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Go With The Analytics … But Say You Went With Your Gut

First, we discuss a take that the Atlanta Braves’ decision to pull Ian Anderson after five innings in Game 3 of the World Series was absolutely no fun and hurt baseball because people would have tuned in to watch a potential no-hitter. We think this is weird for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that people probably were tuning in for the World Series and Atlanta fans were more invested in, you know, winning that game. But it brings out a discussion of how analytics-based decisions are covered and how more “gut”-based calls land in the media. The Braves got away with pulling a pitcher primarily because he was walking batters and Jose Altuve was on deck (and because they ended up winning the game). But they also got away with it because Brian Snitker is an old-school kind of manager. The Tampa Bay Rays — who made a similar move in last year’s World Series but didn’t win their game — need to get a representative who can go out and explain analytical calls as coming from pure gut instinct. 

Next, we talk about the college football landscape, where playoff berths are still technically possible for a one-loss team like Michigan but don’t feel particularly likely, Jim Harbaugh being who Jim Harbaugh is. We then talk about the FiveThirtyEight proposal for a 12-team College Football Playoff format, which would ensure the best team in college football would get to participate — at least 90 percent of the time. College football presents an interesting challenge: In some years, the level of certainty about who is potentially the best team is much higher, and would perhaps lead to all kinds of strategies to keep the odds even, like spotting teams points at the start of games. But a mathematically sound playoff system will never trump a playoff system that everyday fans can understand, and so some of our wilder ideas aren’t likely to happen. Luckily, a 12-team format in some form still might.   

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil talks about the phenomenon of the sports equinox and why so many have taken place over the past decade. He also expands out the definition to include not only the big four, but also leagues like the WNBA, NWSL, college basketball and college football to find super sports equinoxes. Neil argues the one we just had this past Halloween may have been the best sports equinox yet, but it certainly will not be the last. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

What makes Patrick Mahomes so great? | FiveThirtyEight

Who’s the most chaotic fictional football coach? | FiveThirtyEight

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.