The New York Times has an article today that lends statistical credence to Billy Beane's statement that the playoffs are a crapshoot.
Here's the key part of the article:
Although comparing the World Series to coin flipping might seem a bit, well, flippant, history demonstrates that it might not be far off. Before 1969, when there was only one annual best-of-seven-game postseason series, the team with the better regular-season record won 34 of 65 series, just a tick more than 50 percent.
From 1969 through 1993, when baseball played one additional preliminary series, a league championship series (first best of five games, later best of seven), the team with the best regular-season record ended up wearing rings 7 of 25 times, or 28 percent. That is very close to the 25 percent of the time a flipped coin will come up heads twice in a row. Since 1995, when the postseason expanded to eight teams and three rounds, the best team in the regular-season has won one of nine World Series, just what a coin's theoretical probability (1 in 8, or 12.5 percent) would prescribe.
Such random-looking results are what caused Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, loser of four straight opening-round series from 2000 to 2003, to liken the baseball playoffs to a crapshoot. John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, whose probability models made him a billionaire commodities trader, put it this way: "Every team might not start with a 12½ percent chance, but no one's lower than 10 or higher than about 15."
The entire article, if registered, can be found at: