I wonder if there is a better correlation between having the worst record of the playoff teams and losing in the playoffs
I wonder if there is a better correlation between having the worst record of the playoff teams and losing in the playoffs
Let me be specific about what I showed above: this shows that the number of wins a team has in the regular season is a poor predictor of their chances of winning a championship. I'll be honest - I was dumbstruck by how low this factor is.
It might be that there are other predictors, and one of those predictors might have something to do with strength of schedule or divisional strength or starting pitching or whatever. But to conclude that any of them are important, one must define them. Maybe we should judge teams by something like wins times a factor for strength of schedule. Great. Then do so, and show it predicts success in the postseason. But otherwise, I don't see any difference in saying that a team is better because they had more regular season wins than saying a team was better because they had a higher batting average. Both are nice, but both are ultimately unimportant.
I'll go a step further - and I think this might be important. This suggests that the best strategy for an organization to win a championship is NOT to push all their chips to the middle of the table and become really, really good (as judged by wins) for a few years. It is to extend their window of opportunity as long as they possibly can and make the postseason as many times as they can.
For the record - I think the Rays are following this strategy. I think the Twins do too, though I think it's a side effect of a core belief in giving opportunities to minor leaguers.
I understand your point John and even agree with the data analysis. But, I think there is something else that others have obliquely alluded to. The Twins made the playoffs for years in a fairly consistent fashion. Teams like the White Soxs and the Tigers had to squeak in or missed all together. But those teams have had far more recent success in the playoffs. I know this proves your point, but maybe we need to be looking at how our team is built. Verlander tanked and maybe helped kill their season, but he also made their postseason. I would always put my money on Verlander over anyone else, because most of the time he wins. The Soxs (in the past) and the Tigers also went all in on offense, even to the detriment of their defense. Cabrera at 3rd had nothing to do with defense, only providing a spot for Fielder. Worked out well. Meanwhile people are talking about how we need some defensive upgrades. Pitching and Offense. Period. I am tired of a successful season being 3 and out in the playoffs. I think Twins fans used to be a bit smug about how our team was so consistent as opposed to the Tigers and Sox. I know I no longer am. Maybe the were right....
I'm not going to crunch this myself right now, but I'd be interested to see the correlation between playoff success and regular season success vs. other playoff qualifying teams.
The champion marathoner doesn't necessarily win the 100 yard dash. Or even advance past the qualifying heats.
Let's say the playoffs are a crapshoot and every team (excluding one wildcard) has a 1 in 8 chance of winning. If an average/crapshoot team makes the playoffs (with a a .125 probabilty of winning) five times, they've got a 50/50 chance of winning at least one World Series. What about if it's not a crapshoot? Say you can create a playoff team with 1 in 5 chances of winning the series: .200 probability. They team would have to have about 59% chance of winning each playoff series to get to 1 in 5 odds overall that year. That's a really good team. If that elite team make the playoffs 3 out of 5 years, they have basically the exact same odds....50/50 chance of winning at least one World Series in the same stretch.
So, this team can rebuild for 2 years and go all in for 3 years, or just try to maintain being good for 5 years and their odds are almost identical. But how hard is it to create a team that will be 1 in 5 favorites to winning the World Series (after making the playoffs)? How hard is it to just make the playoffs 5 years in a row? Both are very tough. I'd say its tougher to build a team to be the clear WS favorite 3 years in a row than to make the playoffs 5 years in a row.
Now that I think about this, these don't really have to be discrete 5 year periods. It could 5 years of crapshoot playoffs in 8 years of the steadier franchise versus 3 years of playoff favorite in 8 years for the boom-or-bust franchise. The odds stay the same. I'd still say it would be easier to just get to the playoffs 5 out of 8 years than to build a clear favorite 3 out of 8 years, but it's hard to say for sure. But that is basically where the odds lead us.
