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Sharing Sox Podcast 70: Special 538 Edition

Back from hiatus, with Neil Paine from Five Thirty Eight

Sharing Sox has been on a jury duty hiatus, but is back with a very special guest, indeed. SSS duty geezer Leigh Allan and his son and west coast correspondent, Will, are joined this week by Neil Paine, senior sportswriter and general editor for the amazing statistical analysis site fivethirtyeight.com.

Five Thirty Eight is the product of master statistician Nate Silver, who began the site as a political data analysis entity, but whose background as the creator of PECOTA made adding sports, especially baseball, a natural progression.

The site’s baseball coverage is extensive — Neil just posted a piece analyzing the difference the change in the ball has made in homers this year, divided by exit velocity — but it is probably best known for its predictions, both on a seasonal basis and for each game. Neil calls baseball the most difficult and random type of predictions they do, in sports or otherwise, but gives a full explanation of how 538 arrives at preseason team ratings, the 10,000 computer simulations they then run to come up with predicted records and playoff probabilities, and how they are able to update those records within moments after a given game is over.

Yes, 538 had the White Sox winning the AL Central easily before the season began, and now (before Thursday’s finale vs. Boston) gives the Sox just a 37% chance of winning the division (Twins 59%). Neil explains what that means.

Neil also gets into what makes 538 give, say, the White Sox a 56% chance of winning a given game, a 43% chance in another one. (Hint: It has a whole lot to do with starting pitchers, and almost nothing to do with a given batter.)

So, to find out why predictions go the way they do, give it a listen. And don’t worry - it’s in baseball fan speak, not stat nerd speak.


Listen below, on our built-in Megaphone player:

or follow along with every episode at Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or wherever you consume your podcasts. Or, you can watch the podcast on the South Side Sox YouTube channel.