Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 Election Prediction Analysis Part I

Well given my prediction for the 2010 Elections, I'm claiming victory/validation. The Republicans have picked up a net of 63 seats in the House, exactly the same as my prediction. Of course I'm claiming victory now before the final two seats are called and make my prediction not exactly correct. Also, I only got the correct number by missing about ten seats in each direction. Lastly, my Senate prediction was not really all that great, over-predicting the Republican gain by two seats. However, those last three points are just details.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Domed Stadium in Los Angeles?

In last week's Monday Morning Quarterback, it was mentioned that there is talk of building a retractable-dome stadium in Los Angeles (about halfway down the page). Why would LA need a domed stadium? To deal with the three days of rain that the area gets a year? Because of the brutal 60-degree cold days? Of course the story mentions that it would be so they could host the Final Four. However, retractable domes add a lot to the cost of a stadium and adding one to host two or three Final Fours over the life of the stadium seems pretty excessive. If this was a privately-financed facility no one would undertake the cost associated with adding a roof, but since the taxpayer is on the hook why not add a 200-million dollar roof?

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010 Election Predictions

Since my 2010 Econ Nobel Prize prediction was so on the mark, I have decided to predict the 2010 US elections. Gains for the GOP:

House: +63 (net)

Without listing every seat, here is the list of some marginal seats I predict victory in:

AZ 8, ID 1, IL 14, KY 6, MO 4, NC 2, 7 and 8, NH 2, NY 23, OH 6, OR 5, and WV 1.

Seats lost by the GOP:

DE AL, IL 10, and LA 2. (Barely holding HI 1 and FL 25)

Marginal seats GOP misses barely:

AR 4, AZ 7, CA 20, CT 4 and 5, MI 9, MN 8, NY 1 and 24, OH 18, VA 9 and 11. (They also lose races that they should have done better in IA 3, IN 2, and PA 12).


Senate: +8

Gains: AR, CO, IL, IN, ND, NV, PA, and WI (GOP loses close race in WA)

The GOP holds all currently held Senate seats.

For additional perspectives and invaluable resources in making my predictions:


Jay Cost

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nobel Prize in Econ Prediction

My last minute predictions for the Nobel Prize in Economics. For more enlightened and informed commentary, see Greg
Mankiw and Tyler

1. Lars P. Hanse and/or Hal White. Econometrics has not been awarded in a while and the current economic conditions would suggest rewarding more theoretical economists.

2. Richard Thaler and/or Robert Schiller. These seem to be the favorites.

3. Paul Romer. Macroeconomics has not been awarded recently but given the short-run macroeconomy, they probably won't give it to most of the macroeconomist. Romer is of course known for growth theory, so I think they might go in this direction.

4. Gordon Tullock. Most people think he missed his chance, so I'm just being contrarian with this choice.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Best Sports Weekend

Though there would be some worthy contenders for the title, this coming weekend seems like the top choice for best-sports-weekend. College football has advanced (for the most part) past the cupcake portion of the schedules, but is still early enough that there are plenty of teams with meaningful games. The NFL is going strong. Baseball comes down to its final weekend with the prospect of do-or-die games after a grueling summer. Throw the Ryder Cup on top and you have a pretty great weekend of sports.

Of course it is not looking as compelling as it was a few days ago. Monsoon-season hitting Wales has messed up the Ryder Cup, and the Cubs taking 3 of 4 from the Padres has left us with the possibility of everything in baseball being decided by tonight.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The New Big 10 Divisional Alignment Part III: Too Much Tradition?

Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports argues that the Big 10 paid too much respect to tradition in terms of it scheduling with the new division alignment.

His particular complaint was that the Ohio St.-Michigan game would remain on the last weekend of the season:

The problem is that tradition won out over that bold, bright world. "The Game" will remain on the last Saturday in November, diminishing the chances for a rematch in the championship game.


"There was discussion, Delany said, of moving Ohio State-Michigan to earlier in November. That would have at least created a better possibility for a rematch. The loser would have at least had a chance to "rehab" itself by winning out over the next month. Do-or-die on the last Saturday in November makes it mostly die for the loser."

I do not understand this. If the two teams play earlier in the season, that would have just as big of an impact on the divisional race as a game on the last weekend of the season. Actually it would seem that it would more likely lead to a re-match in the Title game. If one of the team's is in a do-or-die situation and the other has already clinched its division, the team in the do-or-die situation will probably have a greater chance of winning than an earlier point in the season. The non-do-or-die team would presumably be the better team, as they already won their division. So under normal circumstances, like an early November game, they would be more likely to win, decreasing the probability of a re-match relative to the last week of the season.

Actually the problem with this setup is that the re-match is too likely. The same two teams playing on back-to-back weeks is less intriguing than other possibilities. The obvious solution to this problem would have been to put Michigan and Ohio St. in the same division.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The New Big 10 Divisional Alignment Part II: Geography

I had planned to have a couple of posts last week that I just did not have time for and am going to try and catch up this week.

