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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Predicting the 2007 Playoffs
Back in May 2004, Vinay Kumar published an article at The Hardball Times web site “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. Last season, with my old hometown team the Tigers in the playoffs, I updated Vinay’s discoveries, and kept going right through to the World Series.
Given the chance to play prognosticator for 2007, I’ve dusted off the old spreadsheet and checked how this year’s playoff teams might be likely to fare.
about half of the results, to ensure that the data only reflected when a team had distinct advantage over its opponent. I’ve calculated a winning percentage
for each category, first with Vinay’s original research, and then incorporating the subsequent playoff results.
Team totals: Vinay’s 2003 research adding 2004-6 Won-lost record (+5 wins) .563 .581 Runs Scored/Runs Allowed (+0.1) .516 .537 Batting records: Runs scored total .387 .415 Batting average .455 .447 On-base percentage .455 .452 Slugging percentage .400 .459 Doubles .394 .435 Triples .515 .442 Home runs .382 .476 Batter walks .500 .512 Batter strikeouts (fewer) .688 .587 Stolen bases .581 .512 Stolen base attempts (more) .581 .545 Net stolen bases .429 .378 Stolen base percentage .389 .306 Caught stealing (fewer) .364 .378 Pitching records: Runs allowed .647 .605 ERA .606 .565 Pitchers strikeouts .581 .568 Pitchers walks (fewer) .469 .541 Hits allowed (fewer) .727 .732 Home runs allowed (fewer) .645 .588 Complete games .611 .628 Pitchers shutouts .667 .636 Saves .455 .457 Saves by team leader .545 .558 Bullpen ERA .471 .500 Fielding records: Errors committed (fewer) .706 .643 Defensive efficiency .594 .699 Fielding double plays .455 .489
As one can see, things haven’t quite stayed the same. Pitching and speed categories have lost ground, whereas power and fielding categories have gained. The
biggest improvement has come in the effect of defensive efficiency, the biggest loss to batter strikeouts.
I like to divide the categories into strong and weak ones, depending on whether teams holding the advantage have won more than half the series.
Here are the strong categories:
Let’s carry this information forward and profile the 2007 Divisional Series.
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland
New York’s powerful offense gives them a clear advantage in overall totals, leading in ten categories compared with Cleveland’s. However, Cleveland have a
clear advantage in the strong categories, five to one. Nor is this the first time the Bronx Bombers have relied on dominance in the weak categories to carry
them through. The result has been two first-round exits, and the catastrophe of 2004. I’d expect more of the same, to be honest.
PREDICTOR PICK: CLEVELAND.
Cover my a**e comment: The Yankees beat a similarly advantaged Twins’ team in 2004.
Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona
The Diamondbacks are the sabermetric enigma for 2007. Are they good enough to beat the Cubs? Lacking much in the way of offense, and with some reliance on
team speed, one would be inclined to suspect the worst. The Cubs, meanwhile, are not an offensive powerhouse either, but have some gap power as opposed to
home run clout, which I find a little surprising in the friendly confines. Arizona has the overall lead, ten to eight, but in the strong categories it’s a
dead heat at five apiece. However, the Cubs have the advantage in the top two categories of Hits allowed and Defensive efficiency.
Cover my a**e comment: You could toss a coin for this series. It’s one of the most evenly balanced I’ve seen.
Boston’s dominance of this series is remarkable in itself. It has the advantage in fourteen categroies, compared to the Angels’ advantage in but three. Not
only that, but it controls the top three of Hits allowed, Defensive efficiency and Errors.
Cover my a**e comment: Upsets happen.
Philadelphia vs. Colorado
The battle of the batters’ ballparks throws up the sweetest of ironies. The representative from Coors Field, legendary for helping the hitter, finds itself
on top by eleven categories to eight thanks to its superior pitching. However, looking at the strong categories suggests that this series could be quite
Peering Further Ahead
On paper, no-one is going to stop the Red Sox. They roll over the Indians almost as easily as they outclass the Angels. The Yankees haven’t got the pitching while the Red Sox have almost as good an offense.
The National League is a lot more tricky. If the Padres had made the playoffs, then I think the Padres would have looked like the team to beat the Diamondbacks. However, if the Cubs go through, I don’t know that either of the remaining NL West teams could stop them.
A Red Sox vs. Cubs series – a portent of the End of Time and the Last Things?
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