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Quant Facts

Applying numbers to sporting events.

Who Will Win the Big Game? Super Bowl LI (2017)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, Dr. Jay Granat, a psychotherapist, and I have studied championship factors related to sports psychology to predict the winners of major championships. Much of our research has focused on concepts such as consistency and minimizing errors.    

These factors are often overlooked by most sports fans and analysts.  Our regular series of "Who Will WIn" quant facts predictions have been correct about 63% of the time, while regularly picking underdogs.  The results are based on championships going back several decades – and across major sports including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and professional tennis and golf

The results below are based on every Super Bowl ever played, since the first Super Bowl in January 1967. Last year, we correctly predicted that the underdog, Denver Broncos, would win the Super Bowl.  

Big Game Experience 

Big game experience and the related factor of confidence play a large role in winning -- in every major sport we have studied.  Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take this championship factor, winning the Super Bowl just two years ago and being perennial Super Bowl contenders.  Edge: New England. 

Defense

The old adage, "Defense wins championships," has proven to be true.  Defense is associated with hard-nosed, gritty work. Defense is typically more consistent – and interestingly, can overcome glitzy offenses - which are sometimes able to "run up numbers" against weaker opponents during the regular season. A large majority of Super Bowls (63%) has been won by the team with the better defense, measured by "points against." The Patriots led the NFL in this category this season.  Edge: New England.

Consistency

Even with today’s high-octane NFL offenses, ball control remains one of the most important offensive indicators studied in both professional and college football. The team with a better running game, as measured by "average yards per rush," has won a majority of all Super Bowls. Matt Ryan and the league-leading Atlanta Falcon offense were not only good in the air, they were strong on the ground, as well.  The Falcons were near the top of the NFL this area.  Edge: Atlanta.

Defensive Consistency

Similarly, stopping your opponent’s running game is related to winning the big game. The team with the better rushing defense has won almost 60% of the Super Bowls. Interestingly, although New England has the better overall defense, Atlanta edges New England in this crucial championship factor.  Edge: Atlanta.

Minimizing Errors

Champions need to execute at a high-level, while minimizing errors and mistakes. The quarterback, as the team’s offensive leader, has a huge impact in determining championships. In particular, quarterback interceptions during the regular season are great predictors of Super Bowl success. The team with fewer interceptions during the regular season has gone on to win a majority of all Super Bowls. This has always been a strength of Tom Brady's Patriots.  Although Matt Ryan had a phenomenal season, the Patriots as a team threw just two (2 ! ) INTs all season!  Edge: Patriots.

Summary

The championship factors favor the Patriots 3-2, so New England will be our official quant fact prediction.  It is very interesting that the Atlanta Falcons edge the Patriots in two key fundamental areas.  This could actually lead to interesting game plans.  At the time of this article, New England is a very slight favorite at Patriots -3.  Enjoy the big game!  

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Original "Who Will Win" article (Wall St. Journal on 2010 Super Bowl)

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MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Paper

Carlton Chin, a graduate of MIT, is a portfolio strategist and fund manager -- and has worked on sports analytics with sports organizations. Jay Granat is a psychotherapist and founder of StayIntheZone.com. They are authors of “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method” and have been quoted by the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and ESPN.  

Who Will Win the 2016 World Series? Can the Cubs' Curse Be Broken?

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Who will win the 2016 World Series?  Will the heavily favored Chicago Cubs bring Cubs fans their first World Series in over 100 years?  (1908 was their last championship!)  Or will the pesky Cleveland Indians continue their surprising run through the playoffs?  Our "Who Will Win" series of sports prediction articles has been highlighted in the New York Times and is based on historical data that goes back over several decades across most major sports.  

We quantify concepts of sports psychology including leadership, confidence & experience, and consistency.  In our work with sports organizations, we use more advanced analytics -- but even our simplified methods have correctly predicted the winner of major sports championships at about a 64% clip -- while picking underdogs regularly.  

The Cubs won a powerhouse-like 103 games during the regular season.  They started the season winning almost 80% of their games, and won their division by 17.5 games.  In blowout games, the Cubs went 42-13, winning these games at a .786 clip.  In a nutshell, the Cubs were the talk of 2016.  

On the other hand, Cleveland started the season hovering around .500 until they heated up in June.  The Indians finished with 94 wins, but it is noteworthy that Cleveland finished the season ranked No. 2 in the American League in both runs scored and team ERA.  How do the teams stack up in our sports psychology quant facts?   

Leadership

Especially during short baseball playoff series, leadership in the form of pitching at the top of the pitching rotation is a key championship factor.  The Cubs, led by Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, who combined for 37 wins during the regular season take this category over the Cleveland Indians.  Edge: Chicago.  

