Thursday, May 2, 2013

How the Philly sports world ended in 2012

I don't know if you noticed, but Philadelphia hasn't had a great sports year.  This is accentuated by the recent NFL draft in which the Eagles picked in the top 5, and the current Phillies who are losing 12-2 to the Indians right now.  I spent enough time looking over the Phillies before the season started, and I'll have plenty of time to look at the Eagles later.  For right now, I think it's a good idea to point out just how bad 2012 was for Philly teams in the four major sports.

After all, this was the first season since 1994, and only the fourth since Philly has housed a team in each  league, that none of the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, or Flyers made the playoffs.  This coming after a run of five seasons in which at least three of those teams made the postseason.  A problem with getting caught up in playoff appearances, of course, is that there are different playoff criteria in each league (the NHL allows more than half its teams into the playoffs, while MLB has twice changed their rules to move all the way up to 1/3).  Additionally, there have been substantial changes in the structure of leagues since the Flyers entered the fray in 1967, with division realignment and wild card teams and all that.  So let's table the playoff thing for now, because it's not quite convincing enough.

That's the average win percentage of the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers in their 2012-13 seasons.  I'm sure it doesn't surprise you to find out that that's a pretty bad number.  Since '67, that's the 5th worst average these teams have accumulated.  Of course, you might say, "But Alex, each Eagles win or loss changes their win percentage by 6, while each Phillies win or loss changes their win percentage by 0.6. Of course a 4-12 Eagles season results in a bad average!"

That's a clown comment, bro.  Don't worry, I thought of that.  Instead of just taking the average of the raw win percentages, I took the average of each team's standardized win percentage in each season (i.e. the Z-score, or distance from each team's overall average scaled by its own standard deviation).  This means that the Eagles' inherently more volatile win percentage from season to season is built into the calculation each season.  And yet, all that did was make 2012 a more definitive 6th worst season since 1967.

But wait, it gets worse.  Sure, this season was in the 90th percentile of bad seasons in Philadelphia history, but it's the context that makes 2012 really take the cake.  Philly teams had an average win percentage over .530 in 9 of the previous 11 seasons, with 8 of those seasons in the top 20 since 1967 in terms of standardized win percentage (45 seasons total).  Sure, this wasn't close to the 11-year run from '75 to '85 (in which no season had a win percentage under .530, and all 11 seasons were in the top 20 standardized win %), which included multiple championship runs, but it's definitely the biggest sustained run of success in Philly before or since.  Incidentally, these two periods were separated by 14 consecutive seasons of below-median standardized win percentages, and only 4 seasons above .500 overall.

As a result of the prior seasons being so successful, the drop-off in both standardized and garden-variety win percentage from 2011-12 to 2012-13 is the greatest between any two consecutive seasons since 1967.  So it's not just about the teams being bad, it's about them being as disappointing as any collection Philly has ever had.  Only time will tell if this is a blip or a trend, but the way that these teams are currently constructed makes it seem like this could be a pretty prolonged lull, unfortunately.

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