Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dear Baseball Prospectus,


Your Hit List stinks! Stinks!

Yes, I've seen your apologia, and I understand to the best of my ability what you're trying to accomplish. In addition, I could care less who ranks first or second or third. That stuff's trifling; it's just a friendly shuffle of cards among playoff teams.

No, I'm talking about the New York Mets---the No. 11 ranked New York Mets. Explain that one, Pendejos. Be advised that any sentence containing the phrase "first-, second- and third-order winning percentages" will cause me to hit the Red Button. Don't try me.

Really, I understand what you're doing. And I understand what you're trying to do:

In coming up with a means to rank the teams, I wanted to find a way that gave weight to various categories of performance without overcompensating for any of them. That includes actual winning percentage, but goes beyond to try to get a truer picture of what's going on than simple wins, losses and run totals will tell you.

It's a noble goal, but shall I suggest that you might be undercompensating one category: actual wins? I shall.

There's a reason why the season lasts 162 games. Well, actually, there isn't; that's as arbitrary as changing the college "Top 20" to the "Top 25" some years ago. But, after 162 games, the season truly ends. Adjusted Pennants are not distributed, and Adjusted Standings do not carry over to the next spring.

The Mets might truly be the eleventh-strongest big league team this season (though I doubt it), but they haven't honored your good faith. Given fifty more games, they might eventually get around to challenging the Phillies (No. 10) or the Astros (No. 9)---but, blessed be Lord Selig, they won't get the chance. Well, they will get the chance to draw even, but it will be early next April, and the respective records will be 0-0.

And what about those Florida Marlins? The Mets would have to condescend a bit on the list just to see those guys, as the Fish are ranked No. 16. (Actually, the Mets will see the Marlins soon enough, as in tonight. Go Mets!) The Mets are 73-76, partaking in an en foldo after getting hot in late August; the Marlins are 79-71, eyeing a difficult road ahead but at least still well in the playoff hunt. Yet, not only are the Mets ranked ahead, but by five slots!

Please don't misunderstand; I don't advocate simple reliance on won/lost records. If I did, then this blogster would have been prepared to swing some playoff tickets back in early July. But, whatever your formula is to account for actual and first-, second-, and third-order adjusted records, don't you think that the actual won/lost results might be a bit underrepresented?

I don't claim to know how to help you, but Yuda might: "Winning percentage needs to be weighted more heavily—perhaps even on a sliding scale as the year progresses." Sounds reasonable. If it's already weighed heavily, then hand it over to Eric Gregg for fixing. If it's already implemented on a sliding scale, slide it harder.

Because, honestly, any system that informs you the Mets are the eleventh best team in baseball should embarrass you to no end that it has your name and goodwill attached.

Sincerely,

Nats blogger who aims not to project a dog in the fight, though he confesses to find it curious that the Nats, at an admittedly lucky 77-73, are ranked No. 20 and surrounded by teams eight and fourteen games below break-even.

Comments:
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