Monday, November 19, 2012

Inter-Divisional NFL Games, Part II

Friday I looked at the commonness of the Patriots and Colts playing each other.  That match-up has happened 10 out of the 11 years of the current scheduling arrangement.  There is one other match-up that has happened 9 out of 11 years:

Panthers Cardinals Divisions Play?
2002 4* 4* No
2003 4 4 No
2004 1 4 Yes
2005 3 3 No
2006 1 3 No
2007 2 4 Yes
2008 2 2 No
2009 1 1 No
2010 3 1 Yes
2011 4 4 No
2012 3 2 No

Yes.  The Cardinals and Panthers have played that often only missing each other in 2006 and this year.  While the Patriots-Colts match-up has been the result of consistent excellence of both teams, this match-up is primarily random.  They have finished in the same spot in all four possible spots.  They have only finished in the same spot in the standings six times, but none of them when they would have been playing anyway.   They will also automatically be playing next year, as the South and West are matched up next year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Inter-Divisional NFL Games, Part I

Peter King talks today about how the Patriots and Colts have played the past 10 seasons.  To do this they had to have finished in the same spot in the standings the previous year except in years where the divisions were matched up.  What is amazing is that it is not primarily luck that has accounted for this result, as the Colts and Patriots have finished in the same position all but last year.  Here is the how they finished in their division the year before:

Year Patriots  Colts Divisions Play?
2002 1 Not 1 No
2003 2 2 Yes
2004 1 1 No
2005 1 1 No
2006 1 1 Yes
2007 1 1 No
2008 1 1 No
2009 2 2 Yes
2010 1 1 No
2011 1 1 No
2012 1 4 Yes

The finish in the division refers to the year before.  2002 uses the three division set-up of 2001, so the results are not as obvious.  The two teams have been so closely tied together.  Usually this is because they are both good.

There is a second match-up of inter-divisional foes who have played almost as much.  They have played 9 out of the 11 years of the current arrangement.  However, they are not matched up because of consistently being good or bad.  I will discuss that combination in a post on Monday.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amateur 2012 Election Predictions

My completely unscientific election predictions:

President: Obama 294-244 (Obama wins Ohio and Virginia; Romney wins Colorado and Florida)
Popular vote: 51-49 (two-party vote)

Senate: Republicans +1  Gain Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana; Lose Maine and Massachusetts

House: No net change.  242-193.

I actually went through and assigned each seat based on my predictions and came out with exactly the same numbers as last election.  This result is pretty unlikely given that there are new seats, lost seats and redistricted seats due to the new census.  I have 10 seats switching from R to D, 7 switching from D to R and both member-on-member fights going to the GOP. These numbers don't necessarily add up because of reapportionment and redistricting new seats.

 I tend to be skeptical of big gains from redistricting since there seems to be some backlash by voters to it.  However, I do see multiple seat gains for the Republicans in North Carolina and for the Democrats in Illinois because many Representatives in those states won by close margins last time as it was.
Edit: Right after I posted this, I decided to flip-flop Colorado to Romney.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Way Late 2010 Election Prediction Analysis

I was thinking about doing another House of Representatives prediction.  Since my last prediction hit the Republican gain exactly, and I did not do a full gloating analysis post, I am doing that first.

While my overall prediction last time of a 63-seat gain for the Republicans was exactly right, I did miss about 8-12 seats in both directions, so my actual prediction may not have been that great.

I think there were three causes of my missed predictions.

 1.  I just did not have enough knowledge about individual candidates.  For instance I picked the Republicans to win Arizona 8, but Gabrielle Giffords was probably a much more appealing candidate than was apparent to me as an outsider, and she held it for the Dems.

2.  My main point that I missed for the Republicans was their strong showing in the suburbs.

3.  The main thing I missed for the Democrats was that I expected African-American turnout to drop more than it did.

Those last two things only affected a couple of races each.  The truth is that there are actually very few true suburban districts.  Either they are suburban-urban and therefore solid Democratic or suburban-exurban and solid Republican.  Very few districts are suburban and thus toss up.  The few seats like this are concentrated around New York and Chicago.  With majority-minority districts, there are not very many districts where African-Americans make up a sizable but not determinative proportion of the electorate.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Long Live the Electoral College

Garett Jones has a post at Econlog stating why he is a fan of the electoral college.  His basic argument is that it lowers regional conflict by forcing politicians to aim for the median voter in swing states as opposed to running up the score in individual states, and thus overemphasizing regional differences.

