Results of the First Annual Bud Selig Prediction Contest

In November 2000, Commissioner Bud Selig solemnly advised Congress, "At the start of spring training, there no longer exists hope and faith for the fans of more than half of our 30 clubs." Since neither Selig nor anyone else who makes these generalizations ever identifies the teams that "can't possibly win," the statement is all but meaningless.

Last January the Business of Baseball Committee's annual survey put Selig's claim to the test. Respondents were asked to predict which 16 clubs ("more than half") were least likely to make the playoffs in 2001.

The line between contenders and pretenders proved easy to draw. In addition to the eight postseason qualifiers (Yankees, Indians, Mariners, Athletics, Braves, Astros, Cardinals and Diamondbacks), six more clubs the Twins, Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Giants and Dodgers finished six or fewer games out of the playoffs. The wildcard format made no difference, as both wild-card teams had better records than the other divisions' winners.

Here's who we picked as the likely losers, the 16 clubs whose fans should have "no hope and faith":

0 votes: Atlanta, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, St. Louis, San Francisco
1 vote: Boston, New York Mets, Oakland
2 votes: Cleveland
8 votes: Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas
9 votes: Arizona
11 votes: Houston
14 votes: Colorado
15 votes: Toronto
19 votes: Minnesota
20 votes: Anaheim, Detroit, Florida, San Diego
21 votes: Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
22 votes: Baltimore, Chicago Cubs, Montreal, Philadelphia

Out of 30 teams, we made five gross errors and two other serious errors. Every single respondent was wrong about the White Sox, Cubs and Phillies. Only one correctly concluded that the Red Sox wouldn't contend; only three picked the Twins to contend. Nearly two-thirds of us wrongly expected the Reds and Rangers to contend. In addition, half were wrong about the Astros, and nine of the 22 respondents wrote off the eventual world champion Diamondbacks. Although the contest essentially asked us only to assign each team to the top or bottom half of the league, we still were wrong about 30% of the time.

If he had elaborated on his testimony, Commissioner Bud would probably have picked the highest-paid club in each division to win, with the highest-payroll non-winners taking the wild-cards. This formula would have missed five of the eight postseason qualifiers. Only two divisions, the AL East and AL Central, were won by the team with the highest payroll, and Atlanta, which won the NL East, would have been the wild-card under the Selig Prediction Formula. Overall, the postseason qualifiers ranked 1st (Yankees), 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 17th, and 29th (Athletics) on the payroll scale. Seattle won 116 games with the 11th highest payroll, while the Diamondbacks won the World Series with the eighth highest. The other six contenders identified above ranked 3rd, 4th, 14th, 15th, 24th and 30th, while the six last-place teams ranked 7th, 13th, 18th, 19th, 26th and 28th.

Copyright © 2001 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Fall 2001 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

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