Division 1: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota

Division 2: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois

In some respects this is a curious course. The conference could have split down geographically pretty easy into:
East: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio St., Penn St., Indiana and Purdue

West: Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska

Typically I think that many people worry too much about geography when determining divisions. How can the Dallas Cowboys be in the East? How can the Indianapolis Colts be in the South? However, I think these concerns are overblown. The two reasons for having geographically compact divisions are that they lead to greater rivalries and that the timing of games work out better if the teams are in the same time zone. However, in the Cowboys case, would the rivalries actually be more intense if the Cowboys played in the same division as the Saints and Texans than they are with the Eagles, Redskins and Giants? The time-zone issue is less important for the Cowboys because the game times are either completely pre-set for national games or during the day. Also one time zone difference is not that important like the three-zone difference between Eastern and Pacific.
Returning to the Big 10 expansion, time zones probably don’t matter too much in this case. However, the biggest rivals tend to be between the teams that are next to each other, so why not just break down the divisions geographically. The East with Penn St., Ohio St. and Michigan might be a little stronger than the West. But the West would still have Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, so it would not be any bigger of a mismatch than the current Big 12 North-South breakdown.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The New Big 10 Divisional Alignment Part I: The Importance of Tradition

With the expansion of Nebraska to the Big 10, in order to allow a championship game, the conference had to split into two divisions:

Division 1: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota

Division 2: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois


(For some background and additional analysis of this issue see:

Adam Rittenberg at ESPN says that the divisional alignment was based on economics, in particular having a marketable championship game and ignored tradition. I agree with that.

I think one of the big appeals of sports is rivalries. Since sports are a zero-sum game, you cannot increase interest by increasing the average number of wins. Rivalries can make certain games matter more and thus increase the entire "interest" pie. To develop rivalries you can depend on:

1. Tradition. The easiest way is to have traditional rivals already in place.

2. Geographical proximity. Having two teams near each other increases interest in a particular game since the opposing fans might travel to the games or interact with opposing fans on a regular basis.

3. Big or competitive games. Think Cowboys-49ers or more recently Colts-Patriots. In the Big 10 a good example might be Penn St.-Iowa in recent years.

I think the Big 10 really dropped the ball in not keeping some of their rivalries intact. Wisconsin is not in the same division as what I would assume to be their three biggest rivals: Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan and will only keep their rivalry game with Minnesota (each team has one rival in the other division). Penn St. and Michigan St. are not in the same division. Even the recently developed Penn St.-Iowa game is no more.

In Part II, I will discuss the issue of geography.



Thursday, September 2, 2010

College Football Season is Here

Given the state of the Cubs and the outlook for the Bears, I am ready for college football. This sentiment should be obviously necessary from the fact that I just admitted to following minor-league baseball pennant races. One big plus of I-A college football is that I am not as connected to any specific team, though I do root for Virginia Tech and Penn St, so I do not lose interest as quickly.

I hope to have a couple of posts on various college football topics over the next week or so. Meanwhile, here is a link to my past posts on a college-football playoff.

A Cubs-Redbirds Pennant Race

The Chicago Cubs have had a bad season and the Cardinals have had a bad couple of weeks. However, one area where both teams are doing well is their AAA affiliates. The Iowa Cubs and Memphis Redbirds have the two best records in the Pacific Coast League. Unfortunately for the two teams they play in the same division, so only one of them will make the postseason, and the two teams square off with a four-game series to end the season. Iowa currently sports a one-game lead, thanks to a nine-run ninth inning comeback last night.

The incompetence of the major league Cubs has gotten so pathetic that I am now more closely following their top three affiliates, all of whom are in pennant races. The AA Tennessee Smokies are running away in the Southern League and the Advanced-A Daytona Cubs are trying to stay in the race in the Florida State League.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What is a Bunker?

Dustin Johnson missed out on a playoff in yesterday's PGA Championship after breaking a rule about not grounding his club in a bunker (see here). While Johnson was clearly not as well-versed on the local rules of the course as he should have been, my bigger question is about the particular ground rules that were used to deal with the large number of bunkers on the course.

"The dilemma," Wilson explained, "is that it's even harder to say some of these are not bunkers and some of them are, because then how do you define those? And then a player would essentially be treading on thin ice almost every time he entered a sandy area wondering where he was. And with 1,200 of them, there's no way to confirm with each player exactly where he lays."   (Link)

My problem with this explanation is that the rules that were in place do not seem as definitive to me as this suggests:

1. Bunkers: All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions. (Link)

"All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunker will be played as bunkers …" means that someone (the golfer) has to make a determination as to whether a spot of dirt or sand was designed to be a bunker at a particular spot. If the purpose is to make the distinction obvious, wouldn't a more reasonable rule be:

"Any obvious bunker inside the lines of the course is a bunker. Any sand outside those lines should not be treated as a bunker."


