Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Rockies' momentum

I've loved watching the Rockies win game after game lately. I have not loved media speculation about whether the layoff between the team's last playoff game and the World Series will break their momentum. Momentum plays a big role in commentary about sports, but statistical analyses have found consistently that independence generally trumps momentum. Thomas Gilovich's wonderful debunking of the basketball "hot hand" in How We Know What Isn't So is a great early example.

The streak has demonstrated that the Rockies are a better team than almost anybody imagined a couple of months ago. They have higher real and Pythagorean winning percentages, and their terrific pitching staff seems to have been solidified by mid-season shifts in the roster and role assignments. The team will now face its toughest opponent and toughest arena. To think of momentum or its dissipation as the central issue of the Series is a distraction. The Series will be determined by the quality of the teams and the quirks of short-series baseball, not whether the Rockies have continued to please the God of Momentum.