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It is a remarkable thing, really, this run of the Braves. Not for their dominance, heavens no, though that is obviously impressive. What is remarkable is how they can be so dominant for six months out the year, for 12 years running (including the strike-shortened 1994 season), but then come up short, year-after-year, save for one, in 1995. At some point you must dismiss the failures as simply more than being bad luck. Conventional wisdom holds that anything can happen in a short series, and with the advent of the Wild Card, it’s that much more likely “inferior” teams like the Phillies and Padres and Giants and Marlins will knock off a “superior” Braves club. On the other hand, if it’s possible for any team to emerge a World Series champ, how do you explain the Yankees run? If we follow that logic, why didn’t the Orioles or Indians or Mariners or A’s knock them off? Forgetting about payroll issues for a moment, if it’s simply bad luck the Braves have only one title in their run, is it simply good luck the Yankees have four in the same time frame? Where do you put the blame for the Braves’ failures? On Bobby Cox? John Schuerholz? The players? A hybrid of the three? This has been asked a million times, but because it’s never been answered satisfactorily, let’s ask it again: How can a team that has had, over the years, Chipper Jones, Terry Pendleton, Fred McGriff, Ryan Klesko, Brian Jordan, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, et al, managed to win as many World Series titles in the last 12 years as the Marlins, Twins, and Angels?

In the past, many people have said the blame lies with the overall structure of the Braves. They are not geared for the playoffs, the pundits say, but are designed with a 162-game season as the primary objective. In that regard, as we have seen, the Braves are an unqualified success. For comparison’s sake, let’s turn to a team that has enjoyed regular-and post-season success: the Yankees. I will not cover the last three Yankee teams, because they truly were “purchased” in a way the teams before were not, and because in two of their title-winning years they sent the Braves home.

So, again putting payroll restrictions aside, how were the 1996-1999 Yankees constructed? If the Braves were, in fact, built for 162 games, can we say with any sort of accuracy the Yankees were not? In all the notoriety of the Yankees recent payroll bingeing, largely forgotten are these 1996-1999 teams—the ones that didn’t have Mussina or Mondesi or Matsui or Giambi or Rondell White or Clemens (he was there in 1999, however) or Contreras or Weaver or Ventura or Zeile or Hammond or Karsay or … well, you get the point. Sure, these teams had their mid-season acquisitions—David Cone, Cecil Fielder, et al—but they also had Mariano Duncan, Ruben Sierra, Scott Brosius, Joe Girardi, Luis Sojo, Chad Curtis, Jim Leyritz, Gerald Williams and others play key roles on the team. And, of course, the Bronx Bombers had their stable of home-grown talent, and players they traded quality players for, which any team could have had: Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson, John Wetteland (you think Billy Koch was a nightmare???), Paul O’Neill, Ramiro Mendoza, et al.

Before they joined the Yankees, either via trade or as a free agent, the role players—the Duncans, Leyritzes, Sojos of the baseball universe—were available to every team in the majors. Paying Steve Karsay $6 million and signing Jon Lieber, for example, are clearly luxuries most teams can’t afford, and the depth the Yankees have now is obscene. It wasn’t always like this. Yes, they still had the dough for the big-ticket guys like Cone and Bernie Williams, but it’s quite a stretch to call Duncan, Sojo, Curtis, Gerald Williams, or Girardi luxuries. As I said, anybody could have had those guys; they came to the Yankees, and for whatever reason, it worked. Quite simply, the Yankees’ teams from 1996-1999 had a bench, the Braves did not. But while that is one reason for the Yankees post-season success, it is but a small one, and at any rate it does not fully explain why the Braves failed.

Back to the assumption that the Braves have failed because their teams were built for the “long run.” The numbers from 1996-1999 simply do not bear it out. (And it’s even more apparent when we look at the entire time frame of the Braves’ run, which I do later.) Below is a chart which shows where the Braves and Yankees ranked in their league in key categories.

