Earned Runs vs. Runs
2 min read

Earned Runs vs. Runs

I’ve always been amazed by what it takes to win a baseball game. There are so many pieces. It’s not as simple as scoring more runs than your opponent. There’s hitting, pitching, defense, and base running. Speed, focus, fielding, restraint, and analysis. Every pitch or hit or run or out is a culmination of any number of these pieces.

Wins are pieces of other aspects of the game. Last week, I took a look at run differential as a piece of winning. I adjusted the standings for run differential only. In the same spirit, I will adjust the standings based on unearned runs (runs not charged to a pitcher that resulted from some sort of error). The team with the least would lead the division, etc.

American League East:
Tampa Bay:  31
Boston: 41
New York Yankees: 46
Toronto: 50
Baltimore: 63

American League Central:
Chicago White Sox: 35
Kansas City: 41
Detroit: 52
Cleveland: 52
Minnesota: 65

American League West:
Los Angeles Angels: 39
Seattle: 42
Texas: 63
Oakland: 73

National League East:
Philadelphia: 29
Atlanta: 31
Florida: 50
New York Mets: 54
Washington: 61

National League Central:
Cincinnati: 34
Milwaukee: 51
Pittsburgh: 53
St. Louis: 64
Houston: 70

National League West:
Los Angeles: 35
Colorado: 45
Arizona: 49
San Francisco: 50
San Diego: 56

If wins were as simple as giving up the least unearned runs, things would look very different in both leagues. The Dodgers would be able to forget the disaster that is Frank McCourt and focus on the postseason. Cincinnati would be looking at a second straight division title. The Angels would be battling Seattle not Texas. Kansas City would be fighting for a play-off spot for the first time in a generation. And Tampa Bay would be outlasting the juggernauts of New York and Boston.

Unlike the run differential standings, these standing show a large deviation from the true standings. This begs the question; how much does defense actually mean?

Fielding is one of the most difficult aspects of the game to properly evaluate, but it seems clear that poor defense leads to errors. I will agree that many errors are not errors or are charged to the wrong person. There are many flaws with the error statistic, but it’s what we are working with here.

Based on these adjusted standings, it would seem many teams can simply out-slug their defensive mistakes. Further evidence that too much value is applied to defense.