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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sabermetric Research: Birnbaum: Bill James website and “cursed” teams

Hello, and welcome to Phil Birnbaum’s take on Bill James Online.

In the study called “Curses” (subscription required), Bill figures out that the chance of a team winning the World Series is almost exactly proportional to the cube of the difference between its wins minus its losses. So if the Yankees go 100-62 (38 games over .500), while the Red Sox go 97-65 (32 games over .500), New York has almost a 50% higher chance to win the World Series than Boston does.

Of course, that doesn’t mean *in the same season*. Obviously, if the Yankees and Red Sox had those records in the old two-division AL, the Red Sox would have *zero* chance. Rather, what it means is that if those teams had those records in two separate seasons, the Yankees would be 50% likelier to win their WS than the Red Sox would be to win theirs.

Bill nonetheless uses this method to figure the chances in the same season. He lists all the teams with winning records from 2003, and gives them “claim points” based on the cubes of their games over .500. The Yankees were 40 games over, so get 64,000 points. The Blue Jays were 10 games over, and get 1,000 points. Therefore, the Yankees have 64 times the chance the Blue Jays have.

The sum of all the teams’ cubes is 272,767. So the Yankees chances of winning the WS are 64,000 divided by 272,767, which is 23%. The Blue Jays are 1/64 of this, at an 0.4% chance.

Repoz Posted: February 27, 2008 at 06:22 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: online, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Wakefieldfan Posted: February 27, 2008 at 06:31 PM (#2701243)
Does anyone else get the sense that James sits around squaring and cubing numbers all day, hoping to find some highly tenuous descriptive or predictive relationship between them?
   2. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: February 27, 2008 at 06:45 PM (#2701255)
Not really... but what do you have for us?
   3. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 27, 2008 at 06:48 PM (#2701260)
He is very fond of claim points, that's for sure.
   4. PepTech, Bane of Epistemological Foundations Posted: February 27, 2008 at 06:58 PM (#2701265)
That's..... dumb.
   5. Scott Kazmir's breaking balls Posted: February 28, 2008 at 01:04 AM (#2701682)
I wonder if Bill James does his own taxes?
   6. joshtothemaxx Posted: February 28, 2008 at 05:16 AM (#2701833)
This is why I hate Bill James. It's like people that believe in the Bible code crap. If you stare at something long enough just ####### around with letters and numbers, eventually something is going to have some correlation, but golly gee that sure doesn't imply causation.

/recites the notes from Stat 101
   7. fret Posted: February 28, 2008 at 05:53 AM (#2701854)
If you stare at something long enough just ####### around with letters and numbers, eventually something is going to have some correlation, but golly gee that sure doesn't imply causation.

We all know that teams with better regular-season records have a better chance of winning the World Series. There's no bogus correlation/causation issue here.

This is similar in spirit to the simple runs created formula, OBP*SLG*AB, and the original Pythagorean formula. Those don't have any theoretical basis, but they still work extremely well (and inspired others to come up with more accurate formulas).

I'm not saying this is a magnificent piece of research, but it gives a reasonable answer to an interesting question.

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