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The 2012 World Series: Analysis Of Sports Psychology Factors

By Carlton J. Chin and Jay P. Granat

Carlton Chin, a portfolio strategist and fund manager, and Jay Granat, psychotherapist, are authors of "Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method." They have previously written about the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament, the N.B.A. Finals, and last year's World Series.

In "regular" SeekingAlpha articles, I discuss "quant" approaches to the financial markets or look at market action and/or market outlook -- especially for alternative assets and asset allocation approaches. From time-to-time, we do some fun analysis to look at major sporting events. In particular, my work with Dr. Jay Granat relates key statistical factors to concepts of sports psychology such as leadership, consistency, and minimizing errors. Let's take a look at this year's World Series.

Pitching Leadership

Leadership on the playing field has proven to be statistically significant in its relationship to winning the big game across all sports we have studied. In baseball, top starting pitchers are a key leadership factor - and are a good indicator of success during baseball's short playoff series. The finalist with the better top of the rotation, measured by total wins by its top two pitchers, has won 67 percent of the World Series over the past 22 World Series (over 23 years because there was no postseason in 1994). This factor goes to the Detroit Tigers, whose top two starting pitchers, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, edge San Francisco's top starters, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner (33 combined wins to 32).

Consistency

Consistency is another key to winning championships. In baseball, our research points to batting average as a good indicator of consistency. The team with the higher league rank in batting average has won 72 percent of the World Series over the past 22 World Series. There is no edge in this department because both Detroit (.268) and San Francisco (.269) ranked third in their league in batting average.

Defense

Our research has shown that defense, minimizing errors, and execution wins championships. Minimizing errors reflects hard work and focus, and is good for team morale. Over the past 23 years, the team with the better defense, as measured by league rank in fielding percentage, has won 67 percent of the World Series. The edge goes to Detroit (9th in the AL in fielding percentage) over San Francisco (13th in the AL), although both teams were mediocre in this department.

Big Game Experience

Big game experience has had a positive relationship with winning championships across all major U.S. sports. On average, across all major sports, this factor is greater than 60%. However, this factor posts just a 43% record over the past 23 years in baseball. The San Francisco Giants won the World Series two years ago, so the experience factor goes to the Giants.

Summary

Overall, the championship factors favor Detroit by a margin of 2-1, with the Tigers holding an edge in pitching leadership and fielding. The Giants get the edge in big game experience.

Team

Big Game Experience (Appearance in WS past 3 yrs)

Leadership (Wins - Top 2 Starting Pitchers)

Consistency (Batting Average - League Rank)

Morale & Focus (Defense, Fld Pct - League Rank)

Detroit

No

33

3

9

San Francisco

Yes: 2010

32

3

13

Click to enlarge

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.