In a recent post I hinted at a future piece concerning parity levels among all major professional sports. Well here she is.
Recently, I read an article at ESPN.com by Buster Olney. In the article, Buster Olney mentioned the parity that exists in major league baseball. Of course, this brought out the NFL fans that raved about how the NFL was more fair and they had more parity. And the NFL doesn’t have the Yankees and Red Sox winning everything. Which professional sports league really has the most parity?
First we have to come up with a good way to figure this out. In his article Buster Olney mentioned the number of different teams that have made the World Series. The NFL fans countered with playoff appearances. Playoffs aren’t going to cut it though. The NFL has 12 playoff spots, Major League Baseball has 8 and the NBA and NHL have 16.
There is no fair way to decide parity by playoff appearances, especially when each league also has a different amount of teams.
The only way to decide this is by winning seasons. Let’s take the last nine seasons and see how many teams in each sport has had more winning seasons than losing seasons. In other words how many teams in each sport has finished with a winning record at least five times in the last nine seasons.
(Note: In the NHL if a team has 9 wins, 8 losses and 1 over time loss then they are considered a team with a winning record. But that overtime losses doesn’t count stuff is nonsense. I’m treating a 9 – 8 – 1 team like a 9 – 9 team.
Major League Baseball
9 winning seasons – Red Sox, Yankees
8 winning seasons – Cardinals, Dodgers
7 winning seasons – A’s, Angels, Astros, Braves, Phillies, Twins, White Sox
6 winning seasons – Diamondbacks, Mets
5 winning seasons – Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, Mariners
Total – 17
National Basketball Association
9 winning seasons – Spurs, Mavericks
8 winning seasons – Lakers, Pistons
7 winning seasons – Jazz, Rockets, Suns
6 winning seasons – Heat, Kings, Nuggets
5 winning seasons – Cavs, Nets, Timberwolves
Total – 13
National Football League
8 winning seasons – Colts, Patriots
7 winning seasons – Broncos, Eagles, Steelers
6 winning seasons – Buccaneers, Jets, Packers, Ravens, Seahawks
5 winning seasons – Cowboys, Giants, Titans
Total – 13
National Hockey League
9 winning seasons – Avalanche, Devils, Red Wings, Senators, Stars
8 winning seasons – Flyers
5 winning seasons – Ducks
Total – 13
As I said before, each league has a different amount of teams. The NFL has 32 teams meaning that the 13 teams that have more winning seasons than losing seasons is only 40 percent. The NBA and NHL each have 13 teams with more winning seasons than losing seasons but only 30 total teams, making it 43 percent for them. Major League Baseball on the other hand has 30 teams and 17 have more winning seasons than losing seasons, for a percentage of 57 percent.
There you have it. A greater diversity of participants in the championship game/series AND a much, much higher percentage of teams enjoying winning seasons. All of this while NOT having an inordinate amount of teams at the “top end” of the spectrum.
If you were to see 4 or 5 or 6 teams sitting along side the Yankees & Red Sox with 9 winning seasons you might be able to make an argument that it feeds the belief that things are too top heavy in baseball. But that clearly isn’t the case.