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Margin of Victory

Posted by Andy on February 2, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about winning 1-0 and some of the limits in the Play Index in searching for such games (such as the 1954 limit.) Loyal reader DavidRF pointed out the Situational Reports tool on the site, something I am embarrassed to admit I never knew about before.

What a cool toy! The first thing I did was figure out how the margin of victory has broken down since 1900. (A quick reminder that below where I talk about 1-run margins of victory, I'm not referring to only 1-0 games like yesterday but rather all games with a 1-run differential.)

Here are the percentages of games won by a particular number of runs since 1900:

As you can see, for most of baseball history, 1-run victories have been the most common. That's not too surprising--given that both teams start with zero runs and one run is the smallest margin that can decide a game, it makes sense that it is the most common outcome. I'm curious to see what type of 1-run margin is the most common but I'd assume it's probably 2-1 or 3-2. (I'll post that tomorrow, OK?) There have been just a few times when all victories of 5 runs or more were more frequent than 1-run wins: in the early 1900s, some of the 1930s, 1948, and, ho hum, the Steroids Era. I think we're beating a dead horse on that one, but suffice it to say--scoring lots of runs leads to big wins sometimes.

In some periods, run-scoring was so low that 2-run victories actually became more frequent than all wins of 5 or more runs. That happened in 1917 and 1968. The low overall scoring in 1968 caused the mound to be lowered, giving batters a little assistance against pitchers.

I find it interesting how consistent 2, 3, and 4-run victories have been. For the last 100+years, you can bank on the fact that 4-run victories would comprise 11 percent of all games, plus or minus a small fraction. Three-run games have been nailed at 15% and 2-run games have been fairly consistent around 18%. I did not show the broken-out data above, but victories of exactly 5 runs have been very consistent at 8-9% and 6-run wins have been right at 6%. I would imagine that even larger wins show more variation due to being increasingly rare events.

9 Responses to “Margin of Victory”

  1. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'd guess the most common 1-run victory is more like 4-3 or 5-4, since that's closer to the average run-scoring level.

  2. Andy Says:

    As soon as I wrote that above, I had the same thought as you, JT. I am just running the numbers right now and it turns out that 3-2 and 4-3 are roughly the same and the most common, followed by 5-4, then 6-5. It has changed some over the years but that is generally accurate.

  3. Atlas Says:

    One run is all you need to break a tie. So in the ninth or in extras, I imagine it's pretty frequent for a team to score a run with multiple runners on base who could score, but are not so credited. Only the winning run is credited with scoring in the bottom half of an inning from the ninth on, unless it's a walk-off homer, correct?

  4. Andy Says:

    I think that the margin of victory can be more than one in those situations also if it's a ground-rule double or triple. I am pretty sure I saw a game end in the bottom of en extra inning when the batter hit a ground-rule double with the bases loaded and two runs were scored. I'm not 100% sure about that, though. Certainly, if it were a ball that were NOT a ground rule double but would normally be a double, only one run would be counted.

  5. Mark Says:

    Yes, with a ground rule double with the bases loaded, two runs "can" score, as long as the batter progresses to second base and actually touches the bag. The only reason I know this arcane tidbit is that Hector Lopez, playing for the Yankees in the early 60s, had this exact situation and did not progress to second. He was therefore only credited with one RBI.

  6. bdunc8 Says:

    I couldn't find a game with a walk-off ground rule double in a tie game where 2 runs scored. However, I did come across this game. I'm assuming this game got called because of rain. With the bases loaded and the score tied at 5 in the bottom of the 5th, Wayne Tolleson hit a bases clearing double to give the Rangers an 8-5 lead. That turned out to be the last play of the game.

    Also, Robin Ventura's "grand slam single" has to be mentioned here. I wish the play-by-play actually said "R. Ventura, single over center field wall".

  7. DoubleDiamond Says:

    I remember reading somewhere that the only way multiple walk off runs can score is by a home run. In other words, no ground rule doubles, and no awarded bases on overthrows. As an example of the latter, suppose there are runners on second and third with the score tied with two out in the bottom of the ninth or an extra inning. A lefthanded batter is at the plate, so the second baseman is between first and second. The batter hits a ground that the second baseman fields but throws way too hard to get the batter at first, and the ball goes into the stands or dugout. Normally, everyone involved would be able to advance two bases - both runners would score, and the batter would go to 2nd - but here, only the runner on third gets to score.

    A lot of times, I see a walk-off hit bounce over the fence because the winning run has scored from third or even second, and there's no effort made to catch the ball because it's not going to save the game. This is technically the behavior of a ground rule double, but under almost every other circumstance, an outfielder would have caught this particular hit before it reached the fence.

    And somehow, I just know that that long "d" word I dislike so much was going to turn up here. I believe an easier way to say it is "one run difference".

  8. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Robin Ventura's walk-off, extra inning, grand slam that was a one run victory.

  9. SJBlonger Says:

    I can't believe this is even being debated. The only way extra runs score is on a home run.