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oneupper
10-28-2006, 10:08 AM
After seeing the unheralded St Louis Cardinals make their way to the world championship this year, I got to thinking: “If that team can win it, any team can”.
So I wondered.

Marathon vs. Sprint.

Many times I’ve read on this board how the 162-game season is a marathon. Well, if that is so, then the playoffs are 100-yard dashes. Three of them, heads up.

Eight teams made the playoffs this year. Most did well in the marathon, but not one team won more than 60% of their season games. Their winning percentages ranged from .599 (Yankees and Mets) to .516 (Cards).

If all had the same “chance” of winning the playoffs, it would be 1 in 8 (12.5%) for each. However, there are teams that are “heavily favored”, since they are supposedly superior.

How to quantify a “superior” team? Well if a very good team (like those who make the playoffs with close to 100 wins) has managed to win 60% of the time against all competition (good, bad and mediocre alike), lets assume for a minute that that team is also capable of winning 60% of the time against the better competition that it faces in the playoffs (a stretch, considering for example that the 2006 yankees were only .500 combined against the other playoff teams in the regular season).

Here comes the interesting part.

A team with a 60% win probability for each game, has a 68% chance of winning a best of five series and a 71% chance of winning a best of seven series. (using binomial distribution, considering each game an independent event).

The COMBINED probability of winning one best of five and two best of seven series is 34%.

That’s 1 in 3. So a VASTLY superior team goes into the playoffs with only a 1 in 3 chance of taking it all.

Not much of an advantage. Over time, home teams have been proven to win about 55% of the time. That’s a 5% advantage in each game for the home team.

Modifying the probability for the VASTLY superior team to account for it having a 65% chance of winning at home and a 55% on the road, and one more home game, the probability for winning a best of five goes up to 70% and a best of seven only goes up to 72.5%. (If you want to know how I did this, I’m willing to share…its not that complicated only long).
So, VASTLY superior PLUS home field gives a team a 36.8% chance of winning it all. Still the odds are against.

Conclusions

1) The numbers for the VASTLY superior team are extreme. I’d estimate most teams have between a 1 in 5 and a 1 in 10 chance of winning it all…once they make the playoffs.
2) Billy Beane is right (again) in saying that the playoffs are a crapshoot. His team’s luck has been crap (shoot!).
3) The three-tiered playoff system is more of an equalizer than the revenue sharing or luxury tax system.
4) Changing a best of five playoff to a best of seven doesn’t do much to assure that the ‘better” team wins.
5) Building a “World Series” team is probably not worth the cost. You build a “playoff-capable” team and take your chances in the fall.
6) The Yankees 3 consecutive series wins from 1998-2000 was more improbable than any of their 5 consecutive streaks.
7) Steinbrenner was right to not fire Joe Torre.

As it pertains to the REDS, I’ve seen a lot of posts wanting no less than World Series winner and shunning a back-door entrance into the playoffs (such as may have been possible this year). IMO making the playoffs has to be the objective, after that, lady luck starts to take over.

Strikes Out Looking
10-28-2006, 10:21 AM
Of course, not quitting in late August, when your team is still very much alive, helps to get in the playoffs and win a world series.

RedFanAlways1966
10-31-2006, 02:58 PM
Of course, not quitting in late August, when your team is still very much alive, helps to get in the playoffs and win a world series.

Who quit? Please tell all of us who quit since you have stated this. Losing games and losing b/c you have quit (not trying) are two different things. Is there concrete evidence that the REDS or players on the REDS quit trying from late August until the end of the season? Were players available at this time that the REDS could have gotten in a trade? Or is this just frustrated ramblings of a REDS fan?