"Any sand on the course should be considered to be a bunker"

Given that there were people walking through a lot of the outer bunkers so they would not play similarly to an actual sand trap anyway, I like the first version better. Also, a rope is a pretty clear delineator. However, either of these rules should be clearer than the actual rule.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Dark Side of Moneyball

Bill Simmons and Brian Goff discuss the issue of excessively long baseball games. I concur that this is a problem. I also am in favor of the suggested solutions of eliminating the DH and reducing the time between innings (commercials). Also, steps to reduce the amount of time between pitches (particularly for Kyle Farnsworth) would help.

However, I want to focus on one additional element of the problem that Simmons mentions, the number of pitches per at bat. One element of the Moneyball strategy is that it encourages looking for a walk and taking pitches by the batter. However, this will lead to longer at-bats and thus longer games. Combined with recent concerns that high pitch counts will lead to more injuries, longer at-bats will also lead to more pitching changes, compounding the problem of longer games.

So here we have a strategy that increases the chance of winning for teams that employ it, but when used by everyone creates a negative impact on the sport as a whole. It reminds me of the neutral-zone trap that came into being in the NHL in the mid-90s. It helped teams win but certainly made for a less enjoyable sport to watch. The NHL eventually changed its rules to make it a less appealing strategy to use (eliminating the two-line pass and calling more obstruction penalties). However, there is not an obvious solution to solving the taking pitches problem. Even increasing the number of balls needed for a walk from 4 to 5 might have the perverse incentive of batters taking more pitches as pitchers have less incentive to throw strikes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My MVP Picks at the All-Star Break

Here are my picks for MVP at the All-Star Break of the baseball season. For the one-third list see here.
























Obviously, Utley will not be on this list much longer given his current injury, but at this point he is still done enough to hang onto the last spot. Actually, the 9th and 10th spot are so close to those who would be 11th or 12th such that that spot might change by this weekend.

Comparing to the list from a month and a half ago, each league has five of the same players and 5 different players.

Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBronathon II

I'm really glad the NBA has a salary cap to ensure competitive balance.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The excessive ESPN coverage of LeBron James's decision on which team to play for next year has got to stop. Sportscenter the last two days has been at least 50% LeBron James. Given that 25% of the show every night will be taken up covering the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets, there is not mean much time for anything else. There was a token mention of the World Cup both nights, but the only way you could see highlights of your favorite baseball team was if they managed to blow a 6-run lead in the 9th inning or a 3-run lead the next night. Tonight ESPN has an hour devoted to his announcement. How are they going to extend his decision into an hour-long show? The announcement should take 10 seconds. How fast can you say Miami Heat?

There is only one word to describe this phenomenon: Favresque.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Low-Scoring Soccer

Americans are often derided for not liking soccer because it is low-scoring. They are accused of not being able to understand that a sport that does not have much scoring can be exciting. They are also accused of not being able to accept ties. While there are some people who think soccer is boring because it is low-scoring, there are others who think it is boring simply because of its nature. I personally am a fan of the sport and am especially a fan of the World Cup. (Aside: I appreciate FIFA scheduling the World Cup to coincide with the worst three years for the Cubs in the last decade: 2002, 2006 & 2010).

However, the supporters of soccer should realize that there is a fundamental problem with soccer that is related to its low-scoring: the importance of questionable refereeing decisions. If a goal is rare a flawed referee call wiping out or failing to wipe out a goal is going to be much more important than in a referee call incorrectly waving-off a basket in basketball. This World Cup there have been four key goal/no goal calls that I remember:

England vs. Germany

Argentina vs. Mexico

US vs. Slovenia

US vs. Algeria

Three of these were early in the game (all but the US vs. Slovenia) and all but one was considered to make the difference in the outcome (the US scored late against to Algeria to make the earlier missed goal meaningless). *

In other sports what are the key referee decisions which are remembered, whether they were correct or not, were all late in the game:

Denkinger call in 1985 World Series (9th inning)

Jeffrey Maier no-interference in 1996 ALCS (8th inning)

1972 Gold-medal basketball game (3 seconds left)

Tuck-rule game (2 minutes to go)

5th Down game (Last play of the game)

1999 Stanley Cup Game 6 (Triple overtime)

These were all 50-50 games that ended up being influenced by a referee decision but got to that point in the game by being evenly matched. Some soccer calls are so influential that they end up completely dictating the outcome.



* There have been some questionable Red Cards as well and the controversy over the Suarez hand ball. However, the Suarez hand ball was almost universally seen as the correct call with the rule coming under fire, and Red Cards are more subjective than other decisions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Florida Marlins and Pure Evil

As a Cubs fan I've always known that the Florida Marlins sold their soul to take away the 2003 NL Pennant from the Cubs. Now the devil has come to collect.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Does the US Need to Beat Slovenia?

