Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category
You know that excitement index I blogged about? Tonight’s game shattered the record. 4.5 — the highest in 110 years of baseball post-seasons. The old record was 4.1.
For once, I think the system is right.
Back in 2007, I created the excitement index to rate post-seasons. The idea was to create a very simple way of using box scores to measure how exciting a baseball post-season was. It’s quick and dirty; not perfect. I’m sure others have more robust methods that use win probability or something. But it’s mine and I’ve posted on it in 2008 and 2010. The 2007 post has the details, last year’s some more data. Just some highlights:
To give you a sense of scale. The average games scores 1.9 points. The average 5-games series scores 7.2. The average 7-game series 10.8. The average modern post-season scores 60 points. The most exciting post-season in history was 2003, which came in at a whopping 74.1 points. You may remember this one as the year both the Red Sox and Cubs were five outs away from a pennant and blew it. Pro-rated, however, the 1991 post-season comes in slightly better (40.2 points pro-rated to 78.5). That was the year the Braves came from nowhere to take the Pirates and then the Twins to seven games. The most boring post-season, as I noted above, was 2007. Five series sweeps and a surprisingly dull 7-game ALCS. It game in at 47.6. The most exciting 7-game series was the 1991 World Series (17.2). As a survivor of that, who watched the greatest Cinderella team ever lose a 7-game heart-breaker, I can vouch for that one. Coming in second is the 2001 World Series (16.1). The dullest 7-game series was 1989’s blowout of San Francisco by Oakland in which the Giants never took a lead. It scored a pathetic 5.4. The most exciting 5-game series was 1980’s Philadelphia-Houston epic ALCS which featured four extra-inning game. At 13.5, it outdid most 7-game series. The most boring 5-gamer was St. Louis blowing out San Diego in the 2005 NLDS. There have been games that have scored better than the 3.9 the whole series did. The most-exciting game, at a whopping 4.1, was game two of the 1997 NLDS. Huh? That game featured 8 ties or lead changes and was won on a walk-off single by Moises Alou. I’m inclined to think this a quirk of the system. Even though game seven of the 2001 world series only score 3.3, I would give that the nod as the greatest game. There are many candidates for boring games. Technically, game seven of the 1996 NLCS scored the lowest (1.06). But the Braves’ 15-0 victory capped a comeback from a 1-3 series deficit. Game five of that series (a 14-0 blowout, 1.07 in the system) is another candidate, as is game one of the World Series that year. But I would probably go with game one of the 2005 ALDS (1.08), Chicago’s 14-2 blowout of Boston.
I’ve now taken the database through the entire 20th century. I’ve included the 9-game series of 1903, 1919-1922 and I’ve left out the games from the 1907, 1912 and 1922 series that ended in ties.
One of the things I love about this exercise is being able to uncover things I didn’t know. For example in 1943 and 1945, the world series used a 3-4, rather than 2-3-2 format, presumably to save expenses. (The 1944 series was all St. Louis). I now feel a great kinship with Brooklyn Dodgers fans, whose world-series losses were as frustrating and agonizing as the 90’s Braves. And one of the great unknown games of all time was Game 3 of the 1914 World Series. Special mention should be made of the 1905 Series, where every game was a shutout.
The most exciting post-season was 2003. However, the most exciting pro-rated is now the 1972 post-season. After having the ’69-’71 LCS series flop badly (all but one were sweeps), ’72 went the full measure, two 5-game series and one 7-game series. It featured:
All told, it gets 36.16 points, best of the 1969-1984 era and pro-rated to 87 points.
Anyway, 2011 is shaping up to be a good post-season. With 55 points, it’s guaranteed to be average and a great world series could push it up into the high 60’s, a level not reached since 2003. Five of the six series have been above average although only the Cards-Phils series was really great.
Joe Posnanski has a post up about how the best team in the league rarely wins the World Series. This set off a thought.
I wonder if one thing we could do to increase the drama of the regular season is to give the league championship title to the team with the best record, rather than the one that wins two playoff series. I was inspired in this by the Premier League in England, which gives out a League Cup to the team with the best overall record. It’s not like the FA Cup, which is won in a tournament. But it at least recognizes a season-long achievement. And the best teams in football are those that win the “double” of both cups.
