Who beats up on who?

Last week when I was wrapping up how the Royals did in their first critical stretch I made a comment in the post that in order to be a competitive team the Royals needed to dominate teams like the Twins, A's and Pirates because good teams dominate mediocre teams.That statement makes sense on its face. Good teams should beat bad teams. But then I started asking myself questions. Do good teams really beat bad teams at a higher level than they beat average teams? Do some teams just "own" other teams?

I thought about those questions and decided we need some statistical evidence to back that up one way or the other.

For the purposes of this I decided on five admittedly arbitrary categories to put teams into:

Bad - 68 wins or less

Mediocre - 69-74 wins

Average - 75-84 wins

Solid - 85-90 wins

Good - 91 wins or more

I then decided to look at the records of the playoff teams against teams in each category from 2002 - 2004 (more or less random years) to (hopefully) eliminate the statistical noise.

The results are posted in the following way. Each division champ will be represented by their division designation. For example AL East refers to the AL East champ. The wild cards will be designated by a WC. I will also include the average number of wins for each playoff position. For example, in 2011 the Yankees were the AL East champ while the Rays were the AL WC. In 2010 the Rays were the AL East Champ while the Yankees were the AL WC. For the purpose of this, the 2011 Yankees and 2010 Rays records against would be cumulative for the AL East champ and the 2011 Rays and 2010 Yankees would be cumulative for the AL WC.

And now for the numbers.

AL EAST (101.6 wins)
99-34 vs. Bad

48-28 vs. Mediocre

51-33 vs. Average

29-21 vs. Solid

75-64 vs. Good

If you weren't at least solid, chances are the AL East champ was running you over on a regular basis. They especially beat up on the worst teams. It's not just your imagination that the Yankees were bullies during those years. They really did rough up the worst teams.

AL CENT (92)

102-53 vs. Bad

47-31 vs. Mediocre

62-51 vs. Average

19-16 vs. Solid

46-58 vs. Good

As you would expect, the AL Central champ also dominated the lesser teams, though not to the extent that the AL East champ did. Still, they pretty much took 2 of 3 every time they saw a weaker team. They did struggle against the big boys, though.

AL WEST (97)

73-30 vs. Bad

57-19 vs. Mediocre

53-30 vs. Average

22-28 vs. Solid

86-88 vs. Good

Another division champ that absolutely blasted the worst 5-8 teams in the league on an every day basis.The record against the better teams really demonstrates how dominant Boston and New York were during this time.

AL WC (97.3)

82-31 vs. Bad

55-30 vs. Mediocre

44-27 vs. Average

30-28 vs. Solid

81-78 vs. Good

Again, just ripping through the weakest teams, then treading water against the better ones.

AL TOTALS (97 win average)

356-148 vs. Bad

207-108 vs. Mediocre

210-141 vs. Average

100-93 vs. Solid

288-288 vs. Good

A couple interesting notes here. Not every "good" team made the playoffs. Obviously there were some division champs during this 3 year window (1 in each league) that didn't win at least 91 games. But when good teams went head to head, it was basically a coin flip. However, when an AL playoff team caught a bad team they beat them. More than two thirds of the time, in fact.

NL EAST (99.3)

65-31 vs. Bad

41-28 vs. Mediocre

101-61 vs. Average

42-32 vs. Solid

49-44 vs. Good

Pretty much like the AL, except, as you will see in the other numbers, the NL tends to have more teams in the 75-84 win range (at least during this stretch), which leads to more games against average teams. However, in a trend that will hold for the league, the best teams exerted their will on those average teams.

NL CENT (96.6)

85-40 vs. Bad

47-25 vs. Mediocre

65-46 vs. Average

43-55 vs. Solid

50-40 vs. Good

More of the same here. Crushing the worst and still doing pretty well against the average teams, then breaking even against the top two categories.

NL WEST (97)

83-42 vs. Bad

44-21 vs. Mediocre

55-37 vs. Average

45-35 vs. Solid

64-60 vs. Good

The trend continues. These years captured the Barry Bonds superhuman era, so the NL West was very strong during this time, and the records bear that out.

NL WC(92.6)

78-36 vs. Bad

37-26 vs. Mediocre

60-38 vs. Average

41-40 vs. Solid

62-67 vs. Good

Again, basically treading water against 85+ win teams and grabbing most of their wins against the weakest teams.

NL TOTALS (96.4)

311-149 vs. Bad

169-100 vs. Mediocre

281-182 vs. Average

171-162 vs. Solid

225-211 vs. Good

The NL teams tend to cluster towards the middle. I think this is a function of the rules, as the pitching spot gives roughly the same production over the season for every team, so there's much less separation from the teams. This leads to a lot of teams in the middle. If you're bad in the NL, you're bad. If you're not bad, you're probably fairly average. However, the best NL teams still handle the non-elite teams at a pretty high rate.

Overall (96.7)

667-297 vs. Bad

376-208 vs. Mediocre

491-323 vs. Average

271-255 vs. Solid

513-499 vs. Good

It's no surprise that the best teams end up with a winning record overall in every category. However, the spreads in the lowest three categories are amazing. Playoff teams beat bad teams at nearly a 70% clip (.691) They were almost as good (.644) against mediocre teams and played .603 ball against average teams. That's a .649 clip against teams with less than 85 wins. That's a 105 win pace against the weakest teams vs. a .509 clip (83 win pace) against the best teams. Between now and the end of July the Royals will play half their games (15 of 30) against the Mariners (8) and Twins (7). Both of those teams are on pace for roughly 68 wins or less right now. If the Royals are trending towards a competitive team they need to win at least 9 of those games, 10 or 11 if they fancy that they could compete this year.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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