Impenetrable rationality with apparent mystery

Boz is at it again. Even when saying something that is completely and utterly right - the Nats may be very successful over the next 3-5 years and never win a World Series - he has to play up some mythical angle. In this article it's about the "apparent rationality with impenetrable mystery" that is baseball. Thing is - that's backward. The rationality is not "apparent", it is in fact very real. The mystery is not impenetrable, it is in fact very explainable.

Baseball is so rational that if you gave me two numbers, just two, Runs Scored and Runs Allowed, I'd have like a 50% chance of getting a teams record within 2 games. I'd have a better than an 80% chance of getting it within 5. This is the case knowing nothing else about the team at all. The same applies to individuals. You give me a player's stats in his career, and I'll have a damn good chance of nailing his stats in any situation where he's had a lot of at bats. Playoffs, RISP, whatever. It's the fact that baseball is made up of repeated events over the course of a very long season that makes it entirely rational.

Entirely rational does NOT mean that events can be predicted with 100% accuracy. But that's not "mystery", it's variability. Calling it "mystery" is akin to thinking demons must be in play if a dice roll lands on a 1 because 2 through 6 was far more likely. We know why we don't know.  It's because we CAN'T know. That's the way the world works. But to me that's not mystery. A mystery is something we can't understand, that can't be explained. The fact that random chance plays into a baseball season ultimately ending in success or failure, that random chance dictates who would end up performing the best in a short 4-7 game period, is both understandable and explainable.

This is Boz getting better though.  Taking the fact we can't predict the exact way things will play out and making it into mystery is far better than making it into a statement on heart or attitude or chemsitry.

Other notes


In the past three years which MLB teams have won the most games? The Yankees, Phillies, Rangers, Rays and Braves. .... None has won a World Series. Only one, Texas, has even reached the Series. That’s what being a tip-top team in a multi-year window insures you: nada.
Correct final point made BUT why does he stop at the five highest? Because if you toss in the 6th you get the Giants and 2 more WS appearances (and wins) in the past 3 years.  Why does he look at the last 3 years? Because if you go to say 5 years, you'd run into both the Yankees and Phillies winning (and the Phillies and Tampa Bay losing). I'd say the take away is really "That’s what being a tip-top team in a multi-year window insures you : multiple relatively small chances at ultimate success. The more chances you have the better."  

Is Boz right? The Braves should have only won 2 World Series over those 14 pennant years? Well the math is fuzzy. What chance do you give the Braves of winning a single game vs team X? It should be lower than their overall win percentage because they are playing better teams. Then again it should be adjusted too for the pitcher being used.  But making some fair assumptions, I think 2 sounds about right.  I could crunch it, but I'm guessing they'd have been expected to be in around 5 WS and win about 2.

Boz says this: 
The NBA Finals have had 44 Most Valuable Players. Forty winners (91 percent) are in the Hall of Fame or will be. Michael Jordan won six times. Of 47 Super Bowl MVPs, 32 are or will be in Canton. That’s 68 percent. 
True but it's kind of an unfair comparison. In the NBA and the NFL the offense is in control of the ball.  In both cases you are going to go through your best offensive player as much as you can. These are likely to be high quality, if not Hall of Fame type players. In baseball it's much harder to do this on offense because you don't control the ball and the structure of the game is working against you. Your best regular hitter is only going to get a couple more plate appearances than your worst regular over the course of a series, and that's if they actually pitch to him. On "defense" baseball is limited by fatigue. Your best pitcher is probably only going to be seen twice, one mediocre outing and his MVP chance is likely done.

Since ’81, just seven of the 34 World Series MVPs are or will be in the Hall of Fame. We could debate a few borderline players.
Fine point but it makes it seem like it's a total crapshoot who wins it when in reality it's more likely a good player will win the MVP than a bad one.  Wonder why Boz starts with 1981? It's not because of the strike (would make more sense to start with 1982 in that case). It's because from 1961 through 1980 future HoFers won 14 out of 20 MVPs (and one of the other 6 was Pete Rose).  Just saying. Kurt Suzuki might win the WS MVP, but a smart man puts his money on Ryan Zimmerman.

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