Monday, October 05, 2015

Crude Playoff Odds--2015

These are very simple playoff odds, based on my crude rating system for teams using an equal mix of W%, EW% (based on R/RA), PW% (based on RC/RCA), and 69 games of .500. They account for home field advantage by assuming a .500 team wins 54.5% of home games. They assume that a team's inherent strength is constant from game-to-game. They do not account for any number of factors that you would actually want to account for if you were serious about this, including but not limited to injuries, the current construction of the team rather than the aggregate seasonal performance, pitching rotations, estimated true talent of the players, and whatever Ned Yost sold to the devil.

These are the ratings that fuel the odds (CTR(H) is the team's rating with home field advantage included):

You'll note that the ratings love Houston much more than anyone else. thanks to their excellent EW% and PW%. The league disparity remains strong, with the average AL team (not playoff team) having a 107 rating with 100 being average. To the extent the ratings look odd, that is probably the largest driver; another is the fact that the NL East and West were the weakest divisions in MLB, so LA's SOS ranks 28th and NYN's ranks dead last. The Mets' average opponent is considered to be about equal to the White Sox; the Yankees' (who played the toughest schedule of any playoff team) is considered to be about equal to the...wait for it...Mets (actually, better than the Mets, 106 to 104).

The wildcard odds:

Very even matchups that actually slightly favor the visiting teams (remember, home team is assumed to win 54.5% if equal).

In the charts that follow, “P” is the probability that the series occurs; P(H win) is the probability that the home team wins should the series occur; and P(H) is the probability that the series occurs and that the home team wins [P*P(H win)].


The series I was most interested in without looking at any numbers was NYN/LA; while it still ranks as pretty competitive, it's the least competitive on paper other than TEX/TOR. Surprisingly (but thankfully), KC should have their hands full every step of the way, although obviously wildcards burning off their pitchers is not accounted for here.


The home team is favored in every LDS matchup, but that is decisively not the case here, with seven of the twelve possible LCS matchups featuring road favorites. This is due to the NL's top teams all hailing from the Central as the winner of STL/wildcard will be favored in any LCS matchup, along with TEX being considered the AL's weakest playoff participant but having home field should the wildcard knockoff KC.

World Series:

The NL is favored in just four of twenty-five possible matchups, namely those that feature the Rangers against not-the-Mets. STL is considered stronger than KC or NYA by the ratings, but home field advantage tips the odds to the junior circuit.

Putting it all together:

There's a 75% chance the World Series will be sufferable, which I think is decent. The AL has a 56.4% chance to win.

I lost a lot of Twitter followers last year by griping about the playoffs, particularly the Royals. So be it. The 2014 playoffs were the least enjoyable of my time as a fan. One factor was that the series weren't very good--there were a lot of sweeps and the like, until a terrific World Series. It wasn't extraordinarily bad in that respect, but there were fewer games than usual. There were a lot of very good individual games (at least until the World Series, which had an epic game seven that has washed away how blah most of it was out people's memories), but I'd prefer a better balance of series and game drama.

But what really irked me about the 2014 playoffs is how predictable they were. Many people praised the playoffs for their unpredictability, but I contend that in retrospect they were quite predictable in retrospect--the better team lost. Obviously the very existence of playoffs allows for the regular season results to be voided by short series results; too much so for my liking, as in my ideal world there would be four or two playoff teams (i.e. either 1969-1993 or pre-1969 format). The trend of history in every American sport is inexorably to further expand the playoff field.

I am fully aware of both of those facts--that short series often result in the lesser team winning, and that the playoffs are never going to be reduced in size. Accepting that reality does not, however, compel me to enjoy that reality, and I did not enjoy watching the better teams get beaten as a matter of course last October. I also find the style, attitude, and fan/media entitlement of the Royals to be insufferable, and thus I was particularly perturbed by the results.

At the risk of beating that dead horse, further points in my defense of my hatred of the 2014 postseason:

1. The better team almost always losing should not be what people mean when they say they like unpredictability in the playoff outcomes. That would involve the better team sometimes winning. It became very easy to predict (not with any assurance or confidence of accuracy in the moment, of course; I'm not suggesting the universe inevitably set the better teams to be defeated) the 2014 playoffs in short order after the horrid first set of games that saw three of four series go 2-0.

2. The Royals simply don't play the style of baseball I like. That's just my preference, not a sabermetric imperative or anything weighty like that, but I personally do not enjoy watching low secondary average baseball. Of course, the Royals started hitting home runs in the playoffs, so they were winning in large part due to the inverse of the narrative they were used to advance.

3. I don't begrudge anyone rooting for their team. Certainly I root for the Indians unequivocally when they are in the playoffs whether they are the best team or not. But it became really tiresome to hear about the Royals long playoff drought. I certainly do not believe that franchises are owed success thanks to fallow periods, but if I did, I would have started the list of worthy playoff participants elsewhere. After all, KC's drought was simply that they had gone thirty years without making the playoffs at all. They made the playoffs, they advanced from the wildcard round, they were in the playoffs. Why did that drought entitle their fans to more? The Tigers, Orioles, and Pirates all had longer World Series title droughts than the Royals. If people choose who to root for based on past suffering, the line should start there once you've advanced to the playoffs. There are a lot of fans of a lot of teams who have seen their teams make the playoffs multiple times and break their hearts once there, and they're supposed to pull for KC to win in their first shot? And while a thirty year playoff drought is excessive, a little bit of simple logic should tell you that given that there are thirty teams, thirty year world title droughts are not going to be even remotely remarkable in the future.

Hopefully this will be the last time I have occasion to rant about the 2014-15 Royals. May the Astros or Yankees do to them as they did to the Angels.

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