Pete Rose doubled down on efforts to regain eligibility for entry in the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame last week when he petitioned Major League Baseball for reinstatement into the league.
Citing the MLB’s response to the Houston Astros’ sophisticated sign-stealing operation, attorneys for Rose argued that his lifetime ban for gambling is “vastly disproportionate,” to the league’s sanctions for players who took part in the 2017 scheme. Rose, the league’s all-time career leader in hits with 4,256, accepted an indefinite ban in 1989 following allegations that he wagered on baseball games, including Cincinnati Reds contests, while serving as manager of the Reds.
Rose’s attempts were met with criticism from Adi Wyner, director of the Undergraduate Program in Statistics at the University of Pennsylvania and faculty lead of the Wharton Sports Analytics and Business Initiative. Wyner indicated that Rose’s transgressions were considerably more egregious than the misdeeds of the participants in the Astros’ scandal, which has rocked Major League Baseball in recent weeks.
“Stealing signs with technology is illegal, but betting on games when you’re the manager — that’s about as bad as it comes,” Wyner told Sports Handle. “Everyone is playing as hard as they can, even in the technology scandal both sides are doing the best they can to win. The whole problem with Rose is that he was undermining his team.”
Pete Rose is petitioning to be removed from MLB's ineligible list, arguing that his lifetime ban is "vastly disproportionate" compared to players who took steroids and those involved in the Astros sign-stealing scheme. https://t.co/aP7rEXLZsH
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 5, 2020
Wyner discussed a wide range of issues related to the increased role of analytics in sports betting during a 30-minute interview with Sports Handle this week. Wyner, co-host of Wharton Moneyball on Sirius XM radio, spent last week in Miami ahead of the Super Bowl.
Violating the integrity of the game
For a period of 15 years, Rose denied betting on baseball until he reversed course in 2004. Upon the release of his autobiography, “My Prison Without Bars,” Rose admitted for the first time that he bet on the Reds in his capacity as manager. Rose has vehemently denied that he ever bet against his team.
Critics of Rose have maintained that the former manager still manipulated the betting line on days when he did not place any bets. Consider Rose’s treatment of pitcher Bill Gullickson, a middling pitcher with an ERA north of 4.75 in 1987. During a two-month period over the 1987 season, Rose nearly bet on the Reds on a daily basis, according to website The Grueling Truth.com. Of the four games in which investigators found no evidence that Rose bet on the Reds, Gullickson started in all four.
During those starts, the Reds lost all four contests by a combined margin of 23 runs. In all four, Rose went to Bill Scherrer, a struggling reliever whose ERA remained over 10.00 for the majority of the first half. The insertion of Scherrer enabled Rose to keep his bullpen fresh with the Reds’ top relievers when he resumed betting.
“He says his penalty… is far more severe than any of the penalties that Major League Baseball has handed down to any of the players in the steroids era, and certainly in the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal.”@DVNJr weighs in on Pete Rose’s latest attempt to get reinstated pic.twitter.com/zxk4G4dbdI
— Outside The Lines (@OTLonESPN) February 5, 2020
Nevertheless, Rose’s attorneys claim that his punishment does not fit the crime based on the league’s treatment of the Astros and others implicated in a variety of PED scandals. When asked last month if betting on baseball should be viewed as a greater transgression than stealing signs electronically, Rose told the Associated Press that at least his activities never affected the “outcome of the game.”
“There cannot be one set of rules for Mr. Rose and another for everyone else,” Rose’s attorneys wrote in a 20-page petition, obtained by ESPN.com.
Rose’s possible reinstatement into Major League Baseball has been a popular topic since Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a series of stiff penalties against the Astros last month. Even President Trump has weighed in.
Pete Rose played Major League Baseball for 24 seasons, from 1963-1986, and had more hits, 4,256, than any other player (by a wide margin). He gambled, but only on his own team winning, and paid a decades long price. GET PETE ROSE INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. It’s Time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2020
The resulting fallacy
Over the course of Super Bowl Week, Wyner analyzed an unexpected divergence that emerged among various probability models. Although the Chiefs closed around a -1.5 point favorite, the models ranged from 1.5 points to 5.5 points, translating to a win probability between 53% and 65%, Wyner said. Typically, any probability above 53% is considered a good bet, he explained.
In most cases, there isn’t much of a divergence between the models particularly in big games, Wyner explained. Backers of the 49ers were enamored by their stifling defense, balanced attack and better regular-season record. The presence of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ explosive offense, however, essentially led to the divergence, he added.
Wyner spoke at length on a logical fallacy known as “resulting,” and its prevalence in the world of gambling. Coined by Poker professional Annie Duke, resulting occurs when a gambler believes a successful outcome is based solely on making the right decision. If that holds true, one can infer that each time a gambler experiences an unsuccessful outcome it results from making the wrong decision. In essence, Duke writes, gamblers underestimate the power of luck as successful outcomes can still occur from incorrect decisions.
The Chiefs converted two fourth downs in the first half of a 31-20 victory, including a 4th-and-1 that led to the game’s first touchdown. The 49ers, conversely, opted to kick a field goal on 4th-and-2 from the Chiefs’ 24 early in the third quarter. Had the Niners scored a touchdown on the drive, the Chiefs would have had to overcome a 14-point deficit in the final quarter.
While the Chiefs’ victory cannot be chalked up completely to luck, a handful of plays could have led to a different outcome. Resulting teaches gamblers that their decisions may not be as astute as they presume.
Impact of Astros’ scandal on analytics field
In the aftermath of MLB’s investigation, it is still difficult to quantify the precise effect of the sign-stealing operation on the Astros’ results. Would the Astros still have won the 2017 World Series if the team never broke league rules by conducting the comprehensive scheme? How would Houston have performed against the spread in a season when the club won 101 games?
When an Astros player hit a trash can before a pitch it was usually indicative of an off speed pitch, Wyner said. When a batter did not hear the jarring sound, it seemed to indicate that a fastball was being delivered. The scenario played out in the eighth inning of the White Sox’s 3-1 win over the Astros on Sept. 21. when White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar called for a timeout before a 2-2 pitch against Evan Gattis.
“(I heard) a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down,” Farquhar told The Athletic. Once the White Sox switched signs, “the banging stopped,” he added
Wyner, one of the nation’s top sports business and statistics professors, notes that if a batter knows the type of pitch beforehand he will have an “immense advantage,” over a pitcher. The Astros were favored by 1.5 runs over the White Sox in pregame markets, while the moneyline was -294. Following the dismissal of former manager A.J. Hinch and former general manager Jeff Luhnow, the SouthPoint Sportsbook in Las Vegas set the Astros’ 2020 win total at 94.0 wins. The total is 2.5 games below Houston’s pre-season target of 96.5 wins prior to the 2019 season.
Hinch, himself, has not answered whether the cheating scandal has tarnished the Astros’ 2017 title.
“I can’t pinpoint what advantages or what happened or exactly what happened otherwise,” Hinch told the MLB Network. “But we did it to ourselves.”
Using the Astros’ data, several researchers are trying to calculate how the team fared in certain situations based on the signals, Wyner said. By reviewing the footage, they can glean how the Astros performed in cases when batters knew to layoff an offspeed pitch. The data can be compared with other pitch sequences when it appeared that the Astros did not intercept a sign.
“We’ll see if they are much better,” Wyner said. “They are working on it, stay tuned.”