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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Why Major League Baseball needs to do a better job of appreciating regular season greatness

A thoroughly predictable reaction to this is going to be something along the lines of, “We shouldn’t reward teams until they win the World Series.” (Note that this line of thinking doesn’t seem to pop up when a team celebrates a division title.) Sure, that’s one way to frame it, but another way – one I subscribe too – is that winning the World Series becomes an immediate stand-in for greatness even if said greatness was not proved across the six-month cauldron that is the regular season. Calling a team that couldn’t crack even 90 wins from April through September “great” credits postseason baseball for doing something it can’t truly do—i.e., determine true baseball greatness. Sure, great teams often win the World Series, but they’re great because of what they accomplished leading up to the playoffs. Winning the World Series after, say, a 100-win regular season is a burnishing of greatness already established. On the flip-side, nothing that happens in October can lead to, say, an 85-win team being thought of as genuinely great.

Postseason baseball constitutes a comparatively tiny sample of games, which leads to fluke-ish outcomes, and it doesn’t demand the roster depth that is the hallmark of regular season greatness (see: Dodgers, 2022). Thanks to all the off days on the playoff calendar, the everyday-ness of baseball is lost. You can succeed by letting some pitcher throw a quarter of your innings (or more) in a critical series and leaning on only your top-end bullpen arms. You don’t need to think about whether that scuffling star bat needs a day off to reset his mind and body. Your depth doesn’t get tested and exposed the way it does across 162. That sprawl – that massive set of games that is unexampled among major team sports – and that, again, everyday-ness is the defining characteristic of baseball at the highest level. In October, all of that goes away, and we’ve all agreed to pretend it’s more meaningful. We’ve agreed to pretend that winning 11 or 13 games in October is more impressive than winning 100 from April through September. It’s not, I would argue, but the larger point is that there’s room to recognize both accomplishments. And as recent models like the 2020 Dodgers, 2018 Red Sox and 2016 Cubs would hasten to remind us, it’s also possible to win both.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 28, 2022 at 10:49 AM | 63 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: post-season

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   1. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: September 28, 2022 at 11:03 AM (#6098187)
The issue here isn't MLB, it's fans. MLB does a pretty good job of recognizing regular season greatness I think. Virtually every honor the game bestows is based on regular season performance (seasonal ballots have to be in or at least postmarked before the post-season starts. It's fans who choose to get worked up.

It's a largely societal thing, I think we are getting really bad at living in the moment. This isn't just a sports thing. Rather than appreciating the good that exists we look for reasons to #####.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 28, 2022 at 11:33 AM (#6098194)
I love the President's Trophy in the NHL, I wish MLB had something like that and we did make a big deal about it.
   3. Perry Posted: September 28, 2022 at 12:23 PM (#6098202)
Haven't read TFA, but couldn't agree more with this excerpt. Wasn't there a regular poster here BITD -- or maybe it was on the old rec.sport.baseball newsgroup -- who claimed he followed the regular season closely but never watched postseason games because the whole thing was a lottery?
   4. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 28, 2022 at 01:28 PM (#6098210)
I don't know if you're thinking about me or not, but I've said a number of times that I hate the post season. It's just a gimmick. Balance the schedule, and then give the trophy to whoever has the best record at the end of the summer. That gives you a lot more information about which team is the best than does a few weeks in October.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 28, 2022 at 01:52 PM (#6098211)
It's a largely societal thing, I think we are getting really bad at living in the moment. This isn't just a sports thing. Rather than appreciating the good that exists we look for reasons to #####.
I agree that it's a societal thing, but I think it's more to do with our desire to turn sports into morality plays, with "who wants it more" and "heroism under pressure" and yada yada yada. Those narratives are a lot easier to impose on a short series than a long season.
   6. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 28, 2022 at 02:04 PM (#6098212)
The obvious answer is that it takes both - excellence in the regular season and postseason victory, across several seasons to be really great. Short of that may be a nice season, but nothing historic. However, to state the obvious, every team & its fans would prefer to get a WildCard berth & win the World Series, to a 110-win season ended by a 1st round playoff upset.