Everyone is talking about the US game as a must-win game for the Americans. While a loss would just about finish the US, and a win would put the US in very good position, a tie would certainly keep the US in good position to still advance.

Here are the possible scenarios:

Versus Slovenia Versus Algeria Points Advancement?

Decisive outcomes:

L, L: 1 No advancement

T, L: 2 No advancement

W, W: 7 Advancement

W, T: 5 Advancement


Likely not advancing:

L, T: 2 Only way to advance would be for England to tie Algeria and lose to Slovenia. Then Algeria, US and England all tie at 2 points and the US could advance on the tie-breaker.

T, T: 3 Would need England to tie Algeria and either i) England to lose to Slovenia or ii) England to tie Slovenia and the US to win tie-breaker on goals.

L, W: 4 Would need England to either to fail to win both games or England to win one and lose the other and advance on tie-breaker.

All of the above seem highly unlikely and would see the US advance along with Slovenia instead of England. Nobody in the world, except the most neurotic, pessimistic Englishman, would expect England to finish up their final two games with a tie and a loss.


Probably advancing:

T, W: 5 The only way the US would not advance would be if England beats Algeria and ties Slovenia and the US loses the tie-breaker to both England and Slovenia.

W, L: 4 If England wins its final two games, this would be exactly the same outcome as the US had in the 2002 World Cup, backing into advancing. Actually the scenarios where the US fails to advance are pretty numerous, i) Algeria and Slovenia beat England, ii) Algeria beats England, England beats Slovenia and beats US on tie-breaker, iii) Algeria-England tie, England and Slovenia don't tie, Algeria beats US on tie-breaker, iv) Algeria-England tie, Slovenia-England tie, US loses tie-breaker to Algeria and Slovenia, v) England beats Algeria, loses to Slovenia, US loses tie-breaker to England, vi) England beats Algeria, ties Slovenia, US loses tie-breaker to Slovenia. However, the US can still advance in most of these scenarios if they can keep their tie-breaker numbers high (lots of goals, win by a lot).

Therefore the US will be in good position to advance if it:

1) Does not lose to Slovenia

2) Wins one game

So therefore a tie against Slovenia is not the end of the world, though it does put a little more pressure on the last game which the US will have to win.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Territorial Rights and New Arenas: The Case of the Phoenix Coyotes

Brad Humphreys at the IJSF blog has written extensively on the reluctance of the NHL to allow the Phoenix Coyotes to move to Southern Ontario. See here, here and here, though there are obviously many more as the last one listed is Part X. The resistance to the move is motivated by protecting the territorial rights of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres.

However, I believe there is a pretty strong secondary motive to the reluctance to a move: the relatively new arena that the Coyotes play in Glendale. Glendale built an arena for the Coyotes in 2003. The arena is only for hockey, as the Phoenix Suns play in US Airways arena (formerly American West Arena; that name change cost me a point in a recent trivia contest). While some teams certainly care about some future team invading their territorial rights, they are all interested in eventually having an arena built for the team by the local municipalities. I do not think Nashville has to worry about another hockey team moving to their city, but they will probably want the city to build them a new arena at some point.

If the Coyotes move out of Arizona, the next time a team threatens to move unless they get a new arena, opponents will have a pretty convincing retort:

Team: "Build us a new arena or we will move to Albuquerque."

Opponents of new arena: "Well, if we build the arena, we will spend $300 million, then the team will play there for five years and then move to Canada. Look at what happened to Glendale."

Team: ?

One way to test this theory is to see if the league would restrict the team from moving to a location without a problem with territorial rights such as Houston, Kansas City or Winnipeg. Of course none of those markets would be nearly as valuable to an owner as Southern Ontario.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Instant Replay

I was not watching the "Perfect Game" last night by Armando Galarraga, because I was too busy watching the Flyers' 4-3 overtime win over the Blackhawks. What I am struck by is the discrepancy in instant replay rules between hockey and baseball. Baseball supposedly cannot have instant replay because it will break up the flow of the game. However, hockey which has a lot more natural flow to the game has instant replay. In last night's game there were two key calls that went to instant replay, one giving the Flyers a goal and one not giving them a goal in overtime. The first one went to replay after the game continued for a minute and a half. If hockey can have instant replay despite problems with the flow of the game, then I cannot see how baseball cannot. Admittedly hockey needs instant replay more in that both of the calls would have been impossible to necessarily get right without replay, whereas the ump in the baseball game should have gotten the play at first base right anyway.

P.S. After writing this but before posting, I found another argument along the same lines.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My MVP Picks at the 1/3 Mark

Here are my picks for MVP at the 1/3 Mark of the baseball season. (Actually as of games on Saturday).


