Against long odds, the final week of the 2009 regular season wound up producing down-to-the-wire excitement in both leagues, though for the most part, that excitement had nothing to do with stellar play. The Dodgers used a season-high five-game losing streak to keep the suspense regarding the NL West flag and home field advantage building for an entire week, with the Phillies and Cardinals failing to capitalize and the Rockies falling just short of overcoming a lackluster two-week stretch prior to their final sprint. Meanwhile, the AL Central has produced its second consecutive Game 163 play-in, this time due to a mad rush by the Twins and a collapse by the Tigers that may yet prove to be historic.From there I go on to illustrate the striking similarity in recent records between the teams that won the various rounds of the playoffs and those that didn't; the two differ by one win over 784 games when it comes to their records in the last seven games. I also go on to cite a quick-and-dirty study I did regarding the limitations of using recent won-loss records on future won-loss records, arriving at the none-too-controversial conclusion that full-season records are better for divining the future, and that Pythagorean records, which rely upon the underlying performance, are even better for that job.
Against this backdrop, viewers have been treated to writers, broadcasters, and in-studio pundits admonishing such slumping teams to pull themselves together as they pontificated on the importance of heading into the playoffs with momentum. The oft-cited example remains the 2007 Rockies, who won 13 of their final 14 regularly scheduled games, then a play-in and ultimately the NL pennant. Forget the fact that just one year prior, the Cardinals dumped nine of their final 12 before becoming the team with the lowest victory total ever to win the World Series—these experts certainly did. The question obviously arises as to whether there's truth to such conventional wisdom about whether late-season performance carries over into the playoffs. The answer is a fairly resounding no.
With the help of Eric Seidman, I pulled late-season records for every playoff team of the Wild Card era from 1995 through 2008, 112 teams in all. For each team, we recorded their record over the final seven, 14 and 21 games as well for September and whatever fragment of October remained. The results of Game 163 play-ins initially weren't included in either the "week" records (which didn't always coincide to weeks, but which were somewhat easier to gather) or the "month" records; including them didn't change the results substantially. Here are the correlations between the interval's winning percentage and first-round success:
Interval Corr162 Corr163 Final 7 .019 .016 Final 14 -.020 -.021 Final 21 -.042 -.043 Final Month -.028 -.028That, folks, is a whole lot of nothing, an essentially random relationship between recent performance and first-round success. None of the correlations even reached .05 in either direction, and six of the eight were actually negative... Here are the correlations between those winning percentages and overall playoff success as measured by number of series won:
Interval Corr162 Corr163 Final 7 -.043 -.049 Final 14 -.097 -.101 Final 21 -.119 -.121 Final Month -.112 -.115That's still nothing to write home about, and the slate is now uniformly negative, suggesting that, if anything, there's an ever-so slight inverse relationship between success in the final weeks and in the postseason. Perhaps that's because some of these playoff-bound teams are resting their regulars more often, or simply regressing to the mean after a summer of beating up on opponents. Even if we create a points system, doubling the value of winning the League Championship Series and quadrupling that of the World Series such that the same number of points are awarded per round, the magnitude of the largest correlation—for the final month, 163-game version—still doesn't get any bigger than .137, and it's negative at that. It's still essentially nothing.
June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]