Tuesday, August 26


Nick and I were talking about the NFL preseason today, specifically the Browns' 0-3 mark thus far. He remains convinced that the Browns will be fine despite their exceptionally bad performance thus far, while I seem to recall that, although preseason isn't a good predictor of regular-season success, it's important to win at least one exhibition game if you want to make the postseason. Then I heard Tribe broadcasters Manning and Underwood call the preseason completely meaningless (earlier, Underwood said that the Tiger pitcher was more effective when ahead in the count - wow!) and decided I had to look it up.

Editor's note: I pick on Manning a lot because I think he should have a much better understanding of the game from a numbers perspective, but I just saw him call the location and type of like five straight pitches in an at-bat exactly right and explained before each one what the pitcher was going to do and why. Combine that sort of knowledge about playing with at least some awareness of OPS, and you're the man. Back to football.

Researching the first point quickly, I found this article that shows that the preseason is, in fact correlated to wins in the regular season, if not strongly. The trend was strongest for teams who had been mediocre the year before, posting 7-9 wins. Historically speaking, an 0-4 exhibition mark for teams in this range leads to two fewer wins than a 3- or 4-win slate. The Browns are not far outside of this territory with the 10 W's they put up last year.

I looked up the second point with my own data, and though it isn't a large sample size, it was at least consistent with my suspicions. I looked at preseason and postseason from 2001-2007 (the years ESPN had data for) and found that eleven teams over that span had winless exhibition slates. Of those, exactly one qualified for the playoffs. One. 9 percent. Six of them (55%) finished last in their division. Keep in mind that any given team is 50% more likely to make the tournament (12 teams get in, 40%) than finish in the basement (8 divisions, 27%), and a winless preseason looks like something you really want to steer clear of. Furthermore, one of the non-qualifying teams was the 2006 Steelers, a team who unfortunately won the 2005 Super Bowl, posted an 0-4 preseason, and stumbled to an 8-8 mark in 2006.

As such, even as someone who is fully cognizant of the fact that preseason doesn't technically matter and that the outcome of this game won't seal the Browns' fate either way in '08, I'm still anxious for the Brown and Orange to get a W in Game #4.

Of course, that one team who went winless (0-5!) and made the playoffs? The 2006Indianapolis Colts, who went 14-2 and fell in the AFC playoffs. Still, I'd rather not roll those dice.

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