The most interesting thing is that “the year of the pitcher” seems to be primarily an NL phenomenon, as the NL ballot has five pitchers to the AL’s zero pitchers. I think this is also a result of there being more really good position players in the AL so far. Also realize that each start could make a big difference for a starter, so the NL ballot actually would have changed some since Saturday as both Wainwright and Jiminez had good starts since then.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tennessee Smokies

My family and I went on a vacation to the Smoky Mountains last week. As part of the trip I dragged everyone to see the Tennessee Smokies play. The Smokies are the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, my favorite team. Amazingly the Smokies managed to leave nine men on base despite hitting into two double plays. They also had a base runner hit by a batted ball and let the go-ahead-run score thanks to an error by their third baseman. Sounds like they are ready to be called up to the big leagues.

End Snark. Actually two of the nine men left on base were at the end of the game after the winning run had been scored. The error was made by a 20-year old, and the base runner hit by the batted ball was a pitcher who probably hasn't had too many chances to practice base running. And of course they won the game, are 29-20 and in first place despite their starting shortstop getting called up to the Cubs three weeks ago.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Number of Playoff Teams: NBA vs. NHL Comparison

The NBA and NHL have fairly similar structures to them. Each league plays the same number of games, 82, plays the same length playoff series, 7 games, and lets the same number of teams in to the playoffs, two 8 team conference playoffs. Both have a problem with their playoff structure from my point of view. However, it is not the same problem for each. In the NBA you have a number of teams that have little or no chance of winning even after making the playoffs. The talk-show hosts in Chicago discussed whether it would be better for the Bulls to make the playoffs or miss and improve their draft position. Getting the 8th seed has very little value in actually winning a championship. In the NHL since every team can win the regular season matters very little if you are in playoff qualifying position.

This year the semi-final matchups in the NBA will feature the 1 and 3 seeds facing off in one conference and the 2 and 4 seeds in the other conference. The NHL will also not have any duplicate seeds between the conferences as the 1 and 2 and either the 6 and 8 seeds or the 7 and 8 seeds.

This outcome in the NHL vs. the NBA is not new. Since going to approximately the current playoff system the NBA has seen three 8-seeds beat 1-seeds in the first round in 54 matchups. These results may overstate the likelihood of an upset as two of the 8-seeds won 5-game playoff series, rather than the current 7-game series, which should give the weaker team a better chance. Also one of those two seasons was strike-shortened, so the regular-season performance should be less tied to post-season performance than in a normal-length season. In the NHL, 8-seeds have beaten 1-seeds nine times in 32 matchups. Only one of those came in a strike-shortened season and all of them were in 7-game series.

Here's the thing. Neither situation is optimal. The NBA situation simply adds in teams with no chance of actually winning, while the NHL situation leads to a de-valuing of the regular season as any team that makes the playoffs has about as good a chance of winning. The difference in outcome is probably attributable to differences in the nature of the sports (less competitive balance in general in the NBA, hot goalies in the NHL). Regardless of the cause the problem is too many teams in the playoffs and it does not depend on the underlying nature of the sport.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What a Hypothetical 96-Team Field for the NCAA Tournament Would Look Like

The NCAA seems pretty insistent on expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96-Teams. Just like with last year's tournament, I wanted to see what a 96-team field this year would look like. I assume that the teams who made the actual tournament (65), plus all of the at-large teams for the NIT (24), plus any automatic bids for the NIT who had a higher seed than the lowest at-large team (1-Kent St.) would all make it. That leaves six slots. I will primarily use RPI as a measure of the best teams, though I will actually examine the records of the teams and generally teams from big conferences get in with lower RPI's. A dubious assumption I will also make is to also assume that any team with a losing record will not get in. Using those criteria I would say that the additional six teams would be Arizona, VCU, Marshall, Miami, SLU and Alabama. Based on my selections every BCS conference team with a strictly winning record, except an ineligible USC, would have made the tournament.

Here is a full bracket for a 96-team tournament from the Washington Post. The only differences between mine and his, other than 1-bid conferences, are that he includes Georgia, South Carolina, Charlotte and La Tech, and I include Ohio, Houston, Alabama and Nevada. I had excluded Georgia and South Carolina because they had losing records. Ohio and Houston won automatic bids; Charlotte continued its tail-spin and Nevada beat LaTech after the other story was written. So the differences can be explained by either one assumption (including losing teams) or when the selections were made.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Baseball Leaving Oneonta

At the Hardball Times there is an article bemoaning the departure of minor-league baseball in Oneonta. As I have discussed previously, Oneonta is a pretty small city to support a minor-league baseball team. In my study I had it as the third least likely city to host a baseball team that was hosting a baseball team. I would like to admit to one limitation of my study. I was not able to incorporate any measure of tradition and longevity of a team in a location. Tradition and history are an important part of the appeal of baseball, so this is a legitimate concern. For instance, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with long histories would seem to be better markets for baseball than similarly-sized markets without much baseball history such as Portland and Sacramento. Even with this consideration, the small size of the Oneonta market does not seem to be able to support a Short-Season A team.