Enjoy the playoffs for what they are. Every sport has this system, the only difference is the number of series, which depends on how many teams qualify. We’re not going back to pre-expansion pennant races leading directly to the World Series.
   7. Perry Posted: September 28, 2022 at 02:23 PM (#6098214)
Enjoy the playoffs for what they are. Every sport has this system, the only difference is the number of series, which depends on how many teams qualify. We’re not going back to pre-expansion pennant races leading directly to the World Series.


One of the things I appreciate about European soccer. It has its issues with financial inequality, but the structure is great -- all the top domestic leagues play a balanced home and home schedule, no divisions, no postseason, no playoffs, winner is the team with the most points at the end. They do have various in-season tournaments with their own trophies, but the league winner -- which carries the most prestige -- is the team that ends the regular season on top.
   8. The Duke Posted: September 28, 2022 at 02:45 PM (#6098219)
It's all so muddied now. Leagues don't mean anything anymore so now all
The awards by league will steer to feel strange.

Playoffs have to happen but I'd simply prefer the top two teams play a seven game series at the end of the regular season. I'd prefer it to be an AL team and NL team but those distinctions are mostly gone so top two records would be fine by me.
   9. greenback needs a ride, not ammo Posted: September 28, 2022 at 02:54 PM (#6098220)
I think it kinda helps that the European soccer season lasts from ~the beginning of August to ~the beginning of May. And then the summer has the World Cup every four years (and various other international activities). They're filling up the TV time pretty well with that long of a season.

The various tournaments are capped by international competitions (i.e. the Champions League) that seem designed to fill whatever need there is for a Final Showdown of sorts.
   10. Adam Starblind Posted: September 28, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6098221)
To most fans, isn’t the most important (the only?) thing that their *own* team wins the World Series? That’s been the object of the game since 1903. Far fewer people care about it as an objective measure of greatness.
   11. Perry Posted: September 28, 2022 at 02:58 PM (#6098222)
Playoffs have to happen but I'd simply prefer the top two teams play a seven game series at the end of the regular season. I'd prefer it to be an AL team and NL team but those distinctions are mostly gone so top two records would be fine by me.


What's the justification for letting #2 compete for a distinction that #1 already won? The only reason the World Series ever made sense was because it pitted two teams that were champions of two completely separate leagues.
   12. jmurph Posted: September 28, 2022 at 03:35 PM (#6098224)
Far fewer people care about it as an objective measure of greatness.

I don't know, my sense is the typical fan thinks of those as the same thing: world series (or whatever playoff) winner = the greatest team. And then for the nerds among us (or more kindly, those who care about the game's long history), "count the ringzzzzzzz" tends to swallow up everything that came before it, hence the frustration.
   13. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 28, 2022 at 04:05 PM (#6098229)

I am not a huge soccer fan but I think there's something to be said for the EPL/European model where the regular season championship is the biggest prize, but then there are tournaments like the FA Cup, and the Champions League which serves as a playoff of sorts.

Something in between that and the US model where the regular season is usually just viewed as a long prelude to what really matters, seems ideal. That probably doesn't work in a league with unbalanced schedules and 6 divisions of 5 teams each, but the concept of giving significant recognition to both the regular season and postseason champions is appealing to me.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: September 28, 2022 at 04:11 PM (#6098230)
I agree with the sentiment but does the article offer any suggestions? Other than get rid of the playoffs (or all but the WS or similar variations involving 4 separate leagues), how do you achieve this? (And of course the playoffs are not going away.)

To most fans, isn’t the most important (the only?) thing that their *own* team wins the World Series? That’s been the object of the game since 1903.

But it wasn't really. I think by the 70s when I became a fan this was pretty much true but when older folks talked about it, they talked about pennants at least as much if not more than WS wins. The World Series was the Bowl game, the conference title was what mattered.

College basketball was sort of the epitome of this. Again, when I was a kid, I think there were only two conferences that had a postseason tourney (the ACC and ???). But with ESPN, etc. they became worth too much money and, within the space of a few years, there were I think only two that didn't (Pac10 and Ivy I think). Push even farther back and there was a time when the NIT was THE postseason tourney, again more of a Bowl game sort of thing, and the NCAA was a bunch of hayseed schools. UCLA kinda changed that and by the late 70s-early 80s the NCAA tourney was a big, big deal.

Put those together and college basketball became some out of conference exhibitions largely intended to pad the overall record to improve your chances of an at-large tourney spot (and some big money games of course), conference games that didn't matter much except for student/alumni bragging rights, making a conference tourney run, then the NCAA tourney lottery.

