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October 22, 2009

Prospectus Today

Outskipper'd

by Joe Sheehan

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It continues to surprise me that we can't get deep into a postseason series despite having evenly matched teams battling each other. The Phillies and Dodgers were the top two teams in the NL this year, and statistically, there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between them. In the NLCS? There was a hundred-dollar bill's difference. The Phillies outscored the Dodgers 35-16. They out-hit them by 60 points of OBP and 140 points of slugging. The Phillies drew 23 walks to the Dodgers' 12, with the converse of that being that their pitchers had a stellar 33/12 K/BB ratio to the Dodger pitchers' much uglier 33/23. The Dodger bullpen was supposed to be its one big edge: it allowed 14 runs in 21 innings, with a catastrophic failure in Game Four and a poor performance in a winnable Game Five.

The Phillies simply beat the Dodgers in every phase of the game. There's no Chase Utley foul ball, no Jim Tracy brainlock, no two-day-long sixth inning to point to and ask, "what if?" The series swung on a four-batter sequence in the ninth inning of Game Four that turned a 2-2 series in to a 3-1 Phillies lead, but Tim McClelland and Phil Cuzzi were nowhere to be found. It was just Jonathan Broxton making critical mistakes, and Jimmy Rollins making him pay for them in one devastating swing of the bat.

Even with the cheers from Monday night's dramatic win still echoing through the ballpark, last night's game didn't have an air of inevitability to it. It didn't feel like a coronation. Even after Jayson Werth gave the Phillies a two-run lead in the first inning with a three-run opposite-field homer, Cole Hamels didn't make 3-1 feel like 8-1 the way he did so many times last October. Hamels struggled with his location and left too many pitches up, giving up one, two, three solo homers. Hamels would be pulled after 4 1/3 innings with a three-run lead, a significant indictment of the pitcher who was the Phillies' MVP during last year's run to a title.

It was Charlie Manuel who was taking the role of aggressor on a night when Joe Torre played far too passively. With my comment about "every phase of the game," let's not forget the dugouts, where Manuel continued to manipulate his complicated and convoluted pitching staff as deftly as anyone named Martin or Herzog or La Russa, while Torre made just enough mistakes to put his Dodgers at a disadvantage. Once again, Matt Kemp and his tremendous ability against southpaws were relegated to the fifth slot in the lineup. Once again, Torre had chosen to push a left-hander back-this time saving Clayton Kershaw for a potential Game Six-in favor of a right-hander, Game Two hero Vicente Padilla. And on a night when Padilla put the team behind, in a game with days off before and after it, giving him a nine-man bullpen, Torre passed up an opportunity to take the lead and instead let a pitcher who had been on waivers 10 weeks ago to effectively end the Dodgers season. Torre allowed Padilla to bat with his team down 3-2 in the second, and after the inevitable out, Pedro Feliz made the mistake clear by hammering Padilla's next pitch into the right-field seats, giving the Phillies back their two-run lead.

It wasn't the last mistake Torre would make on the evening, but it was the one that put the lie to everything I have written about the man this postseason. Torre, the man who lifted Randy Wolf 11 outs into the first game of the Division Series, the man who has spent 14 seasons winning the game in front of him in October, got passive at exactly the wrong time. By the time Padilla was excused in the fourth frame, the score was 5-2, and it was over. Torre's greatest weapon in this series was his bullpen, and he went down with Vicente Padilla with the whole lot of them well-rested.

Even at that, the vision of Dodger pitchers warming up and not being called into the game isn't the one that will stay with me. No, when I think about the Dodgers' failures-Torre's failures-I will recall an isolation shot on Jim Thome, alone in the on-deck circle, studying Ryan Madson, just as he'd studied so many pitchers before hitting his 564 career home runs, including 23 this season. I'll think about a team down five runs with five outs to go, with the bases loaded, with a glimmer of a hint of a ghost of a chance against a bullpen just aching to be exposed. I'll think about the decision to let first Russell Martin and then Casey Blake try their luck against Madson, someone who, throughout his career, has been tougher against righties than lefties. I'll think about how, when you start the eighth inning down six runs, you just hope for the opportunity to make a big score with one swing, to make a game of it, to pull off a miracle. I'll think about that miracle never getting closer than that on-deck circle.