Another advantage I see is that it weights the votes of each state by their population, not by the number of people voting.  Therefore, if we see a scenario where a natural disaster hits one or two states and depresses their voting, it lessens the probability of that affecting the election.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

State Poll-National Poll Divide

One thing that has bugged me about the coverage of the election was the idea that there was a high probability of Romney winning the popular vote by a decent amount (>1%) and Obama winning the electoral college.  Joe Scarborough seems to be one of the worst offenders at this.  Much of the polling seemed to suggest that not only is this a possibility but a fairly likely event as well.  However, it never seemed intuitively to me to be a all that probable.  Yes, there have been a few elections where the popular vote loser won the electoral college, but in each of those cases the popular vote was quite close.

Well today a couple of the better analysts have examined the problem and basically said that one of the polls has to be wrong.  Sean Trende says when you aggregate all of the states, the state polling is not consistent with the national polling.    Nate Silver suggests that the state polling is better.  While Jay Cost seems to be skeptical of the state polling, at least in Ohio.  It is good to see some confirmation of my own intuitive thoughts.

One caveat is Hurricane Sandy.  If the hurricane really depresses voting in New York and New Jersey, it probably will not have much of an impact on the electoral college as Obama would likely win both states anyway.  However, it could impact Obama's popular vote total enough that Romney wins the popular vote by a bigger amount (i.e. 1-2%) and Obama still wins the electoral college.  There again this scenario would not be able to explain the current polling discrepancy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Extra Wild Card Excitement?

I am not buying any added excitement from adding an extra wild-card team in baseball. 

In the AL if there had not been an extra wild card, the end result would have been exactly the same.  Since the Orioles and Rangers finished with the same record, the result would have been a one-game playoff like what happened.  The added wild card probably only removed drama, as the Orioles could see the Yankees winning early and knowing they were playing in a one-game playoff on Friday whether they won or lost.  Without the extra wild card, the Orioles could have been playing to avoid the one-game playoff.  Also the A's-Rangers loser would not have been guaranteed at least a one-game playoff, likely increasing the drama associated with that game.

In the NL, the extra wild card probably increased interest, though the Cardinals race for the last spot never got that close down the stretch, and the one game playoff was pretty dramatic.  Still I would take the un-manufactured drama of the A's-Rangers game or last year's final day over the manufactured drama of the Cardinals-Braves game.

Friday, October 5, 2012

No Statistics in MVP Discussions?

The other day on Pardon the Interruption, Michael Wilbon was arguing for Miguel Cabrera as the AL MVP.  (Sorry I can't find a link).  As part of his argument he said he did not want to hear anything about "statistics" in arguing against Cabrera.  Those arguments all pale in comparison when put next to Cabrera winning the Triple Crown. 

Huh?   The Triple Crown argument is a "statistical" argument as home runs, RBIs and batting average are all statistics.  I guess it just depends on what statistic you use.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympic Badminton II

There are always problems with teams throwing games when you go from multi-game rounds to single-elimination tournaments.  The problem for the Olympics is that single-elimination tournaments are a horrible way of determining the second and third-best teams.  Because of the silver and bronze medals this matters a lot more here than most playoffs.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Badminton

Hey, I'm almost good enough at a sport to play in the Olympics.  Oh wait, they were trying to lose.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Free Agents are not the Cubs Problem

As I pointed out before, the primary problem of the latter years of the Hendy regime in Chicago was not the overspending on free agents. The better culprit is the complete incompetence in drafting and developing young talent. Here is more support for this view (see the Table 3 at the end). In fairness, this study probably would underestimate the negative impact of the Soriano contract since the last three years of his contract are not included. However, the overall point is that the free agent signings were not the biggest problem of the Hendry years.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion

Last week I did an interview with Brian Schwartz who published a short editorial about my work in the Daily Camera. The paper he cited was my Economic Inquiry article with Christian End, "A Winning Proposition: The Economic Impact of Successful National Football League Franchises". One interesting thing to come out of the interview was that I realized when I give estimates for the dollar impact of a team winning, I typically use the real income number. Using real income makes sense from a research point of view, but people do not think in 1984 dollars. Inflation has more than doubled the dollar amount in the last 25 years, so I should probably adjust the numbers to state nominal income.