And I don't know that the NBA, NHL, NFL do any better at making their regular seasons meaningful. The NBA has largely addressed that issue via the individual superstar and highlights model, an approach that just won't work in baseball no matter how much they try. (With the obvious exceptions of McGwire-Sosa and similar happenstance.) The NFL uses the gambling model which is the path MLB has decided to follow. Euro soccer seems to combine both the superstar/highlights model and the gambling model.

Every Cubs Marquee broadcast features an ad for a "trifecta" sort of bet -- it will be something like "Adrian Sampson at 4.5 Ks, Nico Hoerner with 2 TB and Willson Contreras with an RBI." MLBtv has a daily "The Bettor's Eye" show, b-r (at least here) is now inundated with Draft Kings video ads ... these seem to consist of attractive young studio hosts tossing to overweight middle-aged guys at home wearing headphones. This is how they will get people to care about regular season baseball now.

   15. BDC Posted: September 28, 2022 at 04:41 PM (#6098234)
I think by the 70s when I became a fan this was pretty much true but when older folks talked about it, they talked about pennants at least as much if not more than WS wins. The World Series was the Bowl game, the conference title was what mattered

My own sense is that … it was complicated. If a team won an unexpected or comeback pennant, or with notable heroics – 1938 Cubs, 1951 Giants – I think that did overshadow the World Series loss. Older Phillies fans truly admired the Whiz Kids, which is saying a lot for Philadelphia fans; so they were overmatched by the 1950 Yankees, but who wasn't.

But other teams … my father was devastated forever by the 1945 World Series (he did not live to see 2016). Heck, my great-grandfather was still kind of bitter that the 1906 Cubs lost the Series, and they went on to win a couple afterwards. Fans of the 1946 Red Sox or the 1954 Indians never seemed content with those pennants. I guess it depended on expectations.

As people have been saying, baseball pretty much invented the playoff series. Even before 1903 – I guess Test matches in cricket predate that, but some of the early AA/NL series, and the Temple Cup, were contemporary with early Test cricket. Baseball fans haven't been satisfied with a regular-season championship since the earliest days of pro major leagues.
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2022 at 08:13 PM (#6098257)
I'm a fan of regular season, I'm fan of division winners and fan of doing well in the post season. I don't think there is any reason that one or the other should have much more sway in evaluating or stating the greatness of the team.

I think that MLB does a fairly good job of balancing the regular season importance vs the post season that fans can feel pride for their team in either scenario. I can't say anything about NBA, but the NHL does a poor job of balancing the two, since the post season game is refereed vastly different than regular season so it's almost a completely different sport (or at least different era, regular season might be comparable to 1968 baseball while the post season is early 1980 baseball or even 1930's baseball) The NFL also over values the post season, where the regular season is almost meaningless. Outside of teams that routinely flamed out in the post season but had good regular seasons multiple years, you rarely hear anyone bragging about the regular season record a year after the season ends.
   17. BDC Posted: September 28, 2022 at 08:30 PM (#6098261)
American football is interesting, even the NFL, because regular-season rivalries can be a big deal no matter what the standings. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles or Giants or Packers or Football Team, it is a good week in north Texas. (Far more so in college football, of course: an entire season there can be "What were we, 4-7 or 5-6? all I remember is we beat Notre Dame.")
   18. Ithaca2323 Posted: September 28, 2022 at 09:48 PM (#6098270)
Postseasons determine winners of a tournament.

If that's what makes a team the "best" in your eyes, so be it. If not, well, that's fine too.

I do think, now that we have teams playing 20 interleague games a year and the universal DH, that having two sets of awards is pretty dumb.
   19. Moeball Posted: September 28, 2022 at 10:07 PM (#6098273)
CFB - I think we may have already had this conversation in the past, but I have always been of the opinion that the 2004 Cardinals team that got swept in the Series was a vastly superior team to the 2006 version that won all the marbles (is that even an expression anymore? Is there a child anywhere today that still plays marbles?). Fan sites and sports writers keep trying to tell me that the 2006 team was better because they won the title, but I just don't buy it.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 28, 2022 at 10:52 PM (#6098284)
What's the justification for letting #2 compete for a distinction that #1 already won?
See, there’s this thing called “money”…
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2022 at 11:23 PM (#6098289)
CFB - I think we may have already had this conversation in the past, but I have always been of the opinion that the 2004 Cardinals team that got swept in the Series was a vastly superior team to the 2006 version that won all the marbles (is that even an expression anymore? Is there a child anywhere today that still plays marbles?). Fan sites and sports writers keep trying to tell me that the 2006 team was better because they won the title, but I just don't buy it.