I realize there will always be fans who are upset about the loss of a team, but Norwich just seems to me to be a much better market than Oneonta.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Playoff Creep II

Mid-Majority had a post a week ago discussing expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 Teams (H/T CAAHoops). The post talks about how it will not cheapen the regular season. As I explained before, the problem is that the majority of the additional bids will still go to the BCS Conference teams. I do not see how expanding the tournament will make the regular season be more important when all it will take is a winning record for the big conference teams. Also it says that the seeds will matter. The seed difference for 7 and 8 versus 9 and 10 will matter a lot more. However, the upper seeds will matter a lot less. The difference between a 1-seed and a 5-seed is pretty important right now, as a 5-seed faces a formidable opponent in the first game, while the 1-seed does not. But with an extra round the 1-seeds will be facing much better competition. The 5-seeds could face a 12-seed or a 21-seed, while the 1-seed will face either a 16-seed or a 17-seed. Not much of a difference there.

I think the better first step is to start awarding the at-large spots to teams from more conferences. Whether there are 65 or 96 teams, the key to making the regular season matter is to have a closer to uniform distribution of at-large bids.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Impact of Team Success on Communities, a Response

I posted the following in the comments at the post on my paper at The Sports Economist. The names refer the authors of the original post and the comments to that post.


I would like to defend the results of our paper to a couple of comments that have been made.


Brian: "The D&E results, themselves, point to problems for this front -- showing an NFL presence lowers wages/incomes while an MLB presence raises them. Given the relative popularity of the two sports in recent decades, that result makes little sense."

Donald: "The first is that the (partial) effect of having an NFL team is estimated as negative (but positive for MLB)."

I'll admit we did not really look at the baseball franchise variable since we were not really that interested in that variable. I would interpret the football franchise variable as being important when combined with the winning percentage variable. If there is no impact on income from having an NFL team, but there is a positive impact from winning relative to losing, the NFL franchise variable would have to be negative while the NFL winning percentage is positive. As Brian suggested, given all of the other NFL variables in the regression, it is difficult to interpret the simple dummy variable for the presence of an NFL team.


Donald: "The second is that the marginal effect of having a good team becomes negative at just slightly better than a winning record."

We do discuss why the impact peaks at just over .500. There are a couple of reasons to think this could happen:

1) The impact peaks as the team reaches an almost certain playoff team. That could be consistent with what fans care about.

2) Fans could care more about loss avoidance, which would imply that they just want to get to a decent team. An argument against this possibility is that the psychological literature actually suggests that fans do care more about winning than loss avoidance.

3) There are a lot less teams when you get to the extreme values for win percentages.

4) A square term is going to find a peak somewhere unless it goes off exponentially at the end.

My personal view is that it is a combination of points 1 and 4. Fans' moods are pretty equally good from about 11 to 16 wins. A plateau at 11 wins is not possible just using a quadratic term, so the functional form forces us into a peaking at 11 wins.


Donald: "Of somewhat more importance is the lack of any sort of theoretical foundation for the possibility of the success of a professional sports team having a positive impact on per capita income."

While we did not include a formal theoretical model, I think we gave a couple of reasonable scenarios for why the income would increase. The psychological research shows that there are compelling reasons that sport team success (or failure) could affect mood. Other studies suggest that there are reasons to think that mood would affect both spending and productivity. Depending on your view of macroeconomics, a substantial increase in consumption (Keynesian) or productivity (RBC) should lead to an increase in income. Admittedly the intermediate portion of the model would be interesting as well. Two ways to proceed with that would be a formal model of the relationship between mood and income (regardless of sports) or to estimate the mood of the population (which would be nearly impossible).


Donald: "… I'm inclined to think their result is mostly chance."

It is always possible that any result is due to chance. However, we did follow accepted statistical techniques to get our results. Further studies may eventually confirm or disprove our findings.


Greg: "Trying to winnow out a positive effect on community income or hard economic values of any kind from an NFL or MLB franchise is an exercise largely in justifying huge public expenditures and rationalizing political benefits." 

Brian: "Again, let me reemphasize, even the existence of large effects does not provide an open-and-shut case for supporting publicly-financed stadiums."

We really did not intend our study to be specifically related to the issue of stadium financing. I think our only policy recommendation was that if cities do build stadiums that the funding be conditional on team success to some degree. This policy would also be consistent with some of the contingent valuation studies. I think that the owners' reactions would be fascinating. They definitely would not want it in there, but they also would not want to argue against it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Impact of Team Success on the Local Economy

My paper with Christian End analyzing the impact of the local team's success on the economy is in the current issue of Economic Inquiry. A couple of links related to that paper were published today. At the Sports Economist, Brian Goff discusses his view on the paper. Also at CNNMoney, in a story about the impact of the Saints' Super Bowl run on small business, I am quoted discussing the impact of team success to personal income.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Minor League Baseball Returns to Norwich (Without a Missed Season)

Late last year the Connecticut Defenders, a AA minor-league baseball team, moved from Norwich, CT to Richmond, VA. In a previous post I described a paper I had done to examine these types of moves. That move seemed like a pretty obvious choice. Well, it looks like Norwich will still have a minor league baseball team next year (H/T).

