The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for September 5th, 2006

On power rankings

Posted by disappointmentzone on 5 September 2006

I may be confused (such is often the case) but my understanding is that power rankings are based on the recent productivity of a team or player–a quick snapshot of how well a team or player is playing over a recent period of time. The World Golf Rankings, for instance, are based on what a player has accomplished over the last two years. If you want to know who’s been the best golfer over that time you consult the World Golf Rankings. If you want to know who’s been the best golfer over the last two months, you consult the power rankings.

I like the concept of power rankings. They are a good compromise between the formal rankings many sports keep–team records in the NFL, NBA, MLB; the BCS rankings in college football; etc.–that are good at providing the long-view of how well a team has done in a season and the short-view that is often just as important to fans. If the Indians are playing the Blue Jays it’s nice to know not only how well the Jays have done this season but also how well they’ve played over the last three weeks.

As I was browsing the MLB power rankings at SI.com this afternoon I was hopeful that the Indians, owners of the best record in baseball since August 9th (18-7), would be somewhere near the top. Maybe even the top 10. These are the small victories one yearns for in an otherwise pathetic season. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that the Indians were not on the first page (teams 1-10) or on the second page (11-20) but on the third page, in the bottom tier of all teams, firmly slotted in at number 21. Naturally, I wondered which teams were ahead of the Indians and how well those teams had been playing recently (since August 9th). Here are my findings:

#2: Detroit Tigers: 9-16 (1-2 against Indians)
#4: Minnesota Twins: 13-11
#10: Boston Red Sox: 9-18
#11: Toronto Blue Jays: 13-12 (0-3 against Indians)
#14: Texas Rangers: 15-10 (1-2 against Indians)

These are just a handful of the teams I looked at. Of course, no team had a better record than the Indians, but I was surprised at how many teams had far worse records than the Indians but were still ranked significantly higher, particularly Detroit and Toronto.

If I want to know which teams have been the best this season I’ll look at the standings. If I want to know which teams have been the best in the last 10 games I’ll check the standings. If I want to know which teams have been playing well enough to give me concern when I see their name on the schedule–such as those teams with mediocre records that suddenly are playing well (the Indians, for example)–or which teams might be vulnerable to a loss despite their outstanding records, I want to check the power rankings and when I do I’d like to see something approaching an accurate hierarchy.

Then again, maybe I’m just confused.

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