Using Run Differential To Predict The National League

by Power Sports

Anyone who has followed my handicapping through the years is well aware that I’m a big believer in using a team’s scoring differential as a solid indicator of future outcomes. This goes for all sports.

My rationale is pretty simple. Teams that outscore the opposition by the biggest margin tend to be the “best” teams while those outscored by the widest margin tend to be the “worst.”

Looking at the National League, I think it’s quite easy to separate the contenders from the pretenders this year, using run differential.

“There’s Always Next Year”

Though we’re just a little over one-third of the way through the regular season, I feel quite confident in saying the following NL teams will NOT be making the playoffs this season: Arizona, Colorado, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Washington.

In terms of run differential, there already exists a substantial gap between these six and the other nine clubs in the Senior Circuit. In fact, five of the six teams on the list above already have a run differential of -57 or worse (as of 6/20).  The nine NL teams still to be mentioned all have positive YTD run differentials.

One non-contender to “keep an eye on” is Pittsburgh. The Pirates have the second worst run differential in all of baseball, but are somehow still third in their own division (ahead of both the Cubs and Reds). I expect the Bucs to start losing games at an even higher rate than they already are. 

Since its disastrous 3-22 start to the 2022 season, the Reds have actually been a .500 team. Yet they join the Nationals and Cubs in the bottom five of net units earned. (That means we are talking about three of the five worst teams to bet on).  The Pirates, D’backs and Rockies have all been middle of the road when it comes to net units. 

The Contenders

So we have nine teams to consider when it comes to this year’s NL Playoff picture. Remember that there’s been an extra Wild Card added, so six will ultimately make it.

The Dodgers and Mets should be considered playoff locks. I know that the Mets blew a large lead in the division last season and the NL East is pretty tough. Plus, a 5-0 record in extra inning games is due to regress. But I’m still more confident in this Mets team than I was last year’s.

The Dodgers have the best run differential in the NL, by a lot (+114). They are actually 0-5 in extra inning games and only have a half game lead in the West. But you’re crazy if you don’t think this is the NL’s best team, moving forward.

Someone will have to win the Central and that will obviously be either the Cardinals or Brewers, who coincidentally will play each other this week in Milwaukee. The two teams both come in with identical 38-30 records. But St. Louis has the much better run differential, +61 vs. +16. 

We’ve got a bevy of possible Wild Card contenders, besides whichever team doesn’t win the Central. San Diego and San Francisco both look strong out West. Coming into 2022, we knew the Giants couldn’t possibly be as profitable as they were last year (when they were a historically great +45.8 units). Therefore, I have less confidence in them making the playoffs than I do the Padres and not just because of SD’s superior run differential at the moment.

The East is very interesting as both the Braves and Phillies got hot in June. But also keep an eye out for the Marlins, who ought to have a winning record. They’ve outscored their opponents by 19 runs, yet find themselves six games below .500. I cashed a winning ticket on Miami Sunday (as an underdog). You can point to a MLB-high 17 one-run losses as the reason the Marlins face the current dichotomy. Only one other team in the NL has more than 10 one-run losses right now and that’s the Cubs. 

Be back to focus on the American League next week. 


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