I can't remember anyone telling me the 2006 team was better than the 2004 team. I will say that the 2006 team was better than their record by a decent amount, and the 2006 team routinely finishes top 3 in almost any article written on the worst world series champions ever (87 twins is the other, and one of the Marlins team usually round out the list) I've never met anyone in St Louis that says the 2006 was better than the 2004/2005 teams, just that they won the series.

Flags fly forever, but generally most people know the flag isn't an indication of the true quality of the team in that season. I love the flag in 2006, and considering how great the 2004/2005 teams were, I feel it's justified that we got one in those three years. And very few people diss the Braves and their 14 year run just because they only got one flag.

   22. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 29, 2022 at 02:04 AM (#6098296)

If that's what makes a team the "best" in your eyes, so be it. If not, well, that's fine too.


the implication is that a six month season is a better indication of who is best but that is just as problematical. Teams change over the course of six months. So do players. So there is no one monolithic "1997 NYY". It was a changing thing over the course of a season.

Ironically the same thing that makes you downgrade the playoffs: that "games are a coin toss" issue, applies just as equally to the notion of a season as definitive. We've seen plenty of teams with similar pythagorean records finish 5 or 6 games different in w/loss records. In a few cases as much as 10 games. So there's no real way to say that a 100-62 team was really better than a 96-66 team any ways.

But you never seem to acknowledge this stuff in any of these discussions.
   23. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 29, 2022 at 02:12 AM (#6098297)
when older folks talked about it, they talked about pennants at least as much if not more than WS wins. The World Series was the Bowl game, the conference title was what mattered


Right, I definitely that was true and maybe still true to a certain extent. But part of what happened was the creation of divisions in 1969. So by the 1970s, you had PIT, BAL, CIN all of them with a stunning number of divisional crowns and how did you incorporate that into your view of baseball? by 1975 the PIT had 5 divisional crowns/1 WS but the BAL had 2 pennants/WS so how do you compare that?

So now to win a pennant you have to win a couple of playoff series so that seems to have made them somewhat different than a 1956 pennant or whatever.
   24. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 29, 2022 at 02:24 AM (#6098300)


What's the justification for letting #2 compete for a distinction that #1 already won?


there's plenty of justifications without having to do with them being in different leagues:

1 Time. You want to see which team is playing better NOW. Not who had the best combined record starting in APril. Again teams change lets see who's best NOW.

2. MATCH UPS. You want to see Mays vs Whitey or Mickey vs Sandy. Comparing two teams vs one another is not the same as comparing how they did vs a league. It just isnt. There's some teams that are better at "feasting" on low level teams, whereas others that seem to "play to the level" of their competition. whether or not that's really a "thing," the basic point is that you want to see how certain teams match up vs one another.

3. STRATEGY. You want to see how managers respond to various problems in game. Its one thing to bring in your set up man in the 8th inn. as a rule throughout the season. Over the long haul it might be statistically the right thing to do. But with the series on the line that decision becomes even more problematical. You have one game for all the money, managing by the book or by some set algorithm may not be the answer. We've seen this a number of times, Showalter, Maddon, Dusty, Roberts all making questionable decisions that would not be studied in a regular season game. These arguments/situations will go on forever and that's part of the lore.

4. PRESSURE. You want to see how players respond to situations when the entire season is on the line. Again its not the same issues as a regular season game. You dont have to make a diving catch in the stands in APril, but in game 7 then what?
   25. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 29, 2022 at 02:46 AM (#6098301)

As people have been saying, baseball pretty much invented the playoff series. Even before 1903 – I guess Test matches in cricket predate that,


The first challenge for the America's Cup was in 1871 and was a best of 7 format. Maybe that started it?
   26. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 29, 2022 at 03:08 AM (#6098302)
... there was a time when the NIT was THE postseason tourney, again more of a Bowl game sort of thing, and the NCAA was a bunch of hayseed schools. UCLA kinda changed that and by the late 70s-early 80s the NCAA tourney was a big, big deal.