According to my model, Norwich was the fifth most over-represented AA level city (see Table 7). However, at the Short-Season A level* that the New York-Penn League plays, Norwich would be on the upper end of the middle of the pack. The team is moving from Oneonta, which I had as the third least likely city to have a minor-league baseball team at any level. Oneonta was a very small city to have a minor-league baseball team, and Norwich seems like a much more promising location.

*Actually in my study I combined the Short-Season A and Rookie levels since they are pretty similar and there was not very many cities in each category.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Keynes and Hayek Rap

My department chair showed me this the other day:

Monday, January 25, 2010

College Football Playoff Part V: 2009 Review

Many people feel that 2009 is the year that clearly shows that a playoff is necessary for college football. Maybe an eight-team playoff would have worked pretty well this year; however, it seems likely to me that the strongest team won. While there was some controversy regarding the fact that three undefeated teams did not get a chance to play for a national championship, that seems to suggest to me that a four-team playoff this year would have been a disaster. At least one of the undefeated teams would have to be excluded and Florida with only one loss to Alabama would also have had a pretty compelling case. In fact the winners besides Alabama were the fifth and sixth teams in the BCS and very well might have been the teams excluded from a four-team playoff. It is interesting that after the season all of the playoff talk now discusses an eight-team playoff as opposed to a four-team playoff. If a four-team playoff had existed, I'm sure playoff creep would have already crept in to an eight-team or sixteen-team playoff.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sports Economics Links

1. The Wall Street Journal has a story on the value of being a fan of the Vikings. (H/T Marginal Revolution) See King Banaian and Phil Miller for more perspective. King in particular has a positive view of the study.

2. Yet another story on how hosting a Super Bowl is not a windfall to the local economy. The story quotes a few sports economists in arguing against large increases in economic activity due to hosting. At Division of Labor one of the economists, Craig Depken, further defends the "skeptics'" view.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Oakland (Fremont?) A’s Stadium

The prospect of a new stadium for the A's in Fremont is back on the table. Given the economic and budget situation in California currently I do not see this as particularly likely. However, from a geographical point of view, Fremont is the optimal location given the rules in place. Unlike Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, the Giants and A's do not share the territorial rights for the Bay Area. The A's have Alameda County plus other areas. The Giants have San Francisco, Santa Clara County plus other areas. At some point in the past San Francisco and Oakland were probably the obvious likely locations for the two teams, but now San Jose is the largest metropolitan area in the Bay Area. It is also quite wealthy. Fremont represents the closest city to San Jose that is currently in the A's territorial rights, or more importantly outside the Giants' territorial rights. The stadium may not be built for a number of years, but if a stadium is eventually built I would not be surprised to see it in Fremont.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

William and Mary Basketball

With the disappointing seasons by the Cubs and Bears, I have been forced to follow my alma mater's football and basketball teams. Fortunately, William and Mary football had a pretty successful season in reaching the semifinals of the I-FCS playoffs. This result is not that surprising given that the team just missed the playoffs last year, it was the third playoff trip this decade and they reached the semifinals back in '04. What is more surprising is the performance of the basketball team, which has started off the season 14-3. William and Mary does not have a particularly renowned history in basketball, being one of the five teams that have been in the NCAA since the inception of the tournament never to have been to the tournament. When I went to school, "the game" was when the team came back from 23 down to Virginia to force overtime, which they proceeded to lose in overtime. How many teams have their most memorable games in losses?

This year, the team is winning by taking a lot of three-pointers and making a lot of them. The style of the team allows them to come back from way behind at times, as can be seen in this video of their comeback against Delaware last week, where the team came from seven-down with 32 seconds to win (H/T CAAHoops). Hopefully the success will continue all the way to the tournament.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Bradley-Silva Trade

There has been much consternation in Cubland over the trade of Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva. As a Cub fan, I cannot say I was happy about the trade when it happened. J.C. actually thinks it did not hurt the Cubs too much, though that is mostly based on the combination of Silva not being completely worthless and the six million dollars. But most importantly, J.C. does not value Bradley particularly highly. Interestingly, I do not think his methodology accounts for much negative value for Bradley's attitude. Baseball Analysts estimates that that could cost his team as much as 1.5 wins above replacement, though this might be hard to look at on straight value as there is certainly an asymmetric effect. Bradley's attitude costs the Cubs more than it will cost the Mariners. The analysis from the Baseball Analysts, however, generally feels the Mariners won the trade. Presumably the difference here is from a higher estimated on-the-field value for Bradley.

