In my last article, I introduced a Luck Index, a Franken-stat that combines team record in one-run games, pitchers’ strand rate, batting with runners in scoring position, and strength of schedule to derive a measure of luck. It’s centered around a Luck Index of zero with a standard deviation of 25.

Using this measure, here are the 10 unluckiest teams in the Divisional Play era. For each team, I’ve listed the Luck Index, D3 (the difference between actual wins and wins predicted by BP’s model of projected runs and opponents’ record), and the team’s record.

10. 2001 Rockies (-59,-13, 73-89, fifth in NL West): In addition to an 18-28 record in one-run games, Colorado opponents won 51.6 percent of their games. The Rockies played in the same division as the Diamondbacks, Giants, and Dodgers, who averaged 89.3 wins each, and went 2-10 in interleague games against the AL West, which featured the 116-46 Mariners and 102-60 A’s.

9. 1975 Astros (-69.8, -7, 64-97, sixth in NL West): This worst-in-the-West record followed 81-81 in 1974 and preceded 80-82 in 1976. So what went wrong in 1975? Well, they played the toughest schedule in the league (.509 opposition winning percentage), but the real killer was a 16-41 record in one-run games, the third worst in the divisional play era.

8. 2012 Rays (-60.2, -7, 90-72, third in AL East): Can a team winning 90 games be unlucky? Sure, if they were only 21-27 in one-run games, and their opponents had a .507 winning percentage, and their pitchers gave up a .256 batting average with RISP compared to only .220 in other at bats.

7. 2013 Orioles (-61.2, +2, 85-77, tied for third in NL East): Sandwiched between Orioles teams that won 93 and 96 games, they’d probably buy into the unlucky thing. A year after going 29-9 in one-run games, the best such winning percentage in the divisional era, the 2013 O’s were 20-31, the worst record in one-run games that year outside that of the 51-111 Astros. Playing in the competitive American League East, their opponents had a .512 winning percentage.

6. 2001 Rangers (-61.28, -3, 73-89, fourth in AL West): This team won 71, 73, 72, and 71 games in 2000-2003, so the 2001 season doesn’t stand out as unusual. But that was the year the Mariners won 116 games and the A’s won 102, giving the last-place (43 games out of first) Rangers an opposition winning percentage of .5272, the second-toughest in the divisional play era. Their interleague “natural rival,” the Astros, against whom they played six games, had the best record in the National League as well.

5. 2003 Mets (-61.35, +3, 66-95, fifth in NL East): They were nine games better in 2002 and five better in 2004, but this team cost GM Steve Phillips his job. They were 15-28 in one-run games, the worst record in the majors, and their opponents’ .5270 winning percentage was the third-toughest in divisional play history. Every other team in the NL East finished above .500, and in interleague play, the Mets went 0-6 against their natural rival Yankees, who won 101 games.

4. 2006 Royals (-63, -1, 62-100, fifth in AL Central): They had the misfortune of playing in a very competitive division, with the Twins, Tigers and White Sox all winning 90-plus games. The Royals were 19-37 against them. Their interleague natural rival, against whom they played six games, was the world champion (though admittedly not-that-great) Cardinals. All told their opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .531, the highest in the divisional play era. That’s like playing last year’s 86-76 Astros every day.

3. 2015 Reds (-67.8, -8, 64-98, fifth in NL Central): The 1994 Padres had a slightly worse Luck Index, -68.3 to the Reds’ -67.8, but 1994 was a strike year. The 2015 Reds, of course, had the disadvantage of playing in the same division as teams that won 97, 98, and 100 games, resulting in an opponent winning percentage of .520, the 11th-toughest schedule in the divisional era. They also batted just .217 with RISP, the third lowest in a non-strike-shortened year in the divisional play era. They batted .258 without RISP.

2. 1973 Braves (-74, -13, 76-85, fifth in NL West): They won 12 more games the following year, but this team had a 16-30 record in one-run games, played teams that won 50.8 percent of their games, allowed a league-high .279 batting average with RISP, and was the only team in the divisional era to allow a majority of inherited runners to score.

1. 2007 Orioles (-81, -6, 69-93, fourth in AL East): Their 13-31 record in one-run games is the sixth-worst in divisional play. Their pitchers allowed a .283 batting average with runners in scoring position, 20 points higher than in other plate appearances. And, playing in the same division as the world champion Red Sox, wild card Yankees, and 83-79 Blue Jays, and playing 12 of their 18 interleague games against teams that won 90 or more games, they had the second-toughest schedule in the majors (.515 opposition winning percentage).

And the ten luckiest:

10. 2006 Mets (+59, +7, 97-65, first in AL East): Their 31-16 record in one-run games was the best in the National League and they played teams that won only 48.7 percent of their games, even though every one of their interleague rivals finished above .500. This year sticks out, performance-wise, as the team won only 83 in 2005 and 88 in 2007.

9. 1972 Mets (+63,+10, 83-73, third in NL East): In Yogi Berra’s first year as the team’s manager, the Mets had the best one-run record in baseball (33-15) and played teams with a .494 winning percentage. Its pitchers allowed a .223 batting average with RISP.

8. 1985 Reds (+64, +6, 89-72, second in NL West): In Pete Rose’s first full year as manager (insert gambling/luck joke here), Cincinnati improved by 19.5 games from 1984. Rose finished one point behind Whitey Herzog in the Manager of the Year vote. The voters likely didn’t consider the Reds’ best-in-the-majors 39-18 record in one-run games, their opponents’ .492 winning percentage, or the team’s .271 batting average with RISP, 21 points higher than in non-RISP at bats. On second thought, they probably did.

7. 2015 Pirates (+65, +7, 98-64, second in NL Central): While playing in the NL Central was a handicap for the 2015 Reds (see third unluckiest, above) it was a push for the Pirates, who got 19 games each against the 64-98 Reds and 68-94 Brewers. Their 20 interleague games included only three with a team more than two games over .500. They also had a best-in-the-majors 36-17 record in one-run games and their pitchers allowed only a .228 batting average RISP compared to .254 in other at-bats.

6. 1972 White Sox (+66, +11, 87-67, second in AL West): This was manager Chuck Tanner’s first winning team, and it featured MVP Dick Allen. They had the league’s best record in one-run games, 38-20, and they played teams with an aggregate winning percentage of just .490. This was a strike-shortened season; prorated to 162 games, they were 13 games better than the 1971 team and 15 better than in 1973.

5. 2004 Twins (+68, +6, 92-70, first in AL Central): This was Johan Santana’s Cy Young season, so they weren’t reliant solely on luck, though they were nine games worse in 2005. The Twins played the second-easiest schedule in divisional play history, with an opposition winning percentage of .472, as only one of their Central rivals was above .500 (the 83-79 White Sox). They went 11-7 against National League opponents, with a dozen games against the 51-111 Diamondbacks, the 67-95 Expos, and the 67-94 Brewers.

4. 1995 Indians (+69.5, +6, 100-44, first in AL Central): I was torn about including this team, which played in a strike-shortened season. But I went with them, because they illustrate that it’s not just one-run games that can drive a high Luck Index. They played one of the easiest schedules in the divisional play era (.480 opponents’ winning percentage; they were the only Central team above .500) they had the highest strand rate (82 percent) in the era, and their pitchers allowed only a .229 batting average with RISP in a year in which the league batted .270.

3. 2002 Twins (+70.2, +9, 94-67, first in AL Central): The 1981 A’s had a slightly higher Luck Index, 71, but they played only 109 games due to the mid-season strike that year, so these Twins get third place. Playing in the weak Central and playing only three of 18 interleague games (including six against natural rival Milwaukee, 56-106) against teams with a winning record, Twins opponents won only 47.1 percent of their games, the lowest percentage in the divisional era. Minnesota was also 29-16 in one-run games as it improved its overall record by 9.5 games from the year before.

2. 2015 Braves (+72, +5, 67-95, fourth in NL East): Their record would’ve been worse had they not managed to go 28-18 in one-run games, a .609 winning percentage, despite a 39-77 record (.336) in their other games. They also played a relatively easy schedule, with their average opponent winning just 79.8 games, as their NL East rivals were weak and their AL East interleague opponents had, collectively, an off year, with only Toronto winning more than 87 games.

1. 2008 Giants (+82, +6, 72-90, fourth in NL West): They started the even-year thing before they started winning World Series. What makes this the luckiest team of the divisional era? First, they had a 31-21 (.596, a 97-65 pace) record in one-run games, the second-best in the league, for a team that was 41-69 (.372, a 60-102 pace) in its other games. Second, playing in a division that had no teams more than three games over .500 and with only three of 18 interleague games against a team with a winning record, their opponents had only a .485 winning percentage, the fourth lowest in the league.

