Let’s say you’re a team that really wants to beat your Pythagorean record. Like, really wants to beat it. Maybe it bought your grandmother’s house and you challenged your Pythagorean record to a face off to get it back, person to abstract object. I’m not here to judge.
Well, the hypothetical version of you who is living through a much less interesting version of Happy Gilmore would be absolutely unable to have a better series than the Giants just did. According to one Pythagorean calculator, their expected winning percentage after a series where they scored two runs and gave up 14 is .020. According to another one, which uses a much more generous formula, it’s more like .028. Either way, Baseball Reference has their expected record after their first four games as 0-4. Instead, they’re 2-2. Nailed it!
How are they doing it? They’re winning 1-0 games and getting blown out in the other two. This is a fantastic strategy. Think about it. If you do this all year, then you only have to score 130 runs all season to be easily the greatest baseball team of all time. I have every confidence that this Giants team can score 130 runs this year. Heck, I’ll bet they double that.
What it all comes down to is run efficiency. As runs are a limited resource in a season, it stands to reason that you want to use them as efficiently as possible. Therefore, you want every win to be a 1-run win and in every loss you want to get shut out so as to not waste your runs. This maximizes the utility of each run you score, thus ensuring that your team ends up with the best possible record. By coming up with this theory, am I writing a new chapter in the book of sabermetrics? It’s too soon to tell, but also definitely yes.
Can we expect the Giants to maintain this high level of play throughout the entire season? If we’re being honest here, probably not. At some point, they might slip up and score a second or third run in a game where they pitch a shutout. It’s also extremely likely that instead of losing 9-0, they’ll have a game or two where they lose 9-1 or even 9-2. These would obviously be setbacks, but this is where the buffer of scoring those extra 130 runs would come in. As long as you have that reservoir of runs, the basic strategy will still be effective, even if you occasionally waste a run or two.
If the first series of the year taught us anything, it’s that the Giants have a great strategy in place to go far this year. You might quibble and say that they’re only 2-2, but remember that they were on the road against a very good Dodgers team, and the Giants only just started utilizing run efficiency on the field. We’ve all seen the Phillies struggling to adapt to new sabermetric concepts this year, and comparatively, the performance that the Giants gave in their first series was an inspiring beacon of innovation, and not at all a terrifying harbinger of another year of dismal offense.
In conclusion, Yeshayah Goldfarb and the staff in the analytics department have solved baseball. Congratulations to them for inventing run efficiency, and also to us, the Giants fans, for we are the true winners here.