Sunday, October 19, 2014

Truly great baseball teams harder to find

If you like underdogs then this year's World Series is perfect for you. The Royals are going back to the series for the first time since 1985 and the Giants advanced to their third series since 2010 despite having to go through the wild card elimination game.

But if you like watching great teams play in the World Series then this really isn't for you. The Royals won 89 games this year while the Giants won 88. The two teams caught fire at the right time. Kansas City is a perfect 8-0 so far, while San Francisco is 8-2.

Of course, ever since baseball created two divisions in 1969 and added a third along with a wild card team in 1995 it's become increasingly difficult to win the World Series. Since 1969, the team with the best record in the major leagues went on to win the World Series just 11 times.

In fact, since the wild card was added in 1995, a team that didn't even manage to win its division has won more World Series -- six, soon to be seven -- than the teams that entered the playoffs with baseball's best record -- four.

That's a weird phenomenon. What is true baseball greatness? I spent a couple of hours today creating a quick ranking of all World Series winners since 1969. I gave points for:

* Regular season winning percentage. My 1990 Cincinnati Reds won .562 of their 162 games so they get .562.

* A ranking scale. If the team had the best record in the major leagues it received 1.000 points. If it had the best record in its league it received .800. If it was a division winner it received .600. If it was a wild card team but had a better record than at least one division winner it received .400. If it was a wild card team with a record worse than all division winners in its league it received .200.

* Playoff points based on wins times opponent winning percentage divided by total games played. My 1990 Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in six games in the NLCS that year. The Pirates had a .586 winning percentage that year. So the formula reads (4*.586)/6 for .391 points.

* World Series points based the same way. The 1990 Reds swept the mighty Oakland A's that year. Oakland had a .636 winning percentage in 1990 so the formula reads (4*.636)/4 for .636.

Obviously, sweeps against teams with great records scores more points.

I added one more column, bonus points for wins. It is undoubtedly more difficult to get through the playoffs now. In 1976, the Reds swept the Phillies and Yankees to go a perfect 7-0. The Phillies won 101 games in 1976 and the Yankees won 97 during the regular season so it was an impressive pair of sweeps.

This year though, the Royals have won all eight and they are just now getting to the series. If they lose to the Giants then that impressive run is just a footnote. They'll only really be remembered in Kansas City. To balance things out for teams in the wild card era, I added .01 for each total win, regular season and playoffs. So the 1990 Reds, who had to win eight games to win the playoffs and World Series, received .990 points. In 2013, the Boston Red Sox won 108 games between the regular season and the playoffs so Boston received 1.08 points.

Got it? Good. Here's my list:

Win Pct. Scale Playoffs World Series Win bonus Total
1998  Yankees  .704 1.000  .425  .605 1.250 3.984
1976  Reds  .630 1.000  .624  .610 1.090 3.954
1970  Orioles  .667 1.000  .605  .504 1.150 3.926
1975 Reds  .667 1.000  .571  .339 1.150 3.727
1984 Tigers  .642 1.000  .518  .454 1.110 3.724
1989 A's  .611 1.000  .439  .568 1.070 3.688
1999 Yankees  .605  .800  .510  .636 1.090 3.641
2007 Red Sox  .593 1.000  .411  .552 1.070 3.626
2009 Yankees  .636 1.000  .444  .383 1.140 3.603
1969 Mets  .617  .800  .574  .538 1.070 3.600
2005 White Sox  .611  .800  .513  .549 1.100 3.573
1986 Mets  .667 1.000  .395  .337 1.150 3.549
1978 Yankees  .614 1.000  .426  .391 1.070 3.501
2013 Red Sox  .599 1.000  .399  .399 1.080 3.477
1995 Braves  .625  .800  .496  .463 1.010 3.393
1979 Pirates  .605  .800  .559  .366 1.050 3.380
1982 Cardinals  .568  .800  .549  .335  .990 3.242
1992 Blue Jays  .593  .800  .395  .403 1.040 3.232
1971 Pirates  .599  .800  .417  .365 1.040 3.221
1993 Blue Jays  .586  .800  .387  .399 1.030 3.202
1991 Twins  .586  .800  .450  .331 1.030 3.197
1990 Reds  .562  .600  .391  .636  .990 3.179
2004 Red Sox  .605  .400  .420  .648 1.090 3.163
1983 Orioles  .605  .600  .458  .445 1.050 3.158
2012 Giants  .580  .600  .331  .543 1.050 3.104
2008 Phillies  .568  .600  .416  .479 1.030 3.093
1972 A's  .600  .800  .331  .353 1.000 3.083
1988 Dodgers  .584  .600  .357  .514 1.020 3.075
1977 Yankees  .617  .600  .378  .403 1.070 3.068
1974 A's  .556  .600  .422  .504  .970 3.052
2010 Giants  .568  .600  .408  .445 1.030 3.051
1996 Yankees  .568  .600  .427  .395 1.030 3.020
2000 Yankees  .540  .600  .358  .464  .980 2.942
2001 Diamondbacks  .568  .600  .389  .339 1.030 2.927
2002 Angels  .611  .400  .473  .337 1.100 2.921
1981 Dodgers  .573  .600  .333  .367 1.020 2.893
1980 Phillies  .562  .600  .343  .399  .980 2.884
1987 Twins  .525  .600  .484  .335  .930 2.874
1985 Royals  .562  .600  .351  .357  .980 2.850
1973 A's  .580  .600  .359  .291 1.010 2.840
1997 Marlins  .568  .400  .463  .305 1.030 2.766
2003 Marlins  .562  .400  .367  .416 1.020 2.765
2011 Cardinals  .556  .200  .387  .339 1.010 2.492
2006 Cardinals  .515  .200  .366  .469  .940 2.490

