May the best team win?

Tom Verducci recently addressed several “myths” (his word) regarding postseason baseball. They are:

  1. The team with the better record is the favorite.
  2. The “hot” teams — the ones that play well down the stretch — are the ones to fear in the postseason.
  3. The team that won the season series has the edge over its opponent.
  4. It’s important to earn home field advantage.

Assuming these are true, it’s hard not to conclude that the postseason is a coin toss. Brad, Brian, the pitch is to you. Is Verducci right? Do I misunderstand?  Note: “Tom Verducci is an idiot” is an acceptable answer, but only if his idiocy is quantified in units of Stewart Mandel. Post-honeymoon John can clarify if this is unclear.

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2 Responses to May the best team win?

  1. brianbunton says:

    Tom Verducci is not an idiot. He’s right that three of the four are not necessarily true. Postseason baseball is a different animal from the regular season. Instead of long stretches of daily baseball, the postseason is downright luxurious in terms of scheduling. Instead of a day off every seven or eight days, in the postseason there’s a day off every three days. So really, the shift in importance goes to who has the best two starting pitchers. Teams really only need two starters because of all the free time. But home field advantage is actually important. In fact, it’s more important in baseball than in any other sport.

    ETA:

    Home teams in postseason games in the wild-card era are 208-182, a .533 winning percentage — not too different than if you flipped a coin 390 times.

    Well, Tom Verducci doesn’t know math. A .533 edge is *huge*, and it’s a lot different than if you flipped a coin 390 times.

  2. bmarts says:

    Might as well convert the number into something meaningful. A .533 winning percentage for the home team means that the team with home field advantage will win a 7 game series 51% of the time and a 5 game series 51.2% of the time. I dub that not huge, and much like flipping a coin.

    Baseball is a game with very long fluctuations. The post-season is relatively short compared to these fluctuations.

    Here is something anecdotal, since sportswriters usually like that. Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, is remembered for his great post-season performance. He is the only player to have multi-homer games in the LCS and WS. In his regular season career of 2820 games he had 42 multi-homer games. In game 7 of the WS he hit 3 homers — a feat he only accomplished twice in his regular season career. His contribution to winning games in the short post-seasons compared to his long time average contribution in the regular season is immensely abnormal. That’s why you see no statistical correlations with past performance and post-season performance.

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