85 wins in the Central Division going back to 2003 (the first season after revenue sharing took on its present form) gets you a division title one time. 90 wins since 2003 would win the division just three times (88,89, and 90 wins). And the supposedly now mythic, nearly unobtainable yet statistically meaningless total of 95 wins or more was the amount it took to win the Central in half of the past 10 seasons. In fact, the average number of wins to capture the AL Central since 2003 stands at just above 93.
85 wins almost certainly doesn't get you the Central.
Also, although it has practically no meaning to AL Central teams, it's worth noting that 6 out of the last 11 AL wild card teams since 2003 have won 95 games or more. And no team has won an AL wildcard berth since then with fewer than 91 wins, or would have won the new second wildcard spot with just 85 wins. 85 wins doesn't get you either wildcard.
Second, it DOES matter how good a team is in the regular season when looking at John's stated goal of winning the World Series. Since 2003 only ONE team (La Russa's '06 Cards) with 85 wins or fewer has won the World Series. Nobody else did it with fewer than 90. And only two other have even made it to the WS with fewer than 90 regular season wins. 85 wins gives you a one in 20 shot of winning the WS if you have a Hall of Fame manager.
In other words, let's say we do win 85 games with a Twins team whose entire projected 2013 rotation at the moment consists of Scott Diamond, and whose present middle infield stands to be yet again one of the worst in the AL.
That 85 win team has about a one in 10 shot at winning the Central, and a one in 20 shot at winning the Series. So despite John's interesting statistical mirage, I'm going to paraphrase Moneyball despite whatever additional scorn that might earn me.
"Do I care if my 85 win team didn't win the World Series because 85 win teams suck in the postseason, or because 85 win teams don't make the postseason?"
"No, you do not."
I think even using raw wins, regardless of division or competition, is even a poor way to evaluate how "good" a team is. This year is a prime example, in that Baltimore persisted into the playoffs despite a talent level that many well-respected baseball people were baffled by their continued competitiveness. However, they still won 93 games in a decidedly difficult division and defeated a Texas team that was the class of the AL for the season in a playoff. Often cited as proof that they weren't as good as their record was their run differential, which I feel like is widely accepted as a better indicator of a team's true ability, if such a thing can actually be computed. Would run differential or Pythagorean record establish a higher correlation?
Even that, I fear, is going to produce a low correlation, as with so few samples - even at 8 teams a year for 15+ years, I fear the data is incomplete for conclusions - one occurrence like the '06 Cardinal run to a title might alter the data. That team was beset by injury for much of the year, only getting healthy at the end of the season, and was considered, talent-wise, much better than their record. Or the aberration that was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, which saw a 17-win jump in pythagorean record from '00 to '01, despite being no better talent-wise, and likely worse with the departure of a young Alex Rodriguez.
In the end, it's probably inaccurate to call the playoffs a true crapshoot, but it's hard to really establish an argument that winning more regular season games indicates talent superiority or portends greater success in the postseason.
My Theory is just as goofy as anybody elses. The goal of every club should be making the playoffs. That's planning for the long haul 162 games to get in. You can't do anything if you don't get in... Ask the talented Texas Rangers and they will agree.
Once you make the playoffs... It's not a crapshoot so much... It's game by game... Grind it out... Luck is always a part of baseball but it's inning by innning... Game by Game... Grind it out... It doesn't matter anymore what you did during the regular season. It's Lohse against Zito and it's about making pitches when it matters... Moving runners over... Key Home Runs... Key Hits... Defensive plays... It comes down to the makeup of your players when it's on the line.
Look at a regular season. Any regular season... In 2012... The best team in baseball record wise was the Nationals... They LOST 64 games. Some of those losses came in bunches. That's a team who happened to win a mere 17 games over .500.
17 games over .500... Just look at that and let it roll around in your thoughts... Nothing about that percentage screams lock. .605 winning percentage... The Best team in baseball is 6 and 4 over ten games. Why would anyone assume that a team with that winning percentage is a lock. That same Washington Nationals Team lost to Colorado 3 games to 4 during the regular season.
