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The Bleacher Bums: October 25, 2005 Archive

With a little luck

Posted at 11:49 AM on October 25, 2005 by Bob Collins (21 Comments)

First this disclaimer: There's nothing -- absolutely nothing -- wrong with having good luck. On the other hand, there is something wrong with not acknowledging it's part of the reason for your success.

And, of course, luck is usually a part of everybody's success. The thing with luck, though, is that it's not distributed evenly and -- as most of us know -- it's not consistently available over time. You could, for example, flip a coin 10 times in a row and have it appear heads 10 times. But flip it enough, and it will appear heads as often as it appears tails.

A few years ago, the Kansas Royals were the talk of the American League. Behind new manager Tony Pena, they raced to an early season lead and it was the feel-good story of the early summer. The problem is, look beyond the 10 coin flips, and you could reasonably predict the 10 to come. Now it's true that if you flip a coin 10 times and it comes up heads, the odds of it coming up heads on the 11th are the same 50-50.

The Royals had a mediocre second half and the next year, they were -- once again -- horrible. This season, wunderkind manager Tony Pena was fired.

I bring this all up because of yesterday's entry on Scott Podsednik, and the feel-good story of the summer in Chicago -- that Scott Podsednik has remade this squad and the ChiSox were able to shake off the remnants of underachieving seasons past to race to a terrific division title and pennant and, now it appears, World Series.

I say good for them. And deepest sympathies on what's about to happen to their dynasty.

By noting the extent to which the coin appeared "heads" for the White Sox, it does not mean that they didn't have fine pitching or some good hitters (although, it should be noted, the number of runs scored by the ChiSox this year was pretty mediocre). It means that the talent they did have played to its expected (and beyond) potential, and they had -- wait for it -- a tremendous run of luck.

The undeniable reality of baseball is this: a win is made up of a run scored and a run not allowed. The degree to which those two items relate has been researched for years in hundreds of thousands of games and has been well established (a run allowed is slightly more damaging than a run scored).

But no matter. Nothing else matters but runs. If it exists, it can be measured in runs. If it can't be measured in runs, it doesn't exist (i.e. the well-worn team "chemistry" nonsense).

Taking the number of runs each team in the Central Division scored and allowed this year, then, we can predict a reasonable expectation of the number of wins the team would get. Try it. Take any team in history and take the number of runs scored (squared) and divide it by the number of runs scored (squared) and the number of runs allowed (squared). What's revealed is the expected winning percentage. Multiply that by the number of games played and, voila!

Here then is the 2005 Central Division.

Team RS RA Pctg ExpW ExpL Diff
White Sox 741 645 .569 92 70 +7
Indians 790 642 .602 98 64 -5
Twins 688 662 .519 84 78 -1
Tigers 723 719 .503 81 81 -10
Royals 700 935 .359 58 104 -2

I'd say two teams -- the Twins and Royals -- got exactly what they deserved. One team -- the Tigers -- should've won more games considering their team's production. The White Sox were well ahead of the game, and the Indians well behind.

So what can we expect from next year? Who knows. The Pythagorean method doesn't predict the future any more than you can predict the next 10 coin flips. But it helps analyze what happened.

I'm rooting for the White Sox because I think if they win several things will happen. First, the players will -- as most championship players do -- forget how hard it was and lose focus. Second, the management will throw big money around trying to keep the team exactly as it was in its championship year and , third, the odds of the coin flips will return balance to performance results.

So what to do? If you're the Twins, you wake up to the fact your team isn't that good and you stop trying to win with the Cuddyers and Jones and Fords and go out and get some quality hitters because nothing -- not even luck -- can help you now.

If you're the Tigers, you make some improvements and you can expect to be the feel-good story of 2006.

If you're the Indians, you figure out a way to sign Kevin Millwood, hope a rightfielder falls into your lap, and show up for every game.

If you're the ChiSox, you enjoy the rubber chicken.

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The sky's the limit if you have a roof over your head

Posted at 2:29 PM on October 25, 2005 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

Apparently Bud Selig is expected to decide personally that the roof of Minute Maid Park should be open for Game 3 of the World Series tonight. The roof has been closed for all the Astros home playoff games so far, as they have seen the greater crowd noise as a home field advantage, although they mostly decide based on temperature and rain. They have played better with the roof closed throughout the season, but Major League Baseball has the power to involve themselves, as they did the same to the Diamondbacks in 2001.

Seeing that lots of field maintenance goes on that tries to benefit home teams (such as short outfields for teams with big hitters, or angled baselines for speedy teams to bunt down), do you think it's right that the MLB front office has the right to decide if a park's roof is open?

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Poor, poor Dougie...

Posted at 2:39 PM on October 25, 2005 by David Zingler (1 Comments)

As far as Doug Mientkiewicz has distanced himself from reality, you have to wonder if he is angling for one of the upcoming vacancies on the White House staff. In today’s version “Between the Quotes” in the Strib, the erstwhile Twins first baseman begged the Mets to not pick up his $4.5 million option for 2006.

"I don't why they would pick up my option, but if they do, I might quit," he told Patrick Reusse. "I'm serious. I don't want to be back there."

That’s not even the best part, he also discussed a return to the Twins with the sour scribe, "I always thought Minnesota was a great place to play,” he clamimed. “After a year with the Mets, an organization that doesn't have a clue, I know that for sure."

Our beloved Douggie, who hit .240/.322/.407 with 29 RBI in 275 at bats in 2005, is the same guy who described a season that included a World Series Championship with Boston as “hell” and actually thought he was entitled to keep the ball used for the final out of the Fall Classic.

I know Justin Morneau had a sub par year, but do we really want this guy back?

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