This morning and yesterday we talked about anomalies and random chance and how someone who wins four out of seven games may not be the “best” even if they are wonderful and worthy of celebration.
In the comments to this morning’s post our friend Indaburg, with help from Leonard Mlodinow, noted just how many games we’d truly need in order to determine the better team, statistically speaking:
Leonard Mlodinow who wrote The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives makes an interesting case whether or not a best of 7 series is sufficient to determine which is the better team. He says no.
“…if one team is good enough to warrant beating another in 55% of its games, the weaker team will nevertheless win a 7-game series about 4 times out of 10. And if the superior team could beat its opponent, on average, 2 out of 3 times they meet, the inferior team will still win a 7-game series about once every 5 match-ups. There is really no way for a sports league to change this. In the lopsided 2/3-probability case, for example, you’d have to play a series consisting of at minimum the best of 23 games to determine the winner with what is called statistical significance, meaning the weaker team would be crowned champion 5 percent or less of the time. And in the case of one team’s having only a 55-45 edge, the shortest significant “world series” would be the best of 269 games, a tedious endeavor indeed! So sports playoff series can be fun and exciting, but being crowned “world champion” is not a reliable indication that a team is actually the best one. (p. 70-71)”
Anyone for a best of 269 World Series? How about best of 23? Anyone? Anyone?
I’d be cool with a 269-game series. I’d prefer we not have Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci doing the color commentary and, for the sake of my sleep schedule, I’d want some day games mixed in. But really, let’s do this thing.