Over the weekend there was discussion of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the AL versus the NL. After reaching some sort of consensus on movement this winter, I had it on my agenda to look at which league was better in 2004.
As Jesse pointed out, there were many factors to consider. Interleague play. Red Sox domination over the 105 win cardinals. etc.
I tried to construct a model that would attempt to evaluate which league is stronger and I could not come up with any approach that I thought appropriate.
Among the things I looked at:
Interleague play - records virtually identical and run differential of 42 (in approximately 200 games, thus insignificant. Plus the differences in the rules seemed unfair to both teams.
Unlike the other sports, the sample sizes and rule differences make it impossible to draw conclusions based on head to head play.
World Series - The Sox killed the Cards and we are to widely assume that the Yanks would have done the same. The Cards won 105 games - I tried to analyze their record against teams with winning records, play off teams, winning pitchers. None of that worked - they were good.
I looked at runs scored and allowed, but could not determine how much of that was determined by DH - subtracting runs created by DHs in the AL and runs created by pitchers in the NL, I was again even steven - within 0.057%.
Pitching - can't really do much there (obviously) less runs in NL equals lower ERA.
So then ignoring the top of the leagues, where the Sox/Yanks appeared to have an advantage over the Cards (the only teams with winning percents over .600), the AL did have two teams below .400 versus one for the NL. Teams over .550 less than .600 - you guessed it 4 for the NL, 3 for the AL with each league having one at .549. Pretty damned close.
I was trying to show something about the standard deviation, but that really did not help - 13.0 in the AL and 13.6 in NL (mostly due to the AZ 51 win season - if you remove AZ and KC - the two lowest - SD is virtually identical at 11.6).
The last thing I did which doesn't really prove anything, but I though was worth noticing - even though it didn't show up in any stats.
Red Sox won the wild card - and only 3 teams were within 14 games of them and none within 7.
Houston won the wild card - and 5 teams were within 9 games.
So I wasted a few hours trying to determine which league was better - but could come up with nothing. Anyone have any other ideas?