Are September games important?

In a word, no. September games, on average, are less important than games in May, June and July. Here’s a table of the relative importance of games by month, from 2008:

Month     Game LI
Apr         0.47
May         0.63
Jun         0.70
Jul         0.64
Aug         0.46
Sep         0.43

As you can see, games (on average) were less critical in the last two months of the season. Now, there were some very important games in 2008, including two games of playoff intensity between the Twins and White Sox. There were a couple of division races, too.

Still, the criticality of those games was more than offset by the number of teams out of their division races, as well as the number of teams with comfortable leads. No drama for those teams; no critical games. On average, less intensity at the end of the season.

I chose 2008 because that was the year I pulled together my Drama Index for games, which measured the criticality of games based on each division race. You can argue that tighter pennant races will result in different results, and you’d be right. But the monthly differences in 2008 aren’t small, and I doubt they’d be overcome by even the most intense pennant races. Maybe someday I’ll run the results for 1967.

The point is, as Colin Wyers noted on Twitter this morning, that September results in general matter less for your MVP votes than other months. Keep in mind, however, that importance will vary by team.

Dave Studeman was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Follow his sporadic tweets @dastudes.
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Tom B
11 years ago

One season of data is certainly not going to answer a question like this.  Assuming the data won’t look “much different” with much more of it is… very peciliar.

David P Stokes
11 years ago

It should be obvious that while the most “important” games of the season occur in September, so do the least important.  Since normally more teams are out of the pennant race in September than are in it, and more teams are always out of the race in September than in any other month, it stands to reason that there will be more games with no bearing on the race in September than in any other month.  I don’t think you need a whole lot of data to prove something that is such a logical inevitability.

Not sure what to make of the comment about MVP voting, though.  I don’t think there’s any justification for looking at month-long data, as opposed to season-long data, when deciding on who you’d vote for as MVP.  Given the info in the chart in the article, if you think that stats compliled during the month with the most “important” games should have extra weight, then if 2 players both hit .350 with 30 homers and 20 stolen bases, and all else was equal, but one of them hit .420 in June while the other hit .250, you’d give the MVP to the guy who had the better June.  That doesn’t make sense to me.

11 years ago

It’s just WPA logic applied to games.  We’ve done this in the THT Annual the last two/three years, on a game-specific basis.  Looking at months is a more generic sort of label.

11 years ago

Yeah, I’d love to have a bunch of seasons to present, but I don’t have that data.  I do have several years’ data from Sky Andrecheck, and his results are even more extreme than mine.

Almost always, about 2/3 of teams will have a LI of virtually 0 in the last month.  There’s just no way to overcome that mathematically over a month.

Now, the very last days of the season are a different matter.  The few games that are really critical will pull up the overall average.  Perhaps the effect can last as long as a week.  But not in a month.