You’re reading Back of the Envelope, an experiment that aims to bring shorter, quicker content to FiveThirtyEight.
When is a loss just a loss, and when is it a harbinger of things to come? On Tuesday night, the Chicago Cubs and the Golden State Warriors took hard losses in very different settings: Game 1 of the World Series (a 6-0 Cleveland Indians win) vs. Game 1 of the NBA season (a 129-100 drubbing by the Spurs). Weirdly, FiveThirtyEight’s Elo projections say each game had a similar effect on the Cubs’ and Warriors’ chances of winning a championship:
The stakes didn’t match at all, but the fallout did. That’s uncommon for two teams at opposite ends of their season but makes sense when you dig into why. Both of these swings reflect when these games were played: For the Cubs, the World Series is essentially a seven-game season, so every game will shift championship odds quite a bit. The Warriors, meanwhile, had a preseason championship probability that rested entirely on team rating (since the team didn’t have a record). That meant the odds could take a big swing early in the season.
The road back to being more than 50 percent likely to win the championship is quite different for the two teams. All the Cubs need to do is win Game 2, and their deeper roster will seduce the model again. The Warriors have further to go. While 38 percent is still an absurdly high probability to win the title one game into the season, they’ll need to break off an impressive run before they can convince the model, and the league, that they’re the overwhelming favorites they once appeared to be.Share on Facebook