You can find the editorial here (it is the last one), and you can find Brian's blog entry about it here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quick Advice for NFL Players

A quick personal service announcement to all professional football players. Do not say anything about the Saints' Bounty story. Do not become the Clinton Portis of the Bounty story. The implications in this case are probably worse, as Portis only embarrassed himself, whereas this time players might inadvertently implicate their own teams.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Upsets on the First Two Days of the Tournament

The first two days of the NCAA tournament provided a number of upsets. Two 15-seeds, one 13-seed, two 12-seeds and two 11-seeds all won, along with one 16-seed who may have won without the hindrance of the refs. Most commentators seem to be describing the upsets as being due to more general parity. That parity has been evident in the last few years with Butler's multiple trips to the Final Four, along with VCU's and George Mason's runs as well. However, an additional factor likely on display this year was the overall quality of the lower seeded teams. In particular, the usual bottom feeders that inhabit the 15 and 16 seed lines looked much better than usual. I think part of the reason was that many of these weaker conferences put their best team forward. In past years, many of these leagues would see their top team get knocked off in the conference tournament. The conferences ranked 20th, 21st and 23rd – 27th by RPI all sent their regular season champion. Of the higher ranked conferences only the Sun Belt sent a clearly inferior team that belonged on the 16-seed line, Western Kentucky. A couple of them sent teams that weren't their strongest, Detroit from the Horizon and Loyola from the MAAC, but those conferences sent teams that were at least in their top four teams. Add it all up and there was a logjam of teams that typically would have been 13 and 14 seeds getting pushed down to the 15-seed line. If you have enough good teams, some of them will pull off the upset.

Of course this might not be a sufficient excuse for Mizzou, as the one 15-seed that seemed like a typical 15-seed was Norfolk State.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 96-Team NCAA Basketball Field

As I did last year, and the year before I tried to come up with what my projection would be for the NCAA field if it was 96 teams instead of 68. One assumption I make is that they will take no losing teams. Two years ago this was a strong assumption, but this year it probably would not have made a difference. Unlike in last year's projection I will not assume that all of the NIT at-large teams will make it. While there were a lot of automatic bids to the NIT, like in years past, the different thing this year was that there were a lot of automatic bids who would have made the NIT without the automatic bids (Washington, Drexel, Nevada …). What that means is that we cannot assume that all of the NIT at-large bids would have made the NCAA tournament. In particular, it is hard to imagine Iowa making a 96-team NCAA tournament. However, being a large university with a large fan base who could host an NIT game made them a good choice for the NIT. I was also skeptical of Stanford, but they received a 3-seed so maybe my view of them is probably lower than that of the people making the decisions.

Clear additions to a 96-team field: Washington, Tennessee, Arizona, Seton Hall, St. Joe's, Mississippi, Miami, Dayton, Oregon, Drexel, Oral Roberts, Northwestern, Mississippi St., Akron, Nevada, Marshall

Likely additions: La Salle, Middle Tennessee, UMass, Central Florida

Bubble teams: Cleveland St., Northern Iowa, LSU, Valparaiso (The Horizon was a pretty highly rated conference so I think Cleveland St. and Valpo would have been selected)

Last 4 in: UMass, Bucknell, Stanford, Minnesota

Last 4 out: George Mason, Weber St., Princeton, Buffalo

I ended up taking all of the at-large teams from the NIT except Iowa (RPI in the 120s) plus two additional auto bids from the NIT that had 7 or 8 seeds (Valparaiso and Bucknell)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2011 AL MVP Picks

I wrote this post back in November but never got around to posting it. I will post it now.

My picks for the AL MVP:

Miguel Cabrera
Adrian Gonzalez

I had the top 3 reversed from the actual voting (Verlander winning). Obviously, I am not afraid of picking a pitcher as MVP, as I had Verlander 3rd and Sabathia 7th, and in the NL I had Halladay 3rd, Kershaw 5th and Cliff Lee 8th. I just didn't have Verlander winning this year.

Among the other players, Kinsler did not get as much support as he probably should have.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grand Junction Rockies

Every year I analyze the movement of minor league baseball teams from one city to another (past analyses). These analyses are based on a paper I published a few years ago in the International Journal of Sport Finance, "Called Up to the Big Leagues: An Examination of the Factors Affecting the Location of Minor League Baseball Teams". For a short description of the model see this post from 2009. One caveat to all of these analyses is that the data for the study comes from 2003 and may be out of date.

The Rockies Short-Season A affiliate in the Pioneer League is moving from Casper, WY to Grand Junction, CO for the upcoming season. By my analysis moving away from Casper makes sense. It was not one of the ten least likely cities to have any baseball team, but it was just above those cities. My research found that Grand Junction would have been more likely to have a minor league baseball team, but neither was particularly likely (15% for Grand Junction vs. 9% for Casper). Grand Junction is almost twice as big as Casper, but the per capita income is higher in Casper. The higher population makes it a much more attractive market, but the income mitigates that effect slightly. Grand Junction has also experienced fairly rapid population growth in the last decade, so the percentage might be understating its appeal.

