My girlfriend is chasing her PhD in applied mathematics, so I get subjected to a lot of talk about circuits, black holes and equations. And most of it is way over my head. That’s why I get really excited when scientists come out with something that even I understand.
Yesterday, USA Today announced the release of a new scientific study that proves that, “Even after a long series of competitions, the best team does not always finish first.”
From USA Today:
The study authors, who specialize in studying random behavior in complex materials, plugged the odds of low-seed teams beating high-seed ones, 44% in baseball over the last century, into a mathematical model of a typical season.
The more games played, the better the chances that the higher seeded teams will become champions, according to the study. And it becomes less likely that a weak team will weasel its way to the top.
Frankly, nothing in this report should come as any surprise to anyone who watches sports. Over the course of a long season, the talented teams always win. But over the course of a short playoff series, sometimes a Cinderella will prevail.
Last year, people got genuinely pissed when the Cardinals won the World Series. Bloggers and columnists wondered aloud if they were the worst champions ever.
In fact, the 2006 Cardinals were not the worst team to win a World Series. That honor goes to the 2003 Marlins, who the study says were the crappiest team in the last 50 years to win a championship.
Most of the time, of course, the better team does win — especially in baseball. The study says baseball’s lengthy season rewards superior squads more than, say, football’s 16 game regular season.
But in the playoffs, baseball could do more to ensure that the better team comes out on top:
But to ensure that the best Major League Baseball team wins, a longer World Series, say 11 games, would be mathematically appropriate. “The same is true for other competitions in arts, science and politics,” write the study authors.
A longer World Series? What a crazy idea. Seems to me somebody suggested that not too long ago. Can’t remember who…
Oh that’s right — it was Scott Boras! The super agent told Bud Selig he wanted to make the World Series nine games, instead of seven. He also said that the first two games of the series should be played at a neutral site.
Sure, Boras claimed his motivation for expanding the series was to create a “marketing bonanza.” But is it possible that, in addition to making money, a longer world series might actually make sense?