Baseball has separate leagues, so you would have two teams each year eligible for the “double”. And it seems reasonable to do so since it’s not always clear which league is better (although you could tip it to whichever league wins inter-league play). There’s also the problem of divisions, that the team with the most wins is sometimes from a weak division. Meh. Maybe that will create an incentive to abolish the division structure. I think we would stick with most wins because any scheme to correct for schedule difficulty ends up a matter of opinion and we don’t want this to become the BCS.
If such a scheme were observed in baseball, here is the list of league champions for the wild card era. I’ve included 1994, when we didn’t have a world series. Bolded teams would have won the “double” for wining the World Series as well.
1994 – New York (70), Montreal (74)
1995 – Cleveland (100), Atlanta (90)
1996 – Cleveland (99), Atlanta (96)
1997 – Baltimore (98), Atlanta (101)
1998 – New York (114), Atlanta (106)
1999 – New York (98), Atlanta (99)
2000 – Chicago (95), San Francisco (97)
2001 – Seattle (116), St. Louis/Houston (93)
2002 – New York/Oakland (103), Atlanta (101)
2003 – New York (101), Atlanta (101)
2004 – New York (101), St. Louis (105)
2005 – Chicago (99), St. Louis (100)
2006 – New York (97), New York (97)
2007 – Boston (96), Colorado/Arizona (90)
2008 – Anaheim (100), Chicago (97)
2009 – New York (103), Los Angeles (95)
2010 – Tampa Bay (96), Philadelphia (97)
2011 – New York (97), Philadelphia (102)
A few things to note: First, in contrast to the list of World Series winners, the league championship shows a much clearer picture of which teams were dominating baseball. Atlanta would have won five straight championships and seven overall. The Yankees would have won eight. The great Cardinals and Phillies teams would have gone back-to-back. Montreal would have been league champ in the aborted ’94 season. That’s a much cleaner version of baseball history than World Series title.
Second, notice the teams that win “the double”. The 98-99 Yankees, in the running for greatest team of all -time, win two in a row. The 2007 Boston Red Sox, 1995 Braves, 2005 White Sox and 2009 Yankees also join the list.
During the 1969-1993 era, when we had playoffs but no wild card, doubles were a lot more common, since you only had four playoff teams, two of which were eligible for the double. But even then, there some standouts, particular the 75-76 Reds and the 92-93 Jays, who won back-to-back doubles.
I have no illusion that an idea on a backwater blog will get anywhere. Hell, Bob Costas could suggest this and baseball would demur. But if they want to inject just a little bit of drama back into the regular season, maybe recognizing the team with best record would be a good first step.
And at least I can stop thinking about it now.
“The Art of Fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.” – Red Smith
In Gregg Eastebrook’s column today, he laments that only 16 of the 32 coaches in the league have won a playoff game.
Well, only 4 to 8 teams will win a playoff game in any particular year. If you plug that into a probability calculation, it would take about 3-4 years for a group of coaches to get to the point where half of them had won a game. Of course, playoff wins tend to be bunched around certain teams and coaches who win get retained while coaches who don’t get fired. So let’s say that in a typical league, you’d expect 4-6 years for about half the coaches to have a playoff win. That’s pretty close to the typical lifespan of a coach. In other words, this is about what you’d expect.
Is this new? Are teams suddenly going with inexperienced coaches? Nope.
In 2000, 13 of the 31 opening day coaches had a playoff win.
In 1990, 14 of the 28 opening day coaches had a playoff win.
In 1980, 11 of the 28 opening day coaches had a a playoff win, albeit with fewer games.
So, yeah. It’s not amateur hour at all.
(Doing the research on that was entertaining. So many flopped coaches who never amounted to anything. And so many who came in with little record and went on to greatness. It’s kind of fun to click on, say, Jimmy Johnson’s name and see that he had no playoff wins going into Dallas and so many in front of him. Experience is not everything, even in coaching.)
Easterbrook has a mental block on coaches, frankly, seeming to think that the only coaches that should be hired are “proven winners”. When a team hires a coach from college, he’ll slag that, pointing out the difference between college and the pros. But if they hire a coordinator from an NFL team, he’ll slag that since they have no head coaching experience in the pros. And if they hire an NFL coach who hasn’t won in the playoffs, he’ll slag that too, apparently.
I guess the only thing teams can do to appease TMQ is to clone Tony Dungy.
