By In Baseball

How to Pick A World Series Winner …

… in five years.

So you might remember that in Sports Illustrated in 2011, I wrote as if the Kansas City Royals had already won the World Series in 2015. I’m going to get as much mileage as I can out of that.

Then, this week, SI unveiled the new World Series cover, and it’s great, but the subhead is: “How the resilient Royals ran off with with a World Series title no one saw coming.”

No one saw coming! It really said that. I got a sheepish call from my dear friend Chris Stone, who is managing editor of SI. He felt really bad. I told him I thought it was hilarious, but he said he was going to make it up to me.

And he did. He and Creative Director Chris Hercik came up with a new cover. I like this one better.



How To Predict A World Series (In Five Years)

18 Responses to How to Pick A World Series Winner …

  1. invitro says:

    It’s utterly bizarre to me that anyone could assert with a straight face that NO ONE thought that the Royals, who came one game away from winning the WS in 2014, would win in 2015. I’m starting to believe reports that the younger generation can’t remember more than a couple days of history, and don’t care to look it up.

    • In 2014, the Royals were a wild-card team that got insanely hot in the playoffs but wound up losing the Series. That made them the 2007 Rockies.

      In 2015, they were the best team in their league. There was no way to predict that.

      • TS says:

        The 2014 Royals also went 34-21 in Aug/Sept of 2014 and then got insanely hot in the playoffs. So maybe some weren’t paying attention…

        • KHAZAD says:

          And actually 41-23 from a streak at the end of July. The Royals have played .615 ball counting the playoffs over their last 257 games.

          But yeah, people weren’t paying attention and it was deemed a fluke by many “experts”. Pre-season projections had the Royals between 72 and 84 wins this season, and out of 38 Fangraphs writers, exactly zero had the Royals making the playoffs in any manner. There actually only 8 teams in the major leagues that got zero votes, and three of them made the playoffs.

          Looking at pre-season projections or picks almost any season will let you know that “experts” really know about the same as the rest of us, and only a little bit more than a monkey throwing a dart.

          • invitro says:

            Do the Fangraphs writers know that late-season performance is an extremely important predictor of next-season performance? Because this is a well-known phenomenon in at least MLB and the NBA. At least I think it’s well-known.

            The info about the 38 Fangraphs writers is interesting to me. I’m actually flabbergasted that not a single one of that large a sample would pick a WS team just to make the playoffs. It sounds like this set of writers may be all using the same measure for their predictions.

            Still, there are predictors other than these 38 people, and I’d be astonished if zero people in the entire world picked KC to make the WS again.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Assuming that’s true, so what? We all make predictions but fans seem to get incredibly upset when “experts” downgrade their team, almost as if it will affect the team’s play. It reminds me, too, of weather forecasts. Everyone complains whenever the forecast is wrong but they don’t say anything when it is right-which I would bet it is a huge percentage of the time. Experts are often wrong about predicting champions-they had a bad year this year-but I’m wondering what the actual percentage of correct predictions is.

      • lostinbalto says:

        You’re right, there was no way to PREDICT they would be the best team in their league. The point we’re considering, however, is that so few people thought the previous year’s AL Champion COULD be a playoff team … that’s a different issue.

    • MikeN says:

      Last season all the talk was about how lucky the Royals were.

    • MCD says:

      Well, to be fair, “How the resilient Royals ran off with a World Series title no one saw coming” reads a little better than “How the resilient Royals ran off with a World Series title only some people saw coming”

  2. Johnny B says:

    Not to rain on Joe’s parade, as I think KC is a great and worthy champion, but I remember Joe and others (of the Bill James community) throwin’ snowballs at Dayton Moore and Yost and their play-it-safe, no bunt, anti-statistic ways years back. (Straight up, I love reading Joe & Bill James.) Lesson being, there is no blueprint. I think the Royals have found a somewhat unique path to winning the Series, perhaps not unlike the ‘We Are Family Pirates’ in 1979, who rode relief pitching and aggressive first ball-fastball hitting to the throne. The Royals also showed incredible defense and aggressive baserunning.

    • Richard says:

      I wonder if the winning strategy is “Look at what aspects of the game that everyone else is ignoring or underrating, then excel at those”…. (e.g. “moneyball”)

      • Ryan says:

        The winning strategy is to get hot at the right time and catch a bunch of breaks. This goes for the Royals, the Giants, the Cardinals, everyone.

        And also to be a good enough team to make the dance in the first place.

  3. MA Hoffman says:

    However I do seem to remember, Joe, many merciless comments about Ned Yost over the past two years.

  4. Bob Burpee says:

    Below is from Dave Fleming at Bill James Online on the expectations of the Royals this year. Many articles are behind a paywall, but the article by Dave isn’t.

    At the start of the 2015 season, ESPN asked eighty-eight of their staffers to pick who would win the AL Central. Here’s who they picked:
    Cleveland – 43
    Detroit – 25
    Chicago – 17
    Kansas City – 3

    For every one writer who picked the Royals to win the Central Division in 2015, fourteen picked Cleveland to win the division. For every one writer who picked KC, five picked the White Sox.
    How about FanGraphs? FanGraphs asked thirty-eight staffers to pick the AL Central. Here’s who they picked:

    Cleveland – 28
    Detroit – 14

    None of the FanGraphs writers picked Kansas City to win the AL Central. To their credit, none of their writers picked the White Sox, either, so they did a bit better than the ESPN folks.

    Please know I’m not mocking either group: I didn’t expect the Royals to keep winning either. I’m only bringing this up because the clear majority of baseball analysts didn’t think that the Royals team were going to repeat their successful 2014 campaign.

  5. MikeN says:

    Could it be that Joe Kerrigan Dan Duquette Jimy Williams and the Red Sox had it right when they ignored stolen bases?

  6. Jan Stephenson says:

    This Royal fan got 1/10 odds for ALCS and 22/1 for WS,back in January! I smirked at the predictions in Spring. Love my team!

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