NC State broke through on Sunday afternoon with its first victory of the 2015 season in a one-run game. The Wolfpack's Bubby Riley hit a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth to give State a 4-3 win and even the series with the Wahoos. NC State is now 1-7 in one-run games on the year, and 1-5 in one-run conference games.
It's been an outlier year for the baseball team in that respect, and unfortunately it has the team in poor shape for the NCAAs. If the Pack's luck were a bit better--just average--then its post-season prospects would look more promising. As it is, this team needs a late run to make anything of this season. Sunday afternoon was a start, but State's gonna have to finish off today's doubleheader with a sweep and keep on delivering wins the rest of the way.
Given the unusual nature of NC State's performance in one-run games, I was curious about how this year stacks up historically. Generally speaking, a team's performance in one-run games should be pretty close to .500 because there's so much more randomness in close games that can trump team quality. Team quality is not irrelevant, but it matters less than you'd think.
First, let's have a look at NC State's performance in league games, dating back to 2007. (That's as far back as I could find stats.)
|ACC games||G||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||ExpW%||ExpW||ActualW||W-L in 1-run gms||Win Diff|
ExpW%: Expected wins based on pythagorean expectation.
Win Diff: Actual Wins - Expected Wins
We can get an estimate of how many games a team should have won based on the number of runs it has scored and allowed. The 2015 Wolfpack squad is actually +16 in ACC games, including the first game against UVA on Sunday. That's not a dominant scoring margin by any means, but it does suggest that the Pack should be more like 13-9 in the ACC, and not 10-12. Additionally, it's clear from the expected win percentage column that State has improved from last season. Unfortunately that improvement hasn't shown up in the win column because baseball is mean sometimes. That's where (in part) the crummy record in one-run games comes into play.
For the most part, State's records in one-run games over the years have fallen into the range we would expect, with the notable exceptions of 2013 and this season. State is 30-33 in one-run conference games over the last nine seasons and has been a regular underperformer in the win column. Essentially, based on the runs this team scored and allowed since 2007, it should have 11 more ACC wins than it's gotten. That can't all be tied to performance in close games, but more on that shortly.
Here are the overall season numbers, for the curious. (All two of you.)
|All Games||G||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||ExpW%||ExpW||ActualW||W-L in 1-run gms||Win Diff|
These numbers lead to larger questions within the context of the last two seasons. Let's say that NC State has underperformed by about three wins per season, as the run differential from 2007 to now indicates. And overall State has been on the right side of .500 in one-run games. Where's that underperformance coming from? How much influence should be attributed to Elliott Avent's managerial tactics? Is his old-school style creating inefficiency that's hurting the team?
While there's plenty that Avent can control within his program, plenty that rightfully is billed as his responsibility, the irony of 2015 is it may be things outside of his control that mark the beginning of the end of his tenure in Raleigh. Misfortune and randomness seem to act in tandem sometimes, and in a short college baseball season, they can kill you.
NC State has had a run of bad luck this season, and it's incredibly poor timing for Avent, who is paid handsomely to produce teams far more productive than this one, with no excuses.