Tag Archives: Cubs

Which Comeback Was Most Unlikely?

Last night was ridiculous. Only Brady and Belichick can go down twenty-five points in the Super Bowl without their fans losing hope. And to score thirty-one straight points to do it? And to win the first ever overtime Super Bowl? And to do it while setting records left and right? Holy crap.

Then again, the Patriots are really just continuing a trend that’s been going on since June. This past year has been filled with tremendous comebacks and upsets. Like the Pats, the Cubs, Clemson, Trump, and the Cavs have all accrued huge deficits and overcome them. But which comeback of these five was the most improbable of all? Let’s figure it out.

5. Donald Trump (28.2% chance of winning)

This was a difficult probability to determine. While we can rely on Vegas and ESPN’s win expectancy for sports, there are a number of conflicting predictions out there. Accordingly, I went with Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight’s empirical prediction model, rather than predictions from places such as the New York Times (15%) and the Princeton Election Consortium (1%) that were less based on statistics.

Although the Trump’s victory seemed unbelievable and shocking at the time, statistically, it wasn’t all that unlikely. Accordingly, all four sports comebacks were more miraculous than the election results.

4. Chicago Cubs (21.7%)

The Cubs’ comeback seems unlikely, and it was, but they were favored in each of the fateful final three games, by significant margins. Vegas expected Chicago to win each of the individual final three games, so the fact that it did isn’t too surprising.

Based on the money line, Chicago was expected to win 67.7% of the time in Game 5, about 59% in Game 6, and 54.5% in Game 7. Combined, they had barely better than a one in five chance of winning three straight games and emerging victorious at their nadir, which, while improbable, isn’t quite the act of God that it appeared to be.

3. Clemson Tigers (9.6%)

Clemson’s low point came after a Calvin Ridley reception gave Alabama a first down. At that point, in the middle of the second quarter, Clemson was down two touchdowns against a dominant defense. Despite this, the Tigers came roaring back to draw within three.

Later on, O.J. Howard’s 68 yard touchdown catch pushed their odds of winning back down to 14%. Once more, Clemson fought hard and eventually took the lead for the first time, gave it up, and finally regained it with one second remaining.

This was an impressive victory against the Evil Empire of college football, and the situation for Clemson was dire for large chunks of the game. However, the deficit was only fourteen points at its largest, so it doesn’t seem like the Tigers had a major comeback, even though their win expectancy reveals they did.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (5.9%)

Both the Cavs and Cubs had to win three straight games, including two on the road, to break a mammoth championship drought. So why was Chicago nearly four times as likely as Cleveland to end its season with champagne?

The main reason is that the Cubs were superior to the Indians, while the Cavaliers were inferior to the record-setting Warriors. Furthermore, basketball is much less reliant on luck than baseball, so Cleveland needed to legitimately beat a dominant, otherworldly Golden State squad three straight times–a lucky, fluky win wasn’t possible.

Because of this, the Cavs’ championship comeback was the most unlikely of all until…

1. New England Patriots (0.03%)

The Pats had a huge comeback over the Falcons last night: after going down 28-3, New England roared back to score thirty-one points unanswered. The Falcons had a win probability of over 92% for thirty straight minutes, including a twelve minute streak when it never dipped below 98%.

The situation was bleakest after an incomplete pass from Julian Edelman left the Pats facing a 3rd and 3 from their own 46 with just over six minutes left in the third quarter while down 28-3. ESPN gave the Patriots a 0.03% chance of coming back to win the game at that point.

Even if you want to use the least optimistic Trump prediction, which gave him a 1% chance of winning the election, last night’s Patriots victory was three times as unlikely as Trump’s triumph.

Any way you slice it, this Super Bowl comeback was nearly impossible, and was the most improbable of the last year’s five unlikely moments. Of course, that’s just from a quantitative standpoint, which can’t capture the in-the-moment insanity that accompanies any spectacular event, along with all the other qualitative factors that go into making a memorable moment. Which one do you think was the craziest comeback of all? Let us know in the poll and in the comments!

Sources: FiveThirtyEight for Trump, ESPN for Clemson and New England, and oddsshark.com for Chicago and Cleveland. 

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2016 MLB Predictions

Admittedly, this article is coming out a day late, so these predictions are obviously all moot and completely worthless, as the three total games that have been played so far have determined everything that will happen in the regular season for the next six months.

