Tuesday, May 29, 2007

50 Games In (Third in a Series)

by Ken Houghton

While Drek and Kim read The Onion in Tom's absence, I'm deep in the midst of a Secret Project (for which I am so late that it really isn't at all funny).

So I'm just going to post the third in the series of Why Mathematics Doesn't necessarily Produce Rational Results. (Part 1, not that anyone should care, is here; Part 2 was included at the bottom of this post.*)

When last we left our Heroes in Da Bronx, they needed to play .708 baseball (win slightly more than 7 of each 10 games) to reach the "expected" 110 wins. As they have not quite done exactly that, the results are, as they say, not pretty.

Fifty games into the season, the Yankees now need to play .795 baseball—win just shy of eight out of every ten games—the rest of the way to reach 110 wins. This would eclipse the best single-season record of any major league team in the modern era by more than 4%.

Indeed, they would have to play .683 baseball the rest of the way just to reach the bettors's expectation of 97.5 wins. Only the Red Sox, of the 30 major league teams, have managed to do that for the first almost-third of a season. (The Mets, who are generally viewed as the NYC success story of the Spring, are second overall at .660.)

Perhaps Rocket Man, now that we are fifty games into the season, will guide them to glory, but it really is now prohibitively Not the Way to Bet.

*It isn't, by the way, that I've lost interest in the hockey playoffs. While I still maintain that Jiggy's 2003 MVP Award was an abomination, the Ducks are a fun team to watch, and Ottawa are not slouches either. It's just that every game of the last round was on "Versus," which probably is available to, what, about 30,000 non-Comcast subscribers in the Western Hemisphere? The opening post-game declaration last night, "If you weren't a hockey fan before this game..." absurdly assumes that anyone else would wander into that area of the dial deliberately. (I suspect that the lack of Hogging from Scott and The World's Most Dangerous Professor is due to a similar reaction.)

As far as predictions go, either way I win: either the Devils lost to the Champions or—the way to hope, if not bet—Scott Niedermayer will prove that Lou Lamoriello should have kept him instead of opting for, say, Colin White in a cost-saving measure. So I'm going to root for the de-Disneyfied team that Brodeur nearly swept in 2003.

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