The Major League Baseball postseason is officially underway, and, like all postseasons, it has yet to disappoint.
But what I’m here to tell you about is what happened in the 24-hour span between the two Game 163s on Monday and the NL Wild Card game on Tuesday.
On Monday evening, I sent out a tweet asking my followers to fill out a Google Form with their MLB postseason predictions as a way to crowdsource the predictions of fans. I left it open until just prior to the first pitch of the NL Wild Card Game, and in the 24-1⁄2 hours while it was opened, 311 people responded.
I am aware that the postseason has started, and some of these predictions (like my poor Cubs over Astros World Series pick) have been already proven incorrect. If you want any indication as to how hard predicting baseball games are, just consider the fact that only 22.8 percent of brackets were still perfect after the Rockies and Yankees won their respective Wild Card Games. That’s slightly worse than the 25 percent theoretical probability of picking two seemingly even baseball games correctly. So, already, the people are doing worse than statistical theory suggests.
Still, 311 people is no tiny sample, and it’s always fascinating to see an analysis of results from large surveys like these.
It should be noted, however, that this sample of 311 people probably is not entirely random. I would guess that these fans are more statistically-inclined than the average baseball fan, considering I’d guess that the majority of the people who responded follow me on Twitter. (And, I don’t think you would follow me if you did not appreciate or wanted to learn more about sabermetrics.) So, I think this would affect the results accordingly, and I did notice some interesting trends about how the people voted.
The World Series favorite — the Houston Astros
Let’s start with the most basic question that I think you all are asking: Who is the World Series favorite according to this data?
Your answer: the Houston Astros. Of the 311 respondents who answered my survey, 85 of them had the Astros winning the World Series. That’s 27.3 percent, or just about 1 in every 3.66 respondents.
On a broader scale, the American League is the clear favorite to be taking home the crown. About 74.3 percent — or 231 raw votes — of respondents had an American League team taking home the World Series. I would agree that the American League has the superior teams (especially with the Cubs now being out), but the only reservation I have is the fact that the NL actually won interleague play for the first time since 2003 with a 158-142 record. That may mean something, but it may also mean nothing. We’ll see.
The breakdown of World Series champions was as follows:
- Astros - 27.3 percent - 85 raw votes
- Red Sox - 23.8 percent - 74 raw votes
- Indians - 11.9 percent - 37 raw votes
- Brewers - 10.3 percent - 32 raw votes
- Yankees - 9.6 percent - 30 raw votes
- Dodgers - 9.6 percent - 30 raw votes
- Cubs - 3.2 percent - 10 raw votes
- Braves - 1.6 percent - 5 raw votes
- Athletics - 1.6 percent - 5 raw votes
- Rockies - 1.0 percent - 3 raw votes
Looking at this, I’d also say that the Dodgers are being underrated here. It’s important to note that Los Angeles has 111 votes (35.7 percent) for NL Champion, but only 30 of those 111 votes have them ultimately winning the World Series. This would means that the people believe that the Dodgers have just a 27.0 percent chance of winning the World Series if they even get there.
The Dodgers, though, weren’t even the most popular pick for NL Champion. That distinction belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers, whose hot play must have inspired the minds of the fans; 133 votes (42.8 percent) picked the Brewers to win the NL.
The most popular World Series matchup — Astros-Brewers
Here are the 10 most popular World Series matchups (25 possible):
- Astros-Brewers - 17.4 percent
- Astros-Dodgers - 14.8 percent
- Red Sox-Brewers - 14.5 percent
- Red Sox-Dodgers - 8.4 percent
- Indians-Dodgers - 7.4 percent
- Indians-Brewers - 5.8 percent
- Yankees-Dodgers - 4.2 percent
- Astros-Cubs - 4.2 percent
- Yankees-Brewers - 4.2 percent
- Red Sox-Cubs - 3.9 percent
- Astros-Braves - 3.9 percent
If this is any indication, the people really like the Dodgers and Brewers out of the National League, but not really anybody else.
The impact of team favoritism — high for some, low for others
One other interesting piece of information I considered was the respondent’s favorite team. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Jeremy Frank, @MLBRandomStats on Twitter (an excellent account for saber-stats and other interesting information), gave me the idea to collect team favoritism data as part of my form. He did this when collecting information in a Google Form about MLB award selections among the populous.
I asked respondents a fairly simple question, “Who is your favorite team?” while giving them the 10 postseason teams as potential selections, and an eleventh selection “Non-Postseason Team.” (Because it really does not matter to me who Nationals fans, per se, are voting for. They don’t have a rooting interest in the playoffs.)
Using this information, I was able to figure out the impact of people choosing their favorite teams on my survey, which potentially could skew the results.
Excluding favorite team data, here are the World Series favorites:
- Astros - 24.7 percent
- Red Sox - 19.1 percent
- Indians - 9.1 percent
- Brewers - 9.1 percent
- Dodgers - 6.1 percent
- Yankees - 1.5 percent
- Braves - 1.3 percent
- Athletics - 1.3 percent
- Rockies - 1.0 percent
- Cubs - 0.7 percent
The four most popular World Series choices remain the same. The biggest falloff that we see is the Yankees, who had 26 of their fans choose them to win the World Series but were only selected four times from all other fans.
But that’s not all that I was able to determine from this. In a way, I could also develop a Franchise Confidence Index (FCI), or the percentage of fans who picked their favorite team to win the World Series compared to the average. You would expect that since 91.7 percent of the ballots from Astros fans had the Astros winning the World Series, those fans feel pretty confident about the Astros winning the World Series.
Here’s each team’s Franchise Confidence Index, which was a fairly easy calculation. The average number of respondents to select their team to win the World Series was 45.2 percent, so that would be set at 1. For each point above that, fans are more confident. For each point below that, fans are less confident.
Franchise Confidence Index for Postseason Teams:
- Astros - 2.03 FCI
- Indians - 1.58 FCI
- Dodgers - 1.56 FCI
- Yankees - 1.40 FCI
- Red Sox - 1.25 FCI
- AVERAGE - 1.00 FCI
- Brewers - 0.79 FCI
- Cubs - 0.61 FCI
- Athletics - 0.55 FCI
- Braves - 0.22 FCI
- Rockies - 0.00 FCI
Yes, zero of the three Rockies fans who responded to my poll picked the Rockies to win the World Series.
All in all, though, what do we gain from this?
If crowd-sourcing is any indication, it seems that the Astros are destined to repeat as World Series Champions.
But we have to play the games for a reason.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.