Anyways, here are the Sushi on Sports 2016 MLB predictions.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox

Detroit Tigers

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins

AL West

Houston Astros

Texas Rangers

Seattle Mariners

Oakland Athletics

Los Angeles Angels

NL East

New York Mets

Washington Nationals

Miami Marlins

Atlanta Braves

Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates

Cincinnati Reds

Milwaukee Brewers

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Francisco Giants

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

San Diego Padres

AL Wild Card

Chicago White Sox over Texas Rangers

NL Wild Card

Pittsburgh Pirates over St. Louis Cardinals

ALDS

Houston Astros over Chicago White Sox

Toronto Blue Jays over Kansas City Royals

NLDS

Chicago Cubs over Pittsburgh Pirates

New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers

ALCS

Houston Astros over Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS

New York Mets over Chicago Cubs

World Series

New York Mets over Houston Astros

AL MVP

Carlos Correa

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo

AL Cy Young

Chris Sale

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY

A.J. Reed

NL ROY

Steven Matz

AL MOY

A.J. Hinch

NL MOY

Joe Maddon

MLB Over/Unders

After a lengthy winter, baseball is finally nearly back!

Spring training has been awful for me, only whetting my appetite for baseball without truly satisfying it. However, it does serve a purpose. Spring training gives us a first glimpse at the configurations of each team. It provides us with tentative answers as to where each player will bat in the order, or who’ll close, or any number of things.

Today we’ll use some of that information in making our Over/Under predictions for the 2016 MLB season. First, let’s discuss a few best bets for the upcoming season. After that, we’ll zip through the rest of the picks.

Let’s get started!

Best Bets

Chicago Cubs: 92.5: OVER

They can’t make this number high enough for me. If it were raised to 95.5, I’d have to take it off my “Best Bets” list, but it would have to be over 100 for me to even consider taking the under.

Unlike other teams, who may have depth but no superstars, or superstars but no depth, the Cubs are in the enviable position of having both. In fact, although having superstars like Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and Kris Bryant is important, what might be more impressive is that their worst regular is Dexter Fowler, a center fielder who, last season, smacked seventeen homers, swiped twenty bases, with a .346 OBP. On any other team, that’s a way above average player. Wow.

Chicago’s immense depth will allow to work its way through whatever obstacles it might face during the lengthy season, and its superstars will allow it to excel throughout the campaign. It’s tough to envision a scenario in which the Cubs don’t manage to win ninety games, making this an easy choice for the “Best Bets” list.

Houston Astros: 87.5: OVER

The Astros are eerily similar to the Cubs. They’re both young, up-and-coming teams coming off painful defeats in last year’s playoffs. They’re both led by a pair of young, stud infielders (Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, and Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, respectively) and each’s ace was absolutely awful before having a very good season in 2014 and winning the Cy Young in 2015 (Dallas Keuchel, and Jake Arrieta, respectively). And, just like the Cubs, the Astros are set to improve spectacularly on last season’s 86-76 record.

Houston definitely shouldn’t have any trouble gaining an extra two wins over last season. George Springer played only two-thirds of the season; a full season from him could get them over the hump by itself. When Correa’s inevitable improvement as he gains MLB experience is factored in, the Astros should be able to surpass the total that Bovada has set for them with ease.

San Diego Padres: 73.5: UNDER

Before last season, Padres GM A.J. Preller went on an offseason trading spree, nabbing Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, and Craig Kimbrel in an effort to win big. That effort failed miserably, and the team is now a wreck, with no hope in the present or in the future.

After Preller failed to turn the Padres into a contender, he sloughed off his two biggest acquisitions, with Upton leaving in free agency and Kimbrel being traded to the Red Sox. The team is now left with a desolate wasteland of a roster with no hope of contention.

In a challenging division with three teams expected to contend for the playoffs, it will be hard for San Diego to make it to seventy wins.

The Best of the Rest

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5: UNDER

The Phillies won 63 games last year and now have even less talent. The scale of their rebuild is on par with that of the Astros a few of years ago, and those Houston teams won 56, 55, and 51 games from 2011-2013.

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5: OVER and Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5: OVER

I group these two teams together because they’re both NL Central teams who had the two highest win totals in MLB last season, didn’t get appreciably worse over the offseason, and are not getting much love from Bovada. These two teams are about the same as they were last year, and last year they won 100 and 98 games, respectively. How is each’s win total expected to decline by double digits?

Over/Under Picks for Entire MLB

Houston Astros: 87.5: OVER

Texas Rangers: 84.5: UNDER

Seattle Mariners: 82.5: UNDER

Los Angeles Angels: 81.5: UNDER

Oakland Athletics: 75.5: UNDER

Kansas City Royals: 85.5: OVER

Cleveland Indians: 84.5: UNDER

Detroit Tigers: 81.5: OVER

Chicago White Sox: 80.5: OVER

Minnesota Twins: 78.5: OVER

Toronto Blue Jays: 87.5: OVER

Boston Red Sox: 86.5: OVER

New York Yankees: 85.5: UNDER

Tampa Bay Rays: 81.5: UNDER

Baltimore Orioles: 79.5: OVER

San Francisco Giants: 89.5: UNDER

Los Angeles Dodgers: 88.5: OVER

Arizona Diamondbacks: 82.5: OVER

San Diego Padres: 73.5: UNDER

Colorado Rockies: 70.5: UNDER

Chicago Cubs: 92.5: OVER

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5: OVER

Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5: OVER

Cincinnati Reds: 70.5: UNDER

Milwaukee Brewers: 69.5: UNDER

New York Mets: 89.5: OVER

Washington Nationals: 89.5: UNDER

Miami Marlins: 79.5: UNDER

Atlanta Braves: 66.5: UNDER

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5: UNDER

Signing Grade: Heyward to the Cubs

Last week, news broke that Jason Heyward was signed to an eight year, 184 million dollar contract by the Cubs. The contract includes a pair of opt-out clauses, after year three and year four. Those clauses are contingent on Heyward reaching a certain number of plate appearances.