My recollection is the turning point came in the mid 70s. I remember following the NIT tourney in 1975 with some interest. In 1974 the NC St over UCLA game was huge. That was on a saturday afternoon and was probably the most watched game of that season. In 1975 NCAA expanded to 32 teams which could now include second place teams (in 1974 it was a huge deal when MD was eliminated by NCSt in the ACC game so they couldnt go to the tourney). Then you had the Kent Benson game 76, the Al Maguire thing in 77, Jack Givens etc.

I think it was all over for the NIT by 1977 when St Bonaventure won. No one cared at that pt.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: September 29, 2022 at 07:34 AM (#6098305)

there's plenty of justifications without having to do with them being in different leagues:


I think people are missing the point of Perry's question. If Duke believes the best way of determining the best team is the season-long grind, there's no need for any type of playoff at season's end, particularly if there aren't separate leagues.

The points Sunday makes are meaningful, particularly how team quality does change over time. But it's also true the 162-game schedule is going to give us the best team more frequently than the playoffs, unless you don't believe in the value of the larger sample over the smaller one.

   28. BDC Posted: September 29, 2022 at 08:28 AM (#6098308)
On the fun but fairly academic issue of which were the greatest teams of all time, I have always thought that only World Champions should be in the discussion. Playoff success may not be very conclusive, but if a given great club couldn't win a crucial series or two, there's no reason to include them in a GOAT analysis. There are enough teams that were dominant in the regular season and also cruised through the postseason.
   29. Ithaca2323 Posted: September 29, 2022 at 09:53 AM (#6098312)
The points Sunday makes are meaningful, particularly how team quality does change over time.


But why should we consider the version of the team for 5 games in an October LDS the most important version of that team? What makes that stretch any more of a meaningful demonstration of their quality than their games from the July 23-28, other than the fact that we have a thing called "The Playoffs"?

As for people like Sunday who don't like it when we refer to the postseason as a coin flip — well, it starts with a single, winner advances, loser goes home game. That's pretty much the definition of a coin flip.
   30. SoSH U at work Posted: September 29, 2022 at 10:03 AM (#6098313)
But why should we consider the version of the team for 5 games in an October LDS the most important version of that team?


Well, teams are continually building to be better at season's end. We have deals, midseason call-ups, etc.
   31. Nasty Nate Posted: September 29, 2022 at 10:28 AM (#6098314)
As for people like Sunday who don't like it when we refer to the postseason as a coin flip — well, it starts with a single, winner advances, loser goes home game. That's pretty much the definition of a coin flip.
No, a coin flip is all luck/chance. A single baseball game is only partially luck/chance.
   32. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 29, 2022 at 11:57 AM (#6098325)
A baseball team isn't a thing that exists just at a particular moment. It exists over the course of the season, changing parts as it goes. (Just like your body changes cells over time, but is still you. And my car has new brakes and new tires and so on, but is still the same car as it was when I bought it.)
   33. BDC Posted: September 29, 2022 at 12:25 PM (#6098328)
The 1920 Indians offer the ultimate "Was it the same team?" problem. Neither Duster Mails nor Joe Sewell played a game for them till September, Sewell of course replacing Ray Chapman. I think they were a very strong champion, but that goes to show that the strength of a champion is a narrative, not a fixed quantity from which you can take numerous samples or run lots of sims. (Presumably in most of the sims Chapman wouldn't be killed, but that doesn't speak much to the team's quality except in a very abstract way.)
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 29, 2022 at 12:41 PM (#6098330)
well, it starts with a single, winner advances, loser goes home game.

Not anymore.
   35. Ithaca2323 Posted: September 29, 2022 at 01:50 PM (#6098341)
Well, teams are continually building to be better at season's end. We have deals, midseason call-ups, etc.


Because we've placed the trophy there.

If, as we're talking about, the trophy didn't get awarded to the winner of a month-long tournament where the winner plays between one to two dozen games, that whole mentality would shift.