The REDS were tied for 1st place with the Cards after the first game of that dreaded 10-game West Coast trip. First place. Then they all of a sudden quit? I'm not buying it. They lost a lot of games, but it was not due to quitting. Perhaps it was due to playing two of the four teams that made the playoffs in the NL and another team that had a record similiar to their own. Sounds more believable than quitting. But I have been wrong before, so I ask for evidence of this quitting thing.

oneupper
10-31-2006, 03:53 PM

Johnny Footstool
10-31-2006, 04:29 PM
The thing about "Marathon vs. Sprint" is that the marathon allows a team to go through streaks (much like the Cards, who had a nasty habit of winning 5 in a row, then losing 5 in a row all season) and end up with a record somewhat indicative of the talent on the team. The sprint rewards those who happen to be hot at just the right time (Messrs. Suppan and Eckstein wave from their champagne-filled bathtubs).

Baseball is all about hot and cold streaks, and nothing highlights that more than the playoffs.

Falls City Beer
10-31-2006, 04:40 PM
My guess is that there's a reason--undiscovered--as to why certain teams perform better in the playoffs than others.

Somebody find it. I don't finally buy the shoulder-shrug-it's-a-crapshoot-idea very much.

My guess is that there's something binding all the winners. Something fairly concrete.

But I'm not sure what it is beyond certain generalities (i.e. being healthy, well-coached, well-studied on the other team).

IslandRed
10-31-2006, 04:58 PM
My guess is that there's a reason--undiscovered--as to why certain teams perform better in the playoffs than others.

Somebody find it. I don't finally buy the shoulder-shrug-it's-a-crapshoot-idea very much.

My guess is that there's something binding all the winners. Something fairly concrete.

But I'm not sure what it is beyond certain generalities (i.e. being healthy, well-coached, well-studied on the other team).

Nate Silver from BP tried. He found a few factors -- he called it "the Secret Sauce" -- to whit:

As Dayn Perry and I found in Baseball Between the Numbers, regular season success is no guarantee of playoff performance. Rather, there are three particular characteristics of teams that win more than their share of post-season games. These characteristics are as follows:

* A power pitching staff, as measured by normalized strikeout rate.
* A good closer, as measured by WXRL.
* A good defense, as measured by FRAA.

Of the dozens of team characteristics that we tested for statistical significance, in terms of their relationship with winning post-season games and series, these were the only three that mattered. Ending the year hot doesn’t make a whit of difference, for example, nor does having a veteran club, or a smallball offense.

More remarkably, all three of these characteristics relate to run prevention, rather than run scoring. That does not mean that offense is of no importance in the playoffs. But there is a lot of noise in the postseason record, and offense did not produce enough signal to emerge through it. The reasons are too complicated to get into here, but have to do with what happens when good offenses face good pitching. Pitching does have some tendency to dominate these match-ups, whether they occur in the regular season or in the playoffs. Because "plus pitching" versus "plus hitting" duels occur more frequently in the post-season, we tend to notice the effects more then.

In any event, this "secret sauce" is fairly pungent. The two teams that rated most favorably in these categories in the 2005 playoffs were the White Sox and the Astros, who met in the World Series. The formula also predicts the success of some surprise World Series winners like the 1990 Reds and 1979 Pirates. Conversely, of the ten post-season teams since 1972 that rated worst in the "secret sauce" rankings, none advanced beyond their LCS.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5541

(An alternative definition to "Secret Sauce" is "three things the Reds don't have.")

RFS62
10-31-2006, 05:00 PM
Wow. So you're saying pitching and defense. Who knew?

IslandRed
10-31-2006, 05:20 PM
Wow. So you're saying pitching and defense. Who knew?

Yep. Of course, it isn't foolproof. St. Louis was very good defensively, but had a very low strikeout rate and mediocre closing most of the year. But they caught a good matchup with a free-swinging team in Detroit, and the bullpen caught fire -- the four main guys gave up just one earned run in 29 innings throughout the postseason. That's just sick, and no one saw it coming. Sometimes it is as simple as getting hot at the right time.

RFS62
10-31-2006, 05:36 PM
Yeah, I was being sarcastic with the "who knew?"

Pitching and defense, the bane of our existence the last few years. The thing that I'll bet Krivsky is looking for.

BRM
10-31-2006, 05:38 PM
Yeah, I was being sarcastic with the "who knew?"

Pitching and defense, the bane of our existence the last few years. The thing that I'll bet Krivsky is looking for.

