# Were the 1994 Expos Just Lucky? - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Were the 1994 Expos Just Lucky?. Estimating the “real” skill level of a team Phil Birnbaum – www.philbirnbaum.com. The W-L Record and Luck. Imagine a .500 team’s record as a series of 162 coin tosses Heads=Win, Tails=Loss Standard Deviation of wins = 6.3 games

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Were the 1994 Expos Just Lucky?

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## Were the 1994 Expos Just Lucky?

Estimating the “real” skill level of a team

Phil Birnbaum – www.philbirnbaum.com

### The W-L Record and Luck

• Imagine a .500 team’s record as a series of 162 coin tosses

• Standard Deviation of wins = 6.3 games

• In a 30-team league, 5 teams will be better than 87-75

• 1.5 teams will be more extreme than 94-68 or 68-94, just by chance

### Statistical Evidence of Luck

• Suppose a team is lucky and wins more games than its talent. How does this happen?

• Can break down into five non-overlapping ways:

### Five Ways to be Lucky

• Hitters having unexpected “career years”

• Pitchers having unexpected “career years”

• Team scoring more runs than expected by their batting line

• Beating “Runs Created” estimate, perhaps by clutch hitting

• Team allowing fewer runs than expected by the opposition’s batting line

• Getting out of jams while opposition “chokes”

• Team winning more games than expected by its Runs Scored/Runs Allowed

• Pythagorean Projection -- scoring runs in games where they’re most needed

### Players Having Career Years

• Players can play over their heads

• Shows up in a player’s career stats as a “career year”

• Example: Jim Clancy, 1982

• From 1980 to 1984, Component ERAs were: 3.60, 4.71, 3.36, 3.96, 4.05

• Estimate Clancy was 31 runs better than expected in 1982

• At 10 runs per win, the 1982 Jays were “lucky” by three games because of Clancy’s career year

### Players Having Career Years

• This is new research

• Algorithm to take the previous two years and next two years, and estimate what the player “should have” done in the middle year

• Rough idea: average the four years, regress to the mean, and adjust for playing time

• Work in progress – probably not too accurate, but good enough to distinguish lucky from unlucky in most cases

• Hopefully similar to examining each case “by hand”

• Algorithm available on request

### The 1994 Expos

• The 1994 Expos went 74-40. Were they lucky or unlucky? And by how much?

• We’ll go through the five steps.

### 1994 Expos

• Hitters having career years

• Overall, the Expos hitters created 76 runs more than expected

• Moises Alou +25, Wil Cordero +18, Larry Walker +16

• Mike Lansing –8 had the worst off-year

### 1994 Expos

• Pitchers having career years

• Overall, the Expos pitchers were 49 runs better than expected

• Butch Henry +20, Jeff Fassero +10, Ken Hill +9

• Kirk Rueter –8 had the worst off-year

### 1994 Expos

• Expos undershot their runs created by total -29 runs

• Expos opponents undershot their runs created by 3 runs

• Expos overshot their Pythagorean Projection by 2.85 wins, or 28 runs

### 1994 Expos

• +76 = hitters’ career years

• +49 = pitchers’ career years

• -29 = runs created

• +3 = opposition runs created

• +28 = pythagorean projection

• Total: +128 runs

### 1994 Expos

• The Expos were lucky by +128 runs

• That’s 12.8 wins – call it 13 wins

• Instead of 74-40, we estimate their real talent was 61-53

### 1994 National League East

Actual Luck Projected

Expos 74-40 +13 61-53

Braves 68-46 + 1 67-47

Mets 55-58 + 4 51-62

Phillies 54-61 - 3 57-58

Marlins 51-64 - 1 52-63

### Fun Stuff

• Which were the luckiest and unluckiest teams from 1960-2001?

• Some results surprising to me – for example, the unluckiest team …

### The 1995 Toronto Blue Jays

• The 1995 Blue Jays

• Hitters were –72

• Pitchers were –50

• RC –43

• Opposition RC –6

• Pythagoras –24

• Total: -196 runs in only 144 games

• The Jays were 56-88 – should have been 76-68

### Top Unlucky Teams

62 Mets 40-120 61-99 -21

79 A’s 54-108 74-88 -20

95 Blue Jays 56- 88 76-68 -20

87 Indians 61-101 81-81 -20

98 Mariners 76- 85 95-66 -20

69 Expos 52-110 66-96 -14

### Luckiest Teams

• The luckiest team, 1960-2001 was, by a very wide margin …

### The 2001 Seattle Mariners

• The 2001 Seattle Mariners

• Hitters were +127

• Pitchers were +116

• RC -21

• Opposition RC +3

• Pythagoras +49

• Total: 273 runs!

• The Mariners were 116-46; should have been 89-73

• That same year, the Angels were 11 games unlucky, and should have been 86-76

• The Angels finished 41 games behind Seattle – should have been only 3 games

• 38 game difference from just luck!

### The Luckiest Teams

01 Mariners 116-46 89-73 +27

98 Yankees 114-48 92-70 +22

60 Pirates 95-59 76-78 +19

92 A’s 96-66 77-85 +19

85 Cardinals 101-61 83-79 +18

62 Dodgers 102-63 84-81 +18

94 Expos 74-40 61-53 +13

93 Blue Jays 95-67 88-74 +7

### The Best Teams

• Which were the best teams in terms of talent?

• That is, after all the luck was stripped out, which teams remained truly great?

### The Best Teams

• Only 3 teams from 1960-2001 had an expected talent of 100+ games

• This seems too small, but makes sense – for instance, there are many players who go 2-for-4, but none who are truly .500 hitters

• But 21 teams were expected 100-game losers

### The Best Teams

1969 Baltimore Orioles102

1998 Atlanta Braves102

1997 Atlanta Braves100

1970 Baltimore Orioles 99

1974 Los Angeles Dodgers 98

1975 Cincinnati Reds 98

1992 Toronto Blue Jays 95

1982 Montreal Expos 92

### The Worst Teams

1965 New York Mets 54

1977 Toronto Blue Jays 54

1972 Texas Rangers 57

1977 Seattle Mariners 57

1964 New York Mets 58

1970 Montreal Expos 65

### Lucky and Unlucky Players

• Unusual seasons are not always luck; can be

• Playing injured

• Cheating (Norm Cash)

• Sudden maturation

• Sudden loss of effectiveness (Steve Blass)

• Learning a new skill or new pitch

• For instance, consider the unluckiest player from 1960-2001, who cost his team 6 games by playing below expectations …

### Dave Stieb, 1986

• Component ERA:

• 1984, 2.77

• 1985, 2.75

• 1986, 5.86

• 1987, 3.78

• 1988, 2.81

• Why did Stieb have a bad 1986?

• I couldn’t find any evidence of injury. Could it really have been just bad luck?

### The Unluckiest Players

1986 Dave Stieb-60

1999 Jeff Fassero-56

1997 Albert Belle-53

1997 Scott Brosius-50

1973 Steve Blass-50

1980 Dennis Lamp-48

1962 Ron Santo-47

1997 Sammy Sosa-45

1971 Carl Morton-38

### The Luckiest Players

1972 Steve Carlton+63

1980 Mike Norris+60

1961 Norm Cash+60

1963 Dick Ellsworth+58

1993 John Olerud +58

1996 Ed Correa+54

1970 Billy Grabarkewitz+54

1991 Cal Ripken+52

1978 Ross Grimsley +46

1970 Cito Gaston +46