I watched last night's game with friends, among them Jay Jaffe, who says that no manager in baseball would have made the move I insist was so obviously the correct one. Perhaps he's right. I could only come up with one name, and after sleeping on it, I don't think even he would do it. But winning a championship isn't something you do by following the path of the other 29 guys. It's something you do by making the right move at the right time to win that game. The right move was to get Jim Thome and his power to the plate with a chance to make it 9-8 with the top of the order batting in the ninth inning against Brad Lidge. Maybe Manuel goes to Scott Eyre (which is why you hit Thome for Martin, rather than wait for Blake), and even if he does, well, that worked out in Game Two. But you don't go down with Martin and Blake without getting 564 home runs and a .557 slugging average to the plate. The entire reason you put Jim Thome on the roster is so that maybe he can get you four desperately needed runs with one swing of the bat. Whatever the considerable skills of both Martin and Blake, they were the wrong men for the job. Their failures are Joe Torre's failure.

Charlie Manuel did something Joe Torre would have done. Joe Torre did something any Joe could have done. That, perhaps as much as any ringing double or overpowering fastball or dazzling glove work is why the Phillies not just beat the Dodgers, but beat them in five games.

By reaching the World Series, the Phillies now separate themselves from the pack. They're the first team since 2001 to play in consecutive World Series (how's that for parity, kids?), and the first since those Yankees to win as many as five straight postseason series. They're 18-5 over two seasons, a mark no one's really come close to since the Yankee dynasty ended at the hands of the Diamondbacks. The 2005 White Sox were 11-1 in the playoffs, but didn't make the postseason in either season surrounding that championship. The Phillies have never once trailed in those series, and have never once faced elimination. I'll be the first person to talk about small sample size and short series and not making too much of three weeks of baseball, but within the context of the postseason, the Phillies' performance the last two years has been remarkable. The 1998-99 Yankees won 18 of 19 postseason games over two seasons, starting with Game Four of the ALCS, which is the last multi-year run we've seen of this nature. You can appreciate the performance without jumping to conclusions about it.

Those Yankee teams, of course, won the World Series in both years. The Phillies now have a chance to match that, and in doing so push their way into the conversation for NL team of the decade. If they do, perhaps it's time to think of the Mike Arbuckle Phillies in the same way that we do the Theo Epstein Red Sox and the Logan White Dodgers, the positive result of one executive's outstanding work over a period of years. Arbuckle is now with the Royals, but is the one man most responsible-more than Manuel or Ruben Amaro Jr., more than Cole Hamels or Ryan Howard, and certainly more than Ed Wade-for the team that finds itself four wins away from history.

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

Related Content:  The Who,  Joe Torre,  Phillies

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

BP Comment Quick Links

PhillyFriar

Alright, Joe, I'll take the bait. Who's the one manager who might have had the guts to pinch hit Thome for Martin/Blake in the 8th?

Oct 22, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: 1
 
Chomsky
(103)

Why would it take "guts" to pinch hit for a washed up, horribly slumping, 7-hole catcher who plays bad defense in a key moment in the 8th inning of the last game of the season?

Sounds like a job for "brains".

Oct 22, 2009 12:56 PM
rating: 4
 
drmboat
(754)

Technically, don't you have to get to back-to-back WS if you win 5 straight postseason series? I guess it doesn't make the sentence untrue, but the 'and' seems out of place.

Oct 22, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: 0
 
Chomsky
(103)

EXACTLY.

Although it was the shot of Thome in the dugout while Martin went up to "hit", before Thome even got to the ondeck circle, that caused me and mine so much instant impotent fury.

Oct 22, 2009 12:42 PM
rating: 1
 
Chomsky
(103)

Oh, and Jaffe is wrong.

Oct 22, 2009 12:48 PM
rating: 0
 
Chomsky
(103)

Hey Joe! Jaffe's now in agreement! See comments in his article.

Oct 22, 2009 13:31 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

"But winning a championship isn't something you do by following the path of the other 29 guys. It's something you do by making the right move at the right time to win that game."

Careful Joe--that sentence can be used to justify Joe Girardi's revolving door of pitchers and hitters.

Oct 22, 2009 13:40 PM
rating: 0
 
Brian24

I tend to agree that Thome should have hit there, but out of curiosity, if Thome got on and Blake then struck out, who would have been left on the bench to hit for the pitcher?

