From Worst to Most Variable? Only the Worst Performers May be the Most Informative

Authors: Bradly Alicea

What makes a good prediction good? Generally, the answer is thought to be a faithful accounting of both tangible and intangible factors. Among sports teams, it is thought that if you get enough of the tangible factors (e.g. roster, prior performance, schedule) correct, then the predictions will be correspondingly accurate. While there is a role for intangible factors, they are thought to gum up the works, so to speak. Here, I start with the hypothesis that the best and worst teams in a league or tournament are easy to predict relative to teams with average performance. Data from the 2013 MLB and NFL seasons plus data from the 2014 NCAA Tournament were used. Using a model-free approach, data representing various aspects of competition reveal that mainly the teams predicted to perform the worst actually conform to expectation. The reasons for this are then discussed, including the role of shot noise on performance driven by tangible factors.

Comments: 13 pages, 7 Figures, 2 Supplemental Figures. Full dataset can be found at doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.944542

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[v1] 2016-04-22 01:25:58

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