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Getting Lucky -- For Once

[UPDATE, 1:51 p.m.] -- The rain is still falling heavily. There's been no estimated start time, nor does one look imminent. Every so often, an announcer has come on the PA system and explained that every effort will be made to play today's game. But that's all we know.


Today, while coming out to Yankee Stadium, I was thinking over last night's 3-2 Nats' win. It seemed so, well... un-Nats-like. The team committed no fielding errors. (For just the third time in 11 games.) The team benefited from a bad umpiring call. (Cristian Guzman "beat out" an infield hit in the fifth.) The team even capitalized on said call, when Nick Johnson subsequently punched a two-run triple into left-center. Then there was the ninth, where New York had the tying run on third, the winning run on first. What do you know -- Mike MacDougal got a groundball double play.

By no means do I intend to dismiss everything in the above paragraph as "luck." But luck had a little something to do with it. For the moment, let's just use luck as a poor stand-in word for all the little things that determine wins and losses in close games.

Last night's game might have been the first time all year the Nats got lucky.

Turns out, the respected and comprehensive actually has a statistic called "Luck." The Nationals, last in ERA, last in errors, are also last in luck. The "Luck" statistic derives from a simple calculation -- the difference between a team's expected win-loss record (based on the number of runs scored and allowed) and a team's actual win-loss record.

Even with last night's game under the belt, Washington has a "-7" luck number. Their Pythagorean W-L record -- the record they should expect, given their runs for and against -- is 24-39. But because of that -7, they're actually 17-46. How ridiculous is that -7? Well, let's just pretend they had an equal swing of positive luck. That would give them, instead, a record of 31-32.

Some of this is just phooey math, fodder for a rainy day. But no doubt, the Nationals have lost an excruciating number of close games this year. (They're 0-8 in extra innings, for instance.) Twenty-seven of the 30 MLB teams have a Pythagorean record that's within two games of their actual record; thus, they've been subjected to little luck -- positive or negative. The Nats have a bigger gap between their Pythagorean record and their actual record than any other team in baseball.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 18, 2009; 12:51 PM ET
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Absolutely. Thanks Chico for digging that up! Is there a stat for karma?

Posted by: nattydread1 | June 18, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

One of the big problems with the Pythag Theory is that it doesn't take defensive deficiencies into account. It also doesn't account for when runs are scored. I remember that the 1997 SF Giants were outscored by about 10-15 runs and had a Pythag Theory mark of 80-82. But because SF lost several blowout games that year that basically created the run differential deficit the team actually finished 90-72.

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 18, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

There are some that would have you believe that "Luck" is a euphemism for "Managing." While I agree with that to a certain extent, you can't argue that we have been the statue far more times this year than we have been the pigeon.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | June 18, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Hey guys guys, calm down

Unless we try some of these prospects out we'll never know if they are good enough. Youngsters like Kearns, Johnson, Belliard, Harris, Patterson and Guzman just need a little playing time so see if they are ready for the big leagues.

Long live The Plan!!!

Posted by: soundbloke | June 18, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Gameday says rain delay and the audio hasn't switched from WFED to the game coverage. Any news on the delay?

Posted by: JohninMpls | June 18, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

It is said of Napoleon that when deciding whether or not to promote someone to general he wanted to know if the individual was "lucky." Anybody can be good, but it takes something special to be lucky.

Regarding Kearns being in the line-up today: Does anyone else think that Duke's could have made a play on Damon's HR last night? I was curious watching the replay this morning and now I wonder if Dukes is really just having an "off" day today.

Posted by: lowcountry | June 18, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

So Chico,
Do the Yankees actually let the fans in the stadium know what is going on with the rain delay? Or do they just promise to provide more information when available and never do, like the Nats? That is the most frustrating part of waiting four hours for your came to be canceled: You don't know when you might hear anything.

Posted by: twinbrook | June 18, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Argh, nevermind. Just saw the earlier post.

I reorganized my work schedule to allow me three hours of non-meetings so I could listen to the game.

Posted by: JohninMpls | June 18, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"Luck is the residue of design."

-- Branch Rickey

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 18, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

From the look of the radar at, it should stop raining in the Bronx in about an hour.

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 18, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Luck be a lady

- Frank Sinatra

Posted by: Section506 | June 18, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"I'd rather be locky than good."
Vernon "Lefty" Gomez

Posted by: BookGuy | June 18, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

leetee1955 said: One of the big problems with the Pythag Theory is that it doesn't take defensive deficiencies into account.

I think defensive deficiencies show up in the "runs allowed" column, generally speaking.

Posted by: tailwagger | June 18, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey look, the Nats have been amazingly lucky lately. How else can you explain getting the Best Players Available in the June draft, and then getting two of those same best players to sign for under-slot? And these are top draft picks, #10 overall and the 3rd rounder. You don't want to get economical on picks like that, for team-building reasons.

If the Nats had to settle for less talent for those under-slot picks, then that would only be lucky for the Lerners, and not for the team. But luckily it worked out best for all--the team, the fans and the owners.

Posted by: EdDC | June 18, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Chances are that I am a fool.

Fate is the foolish thing. Take a chance.


Chances are that fate is foolish.

...never mind...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, I think it's cool that there's a stat for lucky. Now we just need one for heart.

And you are a good fan, JiM, to rearrange your schedule.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

lowcountry: I don't think Dukes could have caught Damon's HR. It barely made it out, but it got out in a hurry. He did the right thing by waiting to play a possible bounce off the wall.

No way they bench him for that.

Posted by: joebleux | June 18, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse reports that John Smoltz will make his Red Sox debut against the Nats on June 25.

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 18, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

This is fantastic stuff, Chico. I'm cracking up that you found such a thing and loving baseball that it exists.