Oct 22, 2009 13:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Adam B.

Brad Ausmus, Juan Castro, and, hell, Randy Wolf.

Oct 22, 2009 13:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Brad Ausmus - who obviously would have entered the game had Martin been pinch-hit for - and Juan Castro.

Having played the Thome card and presumably gotten a positive result (inning alive two batters later), any manager who cared that his options at that juncture might be so awful would only have himself to blame for selecting such a craptastic roster in the first place.

Oct 22, 2009 13:51 PM
 
Chomsky
(103)

Yes!

But consider this, too. Thome hits for Martin, so Manuel goes to Eyre. That likely makes Manuel replace Eyre with .... Lidge, when Blake gets up? Torre could have made it very uncomfortable in that spot, daring Manuel to use Lidge in a high-leverage situation instead of cruising through a clean 9th with a 5-run lead.

Oct 22, 2009 14:03 PM
rating: -1
 
jtrichey

The one manager that would have done it is Charlie Manuel. In fact he did do it in game 4. Down by 1 with one out in the bottom of the 9th, Manuel pinch hit for Pedro Feliz with Matt Stairs. The pitchers spot was due up 4th in the inning overall, 2 spots after Feliz, but may have never come up at all if it were a 1-2-3 inning. I thought it was a brilliant move at the time (especially given Broxton/Stair's history) and paid off tremendously. Torre must have been in the shower with Manny when that happened.

Oct 22, 2009 13:43 PM
rating: 5
 
tooci4

That's what I was thinking, too, but I don't think that's what Joe meant.

Joe said that after sleeping on it, he doesn't think the one manager he thought of would actually make the move - so he can't be considering the Stairs-Feliz swap. Still, I think it's a very similar example and a good point.

Oct 22, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
3n2sports

Charlie Manuel might sub for Pedro Feliz, but would he sub for Casey Blake? Blake is a supremely more useful bat. Hitting for Feliz was obvious, I was begging for it to happen all while the phillies pitched, but hitting for Blake is decidedly less obvious.

But that's a moot point. Russell Martin was the Dodgers' Pedro Feliz. Hitting for him was just as obvious. He had a terrible series and it's tough to imagine how somebody with his athleticism could be so absent from an important series. His butchery behind the plate made it seem as though he was disinterested in playing.

Oct 22, 2009 14:42 PM
rating: 1
 
emanski

I'll say this, as a Phillies fan, the thought of Jim Thome coming to the plate in that inning, especially with a chance to tie the game with one swing, had the nerves all jangly. It's funny that it was such an obvious move to the other team, yet so apparently hard to see for his own manager.

Oct 22, 2009 14:44 PM
rating: 1
 
Joe D.

I don't care if you have to put Randy Wolf or Hong-Chih Kuo in the field, not getting Jim Thome and his approximately .380/.500 against righties in there against Madson in the 8th is a travesty.

That the chances of it making a difference in the end result were slim doesn't excuse Torre in this case.

Oh, and I would have had Broxton in there pitching the 8th/9th, too. I want my best in there, regardless of the score.

Again, likely difference maker? No, not by a long shot. But this is the end of my season, and I'll be damned if I don't throw everything I possibly can against the wall to keep it from being so.

Sad.

Oct 22, 2009 14:57 PM
rating: 0
 
JParks

It ain't gonna be against a righty. Madson exits stage left and in comes Eyre, who makes Thome look a lot like Martin.

Oct 23, 2009 05:21 AM
rating: 2
 
Chomsky
(103)

Thome had a 100-point OPS advantage over Martin in that instance (Thome v. LHP > Martin v. RHP). And tactically, bringing in Eyre to face Thome means that Manuel would have been forced to remove Eyre for Blake, who kills lefties. Who would Manuel have turned to there, Lidge? With men on base in a tight game? That would have been an uncomfortable moment for Manuel, but Torre blew it.

Oct 23, 2009 08:28 AM
rating: 4
 
Henry F.

I'd put my money on Ozzie Guillen being the guy, because he really doesn't care and is not afraid to call his players out for not performing.

