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Is anyone else bothered by the fact that a team that only won 83 games in the regular season is one win away from winning the World Series?
Posted: 27 October 2006 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]

The more I think about baseball the more I realize that a huge amount of luck is involved in the outcome of any one game.  As a recent article in BP pointed out 14 more wins over the regular season is 0.0864 more wins per game.  Over 7 games that is 0.604 wins. 

From a run differential perspective the Tigers had a run differential of +147 runs (822-675) and the Cardinals had a run differential of +19 (781-762).  The difference between the 2 teams was 128.  On a per game basis this comes out to 0.79. 

The thing about baseball is that the game to game variance in runs scored is a lot greater than 0.79.  This means that the game to game variances will likely overwhelm the actual differences in quality between the 2 teams.  Hence a short series is far more luck than it is skill.

I don’t know what the different ratios are between the mean margin of victory and the standard deviation of runs/points/goals scored per game for the different sports but the larger that ratio is the more a short series is just luck.  I would guess that that ratio is higher for baseball than it is for any other major sport. 

This is why this sort of thing will continue to happen as long as the playoff format allows .500 teams into the postseason.  Baseball is a sport where a superior team can only really demonstrate its superiority over a large number of games.  Its’ ok if the better team doesn’t always win.  In fact it is desirable.  But in baseball a .500 team is almost 50-50 to win a short series against a .600 team. 

Because of this I think that the playoff system should be revamped.  Perhaps 2 divisions and 2 wild cards.  I don’t know.

Posted: 28 October 2006 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]

There are several factors that allowed a team that won only 83 games into the playoffs. First off, interleague play means that a league is no longer guaranteed to net to .500 ball. This year, the National League was dominated by the American in interleague play, resulting in the NL being 56 games below .500 (1267-1323).  Still, the Cardinals had only the 5th-best W-L in the NL, behind West champion San Diego, wildcard LA, East champion NY and non-playoff Philadelphia. The 5th-best record made the playoffs due to the vagaries of Divisions. With the 16 teams split into three divisions instead of two, and the schedule weighted heavily on intra-division play, the probability that a weak team will make the playoffs in substantially increased, especially in the AL West, which has only four teams. Don’t forget that, in 1994 when they went on strike, the Texas Rangers were leading the AL West with a record substantially under .500. Last year, it appeared that the Padres or Giants might win the NL West with a sub-.500 record, but San Diego squeaked out an 82-80 record. That the Cardinals won the six-team NL Central with only 83 wins is quite unexpected, but they might have won 84 if they played the full schedule (they almost had to play a makeup game against the Giants to complete their 162 games), and they would likely have won several more if they hadn’t played 15 games against the AL, losing 10 of them. Interestingly, St. Louis actually played sub-.500 ball (39-42) against their Division rivals, but beat up on the NL West (23-11). According to ESPN’s “Relative Power Index”, which is 25% team winning percentage, 50% opponents’ average winning percentage and 25% oppenents’ opponents’ average winning percentage, the Cardinals only ranked 10th in the National League (22nd in MLB)!

Clearly, the system is unfair, because:

1) the teams play different sets of teams in interleague play
2) the teams play different sets of teams in league play

The intra-league schedules are a real mishmash. Each team plays either 18 or 19 games against each other team in its division, but this means only 57 intra-division games for the AL West, but up to 77 for the NL Central! This leaves substantially different numbers of games for teams to play against other divisions, but even within other divisions the number of games played against different teams varies. For example, last year the A’s played 6 games against Baltimore, 9 games each against the Yankees and Devil Rays and 10 games each against Boston and Toronto. What a mess!

Clearly, the current system is designed to maximize revenue and has absolutely nothing to do with trying to maximize the probability that the best team in each league gets to the World Series. That’s not even a consideration for “Bathwater Bud”, the owners or the MLBPA. On Fox, they were crowing about how there has been a different WS champion in each of the last seven years, and how that shows that parity has been achieved. Bullshit! It’s just a reflection of how random the whole process is. Look, instead, at the teams that have won 95 or more games over the last seven years, and you will get a much clearer picture of where the strength lies. The current system did this:

1. resulted in the 22nd-best regular season team winning the World Series
2. resulted in the World Series being played in absolutely miserable weather conditions, both for the players and the fans
3. resulted in weeknight games ending past 11 PM in the Eastern time zone

If MLB really wanted to make the World Series Championship more meaningful, to maximize the impact of a team’s true quality and minimize the impact of luck, it would:

1. end interleague play
2. reduce the number of divisions in each league to two
3. play a balanced schedule
4. eliminate the Division Series and the Wild Card
5. match the Division champions in 7-game League Championship Series

Of course, nothing like this will ever happen, and many people probably prefer the “randomization” of the WS championship. Not I.

