the Jays playing to the level of their opponents.

Now normally I would just take the high road by invoking Hitler to wipe the offending blog off the face of the earth, or rage into an indignant huff at how anyone could question my authority after so many, errr…months of experience, but I actually had some more to say on this but figured two posts on the subject had driven it sufficiently into the ground. Rebuttals are cool and edgy, though, no?

First, there’s a reason I didn’t generalize into teams above and below below .500 like you often hear. An overall average doesn’t show if the Jays have trouble against ALL good and bad teams, or are just extremely skewed against a select few. As I showed, it’s the latter. Here’s the Jays 2005-2007 record against +.500 teams:

Team Winning %
Seattle .571
Kansas City .608
Baltimore .553
Tampa Bay .581
Texas .384

When you see that, do you still think that the Jays have to find a way to beat up on the cellar dwellers, or that they have to find a way stop losing to @#$@#$ Texas constantly? Split things up by team and while the overall average might be low, there’s no trend across the entire group- and that’s what people are talking about.

You also end up lumping in disasters like 2005’s Kansas City (.346) with an average Texas (.488). Meanwhile, an almost identical Minnesota (.512) team gets the “winner” label. So it ignore very significant differences between some teams while creating others that aren’t there. A .500 team like the Jays could be doing just fine against legitimately bad teams but lose a bunch of coin flips to other .500 teams (and vice versa) and this kind of wide-brush analysis would not show the difference.

So with all due respect to my friend Jon, yes, it is a legitimate complaint to observe the Jays do not run up the win total against vulnerable teams, collectively, in the same way that the Yankees and Red Sox do.

This is 100% true- but also self-fulfilling. What if the Jays have not run up the wins against lousy teams as much as their rivals because they have simply not been as good a team, instead of the other way around? I mean, Tampa Bay has not run up the win total against sub .500 teams as well, but that is clearly not their problem. On its own, this doesn’t really mean anything. What would be significant is if while failing in this regard, the Jays do play against the good teams the way playoff teams do…

The interesting thing I found when it came to how the three teams played versus teams with winning records was this: over the three years in question the Jays have a slightly BETTER record against those teams than do the Red Sox. That is the case because in 2006, the Jays did MUCH better than the Red Sox against those teams. Collectively, on the three seasons, the Yankees were at .553, the Jays at .498, and the Red Sox at .479 against AL teams with winning records.

Also true- but does it really tell you anything about the Jays? Which number really looks out of place here?

Team Overall Below .500 Above .500
Boston 0.569 0.620 (+51) 0.479 (-90)
New York 0.588 0.629 (+41) 0.553 (-35)
Toronto 0.514 0.537 (+23) 0.498 (-16)

The world champions, one of the most dominant teams over the last three years, have a losing record against teams over .500, a huge difference from their overall record. Intuitively, that’s just bizarre, and logically it must be the exception to the rule- it’s hard to have too many great teams that can”t beat good teams. There is a flaw with just comparing the Jays to our rivals- the Red Sox aren’t the model for a playoff contender, they are a highly unusual exception.

So, again, as Jon rightly observes the Jays do not play great against winning teams. However, it can be fairly stated that they win enough of those games to be a contender IF they would rack up wins against the weaker sisters of the league.

At an unusually high rate, yes. But losing more than you win to + .500 teams is not enough to be a contender for most teams (and certainly not in the AL East). Boston has proved that it’s possible, but that doesn’t mean that this is what is holding the Jays back, which is how the (still a) myth goes.


Written by halejon

April 19, 2008 at 2:28 am

4 Responses

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  1. “On it’s own”, tsk tsk. Didn’t your momma raise you right?

    D Samoyloff

    April 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm

  2. Evidently not! I really shall have to have a talk with her…


    April 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

  3. i love a good nerd fight

    Navin Vaswani

    April 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm

  4. Well argued. i will not get into flinging minutia back and forth because a lot of this is clearly subjective (for instance, how DOES one define a “bad” team as opposed to a middling one?) but I do want to perhaps put a bow on my end of the exchange with this thought – when I comment that the Jays do not run up wins against the weak teams in the way that NY and Boston does, I freely concede that it can be argued that they don’t do so BECAUSE they are not as good as those two teams are. I don’t think that such an observation, assuming it’s true, invalidates the claim that this failing is what separates the Jays from those teams in terms of results.
    It can’t possibly be any more than a theoretical argument whether the Jays over the last three years are:
    a. a team on the same plane with the Yanks and Red Sox which unfortunately and inexplicably fails to dominate teams it should; or
    b. is a lesser team which should be expected to produce lesser results.

    Oh, and just for the record – we can all agree that the mysterious inability to excell against Texas is maddening.


    April 19, 2008 at 9:13 pm

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