Monday, April 07, 2008

On the Tigers' goose egg

Okay, so the Detroit Tigers are off to an 0-6 start. We've gotten the mandatory barrage of "only two teams have recovered from an 0-6 start to make the postseason." I feel compelled to chime in with my elementary knowledge of statistics...

These first six games are 3.7 percent of the schedule. If the Tigers can go, say, 92-64 the rest of the way, we'll probably see them in the postseason. So, then, why the poor performance by teams that open 0-6? Without any actual numbers, as I'm not the person who will have time to run them, I'd assert that, over the long term, teams have an equal probability of having a losing streak at any point in the season. From that assertion, it follows that teams which are worse have a higher probability of beginning the season with a losing streak, just as they have a higher probability of having a losing streak in any single stretch during the season. If you break it down, I'm "guessing" (or declaring) you'd find that teams with six-game losing streaks to begin the season also have a higher overall rate of losing streaks during the season (which, after all, makes sense, since only two of them have made the playoffs).

ESPN's Jayson Stark points out: "Of the last seven teams that won the World Series, five of them had losing streaks of six games or more at some point that season -- several of them had multiple losing streaks of six games or more." Right, but they probably had fewer losing streaks than everyone else, right?

So, is the Tigers' fate sealed? Clearly not, but they'll have to be a statistical outlier--a good team that just happened to begin the season 0-6.

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