Wait ‘Til Next Year: Which League Gives Last Place Teams the Most Hope

(Click Chart to Enlarge) This is the second part of a four-part series in which I will try to compare parity in NBA, NFL, and MLB.  The proxy for parity in this series will be “the ability of the cellar-dwellers to improve next year”. 

I won’t concentrate as much on the year-to-year improvement as I will on the 5-year average because the 5-year average is a more stable and shows a trend.  To create this chart I looked at the worst 5 teams in the league for each season from 1980 to 2009 and calculated the average improvement of those teams in the following season.  For example, in 1997 season the worst 5 teams improved by an average of 16 games from the previous season.

The graph shows that the teams’ abilities to improve increased steadily until it peaked in 1993.  It has since been on the decline until recently.  Since 2003 the improvement has jumped up and down, but stayed in the same range.  There are several possible reasons for the steady decrease in the bad teams’ ability to improve.  I think the main reason is that beginning around 1993, with the Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux contracts, the growth in players salaries seemed to increase exponentially more than the growth in team revenues.  When that happened, the large market teams began to have a distinct advantage in acquiring superstar players.  The future does look bright for the smaller-market teams; the worst year for improvement since 1981 was 2010.
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Wait ‘Til Next Year: Which League Gives Last Place Teams the Most Hope for Improvement, the NBA, NFL, or MLB. (Part 1 of 4)

(Click Graph to Enlarge) This is the first part of a four-part series in which I will try to compare parity in NBA, NFL, and MLB.  The proxy for parity in this series will be “the ability of the cellar-dwellers to improve next year”. 
I won’t concentrate as much on the year-to-year improvement as I will on the 5-year average because the 5-year average is a more stable and shows a trend.  To create this chart I looked at the worst 5 teams in the league for each season from 1980-81 to 2009-10 and calculated the average improvement of those teams in the following season.  For example, in 1994-95 season the worst 5 teams improved by an average of 4 games from the previous season.

The graph shows that the teams’ abilities to improve increased steadily until it peaked during the 2006-07 season; since then it has been on the decline.  There are several possible reasons for the steady increase in the bad teams’ ability to improve, one reason could be improved draft scouting and increased draft depth. 


Related Posts:

UConn Back In The Final Four: Is Parity For Women’s Basketball Out Of Reach?

When I saw the score of the UConn-Duke game it made me wonder when women’s college basketball will achieve some sense of parity and competitive balance.  75-40 is a ridiculous score for an elite eight game, especially one that includes a 1st and 2nd seed.  So I did this short study to determine if this score is indicative of lack of parity or just an exception.  There were some mixed results that were also somewhat surprising.
As seen in the table below, Regional Final (Elite Eight) games show about a 5 point difference in scoring margin difference between the men and the women over the last ten years. 

That difference is significant and shows that there is still a measurable talent gap between the top 10 or 15 teams and the rest of women’s college basketball.  However, that is not the end of the story.  When you look at another measure, average scoring margin in games where both teams are at least a 2 seed, the parity gap between men and women narrows.  I use that measure because a 1 or 2 seed can’t play another 1 or 2 seed until the Elite Eight or Final Four, where presumably the pretenders and cinderellas are weeded out.  Since 2002 there have 24 of these games in the men’s tournament and 38 in the women’s tournament.  These numbers confirmed my suspicions; the men’s tournament doesn’t have as many 1 vs 2, 1vs 1, or 2 vs 2 games because there are more upsets.  However, the average scoring margin for men was 10.6 and the women’s was only slightly, if insignificantly higher at 11.3.

At the completion of this study I came to the conclusion that the men’s game has a minimal edge of over the women’s game when comes to parity amongst the top 15 teams. As for the rest of teams, a tremendous gap still exists and may never be closed. Additionally, part of the 5 point gap between women and men in Elite Eight scoring margins is that any cinderella or upstart team in the women’s game is usually overmatched and blown out in the Elite Eight.

Other Posts:

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/04/can-nba-team-peak-too-soon-and-still.html
http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/vcu-butler-final-four-matchup-would-be.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/were-yankees-best-offense-in-baseball.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/nfls-new-kickoff-rules-are-they.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/carmelo-what-has-he-done-to-knicks.html

Wait ‘Til Next Year: Which League Gives Last Place Teams the Most Hope for Improvement, the NBA, NFL, or MLB. (Part 3 of 4)

(Click Graph to Enlarge) This is the third part of a four-part series in which I will try to compare parity in NBA, NFL, and MLB.  The proxy for parity in this series will be “the ability of the cellar-dwellers to improve next year”. 