My theory... If you want to build a team for playoff success... Build a team that believes in itself and one that competes with every fiber and hope you get a few bounces but you better build a team that can reach the playoffs first and always remember that the other team is trying really hard to win as well.
'That was the whole point of adding a 2nd wildcard - to emphasize those marginal wins needed to win the division outright and avoid that first playoff round (and the chance of being eliminated in it).'
I thought the 2nd wild card was added because TB is showing no signs of going away and they still wanted to try and make sure NY and Boston could both make it in. That's why the first wild card was added...IMO
Loved this and loved all the discussion. More articles like this, please.
Money is the only reason they add teams, and you can't play baseball on paper, The hot team wins. a slump, a mistake and you are out. The
best team does not always win. It is the team that plays there last game the best that wins.
B. If you are going to use playoff win percentage of teams with 85 wins or less as reasoning... You are going to have to factor in how many teams with 85 wins or less are eligibale to win the world series(IE Make the Playoffs). It's only fair. Only 4 teams(since 2002) have reached the playoffs with less than 85. 4 teams out of 88... That has to reduce the odds of it happening doesn't it.
2012... No Team made the playoffs with 85 wins or less. One team had less than 90 wins... The Tigers Reached the WS.
2011 and 2010... No team made the playoffs with 85 wins or less... No Team made the playoffs with 90 wins or less.
2009... No Team made the playoffs with 85 wins or less... The Twins were the only team to make the playoffs with 90 or less.
2008... The Dodgers made the Playoffs with 85 wins or less... The White Sox made the playoffs with 90 or less.
2007... The Cubs made the playoffs with 85 wins... The Phillies made the playoffs with 90 or less.
2006... The Cards made the Playoffs and Won the WS with 85 wins or less... The Dodgers and Padres made the playoffs with 90 or less.
2005... the Padres made the Playoffs with 85 wins or less...The Astros made the playoffs and reached the WS with 90 wins or less.
2004... No Team made the playoffs with 85 wins or less... no team made the playoffs with 90 wins or less.
2003... no team made the playoffs with 85 wins or less... The Cubs made the playoffs with 90 wins or less.
2002... no team made the playoffs with 85 wins or less... no team made the playoffs with 90 wins or less.
That's 11 years... I could keep going but I don't want to... During that Span... 88 Teams qualified for the playoffs.
A total of 4 made the playoffs with less than 85 wins. One of them won the world series and that is 25%
16 teams reached the Playoffs with less than 90 wins so that means 72 teams made the playoffs with more than 90 wins and that group produced 10 World series winners. That rounds up to 14%
So... Based on this rediculous small sample size... That one World Series win by the Cardinals in 2006 has produced better odds of winning the WS with 85 wins or less.
Just to make sure no one misunderstands me... I'm not buying that either... Bottom Line... Get into the playoffs... If you get in with 70 Wins... Good for you... You can still win the World Series!!!
Everybody understands the slight shades of regular season success right? Think of it this way... 15 more wins by the Twins in 2012 and they are a .500 team... 15 wins... That's one more win every 11 games... One little win... Every 11 Games...
If the Twins are .500... They are 7 games out... If they are 7 games out... They may actually try to acquire some juice at the trade deadline... The Games become more important... They may be able to squeeze a couple more wins because the carrot is in front of them... Who Knows but I can tell you quite confidently that the difference between 83 wins and 100 wins means absolutely nothing once the first pitch of the playoffs starts.
You'll have a hard time convincing me otherwise.
Second, my final point was that it doesn't matter if 85 win teams are just as effective at winning the World Series as teams with 90 or more wins (and no, I don't believe they are), if 85 win teams almost never make the playoffs, just like you pointed out as well. 85 wins is next to worthless with respect to making the postseason.
So why shoot for 85 wins if it comes at the expense of seldom making a push for more? Because of our 'weak division', in which 85 wins captured exactly one division title in the last 10 years, and during which the Central champ averaged 93 wins? I'll take a pass on that strategy. But I agree with your final point!