An example of a bad analysis of the trade comes from Fangraphs. There are two main problems with their analysis. The first problem is the assumption that Silva will replace Gorzelanny in the rotation. First, if Gorzelanny is the much better pitcher, even the Cubs would presumably start him regardless of how much they are making. Second, Lilly is hurt, so the Cubs will have to need an additional starter. Given that Lilly was the only lefty in the rotation and that Gorzelanny is a lefty and Silva is not, that one of the spots in the rotation would be Gorzelanny's to lose. Lastly, even if the Cubs have no plans for Gorzelanny, he still has trade value and the Cubs could recoup some of his value.

The second problem is completely not accounting for the difference in defensive value because Byrd will be playing CF and Bradley would be playing RF. Their assumptions of the trade being essentially Silva and Byrd for Bradley, turned out to be correct as the Cubs used most of the money from the Mariners to sign Marlon Byrd. Pretty much any analysis of their offensive contributions will conclude that the Cubs are taking a hit to their offense. Some of the commenters at the original post suggest that a defensive position update needs to be made. However, I think that is slightly incorrect. They are essentially replacing one for the other in the lineup, so the offensive contribution is correct. However, at the same time, the Cubs have dramatically improved their defense with the move. This table summarizes the defensive issue:

Fielding Bible Zone Rating

Player value in RF value in CF value in RF value in CF

Byrd -5 0 to -9.5

Fukudome 3 -5 13.1 -18.1

Bradley -7 -6.9

Even if Byrd is not much of an upgrade over Fukudome in CF, Fukudome is a big upgrade over Bradley in RF. Regardless of whether the improvement in defense outweighs the downgrade in offense, any analysis of the trade ignoring defense is going to be insufficient.

The most distressing thing about the analysis is that it comes from a sabermetric site (and a generally good one at that).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Highest Scoring NFL Playoff Game

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I had attended the highest scoring NFL playoff game in history. This morning that is no longer true. For a long time that Eagles-Lions game was a trifecta for me: the only NFL game I ever attended was the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history, while being the coldest I have ever been. I have attended two Rams games in the last few years, so now only that last part is still true. I would really prefer to avoid breaking that (admittedly subjective) record.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wild Cards and Meaningless Games in the NFL

It seems every season there is a discussion about teams resting their starters for meaningless/nearly meaningless games at the end of the NFL season. These discussions get a little confusing because there are three different questions associated with the problem. This season the questions have come up with the Colts-Jets game last week and the Bengals-Jets game this week. Since most writers at least relate to the first two issues, I will just link to a number of examples to begin with (see here,
here, here and here)

  1. Is it optimal for the team to rest starters? The optimal choice in this question differs between the Bengals and the Colts. When the Colts played the Jets, they still had one regular season game and were locked into a bye. A case could be made that they took their foot off the gas too soon. In the Bengals case, however, it is their last game and they will not be getting a bye, so they will have to play next week as well. Not only that, but their last playoff trip was ended when their quarterback got injured on the first series of their first playoff game. For that reason, I think they will be a little worried about injuries. I think I would be inclined to not go all out in the last game.
  2. Is it moral for the teams to not try/go half speed in games that don't matter? Is it ok to do so unless the other team is going to be in the playoffs? I will not discuss the first question, but I will point out a problem with answering in the affirmative to the second. Let us say that the 4 and 5 seeds are locked in place, but that the 4 seed is playing a contender for the last playoff spot and the 5 seed is playing non-contender. If there is an advantage to resting players (see question 1) then the 5-seed would have an advantage over the 4-seed. That result does not seem fair to me.
  3. Is there a way to design a playoff system that does not lead to teams resting players for key games for other teams? Jerome Bettis suggests that the NFL fix this problem but does not suggest any solutions. One reason he does not suggest a solution (and for that matter why the NFL has fixed the problem yet) is that there are no easy solutions to this problem. Pro-football Reference suggests three proposals that would help in some circumstances. Proposal 1 would eliminate the automatic home game for division winners, meaning that relatively poor teams that have clinched the division would still have an incentive to win to get a better seed. Proposal 2 at the same link would have a flexible number of playoff teams, meaning a 2-seed would lose its bye unless it was at least three games ahead of the 7-seed. The third proposal would be to have flex games for the last two games of an 18-game schedule. These flex games would be chosen so that playoff contenders played other playoff contenders. There are a couple of problems with these solutions. Proposals 2 and 3 are pretty revolutionary. Proposals 1 and 2 would not have fixed the Colts' and Bengals' problems this year, not that fixing this particular problem was the only idea behind the proposals. The only way to completely fix this problem would be to have no wild card teams and guarantee that teams only play intra-divisional games the last two weeks of the season. So unless you are willing to suggest that or something truly unusual like the above, it is simply a problem you will have to live with.