I won’t concentrate as much on the year-to-year improvement as I will on the 5-year average because the 5-year average is a more stable and shows a trend.  To create this chart I looked at the worst 5 teams in the league for each season from 1980 to 2009 and calculated the average improvement of those teams in the following season.  For example, in 2003 season the worst 5 teams improved by an average of 3 games from the previous season.

The graph shows that the teams’ ability to improve increased slightly,

 but steadily, from 1989 to 1995 and then from 1998-2003.  Overall, the NFL’s Upward Mobility has remained steady over the last 30 years.  That may be a tribute to the parity of the NFL, or the quality of the product, or both.  I can’t really figure out why and the aforementioned increases may just be by chance, as I did not do any hypothesis testing.  A stat that highlights my uncertainty about the causes and significance of the increases is:  The worst year for improvement was 2009 and the best was 2010.  I can’t explain that, can you?

Related Posts:

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/wait-til-next-year-which-league-gives_09.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/wait-til-next-year-which-league-gives.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog-post_15.html

Wait ‘Til Next Year: Which League Gives Last Place Teams the Most Hope for Improvement, the NBA, NFL, or MLB. (Part 2 of 4)

(Click Chart to Enlarge) This is the second part of a four-part series in which I will try to compare parity in NBA, NFL, and MLB.  The proxy for parity in this series will be “the ability of the cellar-dwellers to improve next year”. 

I won’t concentrate as much on the year-to-year improvement as I will on the 5-year average because the 5-year average is a more stable and shows a trend.  To create this chart I looked at the worst 5 teams in the league for each season from 1980 to 2009 and calculated the average improvement of those teams in the following season.  For example, in 1997 season the worst 5 teams improved by an average of 16 games from the previous season.
The graph shows that the teams’ abilities to improve increased steadily until it peaked in 1993.  It has since been on the decline until recently.  Since 2003 the improvement has jumped up and down, but stayed in the same range.  There are several possible reasons for the steady decrease in the bad teams’ ability to improve.  I think the main reason is that beginning around 1993, with the Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux contracts, the growth in players salaries seemed to increase exponentially more than the growth in team revenues.  When that happened, the large market teams began to have a distinct advantage in acquiring superstar players.  The future does look bright for the smaller-market teams; the worst year for improvement since 1981 was 2010.
What do you think?

Selection Sunday: What Were The Best Conferences in Mens College Hoops in 2011?

In the adjacent table, I attempt to find out how the conferences stack up against each other by measuring the parity of the conference and the strength of the conference.  The conference labeled in blue means that it was top 5 in that category and the red label means bottom 5. 
There are some interesting results in this table; the Pac-10 being the best overall conference came as a slight surprise to me.  It was in the top 5 in conference parity and conference strength, so I should not be too surprised.  If I had to pick the top 5 conferences just based on what I saw and perceived, I would have picked the same 5, but probably not in that order.  The Southland conference had the most parity with a 136.2 rating; by default that was a surprise because I haven’t been following the Southland all that closely.  The strongest conference, which was more important to me, was the Big Ten and I would tend to agree with that.  An earlier post of mine showed that the 2011 Big Ten and Big East conferences were two of the top three strongest conferences of the last decade.  Click to see my methodology
I see perfect parity in the conference meaning that all teams finish at .500 in conference play, as a result, the standard deviation of wins in conference should be zero.  Therefore, as the conference standard deviation of wins approaches zero, the parity rating is higher.  The converse is also true; as the standard deviation moves away from zero the parity rating would be lower.  A parity rating of 100 means average parity compared to the other conferences.  For example, the Southland Conference parity rating is 136.2, which means that conference has higher than average parity.
Conference strength was a much simpler measurement; I just used the conference’s non-conference win percentage and compared it to the rest of the conferences.  Just as with the parity measurement, 100 is average. 
To measure the overall quality of the conference I combined the strength and parity indices.  I believe that conference strength is more important than conference parity when comparing the quality of different conferences, so I counted strength twice and parity once in computation of overall conference quality.  However, I also believe that a conference having great strength and little parity should not be rewarded with a high overall quality rating.  As a result, I used the geometric mean of the strength and parity measures, rather than the simple average of the two.  Here’s an illustration showing why I chose geometric mean.  Look at the Southland Conference; it is in the top 5 in parity and the bottom 5 in strength.  If I just averaged parity and strength, the parity measure would have too much influence on the overall quality measure: the overall quality would be 103.9, an almost 2 and a half-point increase, a big difference on this scale.