Posted by: NatsNut | June 18, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Point well taken, joebleux.

Posted by: lowcountry | June 18, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Boz had a chat earlier today and it's now archived (for those who are looking for ways to while away the rain delay online).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't care whether Lady Luck was on the Nats' side last night or not, the thrill of beating the damn Yankees in their own house was simply amazing. Go Nats!

Posted by: bbahler | June 18, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Chances are that I am a fool.

Fate is the foolish thing. Take a chance.


Chances are that fate is foolish.

...never mind...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 1:33 PM |

Oh, yeah, I forgot about "s'coozie please."

Guess I know what I'll be watching after the game (if there is one)!

Posted by: MikeH0714 | June 18, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: dargregmag | June 18, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Anybody know what our win-loss record would be if all of the games this year went just six innings (i.e., before our "relievers" and "savers" took over)?

Posted by: bbahler | June 18, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

For the hundredth time (Boz) we got 2007 draft picks JOSH SMOKER and JORDAN ZIMMERMANN for losing Soriano.

And you can't trade draft picks.

Posted by: NatsNut | June 18, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

It would be time well spent, MikeH!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Several years ago, another respected source of statistical analysis, Bill James, used the same differential (he called it expected wins vs. actual wins) as a measure of managerial competence. Not suggesting Acta should go, particularly after Chico's article concerning organizational stability, but James' view does cast doubt on Acta's long-term value.

Posted by: rmark1 | June 18, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if somewhere it calculates what the record would be at the end of each inning? In other words, if games were only 6 innings long, what would be the Nationals' record? After 7 innings? 8 innings? This is another way of highlight the problems with the bullpen, which is partly to blame for the Nats being -7 on the "luck" statistic.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | June 18, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Chico -

I'm pretty sure that was a typo. Did you mean to say "suck" instead of "luck"?

Posted by: DesertNat | June 18, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more luck I have." --Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: ilovethenats | June 18, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

WAITING....... So i decided to skip over to the YES network and Mike Francessa is doing his call in show and you would not believe the number of calls concerning last nights game all the whining and the what ifs, you would have thought they had just lost the pennant to the Red Sox jesus,mary, and joseph its just one freakin game! there would be a mass suicide if we switched the fan base of these two clubs.Mike Francessa to his credit said "hey it happens the nationals played well and deserved to win", i mean i thought i was passionate about this team but i'm not even close to the New Yorkers.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 18, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Update up top about how the Yankees deal with informing the fans there during rain delays... Which sounds a lot like how they do it here...

Posted by: OldDude | June 18, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Keep chalking those 7 games up to "luck." Acta will be laughing all to the bank the rest of his career with that stat around.

Acta follows up his first correctly managed game of the year last night with this indescribable lineup. That criminal Joba is praying for the rain to stop.

Posted by: RickFelt | June 18, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I would rather be passionate than rabid too!

Posted by: muddapucker | June 18, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how valid informing the fans in Yankee Stadium is. I saw a shot of three fans, in ponchos, in their seats, getting soaked and eating Hot Dogs. Maybe they take their cues from those who enter the professional eating contests and soak the rolls before sliding them down their throats.

Posted by: Catcher50 | June 18, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

It's new, it's improved, it's home-style old-fashioned, in fact it's the only post you will ever need


Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 18, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I saw that shot on the "pregame" show as well, catcher. Probably better they take their cues from the eating contest participants rather than from, say, Mets players. (cough...choke)

Chico has a weather update post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

And sec3 slides in under the tag.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

You know what the difference Is between hitting .250 and hitting .300? I got it figured out.
Twenty-five hits a year in 500 at bats is 50 points. Okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks--you get one extra flare a week--just one--a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail--just one more dying quail a week and you're in Yankee Stadium!

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I went to last night's game at the "stadium" (hate that it's called that, by the way -- baseball is played in a park or a field, not a freakin' "stadium").

What a great game! The bottom of the ninth seemed to take forever and the crowd was on its feet the whole time. The Yankees have come from behind many times this year and have more than a few walk-off homers/hits to celebrate. They even played footage of all of those games on the jumbotron during the inning.

They also started the bottom of the ninth by playing an absurd set of videos. First, we got matthew mcconaughey's speech from "We Are Marshall" to his team. Then we got the King's speech from the movie "300" about the Spartans fighting to the death. All absurd and over the top arrogant but the moronic Yankee fans ate it up. (I preferred the old "stadium", where they would play Bluto's speech from Animal House --that's funny).

But BOY DID IT GET QUIET!! With the tying run on third and the winner on first, MacDougal induced a 6-4-3 double play which was executed flawlessly. GAME OVER! Fantastic ending. I couldn't get enough.

That makes 2-0 for this NYC-based Nats fan. I saw the Nationals beat up on Olly Perez at Citifield about a month ago and now have seen Wang and the mighty murderers row of A-Rod, Teixera, et al. fall to the Nationals bats. Love it!

Posted by: adrianstewart | June 18, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Yo, Adrian! So you'll be at today's game, right?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I think Chico's research is enlightening.

Consider it as much of a "choke" statistic. Especially given the W-L in extra innings.

It appears to me to reflect mostly on the "bench"
players and relievers who must fill-in and
do extra duty when extra innings come along.

The bottom-line: weak bench, and relief pitching.
With a couple of key pickups the Nats could reverse that.

Posted by: periculum | June 18, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Not today, sadly. Today's game is supposed to be played in the afternoon, so I'm stuck at work. Plus it's pouring buckets.

It's the rubber match so let's see if the nats can take the series!!!

Posted by: adrianstewart | June 18, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, thanks for the win yesterday, Adrian. :-)

Go Nats!!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: zendo | June 18, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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