Division Two World Series Odds
May 21, 2010
Tomorrow in Cary, North Carolina, the Division Two world series gets under way. Eight very good teams come from around the country for a shot at the title.
As we did last year, we came up with strength-of-schedule numbers for the contenders. Combined with their pythagorean won-loss records, that gives us an indication of each team's skill level. Throw those numbers into a monte-carlo simulation, and you've got the odds that each team takes home the title.
Here are the participants and their odds of winning it all:
School Strength Champ UC San Diego 0.879 30.2% Tampa 0.866 23.6% Kutztown 0.753 9.7% Minnesota State 0.745 8.7% Central Missouri 0.802 7.9% Southern Indiana 0.730 7.1% Franklin Pierce 0.728 6.9% Georgia College 0.782 5.8%
Look at that for a second, and you'll see some wonky stuff going on. Tampa and UCSD are the clear cream of the crop, and are rightfully at the top of the list. But measured by strength, third and fourth are Central Missouri and Georgia College, yet their chances are much lower. What gives?
The secret, as you might have guessed, lies in the design of the bracket. It's not incompetence on anyone's part--it's that the bracket was set up before the winner of each regional was determined. No matter who won the respective regionals, the first game was going to pit the winners of the South Central and South tournaments.
To see just how inappropriate the bracket turned out to be, it's worth a quick digression into the format. The D2 WS splits the eight teams into two pools of four. Each pool plays its own double-elimination tournament, meaning that no matter what happens, the championship game will be between a team in the first pool and a team in the second pool.
It's a little disconcerting, then, that this poll ranks the four teams in one of the pools first, second, third, and fourth in the nation. Oops.
How lopsided is it? The odds that the winner of the first pool wins the championship game are 67.5 percent. There are very few single-game MLB matchups so heavily tilted in one direction.
My first reaction was that Tampa and UCSD are the losers here--kind of like lining up Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to meet in the semifinals. But no, the bad luck hits Central Missouri and Georgia College particularly hard. Either team would be the favorite to come out of the second four-team bracket, but instead, one of them will probably have to face both of the two best teams in the nation.
The flip side is that the bracket creates a great opportunity for the underdogs. Minnesota State-Mankato was hardly a blip on the national radar screen until recently, but if they can fight their way into the championship game...well, anything can happen in one game, right?
To see just how much the bracket affects each team's chances, it's interesting to see how a different scenario would play out. What if we lined up the pools as in a more strictly seeded tournament? In this case, we'll put teams ranked 1 and 8 together, in a pool with teams ranked 4 and 5. That leaves 2 and 7 facing off in their opening game, to face the winner of a content between 3 and 6.
Naturally, this gives Tampa and UCSD each a better shot at the championship game, and opens up the field a bit for Central Missouri and Georgia College as well:
School Champ Diff UC San Diego 35.7% +5.5% Tampa 29.2% +5.6% Central Missouri 10.8% +2.9% Georgia College 7.8% +2.0% Kutztown 5.1% -4.6% Minnesota State 4.5% -3.2% Southern Indiana 3.5% -3.6% Franklin Pierce 3.4% -3.5%
That really emphasizes how lucky the teams in the lower half are. The alignment of the bracket gives them almost double the chance of taking the whole tournament than a more evenly arranged format.
We'll be following the action in Cary, and next week, we'll check back in with odds for the Division Three
championships in Appleton.