Wait ‘Til Next Year: Which League Gives Last Place Teams the Most Hope for Improvement, the NBA, NFL, or MLB. (Part 1 of 4)

(Click Graph to Enlarge) This is the first part of a four-part series in which I will try to compare parity in NBA, NFL, and MLB.  The proxy for parity in this series will be “the ability of the cellar-dwellers to improve next year”. 

I won’t concentrate as much on the year-to-year improvement as I will on the 5-year average because the 5-year average is a more stable and shows a trend.  To create this chart I looked at the worst 5 teams in the league for each season from 1980-81 to 2009-10 and calculated the average improvement of those teams in the following season.  For example, in 1994-95 season the worst 5 teams improved by an average of 4 games from the previous season.
The graph shows that the teams’ abilities to improve increased steadily until it peaked during the 2006-07 season; since then it has been on the decline.  There are several possible reasons for the steady increase in the bad teams’ ability to improve, one reason could be improved draft scouting and increased draft depth. 
What do you think?

After the Carmelo Trade, is the NBA Turning into a League of a Few Teams with All the Stars? A Short Study in Cross Sport Parity.

Is This The Future Of The NBA?
There are many ways to measure parity in professional sports leagues, and I plan to explore them in the coming weeks.  However, in light of the apparent consolidation of NBA stars into fewer and fewer teams, (Highlighted by the recent Carmelo Anthony trade and the Miami Heat triumvirate.) one measure stands out.  For a lack of a better term I will call it upward mobility (UM).  While completing this short study I set out to learn which league most allows cellar-dwellers to eventually reach the top floor, or at least ground level.  The statistics were compiled from 2001-02 season in the NBA to 2009-10 season, and for the MLB and NFL the seasons from 2002-2010 were used. 

As the table below indicates, the NFL allows for the most UM; during the 9-year time period of the study 21 different teams have finished with one of the top 5 records in the league.  In addition, 23 different teams have finished with one of the bottom 5 records in the league.  Anyone who watches the NFL should not be surprised by this stat, as the NFL has: a hard salary cap, which almost totally eliminates the advantage larger market teams have over their smaller market brethren; a scheduling system that allows weaker teams to play easier schedules in their non-division games based on their previous season’s record; and the importance of its draft (due to frequent injuries and lack of an active trade market) compared to the NBA and MLB.
League
Top 5
Bottom 5
NBA
16
22
MLB
17
15
NFL
21
23
As expected, MLB had the least UM, as there is no salary cap and the bigger market teams can and usually do vastly outspend the other teams not only in salary, but in scouting and farm system development.  Only 17 different teams have finished with a top 5 record in the 9-year span, while even fewer, 15 different teams have finished in the bottom 5.
The NBA was the most interesting case to me; the league had only 16 different teams finish in the top 5 of the league while there were 22 different teams that finished in the bottom 5.  These findings suggest the draft has significant impact on the cellar-dwellers, allowing them to improve materially with one high draft pick, but conversely, the findings also suggest lack of UM for the mediocre teams in that the top 5 teams don’t change as often.  One reason for the lack of UM for mediocre teams is the soft salary cap in the NBA (the Larry Bird Rule), which allows teams to pay their own potential free agents more than any other team can; this rule allows great teams to be last longer than their NFL and MLB counterparts.  A stat that highlights the inability for non-elite NBA teams to break through to elite status is: only 7 different teams have the NBA title since 1984, compared with 18 in the MLB, and 14 and the NFL.
As stated earlier, parity can be measured in different ways, but when using the UM method (and probably almost any other method) the NFL has the most parity.  The NBA allows for the weaker teams to improve more quickly than their counterparts in MLB due to the importance of the draft and immediate impact draftees have on their respective teams and because the reason that MLB teams are cellar-dwellers is structural; i.e., smaller markets don’t have the money. 

Other Posts:

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/05/dirk-with-ring-better-than-ringless.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/02/after-carmelo-trade-is-nba-turning-into.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/wait-til-next-year-which-league-gives_09.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog-post_15.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/wait-til-next-year-which-league-gives_17.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/nfls-new-kickoff-rules-are-they.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/04/game-7-in-nba-playoffs-home-court_17.html