Yankees-Sox: The Luck Factor

On the heels of the Yankees’ eighth consecutive loss to the Sox this season, this article appeared in the NY Times today lamenting the absence of a screaming, grouchy, old George Steinbrenner whose rants are missing from the front pages. While Steinbrenner may have yielded plenty of “confusion and craziness” around the organization, sports psychologist, Joel Fish, pointed out that “He was the public face of that part of us that demands success.”

But perhaps the Yankees woes against their bitter rivals were partly a product of some bad luck, and no rants were even necessary. I mean, it’s not likely that one of the best teams in the league loses 8 consecutive games to any team, even the Red Sox, without a little bad luck.

Two primary “luck stats” I targeted were the two teams’ BABIPs and Strand Rates (LOB %). An unusually high BABIP or low strand rate can indicate that a team got a little bit fortunate in their run scoring, and vice versa. Relatively, Boston performed only slightly better in BABIP, but there was a gross difference in strand rates. After adjusting BABIPs and strand rates to their expected values—and by doing so, hopefully eliminating much of the luck factor—the expected season series score was Boston 51, New York 41. This is a vast improvement from the reality: Boston 55, New York 31.

Seeing as there were three 1-run games and a 2-run game, Luck could easily have split the season series had she been so compelled.


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