The Magical Predictive Powers of Selective Sampling

I’ve gotten quite a kick the last couple of days out of many people gleefully regurgitating the stat that no team that has started 0-4 (or, of course 0-5) has ever gone on to win the World Series.  While that’s an interesting statistical quirk, that’s exactly what it is.  Yankee fans are having an especially good time yukking it up over the fact that their hated rivals, the Red Sox, preseason favorites in pretty much everyone’s book, have yet to win a game.  While it’s not really a good thing to lose five games in a row, ultimately, during the regular season, it doesn’t matter when those five losses occur.  Just for fun, let’s look at some recent World Series champions, and whether or not they lost five in a row at some point during the season.

Working backwards, let’s start with the 2010 Giants.  A quick look at their season results shows that they lost five in a row from May 19 through May 23, and expanding by two games on either side of that skid, they lost seven of nine.  Later in the season, from June 26 through July 2, they lost a whopping seven in a row, and again expanding by two games on either side, lost nine of eleven (going back one game earlier, they lost as well, so that’s ten of twelve).  Granted they clinched their playoff berth on the last day of the season, so perhaps that explains some of it.  Let’s go back a little further.

The 2009 Yankees won 103 games, and won the AL East by a comfortable 8 games.  From May 2 through May 7, the Yankees lost five in a row, and expanding by the next four games, lost seven of nine.  They would go on to lose four of five and then five of six (separate groups of games) before the end of June.  Let’s keep going.

The 2008 Phillies lost six in a row from June 17 through June 24, and lost two of the three games on either side of that.  They would also lose four in a row in the first week of July, four in a row (and five of six) in mid August, before losing just eight the rest of the season.  Are we noticing a pattern here?

The 2007 Red Sox actually didn’t lose five in a row at any point, though they did lose four in a row from June 3 through June 6, which was the tail end of a stretch where they lost six of seven.  They would also lose six of eight, and four of five twice before the end of July.  They would again lose four in a row in August, and again in September.  Just so we have  a nice sample of five teams, let’s go back one more season.

The 2006 Cardinals made it all the way to June 20 before losing more than four games in a row (although they did lose four in a row in early May).  Starting on June 20, they would lose a whopping eight in a row, followed by losing two of the next three.  Starting on July 27, they would again lose eight in a row.  On September 20, the Cardinals had a healthy seven game lead in the NL Central.  By September 26, that lead was a scant 1.5 games, as they lost seven in a row.

I’m not trying to say that protracted losing streaks are in any way a good thing.  I’m merely trying to show that over the course of 162 games, they do happen, even to the best teams (yes, I realize that Cardinals teams won only 83 games, but this whole thing started about winning the World Series, remember?).  Today is only April 7, and the Red Sox have 157 games left, the majority of which are against teams in their division, which is currently led by Baltimore and Toronto, two teams nobody picked to do anything this year.  The first five games of a season are no more predictive than any random five game sample throughout the season, they just stand out more.  So let’s put the shovels away, and not bury them just yet.

29 thoughts on “The Magical Predictive Powers of Selective Sampling

  1. As a Yankee fan, I am not counting the Red Sox out just yet. But I will gloat at their misfortune.

  2. Jebus D quit over reacting

    But it’s so much more fun to be completely reactionary to ever little thing that ever happens!

    / America in 2011

  3. enjoy the stink that is lebron

    Yeah, I’m as confused by that one as the next guy. Makes absolutely no sense to me.

  4. Red Sox are a terrible team, and a more terrible franchise. enjoy the stink that is lebron.

    Que?

  5. TJ

    Is anyone else watching the Masters on a T1 line with a huge computer screen?

    It’s fucking awesome. Their website is phenomenal and all sports leagues should look at it for ideas.

    End TJ

  6. Que?

    Lebron’s management group partnered with Fenway Sports Management group yesterday.

    Still no idea why.

  7. TJ
    Is anyone else watching the Masters on a T1 line with a huge computer screen?
    It’s fucking awesome. Their website is phenomenal and all sports leagues should look at it for ideas.
    End TJ

    You sir, are a genius and a valued member of this community. Thank you for this information.

  8. Is anyone else watching the Masters on a T1 line with a huge computer screen?

    It’s fucking awesome. Their website is phenomenal and all sports leagues should look at it for ideas.

    this guy is! did you know that Tiger Woods is approaching Amen Corner.

    *he’s been approaching it for the last hour or so according to the note in the upper left-hand corner of the screen

  9. Regardless, the Red Sox started 0-5, so if you thought they were a 92 win team (or whatever), you have to ratchet that expectation down to like 89 or so.

    That may not be enough to get them into the playoffs.

  10. Regardless, the Red Sox started 0-5, so if you thought they were a 92 win team (or whatever), you have to ratchet that expectation down to like 89 or so.

    Why? The 98 Yankees started 0-3 and won 114 games. So, again, who gives a shit about their 0-5 start.

  11. whoever told Ricky Fowler that all green with a flat-brimmed hat was a good idea needs to be front kicked in the chest. if it was Ricky that told Ricky that, then he needs to be front kicked in the chest.

  12. Their website is phenomenal and all sports leagues should look at it for ideas.

    What other sports league can learn anything from how they shoot a golf tournament? You can film golf on a nice low ISO film stock and not have any blurring. It’s a lot different when people are moving around really fast and doing stuff

  13. I don’t think it’s ever too early for Red Sox fans (and Tampa Firesales fans, too) to overlook the Crawford Curse. Best thing to do would be to cut bait now

  14. Why? The 98 Yankees started 0-3 and won 114 games. So, again, who gives a shit about their 0-5 start.

    but the Yankees are wonderful.

  15. Why? The 98 Yankees started 0-3 and won 114 games. So, again, who gives a shit about their 0-5 start.

    You were just warned to avoid selective sampling.

  16. Still no idea why.

    I wrote a lil something on that one.

    Something i missed. A Yankee fan investing on a soccer team owned by the current keepers of the Red Sox. Must be the $$$!!!!

  17. What idiotic fan is counting the Red Sox out just yet? It’s fucking April 7th.

  18. What idiotic fan is counting the Red Sox out just yet? It’s fucking April 7th.

    I don’t know you, GSG, but I feel sure that you have met a Red Sox fan before

  19. don’t know you, GSG, but I feel sure that you have met a Red Sox fan before

    Yes I have. A friend of mine has been listening in on their sports talk and they have the usual “sky is falling” shit, but that’s to be expected with sports talk.

    My issue isn’t with the post. It has more to do with the fact that I hate idiots.

  20. My issue isn’t with the post. It has more to do with the fact that I hate idiots.

    This

  21. whoever told Ricky Fowler that all green with a flat-brimmed hat was a good idea needs to be front kicked in the chest

    I believe the Members told him to get the fuck out with his loud orange outfit. I for one fully support Ricky being Ricky. Save the front kicking for the pussy europeans.

    It’s a lot different when people are moving around really fast and doing stuff

    i was referencing the easy access to data, other camera angles, and depth of experience. I find it a much richer experience than sitting on my couch watching even Mikey’s 1025 inch TV. Perhaps that’s because he still hasn’t moved the Brawny bulk paper towel roll.

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