Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Actual Record vs. Expected Record

As in every sport, teams can win games without playing up to their full capabilities. The best teams don’t always win and the worst teams don’t always lose. There is not one overlying explanation for this, but one of the most sensible is simply luck. Good luck, bad luck or Luck of the Irish, baseball teams and players experience their fair share of luck throughout the course of a season.

Luck plays a large role in the actual game of baseball and even more so in fantasy baseball. A lot of things can lineup to help or hurt you. You could match up against a team who’s manager hasn’t checked their club in a month, and therefore has two DL’d players still in his lineup and his best starter on the bench. You could simply run into a team that has players who all have an off day on Monday, while your players are from the eight teams that are playing. Your seven starters might make seven starts, while your opponent’s seven starters make ten or twelve. Maybe one of your opponent’s players goes on a ridiculous week-long tear that just happens to correspond with your matchup with him.

Playing in my first competitive fantasy baseball league this year, I decided to try and take a look at just how much of a factor luck proved to be. Luck is an intangible variable, something that is impossible to accurately analyze, but you can look at and compare certain statistics to get a rough idea of how much luck influenced a season. There’s no one way to do this, and as far as I know no one has applied this type of analysis to a fantasy league. But it’s been done for Major League Baseball, as evidenced by a team’s Pythagorean Record.

The Pythagorean Record determines the record a team should have based on the quality of baseball they’ve played during the season. This is calculated by using a team’s run differential, which is the difference between runs scored and runs allowed. Generally a good team will register a very high run differential, while a bad team will constantly be outscored. The greater your average margin of victory, the better team you should be.

While that system is flawed, it’s as good as any I’ve seen and that’s why I chose to base my evaluation off of it. I devised a way to analyze my team’s actual performance against what they probably should have done, had all things been equal. The graph below shows each statistic that my league used, my season total and overall record for each category, and my league rank for each total. The three columns on the far right represent the expected record for me based on the overall numbers my team posted.

My “formula” for determining the expected record, or “X-record” was simple. The X-record is simply the overall league record for the corresponding rank. For example, my team was ninth in runs scored with 551, but my 13-7-1 record was the fourth best record overall. The ninth best record for runs scored was 11-10-0, making that my X-record for runs.

Comparing my actual record and my X-record, it seems that my team’s overall record is slightly better than what their actual performance has indicated. My pitching actually ran into some bad luck this season, as their actual record was two games worse than what X-record said it should be. Despite recording the fourth most amount of total saves over the course of the season, my team was saddled with the ninth best record in that category.

My offense on the other hand, was fortunate to experience very good luck and outperformed their expected record by fourteen games. They outperformed their X-record in each of the six offensive categories, sometimes by a large margin. The red numbers at the bottom are my actual record (165-74-13) and what my record should have been, given how my team performed (152-85-15). So it appears that my team experienced a considerable amount of good luck this year, but not an overwhelming amount.

The 152-85-15 record that my team was expected to have still would have been an excellent record. In fact, it still would have been good enough for a first place finish in the league, albeit by seven games instead of fifteen.

It takes more than sheer luck to be a successful fantasy manager, but sometimes you can make your own luck. Fantasy managing ultimately comes down to two things – managerial knowledge and managerial activity. And I don’t think those two aspects are even splits either. Simply paying attention to your roster and playing matchups goes a long way to a winning season.

Below are the final standings of the league.

Posted on August 31, 2010, in Sports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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