The big winner here is obviously Heyward. 184 million dollars is a massive amount of money, and, thanks to the opt-out clauses, he’ll be able to re-enter free agency at age 29 or 30, where he’ll be able to land another big contract.

Heyward has to thank Atlanta for its help. The Braves brought him up to the majors at age 20, allowing him to reach free agency at 26, unlike most others, who reach free agency in their late twenties.

This is a great deal for Chicago as well. Due to his relative youth, a lengthy contract isn’t much of a burden. The deal keeps Heyward (barring any opt-outs) in Chicago until he’s 34, when, while he’ll have left his prime, he’ll still be a solid player.

The best thing about this contract from Chicago’s point of view is that Heyward, despite being a free agent, is roughly the same age as the rest of their young studs. Heyward is 26, a day younger than Anthony Rizzo, while the rest of the young core consists of the 23-year olds Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez, the 22-year old Kyle Schwarber, and the 21-year old Addison Russell. That lineup is loaded, and it’ll be loaded for the rest of the decade.

There’s only one potential problem. Heyward derives much of his value from his spectacular defense in right field. However, that’s where Soler plays, so Heyward, as of now, is expected to play in center field. He’s played there before, although not extensively; throughout his career he’s spent a total of 233 innings in center field.

The Cubs are fine with Heyward playing center field, but another option open to them is trading Soler, putting Heyward in right field, and then signing one of the free agent center fielders including Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, and Dexter Fowler, who played for the Cubs this past season.

Either way, when the only quibble with this contract is the mild problem of whether Heyward will be a good or great center fielder if he ends up playing there, it’s a pretty good deal.

Grade: A

Trade Grade: Castro for Warren and Ryan

Earlier this week, the Cubs traded Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.

New York Yankees

Castro is a solid player. He can play both shortstop and second base, and flexibility at a pair of hard-to-fill positions is a valuable commodity in today’s MLB.

To get Castro, the Yankees gave up Warren and Ryan. Warren was expected to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation this spring after pitching well last season, but now that he’s gone, New York will likely turn to CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to compete for the fifth slot, behind Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi. Ryan was nothing more than an occasional starter at second base, the position that Castro will now occupy, so his absence won’t be missed.

Castro is an interesting asset. Although this will be his seventh season in the big leagues, he’s still only 26 and is signed through 2019, his age-29 season, with a club option for 2020. His contract isn’t onerous, as over the next four seasons, Castro is owed 37 million dollars, plus the club option, which will cost sixteen million dollars (or a one million dollar buyout).

On the other hand, since a spectacular first couple of seasons in the majors, Castro has regressed badly, with a .296 OBP last season. However, there may be reason for optimism. After moving from shortstop to second base last season, across 44 games, Castro played better defense while hitting .353/.374/.594. Obviously, Castro won’t put up those stats over a full campaign, but if he can approach his production from his first couple of seasons, then this trade will be a coup for the Yankees.

Grade: B

Chicago Cubs

I’m not sure why the Cubs made this trade. Yes, Castro was expendable because Addison Russell and Javier Baez will be occupying the middle-infield positions for the foreseeable future, but couldn’t Chicago have gotten something a little more useful for a young, relatively cheap player?

Ryan has a reputation for being a spectacular defensive shortstop, with his four year peak producing 12.4 WAR (as per Baseball-Reference). However, that peak was from 2009 to 2012, at which point his defensive production fell off a cliff, going from 3.6 dWAR (defensive WAR) in 2012 to .7 dWAR in 2013. Last season, he reached his nadir, producing negative value as a defender. He can’t hit for his life, which was acceptable when he was a world-class defender, but now that he can’t play defense any more, simply put, he’s an awful player.

The Cubs don’t need him whatsoever, with shortstop reserved for Russell for years to come, so I imagine he was just a throw-in and that Warren was their main target.

Warren pitched well last season, with a 3.29 ERA across 131.1 innings, including seventeen starts. This isn’t a fluke as his combined ERA across his three full seasons is 3.23. The problem is that there’s no space in the rotation for him, with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks occupying every spot in the strangely J-heavy Chicago rotation.

Warren has also pitched in the bullpen, so he’ll likely begin next season as a reliever. He’ll be perfectly fine in relief, but is a solid reliever really worth Castro? Apparently, the Cubs think so, but I’m dubious.

Grade: C+