Baseball: Revisiting Games Behind in the Loss Column

Last year I wrote a post about the concept of “games behind in the loss column” in baseball standings. This is a term that gets used a ID-100271413lot as we head into the final stretch of the baseball season.

I wanted to revisit this topic with a real example from the current season.

Let’s go back to the the American League Central Division standings on the morning of June 11th:

Detroit 33 28 0
Kansas City 33 32 2
Chicago 33 33 2.5
Cleveland 33 33 2.5


Here we see the classic example of where games behind in the loss column is relevant. You have a jumble of teams that have played an unequal number of games. KC has played 65 games, Chicago and Cleveland have played 66 games, but Detroit has only played 61 games.

But this race is not really as close as it seems. Detroit is only 2 games up on KC, but they are 4 games up in the loss column.

Let’s pretend the season is only 70 games long. So Detroit has 9 games left, KC 5 and Chicago and Cleveland 4.

KC, Chicago and Cleveland are basically helpless in this scenario. Even if they win all of their remaining games, they have to rely on Detroit losing.

So let’s say KC wins their last 5 games to finish 38-32. They are still in a bad situation because they must rely on Detroit losing at least 4 of its last 9 games. That’s possible, of course, but the point is: in our hypothetical scenario, KC doesn’t “control its own destiny.” It has to rely on Detroit losing.

Winning, in and of itself, doesn’t close that 2-game gap in the standings because the gap is in the loss column.

Now let’s say the gap was in the win column:

Detroit 33 28 0
Kansas City 29 28 2


If the season ends at 70 games and KC wins all of its remaining games, they are guaranteed to at least finish in a tie with Detroit. Obviously winning 11 straight is a tall task, but this illustrates that KC can close the gap with Detroit just by winning. Something that doesn’t happen when the deficit is in the loss column.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /