Blake Murphy

Recent Posts

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers

At the conclusion of the 2013 MLB regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers both had 91-71 records, tied for the final American League Wild Card berth.

A one-game tiebreaker was required to solve the matter, but a more balanced schedule could have solved it long before. The Rays faced a more difficult schedule than the Rangers, an unfair reality of life in the AL East.

When Tampa Bay won the eventual tiebreaker, it seemed a matter of karmic justice.

After all, Texas went 53-23 against their own division, the AL West, which boasted a paltry .477 win percentage. The Rays, meanwhile, went 43-33 against AL East competition in a division with a .534 win percentage. Because teams play division opponents 19 times each, making up 46.9 percent of the schedule, division quality is a large determinant of record.

Tampa Bay played 97 games against teams with winning records to just 79 for the Rangers, and each was roughly a scratch team against winning opponents. Texas basically got 18 games against lesser opposition with which to gain a playoff edge and failed to do so.

This all seems terribly unfair, but an equalizing factor may have been at play, favoring teams in the East all along.

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MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals

Opportunity isn’t a given. When a baseball player signs a contract, there is no language that ensures the player will be given ample opportunity to succeed and work through struggles. It’s why the option system exists, so teams are free to churn players at the end of the roster, looking to catch lightning in a bottle.

Mathematically, this makes little sense, of course. Chasing small samples with more small samples does not give you a larger, more reliable sample. Roster churn for the sake of “finding something that works” is an exercise in randomness, albeit one that occasionally pays off.

Despite the proliferation of sabermetric analysis in baseball, teams and players still mostly operate in inefficient ways. Decision making will never be perfectly rational in baseball, owing to tradition, moving statistical targets and, perhaps most importantly, psychology.

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