Some of the most telling stats are the ones that compare a team or player to the league average. For example, wRC+ focuses on runs created (with specific weights attached) verse the rest of the league. OPS+ focuses on a player or teams on-base percentage plus slugging percentage against the rest of the league. As I often read criticism of the Padres lack of success over the years*, I began to take a closer look at wins and the league average over the years.
*Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton is the most recent example of someone overlooking some of the lesser success the Padres have had and focusing only on play-off appearances and winning records. Don’t get me wrong, wins are important. Wins are why players play, coaches coach, and fans watch. Hamilton, though, failed to even get his math right, citing six losing seasons in the last nine years. The Padres have actually had five winning seasons in the last nine years and four losing seasons.
Rather than go back to 1969 and calculate the average number of wins league-wide, I chose to focus on the years in which the Padres have played in Petco Park. I calculated the average number of wins across the league (which interestingly enough, when rounded, comes to 81 each year), then calculated the Padres Wins+. Wins+ here is simply a calculation of the Padres wins season by season as compared to the league average.
If we round the Padres total Wins+ in their time playing at the most pitcher-friendly park in the league, San Diego rates at average. They have had five above average seasons, and two seasons in which their wins totals were at least 9% better than league average.
Even I was surprised when I looked at the Padres performance in these terms. Rather than simply saying the Padres have had five winning seasons, we are able to see how they fared against the rest of the league.
Obviously, it’d be easier and much better as a fan to simply calculate the number of times the Padres made the postseason, but we don’t have that luxury. The Padres have made the postseason five times, and they will surely make the postseason again soon. Yet, when calculating their success, we can’t simply base it on postseason appearances. Even wins and losses don’t tell the whole story.
Wins+ is an interesting way to evaluate a team’s performance. And the Padres have shown they are not as bad off as many may have you believe. In their time playing at Petco Park, the team is almost exactly average. Maybe we don’t want to celebrate being average, but average is a far cry from some of the other labels thrown San Diego’s way. So I’ll take average and hope for something more very soon.