Something to dance to…

Last summer I wrote a post about decision making. At the end of the post, I included this postscript.

P.S. If any of my readers like a bet, I’d suggest betting on the A’s to win the AL West. The Angels would appear to have been extremely lucky so far.

In case you don’t know how this story ends, the AL West finished like this:

buildRows(standings_rs_alw);

West W L PCT GB E#
Los Angeles 100 62 .617
Texas 79 83 .488 21.0 E
Oakland 75 86 .466 24.5 E
Seattle 61 101 .377 39.0

Could have been worse right? I mean, Oakland only finished 24 and a half games out of first. Ugh.

So where did I go astray? How was I so deceived?

Well I was basing my prediction on something called “Pythagorean Expectation”. This is a basic tool of statistical analysis. Basically it looks at how many runs you score vs. how many you allow and this gives you a hypothetical winning percentage. You compare that to the real winning percentage and you can determine whether or not a team has been “lucky.” It’s like looking at goal difference and seeing that Hull is due for a slide down the table.

So round about the time I wrote that post, I noticed that Oakland was a few games behind the LAAA, and that LAAA was outperforming their Pythagorean and Oakland was under performing. Well I can put two and two together as well as the next guy, so I said, hey, the angels have been lucky, Oakland unlucky, over the course of the season Oakland’s luck will catch up and I’ll look really smart!

So where did it all go wrong? Why did the Angels end up completely dominating and why did Oakland sort of implode?

I don’t know. And I don’t really care. I don’t really want to do the research. This isn’t a baseball blog after all.

Here’s the important thing. What I failed to consider when making my original prediction last summer, was that maybe the Angels were lucky to have their record when their runs scored/runs allowed ratio was so close to .500. But maybe at the same time they were unlucky to have scored so few runs. Maybe their players had all been under performing at the same time that they were succeeding, making the team ‘s records lucky, but the team’s performance unlucky.

So what is the point of all this? All season long, on CCN and on TIFF and probably in the seats of Craven Cottage and the men’s rooms of bathrooms up and down South West London (or do you not do that in England?) people have been arguing over this year’s Fulham’s teams performance. We sit comfortably midtable. The question is, do we deserve to be there? Are we lucky to be there? Are we unlucky to not be higher?

Our position in the table seems fairly in line with our Goal Difference. But are we lucky to have the goal difference that we do? Or are we unlucky?

Our home record is outstanding. Are we lucky?

Our away record is pretty bad. Is that unlucky?

Are both true, thereby canceling each other out?

Are we unlucky that Simon Davies’ performance has suffered this year? Or were we lucky last year? Is this due to our playing system, or is this just an individual failing? Should this be counted in the bad luck category? Or should some regression be expected?

Our record is good but our forward’s have been poor. Is that unlucky? Should we actually be higher in the table? Or do our forwards’ scoring rates reflect their true talent, and therefore are we lucky to be midtable? Same in reverse for our defense?

So I don’t know the answer. Almost certainly we have been lucky in somethings and unlucky in others. But while for last year’s Angels, with a little bit of research I could certainly determine whether their final record meshed with their true talent level, we don’t have that option (yet) for Fulham.

The stats aren’t there yet.

Is this team playing below, to, or above it’s true potential? Is the difference luck, or is it Roy?

Will we regress next year, or advance?

Is there a God?

Let’s get these questions answered people.

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