The Misery Index: The 2011 Season in Comebacks and Meltdowns

At the All-Star Break, I looked at the season through the lens of the fans' experience, using Win Probability to measure heartbreaking losses and unbelievable wins. I looked at two types of games: Ones where teams won despite their Win Probability dropping below 25% (or 10%, or 5% or 1%) at some point, and the exact reverse one, where teams lost despite their Win Probability going above 75% (or 90%, or 95%, or 99%) at one point. For simplicity's sake, we'll call them "Comeback Wins" and "Meltdown Losses." Here's the raw data on Google Docs.

Note that this isn't a measurement of luck, or even necessarily clutch play (though it probably correlates pretty strongly with the latter). It's just a basic measurement of how often - and how severely - teams blew games that were typically in the bag and rescued games that should have been out of reach. Here's the top 5 and bottom 5 in the most basic level of Meltdown Losses:

2011 >75%-chance Meltdown Losses

1. Astros - 27
1. Cubs - 27
1. Mets - 27
4. Twins - 26
5. Cardinals - 24
... (23t. Brewers - 15 - and only one after the All-Star Break, the least of any team. Thanks, John Axford!)
26. Dodgers - 14
27. Phillies - 13
27. Rays - 13
29. Diamondbacks - 12
29. Tigers - 12

And the more extreme meltdowns:

2011 >90%-chance Meltdown Losses

1. Astros - 12
2. Cardinals - 9
2. Cubs - 9
2. Twins - 9
5. Dodgers - 7
5. Mets - 7
5. Blue Jays - 7
... (17t. Brewers - 4)
Six tied for the least with 2 (Diamondbacks, Giants, Pirates, Mariners, Rays, Tigers)

Other notes on meltdowns: The Astros and White Sox led the way with >95%-chance meltdowns, with 7 and 6, respectively. ... Four teams went the entire season without >95% meltdowns - Diamondbacks, Giants, Rays, and Tigers. (The Red Sox' only one was on the last day.) ... The Brewers' worst meltdown this year was on Opening Day, when they reached a 96.9% chance of winning in the top of the ninth. ... There were six >99%-chance meltdowns this year, the worst of which was (you guessed it) the Dodgers' loss to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.

Now for the glass-half-full side - the Top 5 and Bottom 5 in Comeback Wins:

2011 <25%-chance Comeback Wins

1. Reds - 28
2. Tigers - 26
3. Diamondbacks - 24
3. Indians - 24
5. Yankees - 21
5. Phillies - 21
...
5 tied for 23rd with 15 (Astros, Brewers, Dodgers, Pirates, Rangers)
28. Padres - 14
29. White Sox - 14
30. Twins - 10

And the really crazy comebacks:

2011 <10%-chance Comeback Wins

1. Diamondbacks - 10
1. Reds - 10
3. Cubs - 9
4. Braves - 8
4. Rays - 8
... (11t. Brewers - 5, all between June and August)
27. Pirates - 2
27. Rockies - 2
27. Royals - 2
27. Orioles - 2

Other comeback notes: Not surprisingly, the Diamondbacks were tops in the league in <5%-chance comebacks, with 6. More surprisingly, the Mets were tied for second with 5. ... Two teams never got a <5% comeback: Rockies and Royals. ... The Brewers' biggest comeback of the year? The July 2 Twins game, when they dropped down to a 1.6% chance of winning, down 7-0 in the fifth.

So this is the part where we try to mash those statistics into something that (kind of) has some meaning, something that can attempt to put a way over-simplistic number to those feelings of euphoria and heartbreak. It's The Misery Index - +/-1 for each normal win and loss, +/-2 for each 25%/75% win and loss, and +/-3 for each 10%/90% win and loss.

2011 NL Misery Index

1. Phillies +52
2. Diamondbacks +46
3. Brewers +31
4. Giants +23
5. Braves +19
6. Reds +15
7. Cardinals +8
8. Dodgers +1
8. Nationals +1
10. Marlins -16
10. Mets -16
12. Pirates -20
12. Rockies -20
14. Padres -26
15. Cubs -27
16. Astros -69

2011 AL Misery Index

1. Tigers +43
2. Yankees +37
3. Rays +32
4. Rangers +27
4. Red Sox +23
6. Angels +15
7. Indians +9
8. Blue Jays -3
9. Athletics -10
10. White Sox -14
11. Mariners -26
12. Royals -27
13. Orioles -29
14. Twins -58

And finally, just because I can, here's the Misery Index just for the second half. This is where you'll see the late-season surges and collapses in sharp focus:

2011 Second-Half MLB Misery Index

1. Tigers +33
2. Brewers +30
2. Diamondbacks +30
4. Rangers +23
5. Yankees +20
5. Phillies +20
7. Rays +16
8. Cardinals +13
8. Dodgers +13
10. Reds +10
11. Angels +6
11. Blue Jays +6
13. Athletics +4
14. Giants +1
15. Red Sox -2
16. Cubs -4
16. Nationals -4
18. White Sox -5
18. Braves -5
20. Royals -6
21. Indians -8
22. Orioles -9
23. Marlins -10
23. Mets -10
25. Rockies -12
26. Padres -19
27. Astros -22
28. Pirates -23
29. Mariners -25
30. Twins -41

Holy crap - sorry about the last few months, Twins fans. I'm still amazed at how many comebacks the Reds had, though - a silver lining in the middle of a brutal year, I guess. As usual, let me know if you have any specific questions about or adjustments to the data.

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