## Sunday, May 13, 2012

### Randomness

So, I have returned from a hiatus away from this blog, like it means anything after two posts.  Finals are over, so I can return to being awesome.

I want to return with a basic comparison between the 12 game losing streak and the games since then, in which the Royals have gone 10-6.

During the 12 game losing streak, the Royals gave up an average of 6.08 runs/game.  They scored an average of 3.67 runs/game.  In the games since, the Royals have given up an average of 4.5 runs/game and scored and average of 4.56 runs/game.  According to the wonderful Pythagorean run expectation formula, which is a simple calculation based on runs scored and runs allowed, the Royals should have gone about 3-9 in those 12 games.  In the 16 games since, the Royals roughly should have gone 8-8.

What have we learned from this mini-analysis?  The Royals were victims of some bad luck during the 12 game losing streak.  But not that much bad luck (there were real stinkers in that streak).  In the 16 games since, the Royals are benefiting from some good luck.  But not that much good luck (the Royals have had some wonderful games).

Baseball is a unique sport.  In this blogger’s opinion, baseball statistics are very different from the other big sports (NFL, NBA, NHL).  There is a much larger element of luck.  Let us consider two confrontation situations.  In the pitcher vs. batter matchup, a pitcher attempts to locate the ball in a hitter’s weak zone, but that doesn’t always happen.  There is an element of luck there.  If the batter likes the pitch, the batter will swing at the pitch, but the batter does not always make contact.  There is an element of luck there.  If contact is made, the batter has some control over where it goes (opposite field vs. pull vs. center), but there is another element of luck there.  The overall amount of control in this confrontation is not especially high compared to other sports.

In the NFL, a runner vs. tackler matchup might be analogous.  An outcome is produced from this play: either tackle or miss.  The runner can stutter step to make the tackler miss or make a cut or some other move.  There might be some element of luck there, but not much.  The tackler can dive for the tackle, and miss or hit based on the tackler’s judgment.  There is some luck there, but not much.  The players in this situation have far greater control over the outcomes than the baseball players.

Baseball is random.  Because of its randomness, it takes a large number of games for true talent levels to emerge, as I detailed in my previous post.  In the NFL confrontation used above, it is possible for true talent level to emerge from that one play.  For the Royals, it will take some more time for their talent level to emerge.  They are better than 0-12, but they are not as good as 10-6.

The randomness of baseball is one of the reasons I love the sport.

#### 2 comments:

1. I agree with a lot of what you said about the difference between MLB, NFL, and other sports. It's interesting to see how a player batting a .500 is doing very well. In other sports, like football, for example, a QB with a pass completion of .500 would barely see the light of day. I've talked with my brother (who played baseball in high school) as well as a few college players and I've found that many of them are superstitious. Kinda like a free throw shooter in basketball, a lot of the players have a routine before stepping up to the plate. But baseball, with the sheer speed of the action, is highly influenced by luck. It's going to be interesting to see where the Royals go from here, but it's definitely doing to be worth watching. Nice post, Kev!

1. Thanks, Chip. Yes, baseball players are hilariously superstitious. Another reason why the game is awesome.

I expect the Royals to hover around .450-.500 baseball for the rest of the season, barring another losing streak. I'd say 75-87 at the end of the season is a realistic possibility.