Johnny Mostil

09-28-2006, 10:27 AM

Seeing another thread on the "disappointing" '06 season made me wonder: just how far did this team fall off from the standard it set last year? My answer: maybe not as far as we think.

To be sure, I thought this team could win about 95, which might--or might not--have been enough to pass the Twins (who now have 94 wins). So, yeah, I'm disappointed in the team, and I don't intend this to be a pollyanna post. And nothing below contradicts any opinion on what perhaps the team should have done instead to retool last winter.

But the reality is teams that have very good seasons almost always fall off the next year. And, from what little I've researched so far, I say the fall for the Sox hasn't been much worse than that for other championship teams.

First, consider the regular-season records of the past 25 World Series champions. I constructed a table of the past 25 World Series champions, showing their regular-season record in their championship year, their regular-season record the following year, and the difference between the two years. (I'd be glad to post this if I could figure out how--any volunteers to help this ignorant soul?)

Only four of the past 25 champions--the '87 Twins, the '96 Yankees, the '00 Yankees, and the '01 Yankees--improved their record the following year. (None of them repeated, and only one even returned to the LCS).

More to the point, if you were to rank the 25 teams by "drop-off"--i.e., by their winning percentage in the subsequent year minus their winning percentage in the championship year--you'd see the Sox rank 13th, or right in the middle. I might, if I get time, (or if there's interest), take this back to the first Series. I'm guessing I'll find more of the same--i.e., very few Series champions improve, and the Sox drop off is about in the middle.

Second, consider the teams that won at least 99 games, as the '05 Sox did. As near as I can tell (and I only eyeballed this on baseball-reference.com, so corrections would be welcome), only ten won more the next year: '08 Cubs, '11 Giants, '30 Athletics, '38 Yankees, '41 Yankees, '41 Dodgers, '53 Yankees, '89 Athletics, '97 Braves, and '01 Athletics. I suppose a better standard would be to see how teams playing at least .600 ball (the '05 Sox played .611 ball) did the following season. I'm guessing I'd still find considerable "regression to the mean."

I suppose the good news is there's nothing to keep the Sox from bouncing back next year--and that other teams are now more likely to "regress to the mean." "Regression to the mean" isn't a statistical law, of course, but it does seem to explain many things . . .

To be sure, I thought this team could win about 95, which might--or might not--have been enough to pass the Twins (who now have 94 wins). So, yeah, I'm disappointed in the team, and I don't intend this to be a pollyanna post. And nothing below contradicts any opinion on what perhaps the team should have done instead to retool last winter.

But the reality is teams that have very good seasons almost always fall off the next year. And, from what little I've researched so far, I say the fall for the Sox hasn't been much worse than that for other championship teams.

First, consider the regular-season records of the past 25 World Series champions. I constructed a table of the past 25 World Series champions, showing their regular-season record in their championship year, their regular-season record the following year, and the difference between the two years. (I'd be glad to post this if I could figure out how--any volunteers to help this ignorant soul?)

Only four of the past 25 champions--the '87 Twins, the '96 Yankees, the '00 Yankees, and the '01 Yankees--improved their record the following year. (None of them repeated, and only one even returned to the LCS).

More to the point, if you were to rank the 25 teams by "drop-off"--i.e., by their winning percentage in the subsequent year minus their winning percentage in the championship year--you'd see the Sox rank 13th, or right in the middle. I might, if I get time, (or if there's interest), take this back to the first Series. I'm guessing I'll find more of the same--i.e., very few Series champions improve, and the Sox drop off is about in the middle.

Second, consider the teams that won at least 99 games, as the '05 Sox did. As near as I can tell (and I only eyeballed this on baseball-reference.com, so corrections would be welcome), only ten won more the next year: '08 Cubs, '11 Giants, '30 Athletics, '38 Yankees, '41 Yankees, '41 Dodgers, '53 Yankees, '89 Athletics, '97 Braves, and '01 Athletics. I suppose a better standard would be to see how teams playing at least .600 ball (the '05 Sox played .611 ball) did the following season. I'm guessing I'd still find considerable "regression to the mean."

I suppose the good news is there's nothing to keep the Sox from bouncing back next year--and that other teams are now more likely to "regress to the mean." "Regression to the mean" isn't a statistical law, of course, but it does seem to explain many things . . .