October 17, 2022

Probabilities

On Saturday night at about 2:00am EDT the San Diego Padres eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I made a comment that with a "small sample" of a five-game series, just about anything could happen. Dodgers Twitter found the comment, and spent three days telling me how ignorant I am.

An awful lot of things in life boil down to probabilities. If we have a reasonable guess of how likely something is to happen, we can string together probabilities and determine the odds of, say, the Dodgers losing a series they are favored to win.

Let make two assumptions. These are assumptions, and your assumptions may be better, they may be worse. We cannot know the truth.

  • Assumption #1 = Dodgers have a 65% chance of winning a home playoff game vs. San Diego.
  • Assumption #2 = Dodgers have a 50% chance of winning a road playoff game at San Diego.
Given these assumptions, we can estimate the probability of the Dodgers winning the series.
  • Win 3 games to 0 = 21%.
  • Win 3 games to 1 = 22%.
  • Win 3 games to 2 = 24%.
  • Lose 3 games to 2 = 13%.
  • Lose 3 games to 1 = 14%.
  • Lose 3 games to 0 = 6%.
  • Win the Series = 67%.
  • Lose the Series = 33%.

So yeah, the Dodgers "should" have won the series.

But there was a 33% chance they'd lose the series. Not 5%. Not 11%. 33%.

The probabilities are based on assumptions, yes.

But there is a credible chance that an underdog will win a series.

The odds create good television.

The odds do not reward a 162 game season-long effort.

We like to view things in a binary nature ... wins or losses. Then we assign accountability to wins or losses. It's not as satisfying to suggest that we can try our hardest and do everything to the best of our ability and be better prepared and more talented and still lose a third of the time.

But that is the way life works.

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