Oct 22, 2009 16:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Duranimal

Ultimately, it probably didn't matter, but Torre's starting pitching decisions were awful. Wolfe should have started game 1, Billingsley game 2, and Kershaw game 3. No way they win this series without Billingsley pitching well, and Torre should have known that. I never seen a team lose confidence in a good pitcher the way the Dodgers did Billingsley.

If you don't get the Phils lesser hitters out, you're doomed, and guys like Ruiz killed the Dodgers.

Last, I think the teams were fairly evenly matched over the year, but Lee is the difference. If the Dodgers had traded for Lee, I thing the Phils would have been beatable. The lack of a true #1 is why I think the bullpen was burned out by this series.

Oct 22, 2009 17:09 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Q - Joe, is it an inactive manager? My thought was "Earl Weaver doesn't make that mistake."

Oct 22, 2009 18:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think Joe Maddon might.

Oct 22, 2009 21:52 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

That's the guy I named.

Oct 23, 2009 10:24 AM
 
Brian Kopec

Because the Phillies are the first team since 2001 to make consecutive World Series means that we have parity?

In an otherwise excellent article, that statement sticks out like a sore, puss-filled thumb.

Oct 23, 2009 06:10 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

We do not have parity in baseball, despite the endless yammering about it by the BP authors.

Ask the Pirates and Royals where the parity is.

Oct 23, 2009 06:35 AM
rating: -2
 
Brian Kopec

To be honest, the Royals and Pirates are not the best examples to give when griping about parity.

But, yeah.

Oct 23, 2009 06:38 AM
rating: 1
 
strupp

Would I get the same answer if I asked the Lions and Browns?

Oct 23, 2009 07:21 AM
rating: 1
 
gtgator

I don't know. But since 1994 (imposition of the salary cap) the Lions have been to the playoffs 4 times and the Browns twice (despite being around for only 10 seasons). If perfectly distributed, the "average" for an NFL team would be app. 6 appearances in those 15 seasons (12 spots/season x 15 seasons/32 teams).

But the Pirates and Royals (and Jays and Nats/Expos) are all at 0 playoffs in 15 chances. If perfectly distributed, the "average" for a MLB team would be app. 4 appearances in those 15 seasons (8 spots/season x 15 seasons/30 teams).

Oct 23, 2009 08:28 AM
rating: 0
 
redsfan1470

Don't forget about my Bengals - 1 playoff appearance from 1991-2008. (And only had 1 winning season in that period.)

Oct 23, 2009 09:05 AM
rating: 0
 
gtgator

I know.

I also know that the Reds have only had 1 playoff appearance in the last 15 seasons as well as the Bengals. Not a good decade and a half for Cincy fans.

At least the Bengals are currently leading their division, though, and might get that elusive 2nd appearance this season.

Oct 23, 2009 09:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Playoff appearances are never going to be anywhere close to perfectly distributed in any sport, particularly given the type of blithering front office idiocy that the Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Nationals and others have proudly put on display in the recent past, if not the present.

Oct 23, 2009 09:39 AM
 
gtgator

No. But is is amazing the number of teams closer to their expected average and the number of outliers in the salary cap sports (football and basketball) as compared to the number of teams closer to their expected average and the number of outliers in baseball over the same period of time.

Of course, those facts don't support all the arguments about "parity in baseball" so they are quickly brushed aside as being "irrelevant" in favor of such "objective" analysis as "blithering front office idiocy".

Now I do not wish to state that "blithering front office idiocy" does not exist in baseball. But it exists in other sports as well. So to use as the sole excuse for these teams pushes the limits of credulity when they also happen to be in the lower revenue group of teams.

Oct 23, 2009 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Payroll caps are an agreement among management to limit the cost of labor. They're generally achieved only when labor has been beaten soundly in a dispute.

Whatever effects they have on the distribution of talent are irrelevant to the desire to have them. If payroll caps *caused* competitive imbalance, they would still be a goal of management.

Restrictions on the labor market transfer wealth from labor to management, and that sports owners have by and large been able to sell them as mechanisms for competitive balance is a commentary on the owners, the fans and the media that so poorly understands and reports these issues.

This is Sports Econ 101.

Oct 23, 2009 10:33 AM
 
gtgator

"Restrictions on the labor market transfer wealth from labor to management, and that sports owners have by and large been able to sell them as mechanisms for competitive balance is a commentary on the owners, the fans and the media that so poorly understands and reports these issues."

Really?!?

