Preseason results can be significant

Sep 9, 2003 5:03 AM

Now that preseason has at last ended, it’s time to ask whether the won-lost records have any bearing on how teams perform for real?

Our data sample covers the seasons from 1997 to 2002 (a six-year span). In our charts, "Average Wins" reflects the average wins during the regular season, "Average Change" represents the difference in regular season wins this year compared to last year, and the three "Wins" categories show the number of teams reaching certain levels.

The short answer is that preseason results, indeed, do seem to matter. Teams which won three or more games went on to win 10+ games in the regular season 41% of the time. On the other hand, of the teams that were winless in the exhibition season, only 15 percent (2-of-13) were able to post double-digit wins.

The next logical progression is to break down teams by their prior season performance using our traditional "G-A-P" criteria where a Good team gets 10+ wins, an Average team gets 7 to 9 wins, and a Poor team has less than 7 wins. Here, good teams perhaps do not need a good preseason to springboard to a strong regular season effort.

Prior season average teams that post three or more preseason wins have averaged 9.2 wins and have hit the magic 10 win mark 44 percent of the time. The prior season average teams with less than three preseason wins have averaged 7.0 regular season victories and only made the 10+ level 18 percent of the time.

At the same time 3+ preseason win teams have had bad regular seasons only 12 percent of the time, while fewer preseason wins has coincided with a tough year in 46 percent of cases. So view this class as one where preseason records are mighty important.

Again there’s some evidence to believe that poor teams with good preseason records stand a better shot of being competitive in the regular season. Our research shows that 10-of-16 have won at least seven games the next year.

Our conclusions are these:

Preseason wins are generally a positive sign for a team

Three plus wins is a very good sign, zero wins is a particularly negative sign

Good teams can succeed regardless of their preseason

Average teams are much better prospects if they post three preseason wins

Poor teams with three preseason wins have a good shot at moving up in "class"

Here are our predictions for 2003.

Looking Good: New England, Carolina, Buffalo, N.Y. Jets, Denver, Kansas City,

In Trouble: Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, San Diego, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, Seattle.

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