Thursday, March 29, 2007

David Schoenfield: Stat Geek Wannabe

A quick addendum to Amerigo's post on the pain/suffering rankings:

As a Pirates fan, I think these rankings are complete bullshit.The Pirates are ranked 17th (7 Derek Bells for a 3.52 pain/suffering rating). Seventeenth for the team with the longest current string of losing seasons in all of American professional sports. Just a few of the teams ahead of the Pirates:

Utah Jazz (5): 20 playoff appearances in 26 seasons

Portland Trail Blazers (6): 25 playoff appearances and 23 winning seasons in 29 years.
Houston Astros (7): 23 winning seasons and nine playoff appearances in 44 years, but it's incredibly difficult to make the playoffs in baseball, and these guys played in the Fall Classic two seasons ago. They've also got an assload of money to spend every year, and an owner who cares about winning. They've also finished lower than second in their division just twice since 1993.

Boston Bruins (8): 30 winning seasons in in the last 33 years, and 29 playoff runs. Oh, and five appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Those are just a few. You know the formula for determining "suffering" is flawed when the first 16 teams on the list have at least been good enough to make it to the championship round of their respective sports at least once since a) the franchise's last title, or b) since the franchise has come into existence.

Here's what David Schoenfield thinks is a great way to calculate the amount of suffering we endure as fans (supposedly, because it's crucial for us to know just who has suffered more, perhaps for the purpose of establishing bragging rights):

[(Seasons in playoffs * 4) + (losing seasons) + (non-playoff seasons) + (finals losses * 3) + (finals losses in past 25 years * 15) + (Soul-sucking moments * 25) + (seasons without a title)] - [(winning seasons) + (playoff seasons * 2)]
seasons without a title

This formula seems to put more weight on losing in the playoffs than not making the playoffs. And just what is a "soul-sucking moment"? How can you go in search for objective knowledge of something using a formula that incorporates something totally subjective? I die a little on the inside every time Jose Castillo muffs an easy ground ball.

Is it absurd to think that if a team makes the playoffs enough, eventually it's going to win something? Absolutely not. But there's even less -- dare I say, almost no chance -- of winning a title if a team can't make the playoffs.

No mathematical formula can calculate the amount of self-loathing that I -- or any of the other 14 people like me -- have endured as a direct result of rooting for the Pirates.

Go give yourself herpes, David Schoenfield.


HenryLouisMencken said...

The Orioles didn't even make the list. 9 straight losing seasons, plus a young man by the name of Jeffery Mayer back in '96, talk about soul crushing.

HenryLouisMencken said...

but i suppose your point is that lists like this are dumb...yea they are.

Unknown said...

Of course these lists are dumb. I guess the things operating against the Pirates are:

1) they won a WS not THAT long ago (28 years is just over the 25-year threshold they set, which is based on something Jim Caple wrote and so completely open to ripping).

2) It's been a long time since anyone expected anything of them. Based on Schoenfield's thought, that makes losing easier than constantly being disappointed. Being both a Bills fan and Pirates fan from the 80s (when they were constantly getting close) to now, I agree. Compared to playoff heartbreak at the hands of, say, Sid Bream, Jose Castillo muffing one-hoppers is painless.

So I agree with the totally subjective and pointless list's spirit.