Obviously, my view is not only the minority, the sport's setup is never going to change. So it's all academic.
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 29, 2022 at 01:55 PM (#6098343)
Presumably in most of the sims Chapman wouldn't be killed
Most of? Do sims randomly kill off a player every now and then?
   37. Ron J Posted: September 29, 2022 at 03:02 PM (#6098356)
#36 I've lost players for weird reasons. No in season deaths, though Mike Mussina once quit mid-season to join the Peace Corps and I've had one player end his career in an in-season shooting accident.
   38. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 29, 2022 at 09:29 PM (#6098404)
Enjoy the playoffs for what they are. Every sport has this system, the only difference is the number of series, which depends on how many teams qualify.

This is just not particularly close to being true. Others have already talked about European football; I'll throw tennis in the mix. Both the men's and women's tours have "playoffs," (tour finals), where they take the top 8 players for the year and pit them against each other. It's a very prestigious event, trailing only the Grand Slams. But the winner of that event doesn't automatically assume the #1 position in the rankings; the rest of the year still matters.
   39. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 29, 2022 at 10:16 PM (#6098410)
The points Sunday makes are meaningful, particularly how team quality does change over time. But it's also true the 162-game schedule is going to give us the best team more frequently than the playoffs, unless you don't believe in the value of the larger sample over the smaller one.

I'm not sure how a team that wins the pennant by a single game has "proved" anything more than a WC team that beats 3 or 4 higher ranked teams in a row to win the World Series. In both cases the team was successful according to the previously agreed upon run.

And if you want to talk about a "crapshoot", what about regular season injuries? Why are those always considered "just part of the game" with no reference as to how some teams are hurt by them far worse than others?

P. S. Baseball isn't soccer or tennis, thank God. Take away the postseason and MLB would quickly become little more than a niche sport among the sort of people who enjoy baseball solely for non-competitive reasons. Even keeping the World Series would often result in years where up to 28 teams would have nothing to play for in September.
   40. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: September 29, 2022 at 10:40 PM (#6098413)
I've had one player end his career in an in-season shooting accident.


Maybe he was out hunting with Cheney?
   41. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 30, 2022 at 11:09 AM (#6098452)
And my car has new brakes and new tires and so on, but is still the same car as it was when I bought it.)


BUt is Old Ironsides the same ship that fought the Guerriere in 1812?
   42. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 30, 2022 at 11:10 AM (#6098453)


As for people like Sunday who don't like it when we refer to the postseason as a coin flip


I didnt say I didnt like it. I said your argument about the reliability of the playoffs can be equally applied to your argument about regular season results. No?

I've mentioned this several times over the last couple of years and you still haven't addressed it.
   43. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 30, 2022 at 11:22 AM (#6098456)
I said your argument about the reliability of the playoffs can be equally applied to your argument about regular season results. No?
Equally applied? Absolutely not. It’s true that playing 162 games doesn’t eliminate *all* random variance, as you point out. But it eliminates a ton more than a 3-, 5- or 7-game series does.
   44. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 30, 2022 at 11:35 AM (#6098461)
Equally applied? Absolutely not. It’s true that playing 162 games doesn’t eliminate *all* random variance, as you point out. But it eliminates a ton more than a 3-, 5- or 7-game series does.

Really? Prolonged injuries to multiple star players on Team A are automatically cancelled out simply because of the 162 game schedule, even if Team B suffers no such injuries?

How was the Merkle game cancelled out? It could've been, if the Giants had won the replay of the game, but they didn't, and so that completely flukish play determined the 1908 pennant winner just as much as Denkinger's blown call determined the winner of the 1985 World Series, and maybe even more so.

We accept those random variants for one main reason: Over the course of 162 games it's impossible to quantify the exact number of games in the standings they affected, and so we say that these variants are "just part of the game" and leave it at that. It's not because they're any less random than the randomness that can affect a postseason series.
   45. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: September 30, 2022 at 11:50 AM (#6098463)
Nothing is truly "fair" and worrying about it is nonsense. The benefit of 162 games is that stuff generally evens out give or take. The smaller sample is more likely to be impacted by fluke events. If you want to figure out the "best" team that's something for the folks at Baseball Prospectus. If you want to figure out a champion then the regular season champion(s) get determined from April to September and the playoff champion is determined in October.
   46. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 30, 2022 at 11:54 AM (#6098465)
Really? Prolonged injuries to multiple star players on Team A are automatically cancelled out simply because of the 162 game schedule, even if Team B suffers no such injuries?
Repeating the point that a long season doesn’t eliminate *all* variance isn’t a rebuttal. A sample size of 162 eliminates orders of magnitude more variance than a sample of 7. That’s just math. You can’t refute math.
   47. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 30, 2022 at 12:20 PM (#6098469)
Except that when a pennant / division race comes down to the final day of the season, as happens with a fair amount of regularity, those "162 games" are now reduced to one, and just as subject to variance as any postseason game.

