The Worst Team since the merger

Posted on 07/25/2010 by


Computer crashes. A long holiday weekend. A random flash flood in a shopping mall parking lot. Forgetting your ipod at work. A last minute decision to visit the in-laws. All seemingly unrelated events that lead to the present state of reality where I’m sitting in my mother in-law’s house on my wife’s computer writing a post, which since I don’t have all my files, was not my originally predicted one. This post is the result of odd series of circumstances. It is an outlier. Fittingly, since I’m going to tell the story of the worst team in the wins produced database, the biggest outlier in the model and how now matter how good a predictive model is, sometimes weird s#%^ just happens.

Some background first. As part of our on-going attempts to improve the wages of win network, Andres Alvarez has been working on expanding and improving his excellent automated wins produced site (see here). I have the honor of helping with the beta testing of the data. As part of that testing I got to pool Andres database with Prof. Berri’s for comparison. Both have their limitations ( the algorithm for the automated build around position allocation needs some further refinement & Prof. Berri has to enter his data manually to our ever-loving gratitude and appreciation) but the results are strikingly similar. Over the period since the merger, both models correlate to team wins at 94% and both agree on their largest outlier, the worst team since the Merger.

The Worst Team since the Merger

No typos here, trust me I triple check the numbers.

The worst team according to wins produced is clearly the 1993 Dallas Mavericks. This team is tied for worst record since the merger (98 Denver before you ask) but the wins projections for this team were off the charts. The automated model actually predicted  negative wins for this team. To put it in perspective here are the ten worst teams by projected Wins Produced:

You’ll note that no team is even within 10 projected wins of this team. This team was projected to reasonably expect to lose every game. This team is the super team of losers. They are in fact a bizarro version of the Miami Heat and their out of control wins projections for next year.

See a funny thing happened with that Mavs team, they won 11 games. They beat some teams with winning records. What happened? Random s%$^ happened but this team helped point out a limitation to our model. The Wins produced model treats all wins as being created equal and being equally valued events and while this is a reasonable approximation in most cases it still that, an approximation. Wins (and Loses)  are a limited resource and logically. getting the 72 win (or loss) of a season is incrementally harder than the 41st .

Let me expand on this point a bit. If we look at wins since the merger and exclude the strike season in 99, we find that wins are normally distributed with a std deviation for wins of 12.6 wins total. This means that we can expect >95% of all seasons to fall between 16 and 66 wins and it also helps the theory that  incremental wins/loses outside of these parameters require incrementally bad or good performances.

So, A team as monumentally bad as the Mavericks can still win games because conditions on a game to game basis are to variable to guarantee the result. Injuries, off days, bad refereeing, back to backs ,meaningless end of the season games all happen and can play havoc with our models. So all insanely high or insanely low projections have to be taken with a grain of salt. So when we look at the 2010 to 2011 season in general and the heat in particular care will have to be taken to temper our expectations.

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