Wins Runs OBP Slug ERA Result
1999 98 3 2 5 2 Won WS in 4 (Braves)
1998 114 1 1 4 1 Won WS in 4 (Padres)
1997 96 9 1 5 1 Lost ALDS in 5 (Indians)
1996 92 2 3 9 5 Won WS in 6 (Braves)

1999 103 7 9 4 1 Lost WS in 4 (Yankees)
1998 106 4 4 2 1 Lost NLCS in 6 (Padres)
1997 101 3 4 2 1 Lost NLCS in 6 (Marlins)
1996 96 4 4 2 1 Lost WS in 6 (Yankees)

Statistically, there is very little difference between the two teams. The Braves have an edge in pitching, but it’s not that big, since in two years the Yankees led their league in E.R.A. (and other peripheries, which are not shown here). What is more important is that it is fairly obvious the Braves were not an incompetent offensive team, with the exception of the 1999 season. (As we will see later, this is the beginning of the Braves’ offensive problems.) The one year the Yankees had a mediocre offense—in 1997 they were just ninth in runs scored—was the one year they didn’t win the World Series. But in 1996, they were third in OBP but just ninth in slugging, suggesting there was some luck, or as the old-timers say, “clutch-hitting” involved. Nonetheless, in 1996 they also were just fifth in E.R.A., but were still able to beat the Braves in six—after dropping the first two games at home. Thank you, Mark Wohlers.

Obviously the 1998 Yankee team was astounding, but I challenge anyone to find a player on that team who had a career year. But the Braves were hardly slouches that year, either: they won 106 games, and they were fourth in runs and OBP, and they were second in slugging, in addition to their usual domination in the pitching arenas. Whereas they lost in six games in the NLCS to the Padres—who won 98 games, were eighth in runs scored, ninth and seventh in OBP and slugging, respectively, and third in E.R.A—the Yankees swept the Padres to make their legitimate claim as the best team ever. To repeat: statistically, with the possible exception of the 1998 Yanks, there is little or no difference between the two teams in the four-year period. The main one, of course, and the only one that matters, is that the Yankees took home three titles, while the Braves gleaned a few ducks, a quail or two, and the random possum.

While it is difficult to find an obvious reason why the Braves didn’t win a title during the same time the Yankees won three, recent history is much clearer. The Braves of late have had an anemic offense. And the inability of Schuerholz to pick up a bat down the stretch, when clearly he could have done so, has been well documented. Check out these gruesome numbers.

Year Wins Runs OBP Slug ERA Result
2002 101 10 9 9 1 Lost NLDS in 5 (Giants)
2001 88 13 10 12 1 Lost NLCS in 5 (D-Backs)
2000 95 6 5 9 1 Lost NLDS in 3 (Cardinals)

As you can see, the Braves have struggled to score runs the last three years, to put it mildly. But, as we also can see from the years 1996-1998, that hasn’t always been the case. Let’s go back even further, to the early years of the Once-and-Future Dynasty That Never Was.

Wins Runs OBP Slug ERA Result
1995 90 9 10 4 1 Won WS in 6 (Indians)
1993 104 3 5 5 1 Lost NLCS in 6 (Phillies)
1992 98 3 5 5 1 Lost WS in 6 (Blue Jays)
1991 94 2 2 3 3 Lost WS in 7 (Twins)

Simply put, with the exception of the 1995 team, these Braves could get runners on base, they could move them around via extra-base hits, and, most importantly, they could score them. None of these teams ever led the league in runs scored, but of the four Yankees teams I looked at, only the 1998 team led the AL in that department. Ironically, it is the 1995 Braves team—which ranked 9th in runs, 10th in OBP, and 4th in slugging—that won their only World Series title. A beautiful game, baseball.

Meanwhile, as all the charts show, the Braves pitching has been phenomenal. You have to go all the way back to 1991 to find a non-strike year when the Braves did not lead the NL in E.R.A. Their peripherals—strikeouts, home runs allowed, etc.—are nearly as dominant. And it isn’t just the starters. Year after year, the Braves are able to dig up effective, and usually cheap, relief pitchers: John Rocker, Darren Holmes, Kerry Ligtenberg, Hammond, Mike Remlinger, Mike Stanton, Mark Wohlers, Brad Clontz, Greg McMichael, Alejandro Pena, Mike Bielecki, Mike Cather, Kevin McGlinchey, Russ Springer—the list is almost endless. Even guys with long histories of arm injuries—Springer and Bielicki, for example—somehow keep it together and pitch well in the process. (As an aside: The Braves knack for finding talent in the bullpen is unmatched, which makes their decision to keep Smoltz in the bullpen, and give him $10 million per to do so, all the more puzzling. The only reason must be the same as the Blue Jays keeping Kelvim Escobar out of the rotation: fear of injury. Smoltz himself has expressed interest in returning to the rotation.)

