Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Over-reaction about Yankees/Tigers

Lex III: Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.
- Sir Isaac Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
- Common English Paraphrase

"For every over-reaction, there is an equal and opposite over-reaction."
- My analysis of current Yankee analysis

A week ago, the New York Yankees were overwhelming favorites to beat Detroit in the first round, and probably club their way to the World Series. The conventional wisdom in most quarters was that the Yankees had the greatest lineup in baseball history, would score double-digit runs regularly, and would win handily with mediocre pitching. They won game 1 handily. When Johnny Damon's 3-run HR in the 4th inning of game 2 to put the Yankees up 3-1, many thought that the series was already over.

Well, we all know what happened next. Damon's HR provided the only Yankee runs for the next 20 innings. When they next scored, they were already down 8-0 in the 7th inning of what would be their last game of the season. And all of a sudden, the conventional wisdom is completely different. Now, the Yankees are a "mess," an old team with lousy pitching, no passion, a team that "can't perform in the clutch." There's talk in some circles that somehow the Red Sox have just passed them, despite the fact that Boston finished 11 games back in the East. The fact that New York won their 9th consecutive division title, the fact that they won 97 games and finished with the best record in the AL, those facts are apparently irrelevant today.

Baseball is a great and wondrous game. But the idea that you can determine who's a better team by watching head-to-head performance over 3 days is so silly as to defy all logic. 3 games into the 2004 ALCS, it was obvious to everyone watching that New York was vastly superior to Boston, 4 games later, the converse was equally clear.

So the over-reaction to what happened is exactly that - an over-reaction. Any batter can hit anything for 10 at-bats, any team can put up any record over 4 games. The Yankees are a very good team, the Tigers are a very good team. We knew that last week - we know it now.


Are the Tigers better than the Yankees? How can you possibly know? There were 2 games separating them over 162 games. What happened last week gives us a little bit of additional information, but very little. Yes, the Tigers took 3 of 4 from the Yankees. In May, the Yankees took 3 of 4 in Detroit. That's the way baseball works.

The idea that somehow the ancient myth about "good pitching always beats good hitting" is just confirmation bias for the people that already believe that. It doesn't prove it. It doesn't even provide good evidence for it. It's just the way it happened to go last week. It's 4 games.


Technorati tags: Yankees, Tigers, RedSox, MLB, play-offs, baseball



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