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   by Scott Spreitzer - 06/07/2006


Over the years I've found a great indicator for 'turnarounds' in MLB performance is a team's record in one-run games.

Statistical studies have shown that a team's record in close games is largely a reflection of good fortune. Game broadcasters like to tell you that certain teams have a knack for finding a way to win. The teams with great records LOVE to tell you that they've got a special something which gives them the edge. But over time, teams on either end of the spectrum regress back to near .500 in this fickle category.

There's no 'special something' that helps great teams win close games. There's no choke factor that causes lesser teams to lose close games. The studies have basically shown that good teams overall are a little over .500 in close games and bad teams overall are a little under .500 in close games. What separates teams is their performances in blowouts not in close games.

Let's take a look at some extremes that have been in place so far through the first two months of the season. All the records discussed in this piece are through the games of Friday night June 2.


Minnesota: 9-3
NY Mets: 16-6
Cincinnati: 12-5
Houston: 11-5
Baltimore: 10-5
Detroit: 10-5

As a general rule, teams with strong one-run records aren't as good as everyone thinks they are. They might still be pretty good. But their full season record is misleading because they've been catching breaks in close games. The listing above has an interesting mix.

We've got a team that's perceived as having turned themselves into a league power (the Mets),
but their record is only 16-14 in games that have been decided by 2 or more runs.

The Reds are perceived as an up-and-comer, but their record is just 18-19 outside the close games. Although that's still an improvement for this franchise!

We have last year's NL champions, the Astros, who are a very poor 16-23 in games decided by 2 or more runs.

We've got two AL teams who are both worse than people realize (the Orioles and Twins), having compiled records of 15-25 and 16-26 in games that weren't coin flips at the very end.

What about Detroit? Well, that 10-5 record in close games is a bit of good fortune. But they're still 26-14 in games that weren't nailbiters. This is very strong evidence that the Tigers are likely to be a contender for quite some time. Just don't expect them to continue their current 106 win pace!

As a composite, all of these teams should be expected to "underachieve" their new perception in the coming weeks. Everyone outside of Detroit just isn't as good as everyone thinks.

On the other end of the spectrum, we've got teams with bad one-run records who may offer value for wagerers in the coming weeks:


Seattle: 3-9
Washington: 3-9
Pittsburgh: 6-15
Florida: 4-11
Chicago Cubs: 4-10
Oakland: 8-14

This sextet breaks into two even groups. Those who are basically .500 teams overall who are struggling in close games and bad teams who will be set to turn things around quickly if they ever get their acts together.


Oakland: 17-16 outside of one-run games
Seattle: 21-23 outside of one-run games
Washington: 20-23 outside of one-run games

You might have Seattle and Washington on your go-against list because of the full season standings. Be aware that they're not quite as bad as they seem


Cubs: 17-22 outside of one-run games
Pittsburgh: 14-20 outside of one-run games
Florida: 14-23 outside of one-run games

We're not going to suggest that you need to start pounding these guys. We just want you to be aware that what would have been poor seasons anyway have turned into DISASTERS because of poor performances in one-run games. All three of these teams are likely to start catching a few breaks. You saw that for the Pirates and Marlins in particular on their most recent home stands. Be very careful laying huge odds against this threesome. Even though they're struggling, they're not as bad as you think. Be sure you've got real edges when going against them, don't just knee-jerk because they're in last place and you think last place teams get killed every day.

I hope this brief study of one-run records helps you pick more winners in the coming weeks. Be sure to monitor this stat all through the season. The “luckyâ€쳌 group is going to fall back to earth and the “unluckyâ€쳌 group is going to start picking up some upset victories. Winning handicappers are those who can see this coming before it happens!

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