30 October 2019

Projections 2019: Astros over Nats in Game Seven is Matter of Degree

Game Seven. It's the greatest phrase in all of North American sports. And yet, in the World Series at least, it happens surprisingly often. After a dearth of games seven from 2003 through 2010, five World Series have gone to the seventh game in the last nine seasons (including this one). The ten-year moving average of games played per World Series has gone from five to six games in that span.

If we were to assume that one team has to have home field advantage, and that interleague advantage is about 55%, we should see six-game and seven-game World Series happen at about equal intervals, something like 31% of the time; five-game series should happen about a quarter of the time and four-game sweeps should occur about one in every eight World Series.

Over the last 107 World Series held since the best-of-seven rule was made official in 1922, that means we should have seen about 13 sweeps, 26-27 five-gamers, and 34 six- and seven-game Fall Classics. In fact, 38 of the 107 World Series held since the best-of-seven rule was made official in 1922 have gone all the way. It's nearly twice as likely that a World Series goes seven games than six.

Perhaps the more surprising thing is that there are so few five- and six-game Series.

So what's going to happen tonight? My model gives the Houston Astros a 61% chance of winning at home, but keep in mind that I do not consider lineups or pitching match-ups in my model. Other systems, and bettors, do, and they have more faith in the Washington Nationals than my spreadsheet does.

Projections as of 30 October 2019

For the first time this postseason, touts like the Nationals more than I do. Much has been made of Max Scherzer starting game seven despite missing game five due to debilitating neck and trap spasms. Systems and bettors that consider the rotation in their calculus seem to believe he'll be the difference maker. The smart money is still on Houston, but as 56% favorites rather than 61%.

Two other systems are even more bullish on DC, thanks to their accounting for the talent of Max Scherzer. Both FiveThirtyEight and FanGraphs' ZiPS projections make the Astros marginal favorites at best.

The debate between analytics and gut instinct rages on, but there is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

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