Despite all this pitching, the Braves have but that one ring, and that was the year, if you were going to pick one, where the Braves shouldn’t have won because of their lackluster offense. One of baseball’s sacred cows is that pitching wins in the playoffs and good pitching will always beat good hitting. Of all the bunk flying around, to me this is the biggest fallacy around. If it’s true, the Braves would have won four or five Series titles.

Which brings us back to the original question: why haven’t they? The easy answer is to say the Braves are built for the long run and in a short series anything can happen. If this was true, we would expect more than one title from Atlanta, and we would expect at least one fewer from the Yankees. Further, the numbers simply don’t bear it out, especially when you consider the Yankees, before their real free-agency lunacy, won basically the same way the Braves did: excellent pitching and an offense built around walks and power. Perhaps, then, another easy answer emerges: it is Bobby Cox’s fault. I am not inclined to believe this one, either, however. From all appearances, Cox is a player’s manager. If the guys are going to play for him in the regular season, they’re going to do it in the post-season. And he may make some curious in-game decisions, but surely that alone can’t explain the one title in 11 chances.

Here is where the non-scientific aspect of the game comes in. For better or worse, we all see a lot of Braves’ games. The one thing that stands out for me—other than the expanded strike zone for Maddux and Glavine—is the lack of passion shown by the Braves. There is something to be said for professionalism, but, as the Angels showed last year—and as the Twins and Blue Jays and Phillies (though they didn’t win a title, either) and Marlins showed in their World Series runs—there is also something to be said for having fun. The Yankees don’t exactly do the Lindy Hop all the time, either, but in this recent run they have had some passionate, emotional, and colorful players. Among them: O’Neill, Orlando Hernandez, Jeter, Sojo, Curtis, Nelson, Cone, David Wells, Leyritz, and, though he’s a jack-ass, Clemens. The Braves rarely look like they are enjoying themselves; they strike me as being too tense, too uptight: it seems they are letting the pressure get to them. Think about it: who on the Braves has been colorful or has looked liked he’s having fun? Rocker was colorful, to say the least, but obviously not the way Cone, for instance, was colorful. Klesko and Jordan played their butts off and looked like they were having fun, but the list is a short one.

One or two post-season failures I could chalk up to chance. Three or four, I’m still willing to go that route, but the road is bumpier. Five or six failures will take a gifted apologist to convince me it’s still random. But 10? Maybe what the Braves need to do is go 86-76, sneak into the playoffs, and face a team that has won 107 games. Maybe then, when the pressure is off them, relatively, they can snare that elusive second World Series title. Or maybe not. The Braves have had a brilliant manager and a pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, who keep their pitchers healthy and can cobble together a bullpen; overall the team has had a philosophy of walks and power (with the exception of the last three years or so); and they have had three of the best pitchers of their generation. But they haven’t been able to win when it counts. Rather than say it’s random chance or, to be more specious, blame Bobby Cox, maybe, to use an anachronism, it’s because they simply don’t know how.
A not-so-Brave world | 21 comments | Create New Account
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Coach - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 09:08 AM EST (#97000) #
The Braves rarely look like they are enjoying themselves; they strike me as being too tense, too uptight: it seems they are letting the pressure get to them. Think about it: who on the Braves has been colorful or has looked liked he’s having fun?

Bobby Cox, in the piece I linked to yesterday: "Say you worked in an office with 30 other people and there were no rules: How would you like that?"

Me, trying to answer Cox and Gitz at the same time: Rule #1 on every team I've ever coached, and the ones I enjoyed playing on, was "have fun." Happy players succeed; tense players fail and place blame. If creativity and spontaneity are encouraged in anyone's office, and you need an IT guy, let me know. The reason I'm a consultant and not an employee is the corporate environment Cox imposes on his dugout; if I ever find a 30-person workplace where no rules were needed because of mutual respect, that would be perfect.

By itself, this doesn't explain the Braves' repeated "failures" on the biggest stage. Jason's comparison to the Buffalo Bills is valid, even to the point that neither team gets the respect they deserve, because of the unfortunate "choker" label. (Why do Bud Grant's Vikings get a pass on this? Just wondering.)

