Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Mathematician Looks at the Yankees, Misses the Pitching

by Ken Houghton

I wasn't going to blog about this, but it keeps coming up (this time as a link from the article Mannion cites here).

I have no love for the Yankees. But even I don't want to see them treated this badly in the popular press, especially not when it will likely become impossible by, say, 3/4 of the way (120 games) into the season.

(The full projected standings are here, for the curious. Note that their prediction requires that the AL be 16 games over .500 in Interleague play.)

I don't disagree much with Scott, who notes correctly that there are greater weaknesses in Boston and Toronto than in previous years. But when he says
The biggest caveat is that they have an old and/or injury-prone finesse rotation, but I think they'll win more than 100.

I have trouble getting around the first part of that to the second.

Last night produced the first win by a Yankee starter this year, six games in. But it's worse than that: last night was the first time a Yankee starting pitcher went more than five innings. (And the guy who went five, Kei Igawa, gave up seven runs.)

Now, I'll grant you that it's early in the season, but the pitching staff as a whole (hole?) is ninth in Batting Average and 10th in ERA. I don't care how many runs you score, that's a deep hole to dig out of.

Worse yet, the year they won 114 games, more than 60 of them were at home. (114-54 = 60 from this table.) A roster with three aging right-handed starters (Rasner, the youngest by far, is 26) is not built to win 3/4 of its home games.

Could they end up 30 games over .500 (96-66)? Possibly. Forty over (101-61)? If the breaks all go their way. Fifty over (106-56)? Not the way to bet.

The oddsmakers put the Yankees at an Over/Under of 97.5 wins. Bukiet is predicting 12.5 more, almost a 13% increase.
While Bukiet is the first to admit he’s not a baseball expert, in five out of the past six years, he says that his model has produced more correct than incorrect predictions.

“I thought it was neat that you can do just as well as the so-called experts,” he said.

We'll see. It just remains Not the Way to Bet.

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