Consistency

During pressure-filled moments, the ability to find "consistency" and stay on "your game" has proven to be connected with winning the big game.  Indeed, Dr. Jay Granat, a psychotherapist who has worked with athletes of all levels -- often encourages athletes to find a "ritual" to improve consistency.  In baseball, our measure of consistency is each team's league rank in batting average.  The team with the better batting average has won almost two-thirds of the World Series over the past three decades.  This edge goes to the Cleveland Indians, who ranked third in the AL, compared to the Cubs who had the sixth best batting average in the NL.  Edge: Cleveland.

Minimizing Errors

The ability to minimize errors while performing at a high level is key to winning championships.  In baseball, errors occur relatively infrequently - especially when compared to hits and walks.  However, their importance cannot be underestimated from both an on-field and psychological perspective.  The team with the better league rank in fielding percentage has won almost 65% of the World Series over the past 30 years.  This year, both World Series participants were sixth in their respective leagues.  Edge: None.   

Big Game Experience

Across all major sports we studied, experience in previous championships -- and the related confidence -- had a mathematical connection with improved chances of winning the big game.  Our official indicator is appearances in the World Series over the past three years.  Neither team has been to the World Series in recent years, but the Cubs advanced to the National League Championship Series last year.  Three years ago, the Indians lost in the American League Wild Card game.  Edge: Slightly to the Cubs. 

Quant Fact

One particularly interesting factor that we have researched is the "consistency" factor.  In football, for instance, consistency factors such as running statistics are more closely related to winning the Super Bowl than glitzy passing stats.  In baseball, batting average is more closely correlated to winning the World Series than the home run.  In fact, teams that rely more on the home run are regularly "shut down" by the higher level of pitching during the playoffs and World Series.  This oddball factor favors the Indians slightly.  Edge: Slightly to the Indians. 

Summary

We will call the quant facts a draw at 1.5 to 1.5.  We prefer to make a prediction for major championships, but we believe that the quant facts do, in fact, tell a story.  The Cubs are heavily favored to win the World Series, with the Cleveland Indians being 2-1 underdogs.  Sports fans may find value on the Indians, because the quant facts predict this year's World Series might be closer than many think.  Enjoy the games!  

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MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Paper (Part 2) 

Carlton Chin, CFA, is a fund manager, MIT-trained quantitative analyst, and co-author of “Who Will Win the Big Game?" He has worked with the Sacramento Kings on the Draft 3.0 Analytics Advisory Council.  Dr. Jay Granat, the owner of StayInTheZone.com, was named one of America's Top 10 Mental Gurus by Golf Digest, and has worked with high school and Olympic athletes. Carlton and Jay have been interviewed and/or quoted by ESPN, the New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.  



 


2016 NY Mets Playoffs: World Series Probabilities

The Record-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, we published a popular and ongoing article during the New York Mets' 2015 playoff run -- on the odds that the Mets would win the 2015 World Series.  We'll do the same this year -- and start with the wild card game against the San Francisco Giants.  

Why the Giants will Win the Wild Card Game

MadBum (Madison Bumgarner) has been unbeatable in the post-season.  He owns a 0.60 ERA in seven games for the SF Giants, with the Giants winning every single game he has started. MadBum has also done well against the Mets during his career.  

Why the Mets will Win the Wild Card

Although MadBum is one of the best in the game, the long-ball has been one of his weaknesses this year.  He yielded 26 HRs -- and homeruns happen to be one of the Mets' strengths.  Of course, during short baseball playoff series, the consistency of batting average is preferred over the long-ball -- as we saw in our New York Times articles.  

The Mets ended the season as one of the hottest teams in all of baseball.  On the other hand, the Giants played .417 ball the second half of the season and did not play .500 in any month to end the season (July = .458, August = .407, September = .464).  

While many people are touting MadBum, Noah Syndergaard (Thor) is no slouch. After a seemingly up and down year, Thor finished his second major league season (he turned just 24 in August!) with an ERA of 2.60.  Thor averaged almost 11 K's per nine innings during the regular season and averaged more than 12 K's in three post-season starts last year. 

So What are the Odds that the Mets Win the World Series? 

I currently favor the Mets slightly in the Wild Card game, and have the Mets' odds of winning the World Series at 4%.  

Popular Articles

Who Will Win the 2015 World Series?

2016 Final Four: Who Will Win?

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Paper

Carlton Chin, CFA, is a fund manager, MIT-trained quantitative analyst, and co-author of “Who Will Win the Big Game?" He has been quoted by the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and ESPN -- and worked with the Sacramento Kings on the Draft 3.0 Analytics Advisory Council.  He has been a lifelong Mets fan since attending his first ballgame as a six-year-old.  




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