The only baseball-related explanation I can offer is the offence being built around one guy, or two at the most. Unless that guy is Bonds, it's a recipe for disaster. I enjoy getting on "Larry's" back as much as I hate the chant and the chop, so maybe I'm biased, but if you contain Chipper -- easier in a short series than for 162 straight days -- who's going to hurt you? (Yeah, I know Sheffield was supposed to fix the Klesko mistake, but he just cancels out Vinny Castilla). One of the reasons for the Angels' looseness last fall was a belief that everyone and anyone might contribute at any moment. Leads to 2-out rallies and 10-run innings. The Yankee championship teams could also pick each other up.

If an opponent knows they only need three runs to win, they can (and do) take a more disciplined approach at the plate in October than in May. Despite Cox's contention that "professional" players should get "up" for every single game, it seems like every year, a team seizes the opportunity to increase their focus against the great pitchers, scratch out a few hits, and beat the Braves at little ball. The Giants hit .247 eliminating them in 2002 (Lofton and Bonds produced; Glavine sucked) and the year before that, the D-Backs knocked them out in five with a .607 team OPS!

The Braves' run may be over now anyway; I think the East is too competitive to produce the wild card in 2003, and the Phillies can win the division. If Atlanta does sneak in, even through the back door, St. Louis, Arizona and the Giants obviously know how to beat them (3-2) and so could the Dodgers. There's another NL city where disappointment reigns; on paper, I like Houston (again) but this makes me curious -- does anyone else think of Jimy Williams as a Cox clone? He does have a similar bridesmaid's record wherever he goes.
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 09:14 AM EST (#97001) #
On this issue, I fall completely into the 'short-series-anything-can-happen' camp. Look, eight teams go into the postseason every year and only one comes out a champion. How many championships should the Braves have won in all that time? The calculation I always do is:

chance of winning a championship x times in postseason = # of expected WS championships

which you calculate differently pre-wild card, giving us:

0.25 x 3 + 0.125 x 8 = 1.75 WS

Those are just rough numbers; obviously, if you're the best team in the league, your odds that year are better than 1/8. Since the Braves have often been a team of great puissance, we can adjust that number upwards a little. But I don't think we could adjust it up around 2.5 WS; not in baseball. So a good estimate of how many WS they should have won, I think, is 2. They won 1. Does that mean there's anything really for them to complain about? I wouldn't think so; I think it just means they had a bit of bad luck. It's like they underperformed their Pythagorean by a few games.

(If there's one Series that the Braves lost that they could have won, it's probably the '91 Series, just because it was so close right down to the last pitch.)

I grant you that this same analysis doesn't explain the Yankees. They've been to the postseason every year since, what, '95. Their expected number of championships is therefore 1 (maybe we could adjust that up closer to 2 because of the strength of their teams). They won 4. So what can you say? They came through and the Braves didn't, as much. I don't think there's any specific reason for this; I think it's just what happened.
Craig B - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 09:49 AM EST (#97002) #
The Braves' postseason record in the Cox era has been 58-55, a .513 record against the best teams in baseball each year. It's probably the equivalent of winning 57 to 58% of your games against .500 teams.

I think that's a very good record, if not as good as their regular season accomplishments, which include winning over 60% of their games. The Braves have come up short in the playoffs of their regular season performances, but have still performed well.

The Yankees' recent run has been utterly remarkable, a fantastic run of success for which they deserve to be lauded. But no team, not even the Yankees of 2001-2002 (2003?), deserve to be compared in a negative light to those Yankees of 1996-2000.
_Mick - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 09:55 AM EST (#97003) #
I realize this is heresy in many baseball camps, but have we just considered the possibility that the American League is better than the National League? Not enormously, but enough so to account for the fact that the A.L. has won eight of the last 11 World Series played?

In the 28 years prior to that, the World Series was 14-14, with the victorious leagues doing a pretty fair run of alternating (see this site for a table with colorful green bullets which illustrates this point).

Go any further back and you get into the Stengel Yankees.

I know, it doesn't account for the fact that the Braves have lost in the playoffs before getting to the World Series in six of those 11 years. But while I haven't run the numbers, I would guess that using Matthew's formula would show getting to the series five of 11 times, especially factoring in the multiple round playoffs of more recent yore, is extremely impressive ... then you get the AL/NL factor.