---------

Nothing is truly "fair" and worrying about it is nonsense. The benefit of 162 games is that stuff generally evens out give or take. The smaller sample is more likely to be impacted by fluke events. If you want to figure out the "best" team that's something for the folks at Baseball Prospectus. If you want to figure out a champion then the regular season champion(s) get determined from April to September and the playoff champion is determined in October.

Agree 100%. My pushback is simply against the idea that the regular season "means" more than the postseason. I doubt if a single player, manager, coach, GM or owner would agree with that proposition, unless their team was in a rebuilding situation.

The regular season makes for great entertainment, but the main reason most fans are invested in it is because of its effect in determining postseason chances and / or seeding.
   48. BDC Posted: September 30, 2022 at 12:24 PM (#6098471)
As I sometimes point out, they don't play 162 (or 154 before that or 136 or whatever it was before that) because anybody decided that would be an optimal way of proving what team was best. They play these humongous schedules in baseball because it's less demanding than other team sports, and summer weather in most of North America is obliging, and they make more money the more games they play. However many it ends up being, in any sport, it will be arguably too many or too few, but it's not usually logically planned.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 30, 2022 at 01:28 PM (#6098477)
Except that when a pennant / division race comes down to the final day of the season, as happens with a fair amount of regularity, those "162 games" are now reduced to one, and just as subject to variance as any postseason game.
Sigh. Had they not yet invented math back when you were in school?
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 30, 2022 at 01:59 PM (#6098484)
You keep using "math" as if it's a one size fits all rebuttal of the point that a team that wins a pennant by a close margin is usually just as dependent on "luck" / "random variance" as a team that survives three or four rounds in a postseason. The idea that "it all evens out over 162 games", and that a razor thin regular season margin proves much of anything beyond the fact that the season ended at the right time for the winning team, is something that works out much better on paper than it does in actual pennant races, where luck and random variance do NOT usually "even out" over the course of a season.

If you want to say that winning a pennant / division by 20 games is less prone to random chance than winning a 7 game LCS or World Series, I won't argue with that. But most pennants / division races aren't nearly that one sided.
   51. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 30, 2022 at 02:08 PM (#6098487)
I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying a result over a sample of 162 is inherently and definitionally prone to less random chance than a result over a sample of 7, regardless of what that result is, because math. Variance still exists over 162. But you can't say "it's the same thing as over 7." You're now trying to put a bunch of conditions on it, such as where the result over 162 has already been determined and limited to a small range of outcomes ("a team that wins a pennant by a close margin"). But the original assertion, which I was rebutting, was that the randomness factor applied "equally well" over a season-long result and a short-series result.
   52. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 30, 2022 at 02:21 PM (#6098491)
Let's just say that while your overall mathematical point is irrefutable, there are way too many cases where its applicability becomes hopelessly muddled when you review the actual progression of the pennant race.
   53. SoSH U at work Posted: September 30, 2022 at 02:22 PM (#6098493)
You're now trying to put a bunch of conditions on it, such as where the result over 162 has already been determined and limited to a small range of outcomes ("a team that wins a pennant by a close margin"). But the original assertion, which I was rebutting, was that the randomness factor applied "equally well" over a season-long result and a short-series result.


To be fair, he didn't put those conditions on now. He put those conditions on at the beginning. His first comment was, "I'm not sure how a team that wins the pennant by a single game has "proved" anything more than a WC team that beats 3 or 4 higher ranked teams in a row to win the World Series."
   54. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 30, 2022 at 04:23 PM (#6098506)
Let's just say that while your overall mathematical point is irrefutable, there are way too many cases where its applicability becomes hopelessly muddled when you review the actual progression of the pennant race.
The math is always applicable. What you're describing is just various results.
   55. Ron J Posted: September 30, 2022 at 04:26 PM (#6098508)
#53 Didn't catch that one. Yeah, to have the best shot at finding the best team you probably need to run things in a progressive elimination format. Teams are eliminated after they fall 20 games off the pace (I'm not married to that number. Two more than the biggest pennant deficit ever recovered works. Re-seed after each team is dropped. 3 game sets top versus bottom and cut the field progressively. If the two best teams have a true talent difference of one game per 162 you could get a "fair" champion after a few years in this format.

