August 31, 2007 Leave a comment
We’re on the edge of September, which can only mean one thing for baseball. It’s time for bated breath, edge-of-your-seat pennant races. We’re at the (roughly) thirty-games-to-go point in the season, and there are a few nervous baseball fans out there.
Devil Ray Kool-Aid drinkers, I have news for you: It ain’t gonna happen. Hopefully, I didn’t crush anyone’s happy place there. But for those teams who are still in the hunt, how worried should you be about your team making the playoffs? Thanks to the magic of computers, I can tell you exactly how much you should worry. I swear, I’m not casting my eyes sidelong at anyone in Red Sox Nation. I swear. Oh for crying out loud, Boston, calm down.
First off, click here and view a wonderful page created by the fine folks over at Baseball Prospectus. Before I knew that this page existed, I was actually contacted by a gentleman who wanted to create something similar. He asked me for my mathematical advice on how to create such a model. With one or two minor differences, I suggested this model. The BP method takes advantage of the fact that computers can run thousands of simulations in a short period of time. The model starts from the current standings, and then runs the rest of the schedule in a simulator and bases the results on the two team’s expected winning percentage (based on their Pythagorean expected winning percentage.) For you stat nerds: they even sample a new winning percentage from a distribution around that expected winning percentage!
Let’s take a look:
Boston fans, the computer (running 1,000,000 simulations), says that in 93.8% of those universes, the Red Sox win the AL East. Yes, I read Summer of ’49. Yes, I saw the ads for “The Bronx is Burning.” Yes, I saw the piece in The Onion. I’m just saying that you can safely print your playoff tickets (in another 5.7% of those universes, the Sox were the Wild Card) and your AL East Champion t-shirts. Now, when you get into a short series, you’re on your own.
The computer likes the Indians (hooray!) in the AL Central, and the Angels in the AL West. Both teams are over 80% to win their divisions. In the NL, things are a little less sure. The Mets are about a 3-to-1 shot to win the NL East, the Cubs are at 65% in the NL Central (which as a friend of mine who cheers for the Cardinals said, will be decided by who doesn’t want it the least). The NL West, where the D-Backs currently lead by a game, is actually more likely to go to the Padres, according to the computer, with a 42-37 split between those two teams, but with the Dodgers having a 15% chance. The NL Wild Card is almost a total toss up between 5 teams.
As a psychologist, I like to keep people from feeling un-necessarily nervous. So, bookmark the page and check each morning how nervous you should be. See you in October!