The consistency dilemma

The word “consistent” gets thrown around way too often in baseball discussions, almost always as a stand in for “good.” Instead of saying a player is average or something less, we say, “he just needs to be more consistent.”

There’s enough random fluctuation in baseball that total scrubs can perform like Hall of Famers for a week. We’ve seen it countless times. And so then people say, “oh, if Jeff Francoeur could consistently hit like he did in April, he’d be an All-Star,” even though Jeff Francoeur is, in truth, about as consistent as the sun. He’s just not consistently good.

These Mets, you’ll read, are inconsistent. I mean hell, they haven’t hit in weeks. And if it isn’t one thing, it’s the other. When the pitching’s good, they don’t hit. When the hitting’s good, the bullpen melts down. When the bullpen holds it together, the defense lapses.

But I wonder if this is an instance of inconsistency or merely the way a consistently .500 ballclub appears when viewed under the microscope over the 162-game season. Sure, there have been ups and downs, hot streaks and rough stretches. More than there would be if I flipped a coin 117 times? I don’t know. I tend to doubt it.

And are these Mets not consistent with what we expected before the season? Maybe some of the individual performances aren’t, but few reasonable observers expected much more than a .500 season out of the team as a whole. I guessed 84 wins. By their Pythagorean winning percentage — based on runs scored and runs allowed — they’re on pace for 83. By their actual winning percentage they’re on pace for 80.

3 thoughts on “The consistency dilemma

  1. You are right on the money here Ted. I think people views of alot of things get skewd a bit when we watch every move of one team.

    No team plays consitently to thier winning percentage. if a team plays .660 ball, its not likely that they win 2 or evry 3, or anything even close to that, there are hot and cold spells for all teams, the good teams just have more hot spells and shorter cold spells.

    Its like earlier in the year when the Mets were still close to 1st, and people kept say, “outside of that 10 game winning streak, they are a .500 team. Thats correct, but probably could be said about alot of teams. Most good teams, if you look at thier record, outside of a few real nice streaks, are “a .500 team”.

  2. There’s actually a pretty easy way to test this, called the Wald-Wolfowitz Runs Test. Basically the idea is that if there’s some sequence of binary outcomes (e.g. wins/losses, men/women hired at a company, etc), you can determine if the order is happening randomly or if there seems to be some sort of outside force at play. This would pick up on the possibility that the Mets had an unusually large number of streaks.

    I’ll spare you the details of the calculations, but the p-value (which is the thing you’re most likely to care about) is 0.227. In probability terms, that means basically nothing. It does have the unrelated value of opening the door for a Jackée reference though.

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