Twitter was all abuzz today with the impressively high-scoring Brazil vs Germany World Cup game. In the end, one of the teams* defeated one of the others with a score of 7-1. Twitter parody account @DodgerzGM made the following statement partway into the game:
The baseball equivalent to a 5-0 soccer score is 138-0.
— Ned2point0 (@Ned2point0) July 8, 2014
Which made me wonder: what would the actual equivalent score be? Or to put it another way: what is the conversion of soccer goals to baseball runs?
This is, of course, a ridiculous question. Which is why, equally of course, I needed to address it.
To start, I had to narrow some definitions. It would not be practical or informative to try and determine, say, an average score of every baseball game played around the world for all time. I decided to compare the latest available data in both sports: the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2013 MLB Season. Right off the bat, you sports-minded folk may be complaining about some kind of selection bias, claiming that an entire season of baseball isn’t an appropriate sample size compared to the relatively smaller World Cup series of games, and that just using the World Series or the 2013 postseason would make more sense. To this I say:
- It was a World Cup game, so using the World Cup as a basis seemed to make the most sense. As I understand it, there are other regional qualifying matches that lead up to the World Cup, but that amount of information would have been difficult to compile.
- The World Series only involves two teams across 7-ish games, so that sample size seems ridiculously small. The postseason is only slightly better with four teams.
- Baseball-Reference.com made it very easy to get the numbers needed to make this calculation on the baseball side (I used Wikipedia for the soccer stats).
- Comparing soccer to baseball in this apples-and-oranges sort of way is fun, we don’t need to muck it up with more complicated stat-gathering.
With that disclaimer out of the way, it’s Fun With Numbers time!
The average team score in the 2010 World Cup was 1.13 goals. In the 2013 MLB season, the average score was 4.17 runs. With this information, we can determine that 1 World Cup goal is roughly equivalent to 3.69 MLB runs.
Now that we have a conversion, we see that a World Cup score of 7-1 is about 25-3 in MLB.
“Why didn’t you state the score in decimal values?”, you might ask. The reason is that the actual output of 25.83-3.69, while technically more precise, would never fly in actual baseball. In such a hypothetical game, .69 runs barely gets past second base, so the runner would probably stay on rather than try to power to home plate. .83 runs gets the runner around third, but I’m guessing they doubled back or got caught/tagged out. Either way, a fraction of a run isn’t a run.
- 2010 FIFA World Cup Statistics > Overall statistics (Wikipedia)
- 2013 Major League Baseball Season Summary (Baseball-Reference.com)
*I didn’t actually watch. It’s all sportsball to me.