MLB standings based on luck: Cardinals objectively unlucky, everything’s going Marlins way

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) /

When you look at the MLB standings through the lens of luck, the St. Louis Cardinals have a real gripe while the Marlins would change nothing.

Luck is hard to quantify, at least in the context of human reality. You may feel unlucky, but you can’t actually prove that your luck is any better or worse than the person standing in line in front of you at the cash register.

MLB teams can feel unlucky and then actually prove they are. That’s because there’s an actual “luck” statistic.

It’s not a perfect system by any means, but it comes down to expected wins and losses. Over on Baseball Reference, you can see every team’s “Pythagorean Win-Loss” record, which is more specifically the “expected Win-Loss record based on the number of runs scored and allowed by the team.”

Take the difference between a team’s actual W-L and their Pythagorean W-L and you get “Pythagorean luck.”

So guess what Cardinals fans? You get to wear the crown as the unluckiest team in baseball.

And congratulations Marlins fans! You’re the luckiest team in baseball!

MLB standings by luck

All standings as of June 12. Actual standings in parenthesis.

AL East

  1. (2) Orioles +5
  2. (1) Rays +1
  3. (4) Blue Jays +1
  4. (3) Yankees 0
  5. (5) Red Sox 0

AL Central

  1. (4) Tigers +3
  2. (2) Guardians +1
  3. (3) White Sox +1
  4. (1) Twins -4
  5. (5) Royals -4

AL West

  1. (3) Angels +1
  2. (5) Athletics 0
  3. (4) Mariners -1
  4. (2) Astros -2
  5. (1) Rangers -4

NL East

  1. (2) Marlins +6
  2. (3) Phillies +3
  3. (1) Braves +1
  4. (4) Mets 0
  5. (5) Nationals -2

NL Central

  1. (2) Brewers +3
  2. (1) Pirates +2
  3. (3) Reds +1
  4. (4) Cubs -3
  5. (5) Cardinals -6

NL West

  1. (1) Diamondbacks +4
  2. (3) Giants -1
  3. (5) Rockies 0
  4. (2) Dodgers -2
  5. (4) Padres -4

The Red Sox, Rockies and Athletics have only themselves to blame for being at the bottom of their divisions with exactly as many wins and losses as the stats would expect.

The Cardinals and Royals, on the other hand, have room to complain about being in the divisional basement with significantly negative luck scores.

That’s just the way it is. Luck comes and goes. Some teams have it. Some teams don’t.

When it comes down to it, you have to play the hand you’re dealt. The Twins and Rangers, who are first in their respective divisions despite pretty poor luck this season, are proof of that.

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