Wednesday, May 14, 2014

FiveThirtyEight Runs the Numbers on Cleveland's Sports Woes

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 7:45 AM

FiveThirtyEight, the brainchild of political data wunderkind and former New York Timeser Nate Silver, set its cross-hairs on Cleveland's recent Manzielan upswing. "God Doesn't Hate Cleveland," goes the headline, which gives us first ontological pause and then a lasting sigh of relief. Well, that's good news!

Our city's history of sports tragedy is well documented and likely burned on your mind for all of eternity, and thankfully writer Neil Paine digs up some silver linings.

When I plugged Cleveland teams’ basic championship probabilities (i.e., if a team played in a 30-team league, its chance of winning the championship would be 1 in 30) into the simulation, their expected number of championships since 1903 was 12.4. That’s only 0.4 more than they actually won in real life, even after going nearly a half-century without any titles at all. So, if you take the long view, Cleveland hasn’t been cursed at all. Its teams simply front-loaded their championships, winning 5.2 more than random chance says they should have over the 62 years between 1903 and 1964.

A nice way of looking at things, it would seem. Paine admits he's oversimplifying things there (seasons being variable in terms of individual team/division dynamics and such), which makes the rest of his stats-heavy article well worth the click.

(It's worth noting that he does concede the point that "[e]xactly why Cleveland’s been so bad for so long is beyond the scope of this article.")

But give us the bottom line, good sir! Paine transposes the probability of post-season success in Cleveland against that in New York, which makes for a less than thrilling perspective. Overall, he claims (variables and all) that the odds of city going 49 years without a championship (Cleveland!) clock in around 2.9 percent (about, say, 1-in-34ish).

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