The win bonus was enough to push the 1998 Yankees slightly ahead of my 1976 Reds.

As mentioned before, the Reds swept a Phillies team that featured Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. But it was just a three game series.

The 1998 Yankees had to play more games although its competition was weaker. After sweeping a Texas team that won 88 games in a three-game series, it took the '98 Yankes six games to dispose of a Cleveland team that won just 89 games in the regular season.

New York then blew out a San Diego team that had won 98 games. It's those two losses against the Indians that would have put the Yankees below the '76 Reds. New York though won 114 games in the regular season and was an impressive 11-2 in the expanded playoffs. That compares with the '76 Reds, who won 102 games in the regular season and all seven of its playoff games. The Yankees won 16 more games. That's a big chunk.

Interestingly though the 1970 Baltimore Orioles were one win away from topping both. The '70 Orioles won 108 games and then swept Rod Carew's Minnesota Twins, which had won 98 games, in a three-game series.

The 1970 Reds didn't put up much more of a fight. The Orioles won the first three games of the series before the Reds avoided the sweep by scoring three runs in the eighth inning to win game four, 6-5. Had the Orioles hung on to that game that would have added enough points to move from No. 3 to No. 1.

There's a fine line to greatness.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Basketball's 100 greatest players

Just in time for the rushed 2011-2012 season. My updated 100 best men's professional basketball players.

Rank, player, years, adj. score
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1969-1989, 24025.4
2. Wilt Chamberlain, 1959-1973, 23051.0
3. Michael Jordan, 1984-2003, 22822.7
4. Julius Erving, 1971-1987, 21867.3
5. Tim Duncan, 1997-2011, 21419.8
6. Larry Bird, 1979-1992, 21202.2
7. Bill Russell, 1956-1969, 21161.6
8. Karl Malone, 1985-2004, 21016.2
9. Hakeem Olajuwon, 1984-2002, 20984.8
10. Magic Johnson, 1979-1996, 20560.8

11. Kobe Bryant, 1996-2011, 20448.7
12. Shaquille O'Neal, 1992-2007, 20311.9
13. Kevin Garnett, 1996-2007, 20272.9
14. Oscar Robertson, 1960-1974, 20268.2
15. Bob Cousy, 1950-1970, 20153.3
16. Jerry West, 1960-1974, 19695.1
17. David Robinson, 1989-2003, 19651.1
18. Bob Pettit, 1954-1965, 19606.4
19. LeBron James, 2003-2011, 19401.2
20. George Mikan, 1948-1956, 19309.7

21. Moses Malone, 1974-1995, 19161.2
22. Dolph Schayes, 1949-1964, 19076.0
23. Elgin Baylor, 1958-1972, 19034.1
24. Elvin Hayes, 1968-1984, 18623.0
25. John Stockton, 1984-2003, 18584.7
26. Charles Barkley, 1984-2000, 18545.7
27. Gary Payton, 1990-2007, 18456.1
28. Dirk Nowitzki, 1998-2008, 18419.0
29. Scottie Pippen, 1987-2004, 18377.2
30. Artis Gilmore, 1971-1988, 18345.3

