Sunday, September 30, 2007

Playoff Memo

TO: Headline writers, sports broadcasters, bloggers, and baseball fans

IN RE: 2007 Baseball Postseason

Please take note not to use the following word at all during the playoffs, no matter what. "Upset" is banned. Form cannot be overturned when there is no form in the first place.

Some years ago for the Herald, which did not have Internet access at the time, yours truly did some tedious but revealing research. Through of all of baseball history to that point, regular season records were a reasonably reliable indicator of who'd win a short postseason series IF the disparity between the two teams' records was 10 or more games. In that case, the team with the better record won almost 80 percent of the time, and some of the exceptions were defending champions who had obviously taken the foot of the pedal during parts of the long season.

If the two teams' records were less than 10 games apart, there was no correlation whatsoever. If Team A finished with 99 wins and team B with 90, Team B was just as likely to win a postseason series as Team A.

Entering the final day of the season, the gap between the American playoff team with the best record, the Red Sox, and that with the worst, the Angels and Yankees, is 3 games. That's not a margin, it's statistical white noise. The gap between the Diamondbacks and the Cubs in the National League is all of five games. Louder white noise.

Any and all 2007 postseason results are to be expected. They will be determined by mundane factors such as which players and teams happen to play best for a day, week, or month.

An upset is not what happens when you make the wrong prediction. That is all.


Post a Comment

<< Home