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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Predicting the 2010 Playoffs
Over the past few years, I have added to the original work of Vinay Kumar (who posts on Primer under a different name) in trying to find the statistical categories
that have the most value to a team in the postseason. Vinay’s work first appeared in an article at The Hardball Times web site
href=”http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/so-billy-what-does-work-in-the-playoffs”>“So Billy, What Does Work in the Playoffs?”
href=”http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/so-billy-what-does-work-in-the-playoffs”>“So Billy, What Does Work in the Playoffs?”about how regular season
statistics for a team could forecast its chances of success in the postseason. Vinay created a system that does work quite well at identifying the teams that will
reach the World Series. The main competitor to Vinay’s work, Baseball Prospectus’ ‘Secret Sauce’ has now
href="http://wwww.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12085">fallen by the wayside
href="http://wwww.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12085">fallen by the wayside. I am undaunted, as I enjoy doing the work anyway, so on with the
half of the results, to ensure that the data only reflected when a team had distinct advantage over its opponent. The columns below show the winning percentage in each
category through 2008, and how the 2009 results changed them. The numbers in parentheses indicate how many series these categories were a factor. In the case of Won-
Lost Record, 50 series featured one team having an advantage of five wins over its opponent.
Having done this several times now, one can see that the successful teams have an inordinate impact on the fluctuations in percentages. Two years ago, the speed-based
offense of Tampa Bay and Charlie Manuel’s carefully judged running game boosted the stolen-base categories that had been in decline from their previous high point,
when Vinay did his original work. The Yankees and Phillies have boosted several of the batting categories, particularly the home runs and slugging percentage. Overall,
though, run prevention is crucial to getting you to the World Series. I’m aiming to follow this up later in the post-season with a review of what has happened there.
In the past, I included all those categories with a better than fifty per cent success rate. Had I done so this year, Stolen Bases and Pitcher Walks (fewer) would have
fallen out of the list, while Slugging Percentage and Batters’ Home Runs would have joined it. The higher threshold, however, means that the World Series’ teams have
less effect on pushing categories in and out. As you can see, for batters the important thing is a good eye and to put the ball in play. Let’s carry this information
forward and profile the 2010 Divisional Series. I’ve put the strong categories in italics.
Minnesota Twins vs New York Yankees
Last season the Twins were quickly bounced out of the playoffs by a powerful Yankees’ side. This year, the Twins turn up with a fighting chance. Having used a metaphor
drawn from British politics to characterize this series last year, I’m going to do the same and say that this Yankees’ team isn’t quite what I expected it to be, just
like the Con-Lib Pact that is running the country.
PREDICTOR PICK: NEW YORK YANKEES
Hedging my bet: If there’s a Twins’ team that looks like it could pull off a defeat of the Yankees in the post-season, this has the pitching to do it.
Texas Rangers vs Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays’ fleet offense is built all wrong to win today’s post-season. They’d have done better at the turn of the century. Nonetheless, they look likely to find the
Rangers little more than a bump in the road on the way to a League Championship showdown with the Evil Empire.
PREDICTOR PICK: TAMPA BAY RAYS
Hedging my bets: The Rangers’ pitchers stand comparison to the Rays’. If they can stall the Rays’ offense, the Rangers could be celebrating a chance to play against
A-Rod for something important.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
More Red than a Communist Party of the Soviet Union Congress in this match-up. These two teams are more or less similarly constructed, relying on slugging and
pitching, except that Charlie Manuel beats Dusty Baker hands-down in the running game. But the Reds are rather in the position of being the imitation brand and needing
to try harder.
PREDICTOR PICK: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Hedging my bet: The Reds, like the Rangers, surprise me by being close enough in the pitching categories to find grounds for hope.
Atlanta Braves vs San Francisco Giants
Two teams that came close to a three-way tussle with the ‘fras’ of San Diego to get into the post-season find themselves safely in the playoffs after all. If we can
avoid a tidal wave of toma-mawkish sentiment over Bobby Cox’ last post-season, this could be the most evenly matched series of this round of the playoffs, except that
the Giants are way ahead in the strong categories. So you might want to look for your excitement in the games between the Twins and the Yankees.
PREDICTOR PICK: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hedging my bets: The Braves ‘win one for the skipper’.
Peering Further Ahead
Well, actually I’m not going to. You’ll have to come back in about ten days’ time to see what I post in the comments about the League Championship Series. Nonetheless,
apart from Tampa Bay, once again we are looking at top media-market match-ups after the Divisional Series, with New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. All we’re
really missing is Boston or Los Angeles for some kind of network executive’s wet dream. Ah, remember those halcyon days of competitive balance when the likes of
Detroit and Colorado made it to the World Series?
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