How to be a Better Fan: Wins are Fungible


Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Listen to sports radio basically at all over the summer and you will hear a baseball commentator opine on the importance of September baseball. Invariably commentators will say absurd things this time of year as well. Things like, “You can’t win the division in April but you can lose it”. Hopefully most fans roll their eyes when they hear things of this nature. In baseball, every win counts the same in the end of season standings.

Texas Rangers fans know as well as any fan base what a single game means. Last year the Texas Rangers ended up tied for the second wildcard spot and fell short of the postseason by a single game. Had the Rangers won one more April game, perhaps the opening day loss to the hapless Houston Astros, they would have advanced to the wildcard game without having to face Tampa Bay in the a play in game.

Smart baseball fans know that wins are fungible; every game has equal weight regardless of when it is played or against whom it is played. The reason commentators make the mistake of thinking August and September games mean more than April and May games is fairly straight forward; baseball has a long season and early in the year it is difficult to appreciate the importance of each game. Once games are played in September it is easy to calculate exactly how each game effects a team’s shot at the playoffs. In April this is not the case, there are too many games left to be played. The Rangers could fall behind Oakland by two games in April and then jump into the lead by making up three games in May.

Texas has 16 remaining April games. Imagine the Rangers win the rest of these April games. They would be 22-6 and would likely hold at least a six game lead, perhaps eight. This could easily propel the team into the playoffs. Going .500 the rest of the season after such a stretch would leave the Rangers with a record of 98-64 it would be tough to imagine that any other AL West team could match this record.

Just as interesting is that games against division opponents do not matter more than games against non-division opponents. It is fun to watch rivalry games because a win leads to an immediate change of a full game in the standings. This is particularly true when competing for the top spot in the division. The Rangers could lose 19 games to Oakland and still win the division by a wide margin. Those 19 losses would count as only 19 losses in the final record. The Rangers went 9-10 against Oakland last season. Typically we see give and take in season series and teams that dominate their division opponents win the division but this is a function of good teams winning. Losing 19 games to one team would be a notable oddity. None the less, the Rangers could have lost 9 more games to Oakland last season and replaced them elsewhere in their schedule. It is merely a question of arithmetic.

So Rangers fans let your emotions run wild in April. These games mean as much as any games played throughout the year.