Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pivotal Games in Baseball

Conventional baseball wisdom suggests that all teams win 60 games and lose 60 games in
an average campaign. That leaves 42 games that will make or break your season in a 162
game schedule. I came up with my own pivotal game criteria. Games are pivotal when:
  • The outcome is determined in extra innings.
  • The outcome of a nine inning game is decided by one run.
  • The outcome of a nine inning game is decided by a lead change in the last three innings.
  • A pivotal game is always pivotal for both teams involved. A pivotal win for one club generates a pivotal loss for the opponent.
This concept ignores external factors including:
  • effects on the division standings
  • effects on external fluctuations like breaking a losing/winning streak or dealing a
    loss to a previously undefeated pitcher.
  • effects caused by a break in game continuity. The original criteria apply even if
    there's rain delay, suspension of play, ejection, or protest.
Kansas City's opening day victory 5-4 in eleven innings over Detroit was pivotal. Today's 4-0 win was not. That doesn't mean it wasn't important or historic, but not pivotal by my definition. If baseball wisdom is correct then the number of pivotal games (pivotal wins + pivotal losses) for all teams should average 42 a season.

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