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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

So, What Might Work in the 2009 World Series?

I promised in


my earlier predictions of the 2009
Playoffs that I would be offering a separate look at the 2009 World Series,
because I had reason to believe that the Playoff Predictor was not really
better than a coin-toss when it came to the seven-game showdown between
league champions. I’m glad I did because, in spite of having less data (only
one series a season), there does appear to be a difference.

The Categories

I used the same 30 categories that Vinay Kumar used in his original
research. This time, however, I just took the categories straight as they
came, since we have less data to work with. (Vinay isolated, in each
category, the point where the difference between, for example, the Runs
Scored of a pair of teams, eliminated half the winning outcomes. Thus a
clear margin of superiority was required for the category to count.) On the
other hand, I’d rather take the World Series analysis back to 1986, when the
rule relating to Designated Hitters in the Playoffs was changed. However, in
order to keep the comparison direct, I decided to run with the smaller data
set to enable a direct comparison. The columns below show the winning
percentage only for World Series, and those for all playoff series, from
1995 through to the league championship series in 2008.

Team totals                   World Series       All Playoffs

Won-lost record                   .357             .580
Runs Scored/Runs Allowed             .500             .563

Batting records:

Runs scored total                 .714             .426
Batting average                   .583             .440
On-base percentage                 .615             .451
Slugging percentage                 .571             .476
Doubles                         .429             .448
Triples                         .692             .484
Home runs                       .429             .479
Batter walks                     .571             .551
Batter strikeouts (fewer)            .643             .559
Stolen bases                     .429             .511
Stolen base attempts (more)          .429             .551
Net stolen bases                   .429             .442
Stolen base Average                 .429             .373
Caught stealing (fewer)              .643             .426

Pitching records:

Runs allowed                     .357             .646
ERA                           .286             .592
Pitchers strikeouts                 .500             .540
Pitchers walks (fewer)              .429             .523
Hits allowed (fewer)                .500             .729
Home runs allowed (fewer)            .429             .595
Complete games                   .615             .608
Pitchers’ shutouts                 .583             .673
Saves                         .385             .482
Saves by team leader               .429             .566
Bullpen ERA                     .286             .574

Fielding records:

Errors committed (fewer)            .692             .680
Defensive efficiency               .571             .654
Fielding double plays               .571             .500

It’s quite an astonishing turnaround. The hitters hold the whip hand over
the pitchers once we get into the World Series. Nor is this an apparent
product of the ‘Liveball Era’ that began in 1993. I went back to about 1990,
and pitching still suffers. I see two problems with taking this data
straight as read. One is the sample size is very small. The other is that
the American League has been dominant in the series throughout this era, and
these numbers are not normalized by league. (But neither were Vinay’s
original set.) It could easily be the case that the supposed superiority of
the American League renders these findings doubtful. However, at this stage
I prefer to stay consistent with the parameters of the original study,
rather than embark on a new one.

So let us arrange a set of super categories, as was done before, ranked by
their winning percentage:

Runs Scored


Errors committed (fewer)

Batters’ strikeouts (fewer)

Caught Stealing (fewer)

On-Base Percentage

Complete Games

Batting Average

Pitcher’s shutouts

Slugging Percentage

Batter Walks

Defensive efficiency

Fielding double plays

It’s the players, rather than the pitchers, with both bat and glove and
timely base-running that seem to be the difference at this stage. And what
does all that mean for the 2009 World Series? I’ve put the strong categories
in italics.

Yankees’ advantages

Won-Lost Record

Runs Scored/Runs Allowed

Runs Scored

Batting Average

On-Base Percentage

Slugging Percentage


Home Runs

Batters’ Walks

Batters’ strikeouts

Net Stolen Bases

Pitchers’ Strikeouts

Hits allowed

Home runs allowed


Saves by Closer

Defensive efficiency

Phillies’ Advantages


Stolen Bases

Stolen Base Attempts

Stolen Base Percentage

Runs allowed

Earned run average

Pitcher walks

Complete Games

Pitchers’ Shutouts

Errors committed (fewer)

Fielding double plays


Hedging my bet: The Phillies’ lead in fewer errors committed and fielding
double plays could be the sign of an upset. This is common to all but one of
the teams that started behind on Runs Scored yet went on to win the Series.
The exception being the 1997 Marlins. Furthermore, in terms of advantages,
the 2003 Marlins had a similar distribution of advantages against the 2003
Yankees, with what might be the crucial exception of batters’ strikeouts.

Mr Dashwood Posted: October 28, 2009 at 03:26 AM | 2 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. TomH Posted: October 28, 2009 at 12:34 PM (#3368246)
Good concept. My issues:

using 3 decimal places when smaple size n=14. What is the std dev, about .5/sqrt(14)=.15?

Any reason to believe that World Series is significantly different than 'all playoffs'? Why would WS winners typically lsoe when having the better ERA, but have won the other playoff series?
   2. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: October 28, 2009 at 12:57 PM (#3368254)
Any reason to believe that World Series is significantly different than 'all playoffs'? Why would WS winners typically lsoe when having the better ERA, but have won the other playoff series?
Different leagues mean that ERA doesn't mean the same to the World Series teams.

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