Good stuff from Rational Pastime about competitive balance. The big finish:
- So there you have it--based on win distributions, the MLB is clearly the most balanced American sports league, and the NFL the least balanced, contrary to popular opinion. This tells us that there is something inherent in baseball that is generating a great deal of fairness for the teams that play, regardless of payroll disparity. This also raises the possibility that Baseball's "competitive balance problem" may be nothing more than a public relations problem (which isn't insignificant, it's just not a problem that can be fixed by modifying the distribution of payrolls).
That said, we don't yet have enough evidence to make this claim just yet. A deeper investigation of the level of competitive balance in baseball and other sports requires more than a look at regular season win distributions. We also need to look at the distribution of playoff appearances, as well as the volatility of win totals from year to year (what sociologists and economists would refer to as "mobility" were we discussing household and personal incomes rather than success in sport).
I skipped all the juicy technical stuff, and you should definitely RTWA if you like graphs and terms like "Gini Coefficients" (and who doesn't?) ... but this isn't exactly new news, buster. Every time some egghead runs one of these studies, they find the same thing: Major League Baseball's competitive balance, as measured by regular-season wins, compares favorably with the other sports.
I'm not even sure you need an egghead (or me) to tell you this. Just look around. The worst baseball teams will lose roughly 65 percent of their games. The worst football teams will lose 90 percent of their games; the worst basketball teams, roughly 85 percent.
So, we get it. We also get that the Royals and Pirates haven't been truly competitive since today's graduating college seniors were in diapers. We can call that a public-relations problem or we can call that a management problem, but there's definitely a problem that all the Gini Coefficients in the world can't solve.