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Thursday, May 01, 2014

BtBS: How much does a team’s early-season record inform their playoff odds?

This is the time of year when announcers, talk show hosts and web columnists start asking “How many games does a team need to play before we know what kind of team they really are?” So far this year, I’ve heard anything from 30 all the way to 60. I almost choked when I heard 60—at that point the season is almost 40% played, and absent drastic and unpredictable events (trades, injuries, phenoms like Yasiel Puig who totally outperform any reasonable expectation) the team has moved beyond the prediction phase to that of actual. [...]

Of the teams [since 1995, when the divisional playoff level was added] playing at less than .400 at the 60-game mark (a 23-37 record or worse), none made the playoffs. Conversely, almost 72 percent of teams with a record of 36-24 or better eventually made the playoffs. The demarcation point seems pretty clear—at the 60-game mark, teams need to be playing around .550 ball (33-27) in order to have reasonable chances of making the playoffs.

I don’t find these numbers surprising, but I’m more curious how many fewer games can be played before reasonable inferences can be made.

bobm Posted: May 01, 2014 at 12:35 AM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: playoffs, sample size

 

 

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