Thru 2008 (http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/article/60965):
Football (salary cap) - players received about 59 percent of leaguewide revenue last season.
Basketball (salary cap) - players received about 57 percent of leaguewide revenue last season.
Hockey (salary cap) - players received about 56.7 percent of leaguewide revenue last season.
Baseball (no salary cap) - players received about 52 percent of leaguewide revenue last season.

So explain how the one non-capped league gives the lowest % of their revenue to players if caps are designed to transfer more revenue to the owners?

Oct 23, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Chomsky
(103)

Baseball has one thing those other sports do not: very heavy restrictions on the salary potential for players during their pre-arbitration years of employment. That is, there is a huge intermediation in the salary structure of baseball, to the owners' huge benefit.

Oct 23, 2009 11:58 AM
rating: 0
 
gtgator

I'll leave football out due to being a different beast thanks to non-guaranteed contracts. However, both hockey and basketball do have restrictions on player salaries the first few years. Depending on sport, 1st year players/draft picks are subject to either Entry-level contracts or Rookie Scale Contracts that cover from 1 to 4 years of service, depending on sport and age of the player.

These salaries are slotted and/or capped. Yes, the salaries under these types of contracts can be higher than for baseball during the 1st 2-3 pre-arb years, but they are still substantially below the average player salary for each respective sport and as such these sports also restrict the amount of money young players make - just as in baseball.

And for sports with app. $3B in revenue each, I find it hard to believe that the difference in degrees of restrictions would completely account for 5% of total revenue difference overall.

Oct 23, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Cause and effect. The caps are not exogenously put into place. Management will pressure for them harder when the payroll gets higher. Also, baseball has FAR more restrictions on the labor market early in players careers. That's the primary reason.

In general, Joe's assertion that labor market restrictions tend to help management is true, but that is definitely not always true. Certain kinds of restrictions cause positive effects for labor, for sure. It really depends on the market structure, but a lot of the time there are benfeits to other players as a result of restrictions on an individual player.

Oct 23, 2009 12:03 PM
 
BurrRutledge

Just to be clear, I think you're saying that the restrictions on a player's ability to negotiate their salary in a free market early in his career transfers that wealth to Owners. That's why we see a smaller percentage of baseball's 'revenue' going to players. It is apparently very effective.

However, if Owners were to add a "salary cap" on top of the restrictions already in place, then even more wealth would be transferred to Owners...

Yes?

Oct 23, 2009 12:59 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Mostly. An individual young player's restriction to negotiate with other teams before six years of service time transfers money generated by the player to the owners. And, yes, a salary cap that was binding would do so further.

However, there are some subtleties of the baseball market that would take an entire article to explain (and I may do this) whereby the existence of restrictions on young player's salaries in general creates a mechanism where baseball teams spend more money on salaries overall as a result of that restriction. In general, some labor market restrictions cause externalities that actually help the people who are individually restricted.

Oct 23, 2009 13:21 PM
 
gtgator

Except players would never accept a cap without a floor (well, they'll likely never accept a cap period, so this is likely all moot anyway). And there's no chance they would accept any system that would pay them less than the 52% they get now (though it may be distributed differently).

And if all sports owners are so bent on salary caps solely to limit the amount of revenue they pay to players, why are NFL owners seemingly OK with losing their cap in 2010 when they already pay the highest % of revenues to players? That "logic" does not compute.

Oct 23, 2009 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

I'm sure they got something else in negotiation that made it worthwhile, or the players had negotiated a high cap already. Are you actually saying that setting a maximum amount of money that will be spent on player salaries does not keep salaries down?

Oct 23, 2009 13:40 PM
 
gtgator

Any one individual's salary? Yes, I would say that would be most at risk of being kept down with a salary cap, though as with everything, if one GM believes a single player is worth 25% of his available cap, you can't stop stupidity with or without a cap.

But overall salaries? If the players negotiated a cap where they receive 54% of revenues (as an example) - and they get 52% now, then average salary is obviously going up - so overall salaries would be going up.

Oct 23, 2009 13:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

So what you're saying is they argued for a higher salary cap, they would make more money than with a lower salary cap, and that therefore you believe that salary caps make salaries go up. There must be something else you're going for here, right?

