Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Zero-Sum Game

The rules of baseball indicate that when one team records a win, their opponent is credited with a loss. This is why in every baseball league, the total number of wins equals the number of losses.

Every league, that is, except for the ESPN Pundits League. In their MLB preview--sample page here--ESPN.com asked five of their analysts to project each AL team's record.

Now, the AL records shouldn't average exactly to 81-81, because the AL is stronger in interleague games. We should see the average AL team somewhere between 81.5 and 82 wins to account for this, but no more, because only each team plays only 18 interleague games and going more than 10-8 on average is asking too much.

Is this what actually happened? Of course not. Here are the average records by pundit:

Jayson Stark: 82.9 - 79.1
Tim Kurkjian: 83.2 - 78.8
Buster Olney: 82.4 - 79.6
Keith Law: 81.9 - 80.1
Steve Phillips: 81.4 - 80.6

Frankly, I'm stunned that Steve Phillips isn't the worst offender, although Kurkjian has never been a big numbers guy.

Keith Law, meanwhile, was the only one to project more than 76 wins for Tampa or fewer than 90 from Seattle, so he remains at the head of the class. Everyone else goes to detention, hopefully this one.

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