After all the computations, it says Dodgers over Milwaukee in 6
So who is going to win the National League championship series?
The upstart Milwaukee Brewers had the best record in the league, and they have an MVP front-runner, Christian Yelich, on their roster.
Or will it be the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will be making their third straight NLCS appearance -- they went 1-1 against the Cubs in 2016 and 2017 -- after climbing out of an early-season hole?
Let's see if we can find out, using a formula from the stone age of sabermetrics.
Bill James wasn't the only person doing sabermetrics 30-40 years ago, but he was the most well-known and perhaps the most prolific. Waiting for James' annual Baseball Abstract back in the 1980s was like waiting for Christmas, only in late winter and early spring.
One particular Abstract caught my fancy, the 1984 edition, in which James expanded on a fun formula for predicting the winner of postseason series. James first introduced the formula in 1982 in Inside Sports magazine, a short-lived but great publication.
Compared with today's environment -- in which terms such as wRC+, wOBA and OPS+ roll off tongues as quickly as RBI and "clutch hitters" once did -- James' formula seems quaint.
But back in the day, James boasted of a 70 percent accuracy rate for his postseason formula. So let's give this 13-point formula a whirl for the Brewers-Dodgers battle, which begins Friday night at Miller Park.
• Give 1 point per half-game difference in record. The Brewers had the best regular-season NL record at 96-67. The Dodgers finished 92-71. So award 8 points to the Brewers.
• Award 3 points to team with more runs scored. The Dodgers get the 3 for their league-leading 804 runs, compared with 754 for the Brewers.
• Give 14 points to team with fewer doubles. The Brewers get the 14 points here. In doing his research for coming up with the formula, James wrote in the '84 Abstract: "Teams which hit a lot of doubles had been wiped out with demonic consistency."
• The team with more triples gets 12 points. So we give them to the Dodgers here.
• To the team with more homers, give 10 points. Even though the Brewers have some boppers, the Dodgers outhomered them 235-218.
• Let's get interesting here. Give 8 points to team with lower batting average. In the '84 Abstract, James wrote there was a "simple reason" to go against the team with the higher batting average: "It takes them too many hits to score." OK, so award 8 to the Dodgers, as they batted .250 as a team, while the Brewers were at .252.
• Switching to defense, give 8 points to the team with fewer errors. The Dodgers get the 8 here. We saw several games this year in which the Brewers' defense was subpar, and they were third worst in errors (108).
• But we're going to give 7 points to the Brewers for turning more double plays.
• More on the counterintuitive side, go ahead and give 7 points to the team whose pitchers walked more batters. That would be the Brewers, whose pitchers walked 553 to 422 for the Dodgers.
• Give a whopping 19 points to the team that tossed more shutouts. Those points go to the Brewers, who had 14, compared with 11 for the Dodgers.
• The Dodgers will get 15 points for their league-leading 3.38 ERA The Brewers were fourth, at 3.73.
• For their postseason experience, the Dodgers will get 12 points for being in the playoffs more recently.
• Finally, the Dodgers will get 12 for going 4-3 in head-to-head play with the Brewers this season.
Adding it all up, the Dodgers have 80 points to 55 for the Brewers. So we'll call it a six-game NLCS victory for L.A., at least based on what we have here.
The last time I dusted off the old James formula was for the 2010 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers. My own pick before running the numbers was that the Rangers would win in "seven exciting games." James' formula said otherwise, giving the Giants a whopping advantage. They wound up winning the World Series in five.
Just for fun and for this story, I retroactively did the numbers for the 2016 World Series between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. The James formula predicted a runaway series victory for the Cubs. The Cubs did win the Series that year, but it wasn't quite a runaway, if you recall.
We'll see how things play out beginning Friday in Milwaukee.