Apply Baseball’s Pythagorean Theory & Improve your MLB Picks

Doug Upstone

Monday, July 13, 2015 12:33 PM UTC

Monday, Jul. 13, 2015 12:33 PM UTC

The first half of the season is in the books and one of my favorite categories to explore as a baseball handicapper is run score vs. runs allowed, which Bill James brought attention to three decades ago.

He came up with the name - Pythagorean Theory - and over the years there have been modifications to enhance its reliability and present a truer meaning.

For those studying the sportsbooks MLB odds with intent to make sports picks, you can look at some of the current wider differentials and make observations about how a team might play the remainder of the season if they continue along the same path. While it is impossible to accurately forecast change, you can take the given knowledge and understand why these teams have over or underperformed to this point. Oddly enough, the National League teams have been very close to the run differential numbers, however, four American League clubs stand out.

Baltimore - Actual record of 44-44 and could be 49-39
Based on this projected number, the Orioles should be leading the AL East as the defending champions. Baltimore's figures are murkier to understand because they are 18-11 in games determined by four or more runs which is good and while their 12-14 mark in one games is not good, it is not terrible either.

The Birds offense has been a mildly inconsistent, yet still ranks in the upper half of the AL. One usual trouble spot to point to is relief pitching, but Buck Showalter's club is third in ERA and has over 80 percent save percentage. Realistically, the only aspect to point against the betting odds is the O's dismal 15-25 road record and the offense gets the blame scoring 3.9 RPG away from home compared to 4.9 at Camden Yards.


Toronto - Actual record of 45-46 and could be 54-37
The Blue Jays have the finest run differential in the AL yet are below .500. Far and away Toronto has the best offense at 5.4 RPG and they know how to whip opponents, with a 27-10 mark in four or more run outcomes. Where the Jays crumble is when the game is on the line, with a 10-18 record in one-run endings.

The bullpen while improved has been the leading culprit, with 13 blown saves in 27 tries and an 11-16 record overall. The starting pitching is not making matters better, ranked 14th in the AL. If Toronto is to reach their potential, they need to pick up a starting pitcher and reliever to help them out.Ho


Chicago White Sox - Actual record of 41-45 and could be 34-52
The White might be close to .500 but they are lucky to be there as the their run differential is the worst in the AL at -73. Chicago just cannot score, averaging 3.4 RPG and they are a desultory 10-16 in ball games determined by four runs or more. What has saved them is above average starting pitching and bullpen. For MLB picks it is not cut and dry if the Chi-Sox will finally hit and will having all that pressure on the pitching staff make Chicago a play against possibility the rest of the way? It just might.


Oakland - Actual record of 41-50 and could be 50-41
With a run difference of +44, the A's should be much better and their 22-12 mark in games decided by four or more runs proves that. But with the next to last bullpen ERA in the AL and some really horrendous back luck, the Oakland is a sickly 8-22 in one run games. Maybe it won't just be their year, however, the Athletics having the starting pitching and offense (though the fielding leaves a lot to be desired) to win more the rest of the way and become close to a .500 squad.

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