No idea why no sport has ever gone with this method. Though the 1984-85 World Chess Championship match gives a hint. Match ran 5 months before being abandoned without a winner decided. And the two players would play again (and again) under a different format.
   56. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 30, 2022 at 08:26 PM (#6098539)
The math is always applicable. What you're describing is just various results.

Right, the sort of various results that make both the regular season (sometimes) and the postseason (quite often) interesting.
   57. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 01, 2022 at 04:42 PM (#6098630)
All this talk about precision. Yes of course 162 games is a more precise sample than 7 games or 21.

SO SURE its more precise. BUt look at what you're trying to measure. You're trying to prove which team is best over the season.

Here let's look at three consecutive years:

YEAR ..TEAM.. Won/loss.. Pyth w/l

2017 LAD 104/58 102/60
2017 CLE 102/60 108/54

2018 BOS 108/54 103/59
2018 HOU 103/59 109/53

2019 HOU 107/55 107/55
2019 LAD 106/56 107/55

So three years in a row and each year is ambiguous as to which team performed best over the year. And that doesnt even account for which league has less competitive teams in it.

So whats the point of 162 game sample?
   58. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: October 01, 2022 at 06:58 PM (#6098651)
You're trying to prove which team is best over the season.


No, you are trying to prove who the champion is and that is determined over 162 games. “Best” is an entirely theoretical argument. I’m sure there is some number that mathematically can be met to “prove” that a team is the best but I’d bet that number is MUCH higher than 162.
   59. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 01, 2022 at 08:30 PM (#6098658)
well presumably it has something to do with having a better record and some measure of certainty in that measure. Yes?
   60. cardsfanboy Posted: October 01, 2022 at 11:14 PM (#6098697)
But people don't care about who is best, they care about a champion. There is a reason people love Cinderella performance in the big tournaments. I don't think even a small minority of fans think that the winner of a tournament = best. Just that it shows who had a great tournament. When a tennis champion number one ranked player loses a match, nobody is saying the person who beat them is better, just that they won the match.

People want the tournament, it cements the legacy of a team to win a tournament regardless of whether or not they are the best team. Fans know that it's not the true indicator of who is the better team, but they still like the finality of it all. And that is fine, it appeals to people that a lesser team that they are a fan of (or a greater team that they dislike) wins/losses a final tournament (or any tournament)
   61. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 02, 2022 at 12:07 AM (#6098708)
they are the champions because: CLUTCH.
   62. BDC Posted: October 02, 2022 at 10:33 AM (#6098723)
Lots of major sporting events, as fanboy notes, make no pretense to producing a definitively valid champion. One boxing match, four days of golf, a two-minute horse race … once in a while you get Leon Spinks, Ben Curtis, Rich Strike. And yes, every fan of those sports values repeated and sustained success, and doesn't think those names are in any pantheon – though they do become better-known than many better champions. I guess there are two ways of thinking about that: one is just logistical (you can't have horses run hundreds of races, so why put too much emphasis on single events) but the other is that if the conditions are even and everybody knows the stakes, there's something admirable in watching the winner excel.
   63. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 02, 2022 at 11:13 AM (#6098728)
But people don't care about who is best, they care about a champion.

Bingo. The only time the question of "best" even comes up is when either a Cinderella team (1987 Twins, 1988 Dodgers) wins it all, or when an assumed "great" team folds like an accordion in the postseason (1906 Cubs, 1954 Indians, 2001 Mariners). More often there's a mix of one or two very good teams, a few plausible long shots, and sometimes a genuine outlying fluke who made the postseason simply by being in the right division or because of weak competition.** In those years the question of "best" only comes up among a small group of SABR types who love to quantify everything.

** In 2022 that'd be the Dodgers and Astros in the first category, the Padres / Brewers / Phillies in the last, and the Braves / Mets / Cardinals / Yankees / Guardians / Blue Jays / Rays / Mariners somewhere in the middle.

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