MLB standings based on Pythagorean Win-Loss: Marlins, Reds, Orioles getting lucky

Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Nothing in baseball matters more than a win, but adjusting the MLB standings to account for Pythagorean Win-Loss gives us a sense of which teams are getting luckier than others. 

With the MLB All-Star break at its end, teams now gear up for what promises to be an exciting second half of the season. The Aug. 1 trade deadline is right around the corner. A lot of teams will make moves to get better; others will kick the can down the road, essentially forfeiting the last few months of the season.

As we stand on the precipice of that foundational shift, let’s take a look at the MLB standings — but, not the regular standings.

This article will dive into the MLB standings based on Pythagorean Win-Loss. If that sounds like its above your pay grade — “man, I didn’t like high school algebra!” — fear not. It’s a very simple metric with an even simpler explanation: it represents a team’s expected record based on runs scored and runs allowed.

In short, it’s a measurement of luck. Which teams are winning more games than they should, and which teams are not winning as much as their offensive and defensive numbers would suggest?

MLB standings: Divisional standings based on Pythagorean Win-Loss

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves (58-31)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (45-44)
  3. New York Mets (45-45)
  4. Miami Marlins (45-47)
  5. Washington Nationals (37-53)

The Braves are — checks notes — way better than the field. Of note, however, is Miami’s placement here. The Marlins are currently second in the NL East with a record 14 games above .500, which stands in stark contrast to their record in this exercise. Is Miami playing above its means right now?

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs (47-42)
  2. Cincinnati Reds (45-46)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers (44-47)
  4. St. Louis Cardinals (42-48)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (40-50)

The Cubs are the anti-Marlins — an extremely underwhelming team (42-47) that evidently shouldn’t be so terrible. The Chicago fanbase has been in a panic all season over the team’s inability to deliver on high expectations. Now there are questions about the team’s direction ahead of the trade deadline. Will Marcus Stroman stay? Cody Bellinger? And yet, the Cubbies are in first place when adjusted for luck.

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (51-38)
  2. San Diego Padres (49-41)
  3. San Franciso Giants (48-42)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks (48-43)
  5. Colorado Rockies (33-58)

A tight race, not unlike the real NL West standings. Arizona, Los Angeles, and San Francisco all feel like real threats to win the division. The Padres are a fish out of water here, but with so much talent on the roster, it’s not hard to imagine the Padres stringing together more wins with some better luck after the break.

AL East

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (61-32)
  2. Baltimore Orioles (49-40)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays (49-42)
  4. New York Yankees (48-43)
  5. Boston Red Sox (48-43)

The AL East is far and away the best division in baseball. All five teams are legitimately good. It speaks to the consistent pressure on the Yankees that the fanbase is in a constant state of despair despite the team being seven games above .500 with promising metrics. Of course, that general description applies to the other four AL East teams too, which is where the Yanks run into trouble.

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins (49-42)
  2. Cleveland Guardians (44-46)
  3. Chicago White Sox (39-53)
  4. Detroit Tigers (36-53)
  5. Kansas City Royals (30-61)

The AL Central has been an ode to working smarter, not harder. The Cleveland Guardians are currently in first place at 45-45. That will get them in the playoffs! So, “smarter” in this case refers to being located in the center of the country, rather than on the coasts where big-name free agents tend to pile up.

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers (59-32)
  2. Houston Astros (51-40)
  3. Seattle Mariners (48-41)
  4. Los Angeles Angels (46-45)
  5. Oakland Athletics (24-68)

As the Shohei Ohtani swan song begins in Los Angeles, let’s pour one out for the Angels — the most talented superteam that never was. Right now, the AL West feels very much like the state of Texas’ to lose, but the Mariners can’t be ignored completely. Oakland, on the other hand…

MLB standings: League standings based on Pythagorean Win-Loss

National League

  1. Atlanta Braves (58-31)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (51-38)
  3. San Diego Padres (49-41)
  4. San Francisco Giants (48-42)
  5. Chicago Cubs (47-42)
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks (48-43)
  7. Philadelphia Phillies (45-44)
  8. New York Mets (45-45)
  9. Cincinnati Reds (45-46)
  10. Miami Marlins (45-47)
  11. Milwaukee Brewers (44-47)
  12. St. Louis Cardinals (42-48)
  13. Pittsburgh Pirates (40-50)
  14. Washington Nationals (37-53)
  15. Colorado Rockies (33-58)

Remarkably scattershot compared to the real standings. If nothing much else, this is a testament to the influence of luck and circumstance. A lot of “bad” teams simply get caught in a bad slide for a couple weeks and never manage to recover, despite playing otherwise solid baseball.

American League

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (61-32)
  2. Texas Rangers (59-32)
  3. Houston Astros (51-40)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (49-40)
  5. Seattle Mariners (48-41)
  6. Toronto Blue Jays (49-42)
  7. Minnesota Twins (49-42)
  8. New York Yankees (48-43)
  9. Boston Red Sox (48-43)
  10. Los Angeles Angels (46-45)
  11. Cleveland Guardians (44-46)
  12. Chicago White Sox (39-53)
  13. Detroit Tigers (36-53)
  14. Kansas City Royals (30-61)
  15. Oakland Athletics (24-68)

This holds up mostly with the real standings. The top-end depth of the American League is much stronger than the top-end depth of the National League (Braves excluded). The bottom of the AL, however, is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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