Heard this on the radio this morning - a website, www.fanbay.net, has picked the Brewers to finish fifth in the National League Central. Fifth!
Like many in the national media, they do not see the Brewers winning the National League Central. But fifth???
Let's take a closer look. Here is how they (they - not me) see the National League (they only give you the wins - I filled in the other two columns):
Wow. Quite a pennant race it's going to be. Then a three-way playoff for one division and another one-game playoff for the wild card spot. Yeah, ok.
Do you see something else? They've got 12 teams finishing .500 or better. In fact, according to their predictions, the National League will go a combined 1318-1274; an astonishing 44 games over .500. They must not think much of the American League, hey? The only way such a lopsided result could occur is if the NL owns the AL in inter-league play. Let's check:
If you do the math, you see they've got the American League also playing over .500 (1142-1126). There's obviously no way that can happen, and if you try to fix it, you pretty much need to change your prediction for every team.
In a couple of weeks, I am going to unveil a program I wrote to estimate each team's chance of winning their division title given their current win-loss records. One of the main principals that strikes you when using such a system, or really any system of predicting outcomes of events, is that you must balance both sides of the equation. The percentages must add up to 100%. The wins must equal the losses. This seems like a simple principle, but it's amazing how many people get it wrong.
If you are reading this, you probably think that the Brewers are going to win the NL Central. Let's say that you think that their chances of doing so are about 60%. Then what chance do the Cubs have? 40%? They can't - that wouldn't leave anything for any of the other teams. 30%? That would not only mean that you think there is only a 10% chance that the division winner will be either the Cardinals, Reds, Astros, or Pirates, but it also means that you think the Brewers chance of winning is double that of the Cubs. See the problem?
If you actually go through the exercise of dividing up 100% among the six teams in the NL Central and want to be as accurate as you can and be fair to every team, using all of the information available to you, you will probably be forced assign a number less than 50% to every team. Try it. But what that means is that every team in the division is more likely to not win than they are to win. It also means that if you try to predict a winner, you are more likely than not to be wrong - no matter who you pick.
Call me a wuss or call me an astute mathematician, but this is why I stay out of the predictions game.