Stats Can't Explain Sox Collapse

It was spectacularly unlikely
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2011 7:37 AM CDT
Stats Can't Explain Sox Collapse
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Alfredo Aceves wipes his brow in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“It’s hard to describe how epic the Red Sox collapse was,” writes Nate Silver in the New York Times, calling it statistically like Bill Buckner’s famous botched play of 1986 “multiplied by itself two or three times over." On Sept. 3, the Red Sox had a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs. What’s more, by the time the Orioles were down to their last strike last night, the Sox had about a 98% chance of winning the game.

But wait, it gets crazier: The Rays were down 7-0 to the Yankees as late as the 8th inning—at that point, they had just a 0.3% chance of winning. So by Silver’s rough estimate, the odds of all that happening were about one in 278 million. “When confronted with numbers like these, you have to start to ask a few questions, statistical and existential." Sabermetricians tend to discount streaks, clutch performances, and other intangibles, but sometimes, those things may just matter. “One should also have license … to turn to various divine and karmic explanations." Perhaps, for example, God was sending Bud Selig a message: Don’t add a second wildcard. Click for the rest of the article, including another karmic possibility involving Buckner and Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Read more Nate Silver stories.)

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