Friday, November 20, 2009

November Links

A couple of links:

  1. The push for public subsidies for new stadiums has reached a new level of absurdity: blaming the lack of a Jumbotron for a fumble. Snarky Bears' fan follow-up: maybe the Vikings can blame this miss on the lack of wind patterns in the dome.
  2. My co-author for the college football playoff article, Tim Kane, was on the Nightly Business Report earlier this week. He was on the 11/16/09 episode at the 22:30 mark. Tim talked about the importance of entrepreneurship for employment growth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

College football playoff, part II: Examination of a 4-team playoff

As a follow-up to my earlier post on my article on a college football playoff, I will be expanding on the issue of a four-team playoff.

There are a number of issues related to problems with a college football playoff. Here are the key ones for me:

  1. Tradition of the bowls
  2. The fact that college football is different is a plus
  3. Expanding the playoffs would not necessarily improve the chances that the best team would win
  4. The regular season matters more in the current system
  5. The optimal number of playoff teams is not going to be constant

That last point I will expand on in a later post.

In many respects there is already a playoff system. It is just a playoff with two teams. So there has already been a little bit of destruction on points 1 and 2 with the creation of the BCS. In terms of fairness, I think a legitimate argument could be made that a four-team playoff might be optimal in terms of "fairness". It only has two rounds, so the probability of the best team getting upset is not extremely high. In general the regular season would still matter. However, even here there would be exceptions, such as the upcoming SEC championship. If Alabama and Florida win out, so that either team's only loss is to the other, I think they would have a pretty compelling case for inclusion in a 4-team playoff. If 2 out of the 3 of Boise St., TCU and Cincinnati lose out, the loser of the SEC championship game would almost be guaranteed of going to a four-team playoff. That result would seem to make that game pretty anti-climactic. If Boise State, TCU, Texas, Cinci and the SEC champion are undefeated there would still be at least one undefeated team missing out on a four-team playoff. The argument in that scenario would be that the optimal number of teams in the playoffs this year would be six. Even in the season most mentioned for needing a playoff, 2004, there were three contending teams (all with one loss), and then a mishmash of teams with two losses. A three team playoff might have been optimal in that year but even then there would be controversy over who got the bye week.

These cases all point to the likelihood that the playoffs would ever-be expanding. A four-team playoff excluding Boise State and TCU would lead to calls for an eight-team playoff so that those teams could be included. Then the ACC and Pac-10 would call for an automatic bid, since they'd be missing out on the post-season, and a sixteen-team playoff with eight automatic bids would be created. The Sun Belt, Conference USA, the MAC and Notre Dame would then want their own automatic bid, and the play-offs would be expanded to 24 teams.

My one compromise solution would be a +1 system. The bowls would go back to the old system of conference tie-ins, i.e., the Rose Bowl with the Pac-10 and Big 10, and the Sugar Bowl with the SEC champion. Then a week later there would be a National Championship game between two of the bowl winners. The system would bring back a lot of the tradition of the bowl games, allow the regular season to mean something, and give the smaller conference teams a chance to prove themselves in a bowl game to see if they are worthy of playing for the national championship. Also, it would hopefully limit the amount of playoff creep by keeping the bowls in place.

Was Belichick’s decision to go for it on 4th down correct?

Belichick is getting blasted for his decision to go for two late in the game against the Colts last night (see here, here, here and probably a hundred other places). A detailed statistical analysis seems to suggest that it was actually the right call. See these posts (1, 2) at the blog and this one at Advance NFL Stats. For a less cerebral analysis in support of the decision see Merril Hoge.

One last point. It seems from this video that Peyton Manning was not happy about the Patriots going for it at the time. Since football games are zero-sum games, what is good for the Colts is necessarily bad for the Patriots. If the Colts want them to punt, then the best thing for the Patriots is to not punt. However, this analysis assumes rationality on the part of both teams, which may not be a correct assumption.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Would a college football playoff be fair?

Tim Kane and I have a new article at RealClearSports arguing that a college football playoff would be less "fair" in determining a national champion than the current system. I hope to have a couple of smaller follow-up posts here in the next couple of days.

Tim is a friend of mine from graduate school who blogs regularly at Growthology.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chase Utley

Has Chase Utley gone from Bobby Grich to Derek Jeter in one World Series? Grich is one of the most overlooked players in recent history. I remember reading in Ryne Sandberg's autobiography that at the start of Sandberg's second year the team said that they wanted to turn him into a second baseman like Grich. At the time I had no idea who Grich was* but have since realized he was a really good player. Jeter is a great player who is often overrated by the media.

For the last few years I have felt that Utley has been the overlooked star of the Phillies. Utley has the profile of a player that is likely to be overlooked as he does many things well (hit for power, get on base, really good defense). Well, with his recent heroics in the World Series things may have begun swinging completely the other way (see here and for the counter argument).

* I have become more obsessed with baseball in the last 13 years.