Run Differential
2 min read

Run Differential

How much do runs actually matter?  You’ve heard over and over again about the American League Central.  Only one team has a positive run differential (scoring more runs on the season than their opponents).  Scoring runs clearly create wins, but how much does the amount of runs actually matter?  Taking the run differential totals, I re-ranked the teams in each division.  Some results are to be expected, but some are surprising.

First the American League:

A.L. East:
NY Yankees +185
Boston +157
Tampa Bay +51
Toronto +22
Baltimore -135

A.L. Central:
Detroit +4
Chicago White Sox -17
Cleveland -18
Kansas City -65
Minnesota -137

A.L. West:
Texas +101
Los Angeles Angels +24
Oakland -21
Seattle -70

Not many surprises here.  The Twins would actually rank lower than the Royals if run differential determined standings.  Yet, the Twins with their -137 actually sit 2.5 games better in the standings than the Royals. While the White Sox are a 1/2 game back of the Indians for second place in the A.L. Central, their run differentials would put them slightly ahead and in second place.  The A.L. East and West match up exactly with the standings.

Now for the National League:

N.L. East:
Philadelphia +158
Atlanta +70
NY Mets -21
Washington -27
Florida -79

N.L. Central:
Milwaukee +54
Cincinnati +44
St. Louis +36
Pittsburgh -46
Chicago Cubs -101
Houston -158

N.L. West:
Arizona +9
San Diego +5
Colorado 0
Los Angeles Dodgers -9
San Francisco -15

There’s a little bit more of a shake up in the National League.  Washington, while ahead of the Mets by a game and a half in the standings, would actually rank behind the Mets using this method.  Cincinnati, 3 games behind St. Louis for second in the Central, is actually better by 8 runs in differential.  Then there’s the West.  See anything strange?  First, the defending World Series Champions rank dead last.  Second, the San Diego Padres, currently planted firmly in the cellar, rank second.  Interestingly, the West is also the only division on baseball to have no teams with a run differential of -50 or less.  The lowest total is -15.

What does this all mean?  It means that runs are important, but not the only ingredient for success.  If standings were based on total runs for the season, or how well teams outscore their opponents, this would be a different conversation altogether.  If that were the case, we’d be talking about the Padres challenging the Diamondbacks for the N.L. West crown.  We’d be talking about the Angels barely hanging on.

But in the end, runs don’t matter as much as wins.