From Paul Hagen at MLB.com on July 7, 2014, with mention of SABR member Jacob Pomrenke:
It is a stat that has been around for years. And it is so simple and logical that at first glance, it hardly seems worth mentioning.
And yet, run differential — the gap between how many runs a team scores and how many it gives up — has become more prominent than ever in recent years.
“I think in the last five years, it’s really picked up,” Bill Arnold of Sports Features Group said. “People are talking about it. Managers are talking about it. And I think that comes from the fact that baseball people themselves are looking at different ways to measure their team, or other teams’, success.”
Arnold notes that there are better “hidden” stats that measure the game. The idea that a team that scores more runs and allows fewer runs has a better chance of winning is, after all, slap-your-forehead obvious.
“It’s one of those stats that’s interesting to look at,” Arnold added. “It creates a lot of talk about it. And teams use it to some degree. But to me, it’s not a game-changing stat. It’s just an interesting stat that’s there, and it gives you a relatively quick way to look at what your team is doing.”
Jacob Pomrenke, web content editor/producer for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), credits Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-seller “Moneyball” with being a catalyst for bringing run differential and other sabermetric concepts into the mainstream.
“It’s a relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and team wins that we’ve known about for about three decades now,” Pomrenke said. “It was first discovered by Bill James and independently by Pete Palmer, two of the most prominent members of the sabermetric community in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
“Really, if you want to go back, these concepts have been around for more than 100 years. F.C. Lane was a great baseball writer in the early 20th century. Ernie Lanigan with The Sporting News. Those guys were coming up with these concepts. They might not have called them by the same names. They might not have explained them the same way. But the concepts were there.”
Originally published: July 17, 2014. Last Updated: July 17, 2014.