Grand Junction is in Colorado and they are affiliated with the Rockies so there may be some positive aspect to that. However, Wyoming is also in the Rockies' "sphere of influence" and Grand Junction is only 50 miles closer to Denver than Casper.

Grand Junction does have a fairly low probability of having a team, and I had it third on the list of potential markets in the current geographic scope of the Pioneer League (Northern Rocky Mountain States) behind Fort Collins and Greely, CO. There also seem to have been a couple of less desirable markets than Casper that still have their teams (Helena and Great Falls, MT). However, given all the evidence, this is pretty close to an example of a move that would have been predicted by my model.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Large Market Teams Do Not Conduct Fire Sales

Look at this quote from a Cubs blog (Obstructed View):

"It's too bad the Cubs don't have a couple more Garza's they could trade to add some elite talent to their farm system."

If the Cubs had three Garzas, they would not be rebuilding. As a big market team that finished the previous year with a near .500 record (+5 wins for each Garza), and quite a bit of financial flexibility, they would have gone all in. They probably would have signed Prince Fielder, C. J. Wilson (or Yu Darvish) and a right fielder. They would have made trades to improve the current club, such as emptying the farm to get Chase Headley from the Padres. They also would not have made trades that hurt the club this year with the intention of improving it in the future, i.e., they would not have traded Marshall and Cashner for prospects. Most importantly they would not have traded Garza I, Garza II and Garza III.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quick Rant on Assessing Pitchers

I like the website MLB Trade Rumors. However, I have been annoyed lately by every post on MLB Trade Rumors that has anything to do with a pitcher immediately breaking down to ridiculous arguments over whether said pitcher is "a #2" or a "an ace" or a "#4" etc. These arguments are worthless. No one has a real good idea what a "#2 starter" is. Is it the 31th-60th best starters in all of baseball? Is it what the 2nd best starter would look like on a good team? How about the second best on the Phillies? That one seems like it might be a pretty high standard. Can't the commentators just talk about how good he is relative to some fixed point like average or replacement level?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Myths about the Cubs

During much of this off-season, there has been talk about the problems with the Chicago Cubs and solutions to those problems. One of the most recurring indictments is too many long-term contracts, and that they have to get rid of all the bad contracts before they can start to fix the team. I want to look at the idea that the Cubs have too many long-term contracts. Here is the list of players signed beyond the 2012 season at the beginning of the off-season:

Alfonso Soriano $18 million in 2013 and 2014

Carlos Marmol $9.8 million in 2013

That's it. Now, the Soriano contract is a definite liability, but this is very low level of future commitment for a large-market team. I would even go as far to say that the bigger problem for the Cubs is not the number of long-term contracts being too numerous but that it is too few. If the Cubs had a few more quality players locked up long-term they would look a lot better, even with the deadweight of Soriano's contract. The true indictment of the Hendry years was the failure to produce talent that was worth extending long term, not the signing of expensive over-the-hill veterans.

In truth, the Cubs only had two contracts that were clear liabilities coming into the off-season, Soriano's and Zambrano's one-year $18 million contract*. I have heard numerous times that the Cubs should use the money that they would have spent on Prince Fielder** to pay off Zambrano's and Soriano's contracts. This idea makes no sense, as they have to pay those contracts regardless. The money that would have been used to sign Fielder would have been on top of that, essentially the salaries of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena. This idea especially does not make sense for Zambrano, as I suppose you could use the "Fielder money" this year to buy out Soriano's last two years.

*They also owed some deferred salary that was not helping things.

**I do not want to suggest that signing Fielder necessarily would have been a good idea. I am just arguing against the supposed alternative use of the money.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Secondary BCS Bowls

There are some complaints about tonight's Michigan and Virginia Tech playing in a BCS bowl. While in the past, I have defended the BCS championship game, I have not defended the BCS secondary bowl selection process. The BCS seems to have two functions:

  1. Pit the two best teams in a National Championship game.
  2. Make sure that the majority of the revenue is distributed fairly evenly among the big conferences.

Evenly means that Arkansas is not playing in a BCS game, and big conferences is why Boise State is not playing in a BCS game. Of course the "small" schools got passed over in the old bowl system and to some degree in the basketball tournament as well. Virginia Tech and Michigan were selected because they travel well. The focus on BCS bowls is also overblown. Because Arkansas was ineligible and Kansas State was passed up, we ended up getting a pretty good game between those two in the Cotton Bowl.