September 21, 2009
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Two more weeks: the Mallards

My fantasy baseball team, the Malden Mallards, has been playing in the Eddie Plank league for something like 15 years. Last year, we missed the wild card by 3 points out of 10,000 — the difference amounting to one additional inning of middle relief, or one base hit, over the course of a season.

This year has been neck and neck from the start. I had a toug day yesterday and so we’re now 15 points behind for the wild card and 90 points behind in the division. With two weeks to go, almost anything is possible and even likely.

In most years, the standings in our league change less than they do in real baseball — usually much less. I’ve never found a completely convincing explanation for this, but I think it’s because, in fantasy baseball, independent variables are more independent. Two batters who play on the same team are more likely to have a good or a bad day together than two batters who play on different teams.

It’s hard to know why these pennant races are so tight. If we were all playing optimal strategies, the spread might be expected to be small. But this small? The difference between teams is negligible: one missed start, two or three homers over 150 games.