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Crown the Cardinals!

Oct 20, 2011, 8:50 AM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols slaps hands with relief pitcher Jason Motte after defeating the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of MLB's World Series baseball championship in St. Louis

We like to say that anything can happen in a short series, but at some point you have to acknowledge that some things happening are pretty unlikely, at least from a statistical/historical point of view.

Example: the team losing Game 1 of the World Series going on to win it.  In fact, as noted in the AP gamer, the winner of Game 1 of the World Series has won seven of the last eight titles, 12 of the last 14 and 19 of the last 23.

Of course the Rangers can still win this. They barely lost last night’s game against the opposition’s best starter in freezing conditions. There is no such thing as a locked-in fate or whatever, and I don’t want to oversell this idea.

It’s just that if they do win, just understand that they’ll be doing something that — by the numbers anyway — hasn’t happened all that often in recent years.

  1. a125125125 - Oct 20, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    Riiiiight. Because it “hasn’t happened all that often in recent years” means that it won’t happen this year. Like if I flip a coin 5 times and get heads every time, it’s sure to be heads the sixth time too. Obviously not a lot of statistical analysis skills used in this post.

    • kopy - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:05 AM

      A coin has a 50/50 outcome. The team that loses Game 1 doesn’t win 50% of World Series.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Oct 20, 2011 at 5:16 PM

        Actually, depending on the relief of the design of the coin (if the heads side weighs more than the tails side) the outcome could be as much as 53% / 47%.

    • paperlions - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:05 AM

      No, not like that….at all. If you flip a coin and it turns up heads the first time, if you keep flipping it MOST of the time you will get to the 4th heads before you get to the 4th tails….and that is assuming that the coin is fair (i.e. equal chance of either event). In baseball, things are not equiprobable, one team is better than the other, one team is playing at home, etc. The team that wins the first game likely has some advantages over the other team, further skewing the odds against the team that lost the first game winning 4 of the next 6 games.

      You really should obtain at least a passing familiarity with probability before bashing anyone else’s statistical analytical skills.

      • Alex K - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:10 AM


      • Alex K - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:11 AM

        I did give this a thumbs up before I boobz’d it, however. I agree 100% with what was said.

      • a125125125 - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:14 AM

        I was speaking specifically to the “hasn’t happened all that often in recent years” comment not the overall concept of winning Game One changing the probabilities.

      • kopy - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:25 AM

        So you have a beef with Craig saying 4 out of the last 23 times means it hasn’t happened all that often? Because the stats are right there. Considering the Game 1 winner has won 19 of the last 23, I would say the Game 1 loser winning the WS hasn’t happened all that often in recent years either.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:12 PM

        Wow…something else we agree on Paper. At last count…that makes 12 posts. LOL!

    • lazlosother - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:15 AM

      He didn’t say that it wouldn’t happen this year, he said it would be an oddity. He is right. Obviously not a lot of reading comprehension used before your post.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:19 AM

      You did read what he wrote, correct? I’m just checking, because based on your response, it seems a near certainty that you didn’t.

    • Old Gator - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      This coin has been traveling 22 years to get here. And now it’s here. Friendo.

      • unclemosesgreen - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:53 AM

        And you need to call it.

      • cur68 - Oct 20, 2011 at 10:57 AM

        And don’t put it in your pocket…that coin saved your life. Its special.

      • Kyle - Oct 20, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        I’m going to open multiple accounts so I can give this a thumbs up like 45 more times (don’t hold me to that).

    • mattjg - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      Based on my probably faulty memory of what I learned in Stats 101 over half a decade ago, it seems that even with equal teams, the team that wins the first game should win the series almost 2/3 of the time (65.6% to be more precise).

      Of course both teams are rarely, if ever, truly equal, so the gap between 2/3 and 19/23 represents talent, noise (due to the small sample size) . . . and possibly momentum gained from winning that first game? I’m skeptical that momentum exists in baseball, especially from game-to-game, but I’d love to hear other thoughts.

      • paperlions - Oct 20, 2011 at 11:07 AM

        Welll….let’s see…..

        The team that lost now has to win 4 of the next 6 games, or, more simply, can win by losing none of the next 4 games, only one of the next 5 games or 2 of the next 6 games. There is only one way to win all 4 games (probability = (.5^4)*1=0.0625), there are 5 ways to lose only 1 of the next 5 games (probability = (.5^5)*5=0.0.15625), and there are 15 ways (permutations of wins and loses) to lose exactly 2 of the next 6 games (probability = (.5^6)*15=0.234375). Because this is an “or” type of probability (the Rangers can now lose 0 or 1 or 2 games and win the WS), you sum the probabilities = .453125.

        So…if the teams are equal and home field had no effect, the Rangers would still have a 45.3% chance of winning the WS. This shouldn’t be too surprising because if the ranges win tonight…everything would be back to even…and the rangers have roughly a 50% chance of winning tonight.

      • mattjg - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:13 PM

        Thanks. I figured I was probably wrong.

