Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Demise of the Yankees

Since I started following Major League Baseball closely in 1993, I've, at different times, been a fan of the Orioles, Red Sox, and Mariners.

Which is another way of saying that I truly relished the collapse of this year's Yankees in a heap of recriminations.

I don't want to say this too loudly, because it might keep them from blowing up the team, but the Yankees are fine.

The structure of the playoffs ensures that it's more or less a crapshoot. To a first approximation, a team has a 50% chance of winning each series. From a team construction and management perspective, the best you can do is make the playoffs every year. Cashman and Torre have done that.

Two little math exercises are useful. The Yankees have reached the postseason in each of the 12 full seasons since divisional play began. So we would expect them to have been bumped in the first round 6 times, the LCS 3 times, and go to the series 3 times. Of those 3, a reasonable Yankees fan could expect to win once or twice. Their actual record?
  • 5 first-round losses (1995, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2006)
  • 1 LCS loss (2004)
  • 2 World Series losses (2001, 2003)
  • 4 Titles (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000)
Essentially, the Yankees have an extraordinary 6-1 record in the LCS; aside from that, their performance is very close to the expected value.

Ah, you say, but the team's different now. Those wins aren't evenly distributed! But a playoff team has a 12.5% chance of winning the World Series. What are the odds of making the playoffs and not winning six years in a row? 44.8%. That's hardly a low-probability event.

But feel free to chase off the best player of his generation and the manager best suited to New York in the past 50 years.


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