I have not factored in the long-running argument about whether or not it's "easier" for the AL to adapt to playing without a DH than it is for the NL to adapt to playing with one or vice-versa. Though the AL has a slight 16-13 edge in WS play since the dawn of the Ron Blomberg Era, you could guess that the AL has gotten "better" in recent years at figuring out how to use the DH to its advantage, given more experiences with it, and of course, the 16-13 number doesn't take into account the fact that the DH is/is not used at the game level, not the series level. (Which is idiotic. But I digress and opine.)
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 10:18 AM EST (#97004) #
The one thing that stands out for me—other than the expanded strike zone for Maddux and Glavine—is the lack of passion shown by the Braves. There is something to be said for professionalism, but, as the Angels showed last year—and as the Twins and Blue Jays and Phillies (though they didn’t win a title, either) and Marlins showed in their World Series runs—there is also something to be said for having fun.

I found this comment interesting. The spin put on the '93 Series was that the Phillies were the fun-loving free spirits and the Jays were the sober professionals. The beer kegs versus the briefcases. I recall after the Jays won Game 1 one of the game accounts started with a statement like, 'It turns out there were blackjacks in those briefcases after all.' Which doesn't invalidate anything you said, of course, but if it isn't a counterexample it is an alternate view.
_rodent - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 10:50 AM EST (#97005) #
Nice essay, JMG. When Bobby was in Toronto he used to bust the occasional toilet bowl just for emphasis. Perhaps the Braves' "office" could use some drama.

Coach: Bud Grant was the greatest of Golden Gophers and Minnesota's Athlete of the Half-Century. He gets a pass as a noble-northern-underdog-home-town boy.
_Gerry McDonald - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 11:47 AM EST (#97006) #
Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz have been the cornerstones of the pitching for Atlanta for years now. Maddux and Glavine in particular have not been as succesful in the post-season as they have been in the regular season. The post-season W-L records for the big three are:

Glavine 12-15
Maddux 11-13
Smoltz 12-4

I would place Glavine and Maddux in the control pitcher/soft-tosser camps. In the post season you are generally facing better quality lineups and hitters who are concentrating 100% on the job at hand. During the regular season hitters are aware of the pitchers tendencies but might still think they can get 'their' pitch. In the post-season the hitters pay (more) attention to scouting reports, know not to chase the pitches six inches off the plate, and generally force Glavine and Maddux to be more around the plate.

Put me in the "soft-tossers don't dominate in the post-season" camp.
_Glen Livid - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 12:43 PM EST (#97007) #
Great work John, but I think Gerry has hit the nail by "zoneing" in on the 3 key starters. We all know about the generous strike zone that propels Maddux and Glavine. My theory is that come playoff time 2 things change: firstly the playoff umpires are less intimidated by the dynamic duo and secondly the other playoff teams are countering with aces of their own. If Maddux were to face say Matt Morris or Kevin Brown then surely an ump would be less inclined to "give" Maddux strikes, or at least also "give" them to the other ace. By not getting their calls Maddux and Glavine grow frustrated and are forced to pitch around the dish - something they are unacustomed to doing. I don't believe Smoltz got the calls that his peers did (in the regular season) and thus he suffered a better fate than they did come playoff time. Note that Smotlz has 16 playoff decisions to the 51 of the other two.
Dave Till - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 01:30 PM EST (#97008) #
Off the top of my head, I can think of two reasons why the Braves haven't won more than one World Series:

1) Luck.
2) Jeff Reardon.

As a test of the luck hypothesis, I tossed a coin seven times before writing this post. (No one can ever accuse me of not researching my posts thoroughly. :-)) The results (H=heads, T=tails) were HTHTHHH.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that T represents a postseason series win and H represents a postseason series loss, and that my coin-based team has gotten into the postseason every year. My coin flips would translate into the following results:

2002: lost Division series
2001: lost Division series
2000: won Division series, lost League Championship series
1999: won Division series, lost League Championship series
1998: lost Division series

Clearly, my coin lacks the intestinal fortitude to even make it into the World Series, let alone win it! (Mind you, it is a Canadian quarter, which might explain everything.)