      • nyetjones - Oct 20, 2011 at 5:54 PM

        Paperlions, it appears you’re double-counting (actually triple counting in one instance). E.g., there are five ways to win four out of five games, true, but you already accounted for one of them (WWWWL) with the way to win four out of four games. You have to toss out the permutations that end with a loss, because that game would not get played (the series would already be over).So it’s:

        .5^4 plus
        4*.5^5 plus (because you can’t use patterns that end with a loss)
        10*.5^6 (ditto)

        .0625 + .125 + .15625 = 34.375% chance of the Rangers coming back (assuming the teams are evenly matched).

        So 2/3 is not that far off.

      • nyetjones - Oct 20, 2011 at 5:57 PM

        I.e., mattjg, you were exactly right.

      • nyetjones - Oct 20, 2011 at 6:10 PM

        I’d go with SSS. Given the expected 2/3, you’d expect 15 or 16 out of 23. You’re only off by 3, and the standard deviation is 2.4. (sqrt(23*.5*.5)). So that’s only 1 standard deviation, and once you look at the model a little harder – the team that wins game 1 is more likely to be better, etc. – it’s well within the realm of randomness.

  2. aceshigh11 - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    19 out of 23, eh?

    That’s a pretty damning statistic, but the Rangers are a great club. No one on either team should be complacent, and I expect neither will. This will be hard-fought to the end.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      Paper: I have no idea what you just posted…so I am going to count this as another post that I agree with. We are now at 13. Quick…post something else cause’ 13 makes me skittish.

  3. - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    If we’re going to crown the Cardinals based on probabilities we should just crown the Rangers. After all, based on probabilities…the Cardinals shouldn’t even be in the #postseason.

    • paperlions - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:56 PM

      Probabilities are a priori. Because those events already happened, probability is irrelevent to predicting likely outcomes….because we already know what happened. If you want to go back to that far in time, we should crown the Phillies, because they had the best team all year long, with the highest likelihood of winning the WS…until they didn’t. The current odds of any non-Cardinal or non-Ranger team winning the WS are zero….the Rangers currently have the 2nd best odds of winning the WS, which is pretty good compared to 28 other teams.

  4. Jonny 5 - Oct 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    I tried telling all y’all.

    The Cards will win it this season. It is written in the stars.

  5. mabunar - Oct 20, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    And it probably goes in the ‘no duh’ file that a 2-0 lead would be the nail in the coffin.

    Well, except for three topical teams.

    Yes, from the “you can use stats/history and spin it for just about anything” file:
    In the last 25 WS, 17 won the first two games to grab a 2-0 lead. Only THREE teams of those 17 blew it.
    1) 1996 Braves
    2) 1986 Red Sox
    3) 1985 Cardinals

    So there ya go Rangers fans…until you go down 3-0….you have a chance!

  6. mabunar - Oct 20, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Seven sweeps in that time frame vs seven game sevens too for more numbers fun.

  7. Max Power - Oct 20, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Now if you want to crown them, then crown [them]! But they are who we thought they were! And we let ’em off the hook!

    What’s that? Different Cardinals?

  8. Ari Collins - Oct 20, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Of course, if the Rangers win tonight, they become the favorite, having won home field advantage over the last 5.

    • mabunar - Oct 20, 2011 at 3:11 PM

      Since i still had the spreadsheet…

      Last 25 WS…looks like only 3 fit in the category where Game #1 was won by home team and Game #2 was won by away team to give the same scenario should Texas be able to win tonight. 1997, 1993 and 1992. Only in ’92 did the Game #2 winner go on to win it all (Blue Jays over Braves). But all three went at least 6 games.

  9. ezwriter69 - Oct 20, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    This is transparent… Calcaterra has to change the subject with this crappola, after assuring us all yesterday that Washington would not be out managed in the series, that everyone claiming so was so wrong… uh, oh for one on that one, Craig. Nice try changing the subject, though.

    • Alex K - Oct 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      If you dislike what Craig writes so much why do you read?

      • cur68 - Oct 20, 2011 at 12:31 PM

        Ah, the answer is simple but multi factorial:
        1) It’s a free forum. He’s too cheap to pay for any of the other comment boards.
        2)Jealousy. He reckons he could do this column better than Mr. Calcaterra
        3)Craig occasionally replies to him, thus inflating his sense of self worth and lends a bit if credibility to his bile
        4)He’s a dick and this is one of the many outlets for his dickishness.

      • paperlions - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:57 PM

        I’ll pick 4

      • Alex K - Oct 20, 2011 at 2:41 PM

        I choose 3 & 4.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      I like the idea that Craig is changing the subject. Like he can’t post about anything else while someone is still talking about Ron Washington.

  10. stlouis1baseball - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Cur68: “Dickishness.” Outstanding.

  11. cintiphil - Oct 20, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Wait just a minuet Craig:

    I just saw you say that the Rangers would win in 7. What are you trying to do now? So you have taken both positions and can’t be wrong, is that it? I and most of Cinti are pulling the the NL Cards. You are just trying not to be wrong. Not so fast, we will remember everything you say.

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