2021 MLB: Overachievers & Underachievers

by Power Sports

I’m continuing our monthly check-in on “America’s Pastime” with a look at which MLB teams are overachieving and underachieving the most, based on expected vs. actual win totals. 

Expected win total is sometimes referred to as Pythagorean win percentage. “The concept strives to determine the number of games that a team *should* have won -- based on its total number of runs scored versus its number of runs allowed -- in an effort to better forecast that team's future outlook.”

I think this tool is extremely important in evaluating how a team has “really played.”

Now onto the over and underachievers.

Overachievers - Teams whose actual win total exceeds expected win total by the widest margins. 

1. Seattle - At 41-38, the Mariners find themselves on the periphery of the Wild Card race in the American League. But it’s a race they probably shouldn’t even be involved with, at least based on their expected win total which is just 35. Their run differential is -43. The M’s have been really lucky in extra inning games (7-1) and their 18 one-run wins are the most in MLB. I do not expect them to stay in Wild Card contention. Not just because of all the above, but also due to being in the same division as Houston and Oakland. 

2. Milwaukee - The Brewers come into the week leading the NL Central at 45-33. It will be interesting to see what happens against the second place Cubs, who actually have a slightly better run differential and thus expected win total. The Brew Crew’s expected win total is just 40. They are 26-9 in day games, but below .500 in night games. I do like Milwaukee’s starting pitching and they very well could win this division. Unlike Seattle, I would NOT write this team off. 

3. Boston/Cleveland/St. Louis - These teams have all exceeded their expected win total by four. Boston (47-31) leads a tough AL East, but actually has the third best run differential in the division. They have an expected win total of 43 and I expect them to tumble. I also don’t anticipate Cleveland (41-33)  making the Wild Card, even though they look like a lock to finish second in a pretty weak Central Division. While eight games above .500, the Tribe have a minus 3 run differential YTD and an expected win total of 37. St. Louis has already fallen to fourth in the NL Central (37-41) and while they’ll always stay ahead of Pittsburgh, the Cardinals’ run differential is -52 and that’s fourth worst in the whole Senior Circuit. They have a win expectancy of 33.

Underachievers - Teams whose expected win total exceeds actual win total by the widest margins. 

1. Miami - The Marlins are last in the NL East. But they are the only team in the division besides the Mets to have a positive win differential. Their actual record is 33-44, but their run differential says they should be 41-36. Being 6-16 in one-run games has hurt. Seeing as how they overachieved last season, I don’t think the Marlins get back in the division or Wild Card race. But they are a team that should have a better overall record.

2. Arizona - Well, here’s an ugly one. The Diamondbacks stink. When they won 10-1 Saturday in San Diego, it snapped a MLB-record 24-game losing streak. They have lost 35 of their last 39 games overall. They have baseball’s overall worst record at 22-56. But as bad as things are, the D’backs should have a few more wins under their belt. Their expected win total is 27. They are 2-18 in one-run games. There’s no way any team can continue being THIS bad. 

3. Toronto - The Blue Jays are 40-36 and in third place in the East. But they have a +65 run differential. That’s top five in the American League. Compared to pretenders like Seattle and Cleveland and overachievers like Boston, the Blue Jays are actually playing better baseball. They could be a Wild Card team or even win the division. Recently, the Jays have been winning more. They are 7-1 their last eight games, though most of those wins have come against Baltimore. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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