31. Jason Kidd, 1994-2007, 18253.7
32. Rick Barry, 1965-1980, 18179.0
33. John Havlicek, 1962-1978, 18032.3
34. George Gervin, 1972-1986, 17876.2
35. Pat Ewing, 1985-2002, 17718.0
36. Allen Iverson, 1996-2008, 17437.0
37. Isiah Thomas, 1981-1993, 17319.3
38. Dwyane Wade, 2003-2011, 17306.9
39. Clyde Drexler, 1983-1998, 17304.4
40. Steve Nash, 1996-2011, 17198.5

41. George McGinnis, 1971-1982, 16873.3
42. Tracey McGrady, 1997-2011, 16740.2
43. Walt Frazier, 1967-1980, 16738.0
44. Connie Hawkins, 1967-1976, 16374.6
45. Dave Cowens, 1970-1983, 16304.7
46. Bob McAdoo, 1972-1986, 16289.2
47. Billy Cunningham, 1965-1976, 16175.6
48. Paul Arizin, 1950-1962, 16161.1
49. Dwight Howard, 2004-2011, 16020.2
50. Dominique Wilkins, 1982-1999, 15967.7

51. Alex English, 1976-1991, 15825.2
52. Dan Issel, 1970-1985, 15740.4
53. Chris Webber, 1993-2007, 15633.9
54. Dennis Johnson, 1976-1990, 15632.4
55. Robert Parish, 1976-1997, 15629.0
56. Mo Cheeks, 1978-1993, 15591.2
57. Bill Sharman, 1950-1961, 15535.1
58. Mel Daniels, 1967-1977, 15469.2
59. Bob Lanier, 1970-1984, 15410.2
60. Willis Reed, 1964-1974, 15371.3

61. Tim Hardaway, 1989-2003, 15316.5
62. Shawn Marion, 1999-2011, 15258.6
63. Kevin Johnson, 1987-2000, 15224.0
64. Gus Williams, 1975-1987, 15214.5
65. Vince Carter, 1998-2011, 15144.8
66. Hal Greer, 1958-1973, 15119.7
67. Kevin McHale, 1980-1993, 15081.6
68. Grant Hill, 1994-2011, 14967.7
69. Jerry Lucas, 1963-1974, 14847.3
70. Alonzo Mourning, 1992-2008, 14765.0

71. Bobby Jones, 1974-1986, 14729.6
72. Cliff Hagan, 1956-1970, 14723.5
73. James Worthy, 1982-1994, 14717.3
74. Walter Davis, 1977-1992, 14697.7
75. Ray Allen, 1996-2011, 14693.4
76. Sydney Moncrief, 1979-1991, 14690.7
77. Bob Dandridge, 1969-1982, 14555.1
78. Dave Bing, 1966-1978, 14512.9
79. Nate Thurmond, 1963-1977, 14496.1
80. Paul Pierce, 1998-2007, 14493.1

81. Amare Stoudemire, 2002-2011, 14455.7
82. Norm Nixon, 1977-1989, 14443.6
83. Terry Cummings, 1982-2000, 14437.1
84. Tiny Archibald, 1970-1984, 14397.2
85. Lenny Wilkens, 1960-1975, 14320.8
86. David Thompson, 1975-1984, 14302.9
87. Wes Unseld, 1968-1981, 14256.6
88. Sam Jones, 1957-1969, 14224.8
89. Marques Johnson, 1977-1990, 14200.5
90. Reggie Miller, 1987-2005, 14199.3

91. Chris Paul, 2005-2011, 14141.5
92. Dave DeBusschere, 1962-1974, 14141.5
93. Spencer Haywood, 1969-1983, 14065.7
94. Gail Goodrich, 1965-1979, 14039.2
95. Dikembe Mutombo, 1991-2007, 13955.3
96. Lou Dampier, 1967-1979, 13931.4
97. Elton Brand, 1999-2006, 13926.4
98. Maurice Lucas, 1974-1988, 13891.4
99. Adrian Dantley, 1976-1991, 13762.9
100. Buck Williams, 1981-1998, 13677.4