Some Stats on Divisional Play vs. Rank Pool Play

It sure feels like we have been treated to a ton of close games in the KVKL, since rank pool play began. I was curious, so I crunched the numbers to see how the first three weeks of rank pool play compared to the first five weeks of the season. I thought it would be worth sharing here on the Sundays in the Park blog as a companion piece to the conversation Adam Mitchell started with his awesome post a few weeks ago. While competitive, close games aren’t the end-all be-all of a fun recreational sports experience, they sure are fun to be a part of.

I’m using three metrics here: margin of victory (how much the winning team won by on average), close games (games decided by 3 runs or fewer), and competitive games (games decided by 5 runs or fewer). 

Divisional Play

In the first five weeks of the season, the average KVKL game was decided by a whopping 12.7 runs. Out of 90 total games, 16.7% of games were competitive (15), and only 11.1% of games (11) were truly close to the finish. That is fewer close games (11) than games in which the mercy rule could have been enacted (13) through the first five weeks. 

Rank Pool Play

Through three weeks of rank play, the story is much different. The average margin of victory is down to 4.5 runs. Nearly two-thirds, 65% of games (33) were competitive. Even more impressive is that 51% of games were close finishes (26), 11 of which were decided by a single run. The mercy rule could have been enacted exactly 0 times. 

It isn’t surprising that games have gotten closer in rank play. The point of divisional play, after all, is for teams to sort themselves into competitive ranks, where competitive games are more or less assured. 

Still, it is worth pointing out just how lopsided things were this year in divisional play. I’m not sure these stats even do justice to the state of competitive play in the first half of the season. For example, here are the raw margins of victory in week five:

22, 4, 16, 23, 7, 20, 13, 16, 13, 13, 13, 19, 13, 11, 1, 13, 6, 13

That is a lot of games decided by exactly 13 runs. More to the point, it shows that the average margin of victory isn’t necessarily being propped up by huge outlier scores. Instead, it is a result of consistently lopsided scores across all games. By the way, week five wasn’t even the week with the largest average margin of victory. That was week one, when games were decided by 15 runs on average!

This isn’t to say that divisional play should be eradicated. R-Bar is vying to win the 4 pool this year. Without divisional play, they would have likely been seeded as a 6 pool team. Pawsh Wash, on the other end of things, is currently struggling in the 5-pool. They likely would have been seeded as a 3-pool team based on 2019 results. 

In this sense, divisional play is doing its job. I just wonder if there is a way to do this sorting more efficiently than playing 90 games, where only a small fraction are ever going to be competitive.

What do you think? Could a shortened/modified divisional play structure work? I have a few ideas, but I’d love to hear any ideas or creative solutions you have here in the comments or in the KVKL Facebook group.

Jake Frydman
Kickball Ranger/Monk
Astrokitty Comics 2012, Love Garden 2013-2021