Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mathematician Predicts Yankees Win 110 Games, Kerry Wood Injury

I see that a mathematician has predicted 110 victories for the Yankees. In addition, he forecasts the following predictions for the rest of the major leagues:

  • AL East: New York Yankees
  • AL Central: Cleveland IndiansAL West: Los Angeles Angels
  • AL wildcard: either the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays or the Minnesota Twins
  • NL East: New York Mets
  • NL Central: close race between the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals
  • NL West: San Diego Padres
  • NL wildcard: Philadelphia Phillies

As proof, he says that his predictions have been “more right than wrong over five years,” and backs it up by presenting absolutely nothing at all. Wouldn’t you love to be able to say that you were “more right than wrong” and leave it at that? That sort of reasoning will stand you well in almost any situation.

Boss: “Your mistake cost us six hundred million dollars.”
Employee: “To be fair, I was more right than wrong.”
Boss: “Oh, then that’s okay.”

I have a prediction of my own: he will be totally incorrect and his predictions laughably inaccurate.

Why do scientists continue to do this? Why does the press continue to report on it? At the Olympics two years ago we were offered up a similar smorgasboard of medal predictions, all with predictably terrible results. I dredged up the study, found here (if you scroll down), that illustrates the folly of trying to predict sporting events.

The two closest ones were way off for everybody except the US and Russia. Pricewaterhouse embarrassed themselves by claiming that their advanced model took into factors too numerous to count, then were way off on almost every country. SI did okay but not great. All of them would have done better by simply forecasting that the same medal totals from Sydney would occur in Athens. I guess sometimes past results do predict future performance.

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