Dodgers are incredible, but don’t appear headed for history books
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night, their second loss in the last 16 games. Losses are notable for the Dodgers because they are so few and far between this season.
Earlier this month the Dodgers finished a stretch where they won 43 out of 50 games, the best 50-game stretch in the major leagues since 1912. In July they set the record for most consecutive wins in games in which they held a lead at any point during the contest, breaking a 111-year-old record set by Chicago Cubs in 1906, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Even with the latest loss to the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers’ overall winning percentage of .705 has them on pace to win 114 games, putting them within striking distance of the record for most in a season, a mark shared by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners, who each won 116 games during their respective campaigns.
But let’s pump the brakes on the 2017 Dodgers being a super team, because while this team is very, very good, they aren’t nearly as dominant as other MLB teams throughout history.
They are the third-best hitting team according to OPS (.800) this season, creating runs at a rate that is 12 percent above average after accounting for league and score effects (112 wRC+). That’s good enough to rank second in the majors this season, but they are a distant second to the Houston Astros, who are in the lead for best-hitting team of all time (130 wRC+).
The Dodgers’ pitching is the best in baseball this season in terms of overall ERA (3.09, 24 percent lower than average) with the second-best FIP (3.46, 18 percent lower) in 2017. Yet those marks place them 12th and 5th all-time, respectively - high rankings to be sure, but not all-time, super-team great.
Their adjusted run differential per game (1.7 SRS) would rank seventh among the 11 MLB teams that have won at least 70 percent of their games, with both the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners ahead of them in terms of dominating opponents. That’s a far cry from the 1939 New York Yankees, who went 106-45 that year, beating opponents by 2.4 adjusted runs per game.
And there is no guarantee the Dodgers reach the 113-win mark, which would give them a final regular season win percentage of 70 percent or more.
Using each team’s actual win percentage in the Log5 win expectancy formula, which gives a team’s probability of winning every game after adjusting for home-field advantage, and simulating the remainder of the Dodgers’ season, they can be expected to win an average of 114 games. In more than a third of these simulations (36 percent) they win at least 116 games and 25 percent of the time they finish with 117 wins or more. There is a 1-in-3 chance the team will win 112 games or fewer.
But using a team’s real win percentage as a barometer of talent is flawed. A better estimate of a team’s future performance is their Pythagorean win percentage, which uses a team’s actual runs scored and allowed to derive how many games a team should win and lose.
It’s no surprise the Dodgers lead the league here, too, with their runs scored and allowed indicating they should have a 77-35 record, the best in baseball. If we use each team’s Pythagorean win percentage in the simulations, the Dodgers can be expected to win an average of 114 games, with a 22 percent chance at breaking the all-time wins record.
We can take this one step further and use the teams’ BaseRuns win percentage, a third-order winning percentage which takes into account a team’s performance without considering the sequencing to calculate expected runs scored and runs allowed. By this method, the Dodgers win an average of 114 games, with an 18 percent chance of at least a 117-win season.
There is no denying the Dodgers deserve to be the World Series favorite or that they are a fun team to watch during the regular season, but until they completely dominate their competition in every facet of the game, or set the record for wins, they don’t deserve to be called a super team.
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (35) greets Yasmani Grandal after Bellinger hit a solo home run during the second inning Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.