Fall brings joy to a lot of people, what with the break from the heat of summer, the annual arrival of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and shoes, apple picking, and of course, the Fall Classic. This year, the World Series features the regular season juggernaut Boston Red Sox, and the perennial playoff participant, but never the winner, Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Red Sox have only lost two games this postseason, cruising past the Yankees in the ALDS and crushing the Astros and their co-co-co aces in the ALCS. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were on auto-pilot in the NLDS where they destroyed the Braves, before winning an epic battle over Milwaukee in seven games in the NLCS. The Dodgers were one win from winning the World Series last year, while the Red Sox last won the championship half a decade ago in 2013.
Every Friday, the political and sports analytics website FiveThirtyEight offers up problems related to the things we hold dear around here, math, logic and probability, in their popular Riddler column. When we get the chance, we enjoy checking out these puzzlers, and the solutions that oftentimes are the exact opposite of what you initially think!
This week, the Riddler offered up a problem relating to the MLB postseason and winning percentages, so we know we had to take a crack at it.
Wisdom of the crowd is more than the ill-fated television show of the same name. We have all heard the old adage, many minds are better than one, and this can be seen abundantly in nature. Across countless species, nature show us that social creatures, when working together as unified systems, can outperform the vast majority of individual members when solving problems and making decisions. Examples include bees, fish, and ants.
It should come as less of a surprise, then, that humans working together in tandem can efficiently converge decision problems, and even make accurate predictions. This theory of collective intelligence has been studied and analyzed for the past century to try and validate how, when, and in what circumstances it accurately and inaccurately predicts.
Let us go back to a simpler time, when the Astros had yet to win a World Series, the Las Vegas Golden Knights were preparing for the expansion draft, and the hype for The Fate of the Furious was taking over the internet. I am, of course, talking about March 2017.
In my last few posts in this series, I discussed my predictions and conclusions for 2018 MLB end-of-season win totals and playoff odds. However, I decided to step back in this article and examine how this methodology works in greater detail, as well as how it applies to a season where we already know the results, the 2017 season.
Last week, I released my updated end-of-season record forecasts for each of the thirty MLB teams. In case you missed it, I highly recommend checking it out here, as well as the first part in this series released in April, where I used the small early season samples to predict a more accurate “on-pace” record for end-of-season wins.
On Twitter, someone pointed out that my predictions weren’t very revolutionary, as they matched the same conclusions that can be seen on Fangraph’s Playoff Odds website. If you take the team with highest chance of winning each division, plus the next two teams with the highest wildcard probabilities, Fangraphs had the exact same playoff picture as I did, down to Seattle making their first postseason since 2001 by snagging the second wildcard, the Nats winning the NL East despite being 5.5 games back of first at the time of data collection, and the Brewers/Diamondbacks going 1-2 with the NL wildcards.