Road to the Championship: Playoff Analytics

Even with the explosion in interest in analytics and statistics, the playoff system has more or less stayed the same. Every year, at the end of the regular season, all the win-loss records are wiped clean and a single playoff tournament determines the year’s champions. But why is this so? How can analytics help design the “best” playoff system? Are playoffs even the right way to choose a champion if the best team doesn’t always win? This panel will investigate the tension between large-sample win-loss records in the regular season and random outcomes in the playoffs, recent rule changes to playoff structures, and innovative playoff formats in non-traditional sports, where the American playoff system is different from the rest of the world. Panelists will discuss ideas for changing playoffs and the challenges in making playoff format changes in practice.

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