Baseball Pythagorean Theorem Betting Strategy

What exactly is is the Baseball Pythagorean Theorem Betting Strategy?

There are not many sports fans as dedicated to numbers as diehard baseball fans, who spend hours crunching numbers and going over statistics under the general term of sabermetrics.  Sabermetrics means the empirical analysis of baseball, and while many sabermetricians are just fans of the game, people who bet on baseball have learned to look at what they are doing to see if any of their number findings can translate into picking more winners of the game.

One statistic that is often looked at is known as the Pythagorean Expectation, which is just a simple model that tells you about a team and how many games they should win based on the number of runs the team scores compared to the number of runs the team allows.  The formula was created by Bill James, and resembles the Pythagorean Theorem, which is how the Baseball Pythagorean Theorem got it’s name.

What James did was use a simple two-step formula to estimate the number of games a team should win by taking the number of runs the team scored and squaring it.  He would also take the number of runs a team allowed and also squared that number.  He would then divide the number of runs a team scored after it and squared by the number of runs the team scored when it was squared plus the number of runs a team allowed after that number was squared.  He would then take that percentage and multiply it by the number of games the team has played.

Let’s use the 2013 Atlanta Braves for an example. The Braves scored 688 runs and allowed 548 runs. 688 squared is 473,344 and when you square 548 you get 300,304. Now let’s add 473,344 and 300,304 together.  We get 773,648. The first step is to divide 473,344 by 773,648 and you will get .612. Since the Braves played 162 games you then multiply that by .612 and you will get a total of 99.14, which means the Braves should have won 99 games in 2013. Atlanta finished 96-66.

Shortly after James showed his initial study, other baseball people who research baseball went to work on the theory and found that using an exponent of 1.83 worked slightly better than the initial method, which called for squaring the numbers. Using the Braves once again, 688 runs when multiplied by an exponent of 1.83 becomes 155,879, and 548 runs becomes 102,794. When we add 155,879 and 102,794 together it gives us a total of 258,673. Taking 155,879 and dividing by 258,673 gives a figure of .602, which multiplied by 162 gives a new projected wins of 97.7 games, so the second method was just a little more solid in this case.

People betting on baseball will use this information several different ways. The first is at the start of the season when a team’s win totals and odds to win the pennant and World Series are posted. A team that finished with a better or worse record than it should have had may be a good wager to see a bit of a reversal. This method is also used during the course of the season to see which teams are winning or losing more games than they should be, where we can then expect a reversal to take place over the remainder of the season.

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