As for the Reardon factor: the Braves would have won the 1992 World Series if Jeff Reardon hadn't given up a game-winning home run to Ed Sprague in game 2. The Braves were up 1-0 going into that game, and had a 5-4 lead entering the ninth. I don't think the Jays would have been able to come back from 2-0 down.
Gitz - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 02:06 PM EST (#97009) #
I see some great explanations above, but I'm still seeing "luck" as one. Sorry, kids, that's the one that simply doesn't hold after this many years. As for Jeff Reardon blowing the Series one year, you could look back every year and find one moment that cost a team the championship. Playing the "what if" game is a never-ending trap. If Luis Gonzalez doesn't bloop that single to center field, the Yankees would have had four in a row. If Sandy Alomar -- Sandy Alomar! -- doesn't go yard against the best relief pitcher in the game, they could have won five in a row. If Derek Jeter wasn't backing up on that relay throw that nabbed Jeremy Giambi ... and on and on we could go with that list. Over an 11-year span, you would think some of the bad breaks would even out, and that instead of Reardon or Mark Wohlers giving up clutch homers, it would be a Braves opponent. For the most part, that hasn't happened. Would it if the Braves made it to the playoffs 11 straight years again? Perhaps. I'd have to see it to believe it, and, as Coach says, we're not likely to get that chance.

Again, I'd discount it once, twice, maybe up to five times. But ten implies it's much more than luck. Obviously it's a combination of all the different factors, but the one that seems to get the least amount of attention -- because it's not vogue to use it -- is that, as Coach implies, the Braves choke. No, it's not the only reason, but if the system works, there are similar teams winning four championships in the same time frame, and the manager is not a moron, then some, if not most, of the blame has to rest on the players themselves. That was the "terror of the essay," as my English teachers would tell me.

I like Mick's opinion that the American League is simply better. That is one I had not thought of, and I honestly don't know what to make of it, other than Mick's a fun fella.
Craig B - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 02:07 PM EST (#97010) #
Dave, my Braves were just as bad as yours. We won the LCS and World Series in '92, but didn't even make the World Series since then, we only won five first-round series and no LCSes. Ugly.

Again, this was a Canadian coin (a loonie this time). I'm going to see if someone on my floor here has an American coin.
Craig B - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 02:11 PM EST (#97011) #
ten implies it's much more than luck

I just saw this, so before I run off to do the test again, I wanted to comment.

No, it doesn't imply any such thing. The Braves haven't been bad in the playoffs; they have gone 58-55. They have won one World Series, and that is exactly 0.75 World Series less than you would expect with normal distribution.

I do like the theory that the AL is marginally better, this maybe the case. I'm going to try to find data for the interleague games, which would tend to substantiate this.
Craig B - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 02:17 PM EST (#97012) #
If you want the people you work with to have confidence in your sanity, don't go ask them if they have an American quarter. They'll ask "why", and when you tell them that you need it to play the World Series, their face will go all funny and they'll try to disengage as quickly as possible.

The American quarter did much better, winning in '92 and '93 (oh dear) as well as in 2001, and lost two other World Series, in '97 and '99, and one LCS (2002). I think that this shows that American coins definitely come through in the clutch, and Canadian coins aer prone to choke in the playoffs.
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 02:57 PM EST (#97013) #
They have won one World Series, and that is exactly 0.75 World Series less than you would expect with normal distribution.

Just to make sure we've got all our i's crossed and t's dotted, we should also point out that it assumes opposing teams whose differences in quality are negligible. And the distribution isn't normal, it's... would we call it binomial? Unless you mean 'normal distribution' in a more colloquial sense.
Gitz - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 03:12 PM EST (#97014) #
Binomial distribution? Normal distribution? .75 less than the amount of World Series you would expect them to win? To quote Homer Simpson, when given a simulated core meltdown as a test of his nuclear competence, "What the hell are you talking about?" For goodness sake, they don't measure WS victories in percentages, and they don't play baseball games with quarters or loonies!

The game is run by loonies, and I am bit daffy myself, that I will grant.
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 03:34 PM EST (#97015) #
"Binomial distribution? Normal distribution? .75 less than the amount of World Series you would expect them to win? To quote Homer Simpson, when given a simulated core meltdown as a test of his nuclear competence, "What the hell are you talking about?""

