Baseball’s annual encounter with randomness is well underway. I’ve already written about this – here and here. But the baseball playoffs allow revisiting the topic. Baseball is a sport where the best team loses almost as many games as it wins. Thus, a very large sample size is required to determine which team is the best. A short playoff series is no more meaningful than a coin toss.
In the 2014 regular 162 game season only one team won more than 60% of its games – The Los Angeles Angels. And what happened to them in the first round of the playoff? They lost three straight games to the Kansas City Royals. The latter had gotten into the playoffs by wining a single game elimination contest against the Oakland Athletics. The worst team in major league baseball could easily win a single game against the best team. The current playoff system essentially makes the regular season close to meaningless. It takes about 162 games for the best team to emerge.
Okay, I’ve beaten this point to death. But at least you’ve been alerted to the ridiculous interpretations the sports writers and and baseball personnel will spin on the outcome of these games. This what the manager of the KC Royals said after his team won its fifth straight game of this year’s playoffs: “These games, we’ve played so many of them that we’re kind of used to them a little bit,” manager Ned Yost said. “And we still have a lot of confidence.” It’s like having confidence that heads will turn up five times in a row – which it regularly will if you flip the coin often enough.