EARLY SEASON LUCK IN ONE-RUN GAMES CAN POLLUTE MLB WON-LOST RECORDS
You always have to take April records in Major League Baseball with a grain of salt anyway. But, you REALLY have to do that if a team has a one-sided record (either good or bad) in one-run games. It's very hard to prove that there's any sort of "skill set" involved in winning nailbiters. Typically it involves who happens to get a hit at the right time...which is something that is hard to do "on purpose" through a whole season.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the early season extremes.
BEST RECORDS IN 1-RUN GAMES
Colorado is off to a great start in the NL West. But, the main reason they won't be able to maintain that 14-6 record out of the gate is that there's no way they'll keep winning all the thrillers! The Rockies are 7-6 in games decided by two runs or more, which is still a good sign going forward. Maybe this is a Wildcard threat. Maybe management has finally figured out how to build a roster that fits their stadium. But...this team is long overdue to lose some close ones, which means they'll likely be regressing back toward .500 in short order.
Though Houston is also perfect in one-run games, that's less of an issue with only three wins. Houston is still 10-6 in all of their other games. If they had LOST those three nailbiters, they'd still be over .500 for the year...and nobody loses all their coin flips. Houston does have the early look of a division winner, consistent with their offseason pricing in the betting marketplace.
Baltimore and Detroit were supposed to trail Boston and Cleveland in their respective divisions. Detroit would be behind the Tribe if both teams were .500 in one-run games. Baltimore would still hold a slight lead over Boston at the top of the AL East...but it would be a tighter race. Worth noting that Baltimore is 8-4 in games decided by two runs or more, while Detroit is 5-7. That speaks better for the O's going forward.
WORST RECORDS IN 1-RUN GAMES
San Francisco 2-6
LA Dodgers 0-4
You can see that a few early season disappointments can be traced to this category. The Dodgers were supposed to coast in the NL West They've yet to win a close game! San Francisco's collapse is a big story, but much of that is due to a bullpen gagging in a way that will likely be fixed in the near future (nobody lets a bad bullpen go unfixed!). In games decided by two runs or more, the Dodgers are 9-7, while the Giants are 5-7. Still issues in SF but the Dodgers are still likely to be atop the division at season's end.
You can't blame all of Toronto's woes on close finishers. The Blue Jays are 3-7 in their other games...suggesting a slew of problems that need fixing. Same with Atlanta (who was expected to struggle anyway), as the Braves are 4-7 in games decided by two runs or more.
Interesting stories in Cincinnati and Texas. The Reds have been one of the pleasant surprises of 2017 even with a bad record in close games! Cincy is 10-7 otherwise, and is showing a lot of poise for a very young team. Frankly, it's a few of their old generic veterans who are dragging the team down thus far. Texas is just over .500 in their other games, suggesting the Rangers may at least have a shot at chasing down a Wildcard behind the Astros.
Smart handicappers will keep an eye on one-run records all through the season. And, they'll pay particular attention to teams who stop blowing saves because they've found a set-up man and closer they like. You can often win BIG in May and June by taking teams that fixed their April problems. Too many in the marketplace trust their newspaper standings at the expense of what's happening on the fly.
Don't expect good luck to continue. Don't expect bad luck to continue. One-run results aren't 100% luck, but they're influenced enough by luck that you have to make mental adjustments with your team assessments.
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