Oct 23, 2009 13:58 PM
 
gtgator

No, that's not what I am saying at all, I think (and to be clear, I have no idea who "they" are in your question - with multiple nouns in my preceding comment I'm sort of guessing at what you're asking).

Salary caps come with floors. Salary floors come with caps. I am not aware of a single CBA having a cap that does not also have a floor (and vice versa). If I'm a player, I'm not agreeing to cap my salary unless you guarantee you won't pocket the savings. And if I'm an owner, I won't guarantee to pay a minimum amount in salary unless I also get cost control.

As such, I am saying that salary caps (and more specifically salary floors) "force" teams to spend revenue on player salaries that they otherwise do not have to spend.

The absence of a cap (and therefore a floor) means that, outside of app. $400K/player and 25 players, no MLB team is forced to spend money on player salaries. And right now, the teams willing to not spend money (and not being forced to) are evidently outweighing the teams who are willing to spend money such that MLB players "only" take home 52% of revenue.

Now, what I am also saying is that, if MLB players negotiated a system that forced 54% of revenue (through cap and floor), overall player compensation goes up 2% of revenue. There are the same number of players receiving that extra 2% of revenue. So average player salary is therefore going up. The one negative to an individual's salary "might" be that no team is now willing to pay $25MM to a single player (hasn't stopped the NBA, but fewer players).

So, yes, I believe a cap (and floor) would overall raise salaries in baseball IF they based both on a % of revenue higher than the current 52%.

Oct 23, 2009 14:18 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

If caps do in fact always come with floors historically, that doesn't mean it was implied. A cap meant to be a ceiling.

That said, your argument is left to assuming that if the owners and players made a pact to force teams to give a higher % of revenues to players, they would therefore have left a higher % of revenues to players.

You cannot even assume that its more total salaries, because you can't assume that such a massive restructuring of the distribution of talent would necessarily lead to equivalent revenues. Suppose that the effect was drive down the Yankees and other big market teams' competitiveness in such a way that fewer fans came to games. The increased competitiveness of small market teams would probably not increase revenue enough to make it worthwhile-- otherwise, they'd be spending the money in the first place. So total revenue would go down, quite possibly.

Oct 23, 2009 14:51 PM
 
Justin

Yeah, because the only thing you ever hear out of Lions fans is how great it was to make the playoffs 4 times since 1994. Its parity forced by the unbalanced scheduling anyway.

Oct 23, 2009 09:52 AM
rating: 0
 
gtgator

Unbalanced scheduling - another overrated factor as to parity of the NFL:

From 2002-2008:

Going into 2008, guess who had the easiest projected schedule of all teams? That's right - the 16-0 Patriots. 2nd easiest? Their AFC West winning opponent in the AFC championship game - the Chargers. Including the 2008 season, here is some more data:

- Since 2002, of the 12 teams that entered the season with -- or tied for -- the toughest schedule, four actually made the playoffs.
- Since 2002, of the eight teams that entered the season with -- or tied for -- the easiest schedule, only one actually made the playoffs.
- Since 2002, the team with the toughest schedule based on previous season results has never had the toughest schedule at the end of the season.
- In 2008, based on projected schedule strength at the start of the season, 4 of the top 5 toughest schedules were to teams that ended up making the playoffs in 2008 (Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Minnesota). Conversely, of the 5 easiest schedules, only the Chargers made the playoffs (and were the only 8-8 team in the playoffs).
- According to Sagarin, the toughest actual schedules in 2008 were faced by Cleveland (10-6 in 2007), Cincinnati (7-9), Pittsburgh (10-6), Detroit (7-9) and Baltimore (5-11). Two of those teams made the playoffs this season.
- According to Sagarin, the easiest actual schedules in 2008 were faced by Buffalo (7-9), NY Jets (4-12), Patriots (16-0), SF 49ers (5-11) and Denver (7-9). None of these teams made the playoffs this season.
- And the worst team in football in 2007 (Miami at 1-15) had a harder schedule in 2008 both projected and in reality than the other teams in their division.

Oct 23, 2009 13:54 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I'll just keep repeating this: the 16-game schedule does more for parity, and the perception of parity, than anything else the NFL has. It's just a math problem.

Everything else comes in behind that factor. You can't compare 16 games to 162.