Okay, fair enough. But look: when you say, "One or two post-season failures I could chalk up to chance. Three or four, I’m still willing to go that route, but the road is bumpier. Five or six failures will take a gifted apologist to convince me it’s still random. But 10?" you seem to be saying, essentially, that teams should win the World Series at least half the time they get into the postseason, and if they don't, there's something wrong with them. And that's just not reasonable; not with three layers of playoffs. Before 1969 it would have been, if loosely applied, reasonable. Not now.
Gitz - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 03:41 PM EST (#97016) #
Well, I never would have examined the issue if the Yankees hadn't won four during the same time, especially since the two teams aren't all that different. It's a curiousity, really. I don't think the Braves should have won 4 or 5, but it's fascinating they've only won one. Extra playoff series notwithstanding, it's obvious there's more than luck and Jeff Reardon involved. And that's the last I'll say! (Feel free to keep refuting me, of course.)
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 04:04 PM EST (#97017) #
I agree that it's a curiosity, but to me, the curiosity is that the Yankees won four and not that the Braves only won one. Why did the Yankees win those four World Series? They weren't even that great a team every year. To me, that's really unusual, and I have no explanation for it.

The Braves' postseason performance isn't particularly unusual, by baseball's standards. I would have expected them to win more, but then, I expected the late-'80s A's to win more, given the teams they were up against. I expected the Pirates to win more in the early '90s. I wouldn't have picked the Twins to win two WS in the only two postseason appearances they've made since Killebrew was swinging a bat. More recently, I expected the Indians, Mariners and A's to do more than they've done. So there are expectations being confounded all around, and it's worthy of comment without being implausibly improbable.

But I still don't know how the Yankees did it. I'm just glad they don't seem to be doing it anymore. (While we're on the subject, though, why the Yankees? If the baseball gods had to pick out a team to start rolling nothing but sevens in postseason play for a few years, why the Yankees? They've had all the glory they need. I don't begrudge them a World Series every now and then, but surely Seattle or Houston or Texas or someone could use this good fortune more.)
_jason - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 05:00 PM EST (#97018) #
The one thing that I always am bewildred by with the Braves is how their bullpen is so good during the regular-season but seems to faulter in the post-season. At no time is a bullpen more important than the post-season and the Braves bullpen always seems to let them down. Perhaps the closer role is more important, at least for post-season play, than some statisticians will have you believe. (If you want to cite the D'Backs as an exception remember that Randy Johnson was in fact acting as the closer of sorts in Game 7 of the WS.)

Maybe Mariano Rivera is part of the reason the Yankees were able to be so conscistent in post-season play. And this year the WS champs had Troy Percival, one of the better closers in the game. Both these guys are also willing to pitch more than 1 inning per appearance, which is an added benefit. And remember the Jays could always throw Ward then Henke at you, in the 8th and then the 9th. Taking the 8th and 9th inning away from the other team is a hell of an advantage, especially in a tight game. There is also the added psychological effect that has on the other team, putting pressure on them to score in the preceeding inning.

I would defenitley put Smoltz in the catagorey of elite closer at this point so maybe he'll be able to make the difference for the Braves this coming post-season.
_Matthew Elmslie - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 05:12 PM EST (#97019) #
Jason's comment started me down a train of thought that led me to this question.

How often is the failure of a bullpen little more than a mask for the failure of an offense?
Coach - Wednesday, February 05 2003 @ 08:33 PM EST (#97020) #
Why did the Yankees win those four World Series?

Aura. Mystique.

I'm only half kidding. Chemistry and such can't be measured or predicted, so some think it doesn't exist. I know that large samples even everything out, but teams do go on rolls, and into slumps. Believe in each other, then good things happen, everybody's loose, confidence builds, and voila: you're the '02 Angels. Jason, maybe in a short series, it isn't just the closer's performance, but a team's shared confidence in him, that matters.

Matthew, I think great hitters can make a terrible bullpen look OK and a good one look terrific, while bad hitters will expose the 'pen for what it is. I don't know how to prove or disprove that. If the offence "fails," you either protect leads, or you don't, and always under more pressure, the outcome riding on every pitch. When the offence stakes you to big leads or adds insurance runs, or if you've come to expect them to break open tie games, you might pitch a little more relaxed, with a bit more confidence. No data, I'm just sayin'...

Gitz, remember a Canadian loonie is only about .65 of a real one. As Craig demonstrated, our coins have an inferiority complex.
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