Wednesday, July 26, 2006

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A sportswriting tic that drives me nuts

Yesterday, sports reporter Jeff Horrigan wrote the following in the Boston Herald:

Less than two weeks after the All-Star break, the Red Sox suddenly appear to be in desperate need of a collective breather.

Entering last night’s game against the Oakland Athletics, they found themselves in sole possession of first place in the American League East for the 36th consecutive day. Yet their grip on the top spot - 2 1/2 games over the Yankees and 4 1/2 over Toronto - appeared more precarious with each passing hour.

After losing two of three at Seattle this weekend, the Sox opened a three-game series against the A’s with areas of concern in all major facets of the game.

Now, the Red Sox had just lost two games to the Mariners, and their relef pitching and defense did not perform up to spec. However, Horrigan takes a two-game trend and assumes that will be the new status quo. This leads to the argument that the second-best team in baseball (by winning percentage) is falling apart.

This is a sportswriting tic that drives me nuts -- failing to recognize regression to the mean. If teams go through a mini-slump or reel off a few victories, it's attributed to a fundamental change in the quality of the players. Sometimes, bad things happen to good players and vice versa. Just because the Sox have a few bad games does not mean that things will stay that way.

Baseball writers are far from the worst culprits on this score -- that award has to go to basketball writers. Lest one believe that I'm exaggerating, go back and see what was written about the Heat-Mavericks finals after the Mavs went up 2-0 in the series.

posted by Dan on 07.26.06 at 08:24 AM


You would also think that these guys would have learned from the 2004 season. 2 or 3 games in a row doesn't mean squat (see Yankees up 3-0 in ALCS).

But Dan, you're in Boston now. You have to realize that we're a rabid bunch when it comes to the Red Sox. Beckett has one of the better winning percentages in MLB, yet when he throws a bad game (or forbid, 2 bad games), the press wants his head. It's not rational... it's Bostonian.

posted by: Marcus Holmes on 07.26.06 at 08:24 AM [permalink]

2 or 3 games in a row doesn't mean squat (see Yankees up 3-0 in ALCS).

Two or three games in a row doesn't mean squat as far as how good you think a team is overall, sure. But it means quite a lot in a postseason series as far as the likelihood that one team or another will win the series.

The Mavericks going up 2-0 or the Yankees going up 3-0 didn't mean that the Mavs or Yanks were suddenly so much better than all the evidence of the regular season suggested. It did mean that both teams were at that point quite likely to win those series, though.

posted by: John Thacker on 07.26.06 at 08:24 AM [permalink]

ah, so you believe in the fabled "law of averages"?

posted by: jv on 07.26.06 at 08:24 AM [permalink]

The Red Sox had better hope they win the East because the MINNESOTA TWINS are going to win the wild card and probably the World Series. : )

posted by: Jake on 07.26.06 at 08:24 AM [permalink]

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