Oct 23, 2009 10:27 AM
 
gtgator

Basketball has 82 games. The perfect distribution of playoff appearances would equal app. 8 playoff spots the last 8 years (16 spots x 15 years/30 teams).

Yet, in baseball:
Teams within +/- 50% average expected playoff spots (2-6) = 17
“Bad” teams (0-1) = 8 (one expansion team)
“Elite” teams (7+) = 5

In basketball (82 game schedules):
Teams within +/- 50% average expected playoff spots (4-12) = 24
“Bad” teams (0-3) = 4 (one expansion team)
“Elite” teams (13+) = 2

In football:
Teams within +/- 50% average expected playoff spots (3-9) = 23
“Bad” teams (0-2) = 5 (two expansion teams)
“Elite” teams (10+) = 4

You can use the 16 game schedule argument for football. But 82 games are played in basketball and yet you still have more teams closer to the expected mean and fewer outliers (by % of teams) than in baseball.

And the "elite" teams in baseball? NYY, BOS, STL, ATL and CLE - with only CLE not consistently being among the top payrolls in their respective leagues during this time period.

Oct 23, 2009 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk

I'll repeat this from a week ago:

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Since 2000, the NFL has had 284 'team seasons', 108 of which went to the playoffs. That gives a shot of about 38% of making the playoffs.

So, of those 108 teams, 108 * 38% = 41 teams should have repeated in the playoffs. In reality, 49 of the 108 teams repeated, giving a p-value of .0714.

Since 2000, MLB has had 300 team seasons, of which 80 made the playoffs. That gives a shot of about 26.7% of making the playoffs.

So, of those 80 teams, 80 * 26.7% = 21 teams should have repeated in the playoffs. In reality, 40 of the 80 teams have repeated, giving a p-value of .00001.


How about the other way?

In the 9 seasons since 2000, the NFL has had 45 teams finish in the bottom 5. If the league was balanced so that teams could rebound quickly, those teams should have had the same 38% shot of making the playoffs the next season.

That gives an expected number of bottom 5 teams making the playoffs the next season as 17. In reality, 9 teams made it there. This gives a p-value of .0077.

For MLB, we have 10 completed seasons, so 50 bottom 5 teams. We should have seen 13 of those teams rebound to the playoffs, instead we saw just 2. This gives a p-value of .00003.

Moving out of the binomial analysis, the NFL has had 29 of its' 32 (90.6%) franchises make the playoffs in the last 9 seasons, while 21 (65.6%) have finished in the bottom 5 at least once. MLB has had 24 of 30 franchises make the playoffs in the last 10 years (80.0%) and just 17 (56.7%) franchises finish in the bottom 5.
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Based on the p-values, the NFL is so much more 'even' that it's silly to think it's such the schedule.

Oct 23, 2009 20:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk

"just the schedule".

Oct 23, 2009 20:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Parity doesn't mean that everyone gets a turn as a winner. Parity means that it is not terribly hard to build a winning team without spending more money than your opponents. MLB passes that test; the Florida Marlins are a proof all by themselves.

Oct 23, 2009 08:29 AM
rating: 0
 
kjgilber

Joe... how can you be surprised? One of your favorite rants is that virtually anything can happen in a short series.

Oct 23, 2009 06:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

That's the funny thing about parity. We want equal chances for everyone in a sport/business that by its very nature is competitive. Yet, would it be a true competition if, regardless of payroll, front office skill, major and minor league talent, that any team could win at any time? If the Pirates spend a few million on a Kevin Young and the Red Sox spend the same amount on a Kevin Youkilis, shouldn't that matter into who wins and loses? At that level, you might as well just roll dice instead of play 162 games.

Then there's the flipside of parity, which is monopoly. Baseball itself has some capitalistic traits where the better run organizations tend to win more often than the worse organizations. Yet, as my dad says, "The thing about capitalism is you're encouraged to compete, but you're not allowed to win." In other words, baseball wants to have some kind of balance where no team is able to form a monopoly and "always win all the time", but can transition enough to where last decade's last place Devil Rays become this year's contenders. In the 90s, sabremetric analysis was an edge that few teams had or considered. These days, teams have full-fledged sabremetrics departments. Similar to Moneyball, the next successful team(s) will be the ones to find and exploit the inefficiencies in the current market.

Oct 25, 2009 02:33 AM
rating: 0
 
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