Recently, I argued that the post-wildcard baseball rule giving division championships to teams with tied overall records but barely-untied head to head records was silly. My point was that when comparing the records of two teams with equal win/loss records within a single division, the fact that Team A has beaten Team B more times than B has beaten A tells you nothing about which team played better baseball. Sure, A beat B more often than B beat A, but why should that count any more than the fact that inevitably, there exists a Team C which B has beaten more often than A has? It all balances out, as it must, else the total W/L records would not be equal. I’m more wary of drawing similar inferences between divisions, as teams within any one division generally play each other more often than they play teams from other divisions. If, for example, the National League Worst had had a single team that was worthy of the playoffs, that team would have almost certainly had a better W/L record than Angels or the Braves, not because it played better baseball, but because its usual opponents put up less of a fight. Still, the AL West and the NL West shouldn’t be too far off, as the leaders in both divisions had one chief opponent who, until relatively late in the season, put up a credible fight. For us it was the A’s, who fell apart a couple of weeks before the end. For the Yanks and the Red Sox, it was each other, who stuck it out to the bitter end – and who were about as close to evenly matched as any two MLB teams ever could be.
Now is the time to test my theory. In the ALDS, both teams lost, but not by comparable margins. The Red Sox rolled over and played dead for the White Sox, much as the National League Worst “champions” the Padres did against St. Louis. At the same time, their allegedly equal Yankees really only seriously flubbed one game against the Angels (Friday’s), but came within a game of winning the series and finally lost with the tying and potentially winning run on base tonight. This suggests that the Angels are slightly better than the Damned Yankees this year, who in turn were either very close (as baseball rules dictate) or identical (in my opinion) to the Red Sox.
Now’s the time to test my theory. If the White Sox mow over my Angels just like they did to John Kerry’s Bo
tsox, then we can safely assume that the Red Sox and the Yankees were exactly equal teams, and that the Angels – whose W/L record in another division tied theirs, and whose ALDS record just barely bested one of them – was excruciatingly close. But, of my Angels put up a real fight – or, for that matter, actually end up winning the series – then the mere fact that the Yanks came as close as they did to beating us in the first round is evidence that they really were a better team than Boston after all.
Finally, here’s an alternative theory, which may hold no matter how the ALCS pans out: none of this crap means squat, and I’m simply overanalyzing it to death. In that case, I plead not guilty by reason of being so friggin’ tired of debating Harriet Miers’s nomination that I’m desperate to blog about something else. So fisk me.
UPDATE: ALCS Game 1 pretty much ended any chances of testing my theory. No predictions as to how the series will pan out, but if the Angels can beat the White Sox on the second red eye in as many days, after the White Sox had three days off, it’s too late for the Angels to fare comparably to the Red Sox. Then again, as commenter Jody rightly noted, “there’s no transitivity in baseball!”