Wednesday, July 23, 2008


In the game of baseball it often happens that the expected(best) team doesn't win their division instead succumbing to an inferior team. How can you actually prove and weigh each team and show which one is really better? By using a method called the Pythagorean Method. This method was created by Bill James in order to show the best team while excluding all variables and luck from the equation. It equates your runs scored and runs allowed and produces a win-loss record. This formula reminded him of the Pythagorean Theorem we all learn in school and that's why he called the Pythagorean Method. The formula is:
This method has been changed and perfected over the years and is now a lot better.

I did a little research and found that teams that overachieved their Pythagorean Records by 4 or more games, experienced a lot of dumb luck, had little to no success in the postseason. Like I wrote here, the postseason entails much luck. What this shows is that teams which experience a great deal of luck in the regular season have a smaller chance of succeeding in the postseason because of the fact that they've already experienced a great deal of luck in the regular season.

A few extreme examples of this are the 1997 Giants, the 2003 Cubs and the 2004 Yankees. The 1997 Giants had a sub .500(more losses than wins) Pythagorean Record but somehow they still managed to win 90 games which was ten more than their predicted(Pythagorean) record. The playoffs didn't go as well for them. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Series winning Marlins. The 2003 Cubs, well everyone knows what happened to them, cough...Steve Bartman...cough. The Cubs were supposed to have lost their division by 9 games but instead won it by a game, that's a ten game differential. The Cubs were then one win away from advancing to the World Series when Steve Bartman "interfered" with a foul ball. All the sudden the Cubs fortunes were reversed. The Cubs were winning 3-0 in game 6 with one out in the top of the 8th inning when this happened and then know Alex Gonzalez(their best fielder) makes an error on an easy play and then the next thing you know the Marlins were winning 8-3. Even going into the 7th game the Cubs should've won. Game seven's pitching matchup was Kerry Wood(2003 version) vs. Mark Redmon who do you think would win? Wrong, Brad Penny got the win. You can probably call this the worst possible thing that could've happened to a team in this situation or the least lucky thing and it actually happened.

The 2004 Yankees won 12 more games than they should've according to Bill James' Pythagorean Method and won the AL East. The Red Sox also made it to the playoffs that year as the wild card. These two rivals had a showdown in the ALCS. The Yankees were leading the series 3-0 and were leading game four 4-3 in the 9th inning with the most reliable closer ever(it's debatable) on the hill. The Red Sox not only won that game but then won the last 3 games to advance to the World Series where they swept the Cardinals. The Yankees having experienced a great deal of luck and success in the regular season then had luck turn against them in the postseason.

When receiving extreme amounts of luck during the regular season it's only fair if the exact opposite happens in the playoffs. What would you rather? The immediate taste of greatness(advancing to the playoffs) or the everlasting eventual greatness(winning the World Series).