08 October 2011

Wins, Losses, and Quick Outs

I thoroughly enjoyed watching last night's Cardinals win over the Phillies.  I really wasn't pulling that hard for either team, but the pitching on both sides was a thing of beauty.  Chris Carpenter pitched a complete-game shutout for St. Louis, giving up just three hits and walking none.  Roy Halladay pitched eight innings for Philadelphia, gave up six hits, walked one, and allowed a first-inning run.

Carpenter clearly pitched better than Halladay, but not by leaps and bounds.  Halladay pitched a great game, but got the "loss" because his team couldn't score any runs for him.  Carpenter got the "win" even though his team mustered just one run.  Sure, Carpenter pitched a fantastic game, but the "win" and "loss" statistics for pitchers really don't say much.

Baseball playoffs are good examples of how small sample sizes do not reveal much.  The Cards advance and the Phillies go home after last night's game was decided by a single run.  The Phillies were 12 games better than the Cards over the regular season, which is comprised of 162 games for each team.

The Phillies finished with 12 wins more than the Cards.  What did that get them?  Philadelphia got to host three out of five playoff games in the first round of the playoffs.  That's really not much of a bonus after such a great regular season!  With fewer teams in the playoffs in past years, baseball better rewarded success over a long season.  There is now talk about adding more playoff teams.  What is the incentive to win 100 games when a team needs only to win 90 (no easy task in MLB!) to secure a playoff spot?  If more teams are added, I hope the team with the best record in each league will get a first-round bye.  In that scenario the regular season will mean a little more than it does now.  Sorry Philly fans.  Your team's 102 wins didn't help much in a five-game playoff series.  The Phillies outscored the Cards 21-19 over their five-game series, but the Cards got what mattered -- three wins.  Philadelphia was a quick out this year.

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