ARLINGTON, Texas – The Diamondbacks did something somewhat familiar on Wednesday night. They blew through an opposing pitching staff, ripping apart the Texas Rangers 19-4 at Globe Life Park, completing a two-game sweep in which they outscored their opponents 28-6.
It was a good two days for the purposes of padding their run differential – and, in a way, giving themselves more reason to believe they are better than their mediocre record would suggest.
Nearly 40 years ago, analyst Bill James devised what he called baseball’s Pythagorean Theory, a simple formula that uses a team’s total runs scored and runs allowed to project an expected win-loss record. By and large, it has tended to be fairly accurate: The more teams outscore their opponents, the better their record, and vice versa.
After destroying the Rangers this week, the Diamondbacks have scored 500 runs and allowed 428, giving them the second-best run-differential in the National League at plus-72. Unfortunately for them, it hasn’t played out the way James’ formula would suggest.
Rather than owning the 55-41 record their run differential says they should, they are sitting at 49-47. Count manager Torey Lovullo among those who believe the numbers will eventually turn.
“When you’re following the baseball laws and the run differential’s telling you one thing – you should be seven, eight, nine, ten games over .500 – it’ll eventually iron out and eventually find its way to what it’s supposed to be,” Lovullo said. “We’ve just got to keep plowing.”
Lovullo isn’t foolish to have faith. Things could well even out; they often do. But it doesn’t always work that way. The Diamondbacks’ own history bears this out.
In 2007, they won 90 games and the National League West. They finished with a minus-20 run differential. Five years later, they finished at plus-47 but won only 81 games, falling five wins shy of their expected record of 86-76.
“I know baseball has followed a certain pattern for the past 50 years that shows that that run differential is pretty spot-on,” Lovullo said. “I follow it and I believe in it, and that’s why I feel this team is going to be fine in the end.”
If they have a lot more nights like Wednesday, they’ll be more than fine. They sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven runs in the first inning, then followed that by sending eight more to the plate and scoring five more in the second.
They finished with 21 hits, including five home runs, two from Eduardo Escobar, who homered from both sides of the plate for the second time this season.
For anyone who has followed the Diamondbacks this season, it is hard to view them as a club that ought to be 14 games over .500, as their expected record suggests. Their bullpen has not been reliable. They have dealt with issues in their starting rotation. Their offense has gone from volcanic one day to dormant the next.
“It’s been an ongoing thing where it just hasn’t been consistent,” Lovullo said. “When I say to you guys that I feel like we haven’t played our best baseball yet, I’m basing it on something like that.”
Despite their inability to get on a roll the Diamondbacks remain squarely in the thick of the playoff hunt. They are a half-game out of the second wild-card spot, making them one of six teams within three games of a wild card.
“It’s been kind of crazy that we’ve been playing .500 ball and are still only a game out of it,” left-hander Robbie Ray said. “It just takes one good winning streak to get on a roll for a little bit and then you’re in it. If we can continue what we did tonight, get on a little bit of a roll, then it’s ours to take.”