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September 26, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Retiring the Sauce

by Colin Wyers

A few years ago, we introduced the concept of the secret sauce. It was designed to predict the odds of a team’s postseason success based upon the quality of their run prevention, using a team’s strikeout rate, the quality of their closer and the quality of their defense.

So how well has the sauce fared since its introduction? Prompted by some recent research, I took a look at how often the team with the best sauce won each series, from ’06 (the first season the Sauce was used) through ’09, and the result was only 54% success – not significantly better, statistically speaking, than flipping a coin.

The playoffs are notoriously noisy, of course – Billy Beane famously remarked, “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs,” and it’s easy to see why. You’re talking about short series between teams that are very evenly matched – as mismatched as any two playoff teams might be, there is no team as bad as the 2010 Mariners in the playoffs. So compared to the regular season, you’re dealing with a real crapshoot.

It’s possible that the Secret Sauce ran up against a few years where its performance was flukily low. But what we have is a model based on historical data that has thus far been ineffective at predicting results out-of-sample, which doesn’t give us a lot of reason to be confident in it going forward. So for now, we’re retiring the Secret Sauce.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we won’t be providing you analysis for the playoffs. This week, we’re going to start looking at the revamped PECOTAs, and one of the things we’re going to be doing is using PECOTA to give you an in-depth look at each team in the post season. Expect to see more about this as we unveil the changes in PECOTA and we get a clearer picture of the matchups we’ll be seeing in the playoffs.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Sure, go ahead, trample further the hopes of BP's Padres fans... all three of us (I believe three is correct... Normandin, Geoff Young, and me). Bad enough to take the weekly diss from Goldy and the Perfessor, now you simply extinguish a report we've dominated all year. Yeah... thanks.

Sep 26, 2010 12:04 PM
rating: -1

Make that 4 of us....

Sep 26, 2010 22:05 PM
rating: -1

what about historical secret sauce performance?

Sep 26, 2010 12:36 PM
rating: 0

Congratulations on recanting. It's not easy to do what's right.

I would hope though that the recanting isn't just due to 4 years' worth of post-season series but also some suspicion that the original research was a bit suspect.

Sep 27, 2010 06:39 AM
rating: 2
Luke in MN

As a Twins fan, allow me to offer my thanks. The Twins's postseason failures of the last decade have repeatedly been "explained" by sauce-inspired theories that have always smelled funny to me. Power pitching does not magically become a better way to win ballgames when the playoffs start!

Sep 27, 2010 09:44 AM
rating: 1
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Premium Article Transaction Action: Ca... (09/25)
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BP Unfiltered: Why the... (09/12)
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BP Unfiltered: After T... (09/29)
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The Week in Quotes: Se... (09/27)

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