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.
No. No, they are not.
Wait, don’t go! Hear me out. And I still have some good news for any Red Sox fans out there at the end of this post.
In case you haven’t seen, the Red Sox are in the process of breaking baseball. Over the weekend, they swept the Yankees at Fenway in what could probably be a preview of the ALDS this postseason. As of this writing, on August 7, the Red Sox have a record of 79-34, for a winning percentage of 0.699. They are in first place in the AL East, with a 9 game lead over the Yankees, who just happen to have the third best record in all of baseball.
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.
As the dog days of summer continue to roll on, all thirty baseball teams have finally reached the informal halfway point of the season, and get a well-deserved break as the country focuses on the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. As such, I decided to see how my end of season forecasts have changed based on all of this new data that is available.
The Major League Baseball season has only been in action for around a month, yet some fans have already declared their team’s season as “over”. While this may be true for the Miami Marlins, how can we use statistics to see how a team’s start will affect their overall season? Many pundits simply say a baseball team is on pace to win and lose a certain number of games by simply multiplying a team’s current winning percentage over 162 games.
For example, here’s a silly article by CBS Sports that will be totally irrelevant come October: More than half of MLB teams are on pace to win or lose 100 games in 2018. That article was the inspiration behind this post; if you are going to make outlandish claims, at least use math to support it.