Ugh. It begins. Various people are suggesting fixes to the baseball All-Star Game, chief of which is the ridiculous suggestion that we take away the vote from the fans. Because we all know that the game is not for the fans, it’s for the sportswriters!
The thing is, that the fans are not the problem. Here’s the comment I left at the above link, which ridiculously tried use the 1957 ballot-stuffing scandal as a justification:
Taking away the vote from the fans seems like an absurd over-reaction. Year-in, year-out, the fans do a good job and generally a better one than the managers do. It wasn’t the fans who picked Russ Martin, Ryan Vogelsong and Jordan Walden. It wasn’t the fans who decided to almost leave off Andrew McCutcheon. Look at the fan vote and I would say they got 15 out of the 17 positions right.
Maybe you can criticize them for not valuing Johnny Peralta’s good three months over a first-ballot HOFer’s career at shortstop. But the reason so many Yankees and Phillies are on the roster (actually only one Philly was voted in by the fans) is because those are the two best teams in baseball. The fans also voted in three Brewers. Was that ballot-stuffing?
We see every year. A scandal from half a century ago does not prove that fan voting is bad. It’s one of the few things about the ASG that works. Look at the starters from every year and don’t focus on the one or two bad selections and you’ll see the fans generally get it right. Almost all of the really dumb picks were made by the managers and players.
Back in reality, Rob Neyer suggested adding a day to the All-Star break so that pitchers who went on Sunday could pitch in the game. That’s perfectly reasonable. Another suggestion might be that for every inning a player plays, a certain amount of money will be donated to his favorite charity. Weight it by their role, so that a starter gets the same amount of money for seven innings and a backup does for one.
This may be the stupidest graph I’ve ever seen. They project Derek Jeter to get 4500 hits if he keeps going at his career pace for seven more years. I mean, gee, if we’re playing that game, why not project him to play another 20 years and get 7,000 hits?
You can see that the two comparison hit lines drop off abruptly when the players lost their skills. Jeter has already started doing that. At best, I’d expect him to finish with about 3300 hits or so, which is pretty damned good. (Bill James Favorite Toy projects 3400-3500.
See, I knew the Yankees and Red Sox dragged things out interminably. Whenever these guys play, I feel like I can go to the fridge, start making a sandwich, realize I don’t have any meat, buy a gun, sit through the waiting period, get the gun, go into the woods, lie in wait, identify my animal, wait for it to grow bigger, stalk and shoot it, take it home, cut and cook the meat, make my sandwich … and it will still just be the third inning. Announcer love it, but it drive me crazy.
It was worse back in the 00’s when the A’s were good. When they played the Yankees in the post-season, you could have replayed the Hundred Years War in one Jason Giambi at-bat.
It’s behind the pay firewall but today Bill James compiled his list of the greatest baseball teams of all time. It’s an impressive effort as he is considered single season performance, multi-year performance, post-season performance and the quality of the team (i.e., was this time comprised of great players or guys just having good years).
My 1995 Atlanta Braves ranked 3rd, slightly ahead of the Big Red Machine.
This will, of course, sound ridiculous to anyone who’s not me or Bill James. After all, the Braves of the 90’s only won one world series. But consider the totality of what they did between 1991 and 2005.
I was there for most of it. I watched every night, I frequently went to Atlanta, I attended World Series games. It was like nothing I had ever seen before or ever will again. We just knew they were going to win. There was an aura about the team that was remarkable. Even if they fell behind in the standings — 10.5 games in 1993 — we knew they would close the gap.
The reason the Braves are not generally considered one of the greatest teams of all time is because of who is #1 on Bill James’ list — the 1998 Yankees. The Braves, like the great Brooklyn Dodgers before them, had the misfortune to be contemporaries with one of the greatest teams of all time. And they lost twice to them in the World Series including in 1996 when the Braves were clearly the better team.
People wonder why I hate the Yankees so much as I’m not a big Red Sox guy. 1996 is why. The Braves had blown out the Yankees in two games. And then, with some bad luck and bad ump calls, it fell apart. And it became even worse after since the media swooned over the Yankees, portraying it as a wonderful story that they had won their first title since all the way back in … 1978.
I’m still bitter about it. It still hurts. And one of the reasons it hurts is because it blinds people to the greatness of those Braves teams. Had they won the ’96 World Series, no one would question their greatness. But because they lost, they don’t get mentioned.
If only Tim Welke had gotten out of Jermaine Dye’s way…