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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Straight plagiarism, baby!

I do not know how to link to a specific post someone puts up on their own blog, so I'm going to have to straight re-publish. This is a really interesting post written up by Scott Lange of The Northside Lounge (a great Cubs blog, by the way). He talks about teams' chances of making the playoffs at the beginning of the year, in particular, the Cubs and the NL Central. Pretty interesting statistical analysis. Thankfully, there are people out there that do this. Because I don't. At all. Without further ado...


When I was growing up and I'd complain to my parents about how unfair something was, I'd often get the response "Life isn't fair." They had a point- its not. If fate deals you a bad hand at some point in life, you just have to try to overcome it.
Baseball though, is different- or at least it ought to be. When the umpire shouts "Play ball!" on Opening Day, every team ought to have an equal chance at success. Every fan ought to know that his team is going to rise or fall this year based on the actions of the team's management and players and those of their opponents, and not as a result of other outside factors that tilt the balance before a pitch is thrown. (This is why I believe in heavy revenue sharing, although that's not what I'm writing about today.)
Take a look in the top left corner of the page. You'll see that the Cubs have a 23% chance of making the playoffs. You may remember from when I started posting the Playoff-o-meter last August that its based on the record, run production, and run prevention of the Cubs and their opponents. There have been no games played yet, so every team has an 0-0 record, with no runs produced and no runs prevented. So every team must have a 23% chance right now, right? Wrong.
The Cubs are in the NL Central, a six team division. If every team had identical talent the Cubs would win the division once for every six tries, or about 16.7% of the time. Similarly, the Cubs are in the sixteen-team National League. Assuming identical talent and excluding the three division winners, the Cubs would win the wildcard once in every thirteen years that they don't win the division, or about 6.4% of the time. That's a total chance of going to the playoffs each year of roughly 23.07%.
If you do the same arithmetic for teams in the other five divisions, you find that the chances of making the playoffs are actually much higher for teams in other divisions. NL East and West teams should make the playoffs 26.2% of the time. For teams from the AL Central and East, its 27.3%. And for those fortunate teams in the American League West? Its 31.8% of the time- a whopping 38% increase over the rate for the identical team if they had been placed against identical competition but in the NL Central.
I look at a 38% difference and it blows my mind. I am ready to throw a book through the TV every time an umpire blows a ball/strike call against the Cubs. Here we are talking a 38% advantage over the Cubs for Oakland, Seattle, Texas, and the LAAofA, and its just handed to them before the season even starts! Every single year! And nobody says a word!!
For the record, the slanted playing field is a byproduct of Bud Selig's choice to introduce interleague play. If you split the thirty teams down the middle, you would have fifteen in each league. You could match seven NL teams against seven other NL teams, but there would always be one left over. They could simply spread the interleauge games through the whole schedule, but Bud wants to make the interleague games special so he insists on having them all at once. God forbid we do anything to dilute the impact of the hotly anticipated Rockies/Tigers matchup this summer. Or Marlins/Rangers. Or Nationals/Devil Rays. I feel like typing out another fifty examples of these dreadful matchups all night just to prove my point, but I'm going to be merciful and stop here.

What's this have to do with the Cubs fielding (yet again) another non-playoff caliber team.
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