And how about this year? I got started on this project after thinking about the Rangers’ record on one-run games. Well, after yet another one-run Rangers victory Monday night (all stats below are through September 19), here are the three luckiest and unluckiest teams of the season. Note that for the most part, the Luck Index tracks pretty well with D3 this year.

30. Red Sox (-40, -11, 86-64): Yes, they’ve been good. But they’re only 18-22 in one-run games, they’ve faced teams with a .504 winning percentage, and their pitchers have allowed a batting with RISP nine points higher than in non-RISP at bats.

29. Twins (-34, -9, 55-95): Nothing jumps out, but the Twins have had everything going a little bit against them: worse record in one-run games than other games, tough schedule, low strand rate, low batting average with RISP when batting and a high batting average with RISP when pitching.

28. Blue Jays ( -32, -4, 82-68): Like the Red Sox, they’ve played a challenging schedule (.504). Heck, everybody in that division’s played a challenging schedule. The Jays have only an 18-23 one-run game record.

3. Reds (+31, +8, 63-87): The biggest reason the Reds have gone from very unlucky last year to lucky this year: Their batters are batting .276 with RISP, the best in the league outside of Colorado, compared to only .217 in 2015. They’re hitting .247 in non-RISP plate appearances.

2. Phillies (+37, +17, 66-83): Man, think about where the Reds and Phils would be if they weren’t lucky…This team’s benefited from a 27-21 record in one-run games and a soft schedule (.494 opponent winning percentage), offset by a.221 batting average with RISP, second-worst in the majors.

1. Rangers (+48, +15, 89-62): Yes, the Rangers’ 35-10 record in one-run games has made them a very lucky team, and their .281 batting average with RISP is second in the league. However, they’ve played a tough (.508 opponent winning percentage) schedule, so they’re not historically lucky. Just 2016 lucky.

Here’s the complete list, through games of September 19. Recall that the Luck Index has a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 25, so the top four and bottom five teams have been notably lucky/unlucky so far this season.















































White Sox






Blue Jays












Red Sox


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Despite all the one-run and extra-inning wins, the 2012 Orioles were not among the luckiest teams. Amazing.
Yeah, I was surprised by that as well. They're lower than I'd expected--Luck Index of +29, 157 out of 1288, not even in the top 10%. Best 1-run W-L % in the divisional play era (though the Rangers are on pace to top that), but since they were an above-.500 team without the 1-run games, they got "only" the 33rd most excess wins. They caught no other particular breaks (though they did bat a little better w/RISP than without, .256-.245) and they played a pretty tough schedule, with 18 games each against the 90-win Rays and 95-win Yankees, and they played a strong NL East in interleague, with half their games against the 98-win Nats and 94-win Braves, .507 opposition W-L.
Really interesting stuff. Great read.

Questions: How does luck actually play into your luck index season by season? Is there some long-term correlation for the Luck Index for each franchise across several seasons? Are "Lucky" teams prone to regress into "unlucky" territory the next season, or is it truly random? Do some teams "make their own luck" as the saying goes?
Wow. Fantastic question, hadn't occurred to me. Thanks for thinking of it. The answer to your question: The Luck Index is almost entirely random. The average year-to-year correlation is only .04. I looked for teams that's been at least significantly (+/- 25) lucky or unlucky for three straight seasons. That's happened 16 times--every single streak is since 1994. Given that three-division play began in 1994 and interleague play in 1997, I think we can safely say that a big contributor has been luck/unluck attributable to unbalanced opponents' schedules. Only one team has been significantly lucky four straight years: the 2002-05 Dodgers. Since we're talking about a span of 47 seasons, that's pretty random-looking to me.
Tell Pirate fans they have been lucky: the entire opening day rotation has been replaced by 4 rookies and a 39 year old.


Great read however!
Tell me about it. I'm a Pirates fan. Obviously, "luck" here refers to in-game, not roster. But (1) Pirates pitchers have allowed .249 BA w/RISP vs. .273 w/o RISP; that's lucky, and (2) specific to your point, the only bad luck involved in the opening day five has been Cole's health. Liriano was just bad, not unlucky, and counting on Niese, Locke, and Nicasio was not a great call either. I'd add Glasnow's health to the bad luck side of the ledger, though.