Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why the Chicago Cubs didn't make it out of the NLDS

I once wrote a post about outcome and causation in postseason play.  I mentioned that the only regular season stats with any significant causation to winning in the postseason are a team's closers WXRL(this isolates the amount of wins a closer has saved for a team over what a replacement player would've), Defensive Efficiency(a stat which measure the percentage of balls in play that are converted into outs), and K Rate(the amount of K's your team averages every 9 innings). 

The Chicago Cubs are a unique case because they were second in the majors in DE, 5th in WXRL and first in K%.  How does this follow? How does a team that is supposed to win a World Series get swept in the first round by an inferior team? How is it that the Cubs haven't won in 100 years?

This is all very puzzling but there is always an answer to everything.  First off DE, WXRL and K% only cause about 15% of a win while the other 85% is all luck and variables.  So even if the Cubs finished first in all three categories they could still have lost the series because if you for sure win 15% of the time in a short series you'd win a total of .75 of a game which doesn't help. So the first reason is that anything can happen in a short series between two of the four best teams in the NL(it never really is but just for the sake of argument).  Reason two is that the Dodgers are motivated.  They would've lost the division without Manny.  Correction: Manny's motivated.  He wants to prove to baseball that he doesn't have to be a headache, while playing like an MVP in a new league and leading another team besides the Red Sox to the World Series(along with making a ton of money this offseason).  The point is an unmotivated Manny is scary, a motivated Manny could have a 1.200 OPS(On-Base% plus Slugging%).  Joe Torre wants to prove to everyone that he doesn't need a $200MM payroll to succeed.  By winning this year that's what he's doing. 

The Cubs had so much pressure on them that they couldn't succeed.  The Cubs need to play in a stress free environment and pretend like the playoffs are just a continuation of the regular season, Piniella being their makes this hard.  The Cubs never really hit a dry spot the whole season, their longest losing streak was 6 games and that was at the beginning of September when Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano were injured.  They were slowing down a bit in September and they were do for a losing streak sooner rather than later and the season was ending.  Who better to face than the streaking Dodgers.  The Dodgers finished off the slumping Cubs in 3 games.  A combination of a mental disadvantage, a slump well overdue, the Dodgers motivation and just plain luck overrode the best team in the MLB this year.  All this probably meant that the Dodgers had an 80% to 20% advantage with 77% luck going to the Dodgers and 8% going to the Cubs.  With that big of an imbalance it's easy to understand why the Cubs failed to beat the Dodgers.