The Misery Index

I'll admit it: I'm occasionally one of those people in gamethreads who complains about how the Brewers can't catch a break, how the other team's getting great luck and ridiculous calls. Sometimes, though, after the Brewers have pulled off one of those improbable wins, I'll take a schadenfreude tour of the opponent's SB Nation blog and find that, of course, their fans are saying the exact same things.

In other words, just about everyone thinks their team drops more roller-coaster games than everyone else, loses more games they should have won than everyone else, and generally makes life more miserable for its fans than everyone else. But that can't possibly be true.

So which teams are actually giving their fans more heart attacks than anyone else? It's not enough just to play close games - after all, those close wins are the ones that leave us more euphoric than the blowouts. I would contend that the worst losses for a fan are not necessarily the close ones, but the ones where a win seemed certain, where defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory.

So how to measure that? Easy. Win Probability. In any game situation, it can give us a pretty reliable measurement of how likely each team is to win that game. So it's able to quantify just how improbable that comeback or collapse was - and, in a way, how exciting or infuriating it is. I went through all the MLB games so far season via Fangraphs and kept track of every time a team reached a 75% chance of winning the game and lost, or the mirror opposite - dropped under a 25% chance of winning and still won. Here's what I found:

2011 75%-chance losses (heartbreaking losses)

1. Astros - 18
2. Cubs - 17
3. Cardinals - 16
4. Mets - 15
5. Brewers - 14
...
27. Padres - 7
27. Phillies - 7
29. Red Sox - 6
30. Rays - 5

 

 

2011 25%-chance wins (improbable comebacks)

1. Indians - 16
2. Giants - 15
2. Reds - 15
4. Phillies - 14
4. Tigers - 14
...  (13. Brewers - 10)
25. Astros - 8
25. Dodgers - 8
25. Blue Jays - 8
25. Orioles - 8
29. Twins - 6
29. Rangers - 6

These 75/25% games are fairly common, though, so let's narrow it down to the real gut-punch losses and huge comebacks - games where one team had a 90+% chance of winning but ended up with the loss.

2011 90%-chance losses (these are the real meltdowns)

1. Astros - 9
2. Cardinals - 7
3. Cubs - 6
4. Blue Jays - 5
5. Twins - 5
... (6. Brewers - 4 - Opening Day vs. RedsJune 14 vs. CubsJuly 3 vs. TwinsJuly 4 vs. D-Backs)
23. Braves, D-Backs, Giants, Padres, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox - 1
30. Indians - 0

2011 10%-chance wins

1. Cubs - 6
1. D-Backs - 6
1. Giants - 6
1. Reds - 6
... (10. Brewers - 3 - June 8 vs. MetsJuly 2 vs. TwinsJuly 8 vs. Reds)
26. Pirates - 1
26. Rockies - 1
26. Orioles - 1
26. Rangers - 1
30. Tigers - 0

Of course, all those ho-hum losses hurt, too, just like the garden-variety wins are wonderful, too. So I thought I'd throw together a system to measure the joy and pain of all those wins and losses together. Call it The Misery Index - we'll assign +/-1 for each normal win and loss, +/-2 for each 25%/75% win and loss, and +/-3 for each 10%/90% win and loss. Here's how everyone stacks up:

2011 NL Misery Index (as of July 10)

1. Phillies +32
2. Braves +24
3. Giants +22
4. D-Backs +16
5t. Nationals +5
5t. Reds +5
7. Pirates +3
8. Brewers +1
9. Cardinals -5
10t. Mets -6
10t. Marlins -6
12. Padres -7
13. Rockies -8
14. Dodgers -12
15. Cubs -23
16. Astros -47

(A glimpse at how huge the Brewers-Reds series before the break was: Before that series, the Brewers were -4, and the Reds were +10.)

2011 AL Misery Index (as of July 10)

1. Red Sox +25
2t. Yankees +17
2t. Indians +17
4. Rays +16
5. Tigers +10
6. Angels +9
7. Rangers +4
8. Mariners -1
9t. Blue Jays -9
9t. White Sox -9
11. A's -14
12. Twins -17
13. Orioles -20
14. Royals -21

The short version: The Cardinals, Mets, Astros, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Twins have been much more brutal to root for than their record indicates, while the Giants, D-Backs, Reds, Nationals, Indians, and Rays have given their fans more than their share of exhilarating comebacks while generally avoiding huge collapses.

A couple of general things this shows: One, the WPA extremes are much greater in the NL than the AL (more big comebacks and meltdowns, and more difference between the bad teams and good teams), which likely indicates bad NL bullpens more than anything.

And two, it could always be worse: Your team could be the Astros, whose score is more than twice as low as the next-lowest team. Unless, of course an Astros fan, in which case I guess you could be the '62 Mets. But they won a World Series within seven years, so no, it couldn't be worse.

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