Predicting the End of a Shortened Baseball Season

Ever since he started collecting baseball cards as a kid, Zach Hass has wanted to be a sports statistician. Last year, as a Case Western Reserve University economics major, he got his chance.

Jacobs Field

For his senior capstone project, Hass worked with statistics professor Wojbor Woyczynski, PhD, to devise a model to predict the teams that would have entered the playoffs had the strikeshortened 1994 baseball season finished as scheduled.

Hass's paper showed the Cleveland Indians making the playoffs 82.7 percent of the time, while the Montreal Expos made the playoffs 98.7 percent of the time.

Given that the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., in 2004 and that the Indians lost the World Series in 1995 and 1997, his results offer much fodder for wistful sports fans. "There were a lot of 'coulda-been, shoulda-beens,' and that made it more interesting," he says.

In the yearlong project, Hass bumped up against some limitations, as his model under-predicts the number of runs scored and doesn't take into account injuries or trades. The biggest surprise, Hass says, was that the Kansas City Royals, only a game behind the Indians when the season was cut short, had only a 16 percent chance of making the playoffs.

To predict the Tribe's likelihood of clinching a pennant, Hass, who entered a master's program in statistics at Purdue University this fall, would have needed to do more research. Yet when asked if they would have won, his response is an unequivocal: "Definitely!"