Thursday, September 16, 2010

Problems of Parity

This hasn't been a major discussion lately, but it's something that tends to come up every time the Yankees win a World Series. "The Yankees win every year!" people will say. "There needs to be a salary cap so they don't just buy championships!" others will agreeably respond.

While it is true that the Yankees have won far more World Series titles than any other team in Major League history (27 titles, next highest total is St. Louis with 10), and that team salary is correlated with winning percentage, what does the current climate of the playoffs look like in comparison to other major sports? Specifically, since the advent of the wild card in 1995, how has the playoff picture changed year to year and how many different teams have won a championship in that time period? There is an interesting twist to this, as only 8/30 MLB teams qualify for the playoffs, while 16/30 NBA/NHL teams qualify. Obviously, there is a better chance of having a larger number of different teams in the playoffs from year to year in those leagues. To account for this, I found the total percentage of different teams each year. Also, I took the change in teams from 2004 to 2006 and simply skipped the 2005 NHL lockout season. This is what I found:

MLB has averaged nearly 4 different teams in the postseason when compared with the previous year. Stated differently, in the wild card era, there has been a nearly 50% turnover rate for teams in the playoffs year to year. Over this same length of time, the NBA has averaged 3.7 different teams, or 23% turnover rate and the NHL has averaged 4 different teams , or 25% turnover rate.

Ok, but what about championships? How many different teams have won the respective championship in each sport over this 15 year time-frame?

According to this measure of parity, over the past 15 years, the MLB has had the same number of different champions as the NHL (2005 strike counted in the total) and 2 more than the NBA.

In conclusion, it is very difficult to say that there is no parity in the MLB, or even that there is less parity in the MLB than in the NBA or NHL.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Strasburg On the Hill

I wrote this in the hours after it was announced that Stephen Strasburg would be having Tommy John surgery. Sure, he may come back and have a brilliant career, but I'll bet a lot of the Nationals fanbase had an immediate reaction similar to this:

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Nationals that day
The rookie had been sidelined; he hadn’t pitched in 8 days
And then when he missed a start and his next start came
A sickly silence fell upon the lovers of the game

A straggling few thought the season lost. The rest
Clung to the hope that it was simply temporary at best
They thought, if only Strasburg could get but a single week away
He would be able to return, and join back in the fray

But Prior preceded Strasburg, as did also Van Poppel
And the former lost his shoulder and the latter did as well
So upon the stricken multitude grim melancholy sat
For there seemed great chance of Strasburg also doing that

But Strasburg did return, to the wonderment of all
And pitched another game and looked to finish out the fall
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred
There was Strasburg on the mound, starting yet his third

Then from a million throats and more there rose a lusty yell
It rumbled through the Beltway, it rattled in the Capital
It knocked upon the District and recoiled upon the Potomac Shore
For Strasburg, mighty Strasburg was settling the score

There was ease in Strasburg’s manner as he stepped into his place
There was pride in Strasburg’s bearing and a smile on Strasburg’s face
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his bill,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Strasburg on the hill

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt
Then while the phenom pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Strasburg’s eye, a sneer curled Strasburg’s lip

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Riggleman stood a-watching it in painful silence there
Close by the worried manager, the pitcher’s arm was tight
And they pulled him from the game that mournful August night

From the television booth, there went up a senseless roar,
Like the beating of a fist on a table or a door
“Pitch through the pain!” shouted Rob Dibble on the air
And it’s likely that he would’ve had not the team forced him there

With a smile of understanding, the fans knew for a fact
That Strasburg would pitch soon, once the MRI came back
They signaled to be patient, and once more the ball will fly
For Strasburg will be fine and will pitch again, no lie

“Fraud!” cried the detractors and the echo answered fraud;
His mechanics are imperfect and are severely flawed
But the test results returned and their fears were all in vain
And they saw that Stephen Strasburg simply had a tendon strain

But the sneer is gone from our lip, our teeth are clenched with grief
We pound with cruel violence our fingers on the keys
And now a second test is needed, and now here comes Rizzo
And now the air is shattered by the force of the results

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Natsville — mighty Strasburg has struck out.

1st post

Well, I've finally decided to start a blog. I suppose this space will begin to be filled with whatever thoughts I have on baseball. I may try to get into some analysis based on more advanced statistics. The topics I'm most interested in at the moment are pitching and umpiring, so maybe I'll start with that.