He was supposedly looking for it this past July. ;)

Johnny Footstool
10-31-2006, 05:38 PM
Power staff, good closer, good defense.

Sure, but it depends on whether or not your power pitching staff, good closer, and good defense decide to perform that way in a short series.

The A's had all three this season and still fell to the Tigers.

It's all about getting hot at the right time. You can't control that. It's nearly impossible ot build a slump-proof team, and even if you do, you could run up against a lightning-in-a-bottle team that makes you look silly in a short series.

Johnny Footstool
10-31-2006, 05:39 PM
Pitching and defense, the bane of our existence the last few years. The thing that I'll bet Krivsky is looking for.

I'm thinking Krivsky wouldn't recognize either of them if they walked up and bit him.

RFS62
10-31-2006, 05:40 PM
I'm thinking Krivsky wouldn't recognize either of them if they walked up and bit him.

I assume you're kidding.

Redsland
10-31-2006, 05:44 PM
You can win 100 games during the regular season and coast into the postseason. But if you drop your first playoff game in the best-of-five series, you're suddenly in a must-win game (for all intents and purposes). That's a pretty abrupt change, which may have come to pass because of one bad hop, or one dominant pitcher.

Crapshoot. Get there, hope for the best.

Johnny Footstool
10-31-2006, 06:08 PM
I assume you're kidding.

Juan Castro and Royce Clayton say I'm not.

But that's a topic for another thread.

RFS62
10-31-2006, 06:12 PM
Juan Castro and Royce Clayton say I'm not.

But that's a topic for another thread.

Yeah, I wish someone would start a thread on that trade thing. I'll bet that would get some posts.

I'll still assume you're kidding. I've always been a big fan of yours and it's easy to extend the benefit of the doubt to the publisher of "The Spitter".

Cedric
10-31-2006, 06:46 PM
Juan Castro and Royce Clayton say I'm not.

But that's a topic for another thread.

Terry Ryan must not know a damn thing about defense then. He overpayed for Juan Castro.

I think people are overreacting to one bad move.

oneupper
10-31-2006, 06:50 PM
You can improve your odds by building a better team or if you want a "postseason team" with the characteristics mentioned above.
But you can't get past the fact that you still go to three head ups rounds in which there is a good possibility of losing to an "inferior" team.

Go ALL IN enough in Poker even with better cards...and sooner or later someone catches a card on the river.

Falls City Beer
10-31-2006, 07:24 PM
But they caught a good matchup with a free-swinging team in Detroit, and the bullpen caught fire -- the four main guys gave up just one earned run in 29 innings throughout the postseason. That's just sick, and no one saw it coming. Sometimes it is as simple as getting hot at the right time.

I saw their bullpen coming...from a mile away.

Natch.

M2
10-31-2006, 07:43 PM
oneupper, I agree completely about the equalizing effect of the eight-team format. It's roughly halved the chances the "best" team had of winning from the four-team format, which was already no better than a 50% proposition.

It'll be interesting to see if the data from that BP study holds moving forward or if those three factors turn out to be less determinant in the current format.

The study also provides an interesting method of evaluating the moves Krivsky made in pursuit of October. He didn't get power arms (one of the chief complaints with Majewski at the time of the trade). He didn't bring in plus fielders. Outside of Eddie Guardado's brief flourish, he never found that type of lock-down closer (and Eddie never was that sort of closer even in his better years).

I don't think there was a fan on this site who didn't think the Reds needed a pitching and defense upgrade. What a lot of people objected to was the clumsy misses Krivsky made at acquiring those talents. Just because you send a new guy out to the mound, it doesn't mean you've addressed your pitching. Just because you've got a new SS, it doesn't mean he's a good SS.

The Reds wound up 20th in FRAA (at -7), 12th in EQK9 (all hail Aaron Harang) and 22nd in WXRL. That landed them 22nd overall in those categories, oddly right in front of the St. Louis Cardinals (last with a bullet among this year's playoff teams). The Twins and Mets were the highest ranked playoff teams. This of course all gets back to what oneupper said to start the thread, the expanded format seems to foil the best laid plans of mice and men.