BTW, I’m soooooooooooooooo glad that the World Series is over, so I do not have to watch Fox again until next Fall.
Alan Shank

Posted: 29 October 2006 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]

I’m not bothered by it because I’ve mentally devalued the world series. In a short week, anything can happen. My father in law pressed me for a prediction, and reluctantly, I told him:

1. Eckstein is terrible.
2. The young pitchers for Detroit are awesome, especially Zumaya.
3. Casey is inadequate at first because he doesn’t hit for power.
4. Polanco and Guillen just drop in hits by placing the ball like Minnesota Fats.
5. Only when Carpenter pitches should the Cards win or come close.

Why on earth should I expect these to hold true over 4 to 7 games?

Posted: 29 October 2006 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Johnny Tuttle - 29 October 2006 12:41 PM

I’m not bothered by it because I’ve mentally devalued the world series. In a short week, anything can happen. My father in law pressed me for a prediction, and reluctantly, I told him:

Ah, that was your mistake. >:-) As you pointed out below, it is silly to try to predict the outcome of a 5- or 7-game series. It’s even silly to try to predict the outcome of a 162-game season. However, my point is more about how teams GET INTO the World Series. The current system is designed (not intentionally) to reduce the corelation between the “best” teams and the team that play the WS.
Alan Shank

Posted: 29 October 2006 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]

Well, the Series is now over, and a team that won only 83 games is now the champion; there’s nothing we can do about that now!  It comes down to who is the champion - the team with the best regular season record, or the last team standing at the climax of postseason play?  One of the great things about baseball is that a championship isn’t decided in a one-game scenario (such as college and pro football, as well as NCAA basketball); it is earned over a set of games.  The question is - were the Tigers a better team than the Cardinals?  If you look at W-L records, the answer is yes.  However, the Tigers could not beat the Cards head-to-head.

The situation in baseball is quite similar to the years of the latter 80s and the 90s in the NFL - the years of “NFC dominance.”  The NFC was not the dominant conference as AFC teams frequently beat NFC teams in regular season matchups.  The problem was that the distance between the worst NFC team and the best NFC team was much greater than the accompanying AFC spectrum.  Everyone talks about those ‘85 Bears, but Marino and the Dolphins easily knocked them off on MNF.  The Dolphins were in the playoffs that year, but the Jets knocked them out.  Look at how Elway took three Denver teams all the way to the Super Bowl.  Those teams, without Elway were 7-9 teams at best, were destroyed in Super Bowl play.  The Browns were better, but couldn’t beat Elway.  Steve DeBerg should have taken KC to a Super Bowl the year he did better than Montana ever did, but he got hurt and KC faltered (remember Barry Word and Christian Okoye?).  The trouble with the AFC in those years was that the best team did not make it to the Super Bowl.  The best AFC team was not much better than the, say, 4th best AFC team.  In the NFC, you knew who the best teams were - SF and Dallas. Now, the National League appears to be headed down the same path.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the AL win the next 4 or 5 Series matchups.

Nope, I’m not bothered nor surprised by the fact that a team that only won 83 games in the regular season has won the championship.




Posted: 15 March 2007 09:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]

What a joke!  I will be the first to admit that the Cardinals looked awful down the stretch, but they got healthly and played good solid fundamental baseball in the postseason.  Remember in 2004 when they had the best record in baseball and lost the World Series to some wild card team.  Did the Red Sox deserve to be there in 2004?  Remember the first half of the 2006 season when the Cardinals were healthy and had one of the best records in baseball?

Eckstein is terrible.  What a joke.  All he does is play good solid fundamental baseball.  So he doesn’t have the flair of some other shortstops, but he gets the job done.

All I can say is that the Padres, Mets and Tigers had every opportunity to beat the Cardinals in the postseason and couldn’t get the job done.  I bet not one of those teams is making lame excuses.  They are all saying the Cardinals flat out ouplayed us and got the job done and that is all that matters.  Wise up baseball fans and accept the fact that the Cardinals were the World Champions for 2006!