Monday, October 01, 2007

Odds and Ends

In the past I have attempted to predict the outcomes of the playoff series. This was always done in the spirit of fun, as all of my predictions are, but this year I have decided that it is not even fun. After missing on all four Division Series matchups last year, why bother? Predictions for a 162 game season are still fun. For me, it was a lot of fun this year as I had all four AL playoff teams in the proper spots, as well as the Phillies and the Cubs. I picked the Padres to win the division, so if they win today I will have seven of the participants, but only those six correct winners.

The point of that was not to brag about my accuracy, because heavens knows that I have been very inaccurate in the past (ex. I had predicted the last two AL pennant winners to run fourth in the central division). The point is that there’s a much better chance of being right if you can correctly judge which teams are stronger. It’s becoming cliché to say so, but the playoffs, like any five or seven game sample, are pretty much a crapshoot. You may be able to find characteristics of teams that make them more suitable for postseason play, but there is no one who can predict the outcomes with any appreciable degree of accuracy.

So since I’m not going to predict the outcomes, I can tell you for sure who I am rooting for. In order:

1. Indians
2. Yankees
3. Red Sox
4. Phillies
5. Padres
6. Rockies
7. Angels
8. Diamondbacks
9. Cubs

Of course it works out that my top two choices are going to square off in the opening round. I have no conflict, as the Indians are my hometown team and their 1994 Opening Day victory is what made me a baseball fan. I like the Yankees because they have an owner who is a huge fan of my alma mater; it’s no more complicated than that. If John Galbreath was still alive and owning the Pirates, I’d pull for them too.

In a similar vein, there is a mini-controversy in Cleveland right now about LeBron James. The King apparently likes to wear Yankees memorabilia and describes himself as a “lifelong Yankees fan” despite being a native of Akron. Some Clevelanders are upset by this.

These people cite things like a “lack of pride in Cleveland” as the reason for their outrage. Uh, what exactly in the heck is there to be proud about Cleveland? Cleveland is a declining, over-taxed city run by a bunch of nitwits like Dennis Kucinich and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones. The Cleveland metro area taken as a whole has a lot more going for it, but how many people actually root for a team because of civic pride? Maybe it’s me who is out of the mainstream here, but I the reason I root for the Indians and the Browns is because I was exposed to them at a young age, watched their games, etc. Then by going through that process, you develop loyalty or pride in that team. It has nothing to do with civic pride.

What is funny, though, is that many of the LeBron critics want us to feel obligated to root for the local team, but demand no such obligation towards our state and our flagship state university. Many of the critics root for our archrival, or are shockingly clueless about how big of a deal OSU football is in Columbus, and otherwise generally don’t show the same concern for rooting for the home team that they do with the Indians.

And yet, who is a self-professed fan of that university? That’s right, the evil Yankee-lover LeBron James. I’ll side with him over a bunch of self-righteous pro sports fans any day of the week.

One little sabermetric aside. This is not a unique insight that I have come up with by any means, but it does help to clarify a concept. If you figure a batter’s linear weights, what you are really in essence figuring is not how many runs he would add to an average team. What you are figuring is how many runs he would create on a team that was average once he was introduced into the mix. We all recognize that a batter changes the context of his team and changes the values of each event. By not incorporating that, we are really saying that the team will be average once he is there.

Of course, the changes that any one ordinary batter will make on a team’s weights is not that great, and so you can treat the LW figure as “runs added to an average team”, and proceed with analysis from that standpoint, and not go very far off-track at all. But that’s really not what you are assuming, and it’s always good to recognize the assumptions, even if they don’t matter (and in this case, they don’t particularly).

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