Brace yourselves, readers, it’s time for your end-of-year performance evaluation.
Allow me to explain.
Back in September I was chatting with my boss, Herald sports editor Kevin Brown, when the subject of the previous week’s Seattle Sidelines poll came up. Every Monday we post a poll question to the Seattle Sidelines Blog on the Herald’s website, as well as on Twitter, and a week earlier we’d asked readers to predict the outcome of the University of Washington football team’s opener against Auburn. The voters overwhelmingly picked the Huskies, but it was the Tigers who prevailed.
It was a miss, and that got Kevin thinking. Many of the Seattle Sidelines polls are predictions, but how accurate are the readers’ prognostications?
Let’s find out.
I dug into the archives, pouring over every Seattle Sidelines poll posted during 2018. I eliminated all the polls that were opinion based rather than predictive, which was more than half. Then among the prediction polls there were several where the outcome was subjective, such as which Seahawks draft pick will have the greatest impact, and several that were repetitive, such as the multiple times readers were asked how the Mariners would finish. After winnowing those out we were left with 14 prediction polls. Let’s see how you did:
Date: Jan. 15.
Prediction: Yes, he’ll be voted in this year (59 percent).
Outcome: Miss. Martinez ended up receiving 70.4 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers Association of America, which was just under the 75 percent required for enshrinement. But Edgar has one last shot, with the 2019 announcement coming on Jan. 22, and the 32 percent who predicted Martinez would be elected in 2019 still have a chance to be right.
Date: Jan. 29.
Prediction: Philadelphia (57 percent).
Outcome: Hit. The voters went against conventional wisdom, as Philadelphia was a 4.5-point underdog against New England. But the Eagles ended up winning 41-33, so the readers were smarter than the Vegas oddsmakers on this occasion.
Date: Feb. 5.
Prediction: Arizona (47 percent).
Outcome: Hit. This poll came with eight games remaining in the regular season, right after Washington’s upset victory over Arizona at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The result pulled the surging Huskies within one-and-a-half games of the first-place Wildcats, with an easier remaining schedule. While Arizona received the most votes, it was almost dead even as Washington received 46 percent. In the end the Wildcats finished comfortably in first, and the Huskies faded into a tie for sixth, four games back. So while the voters got it right, it was by their fingernails.
Date: Feb. 26.
Prediction: Stanwood boys (34 percent).
Outcome: Miss. This was a case where Twitter’s limitation of four answer options for polls came into play, as there were six local teams that qualified for state, and the Stanwood girls were lumped into the “other” category on Twitter. It wouldn’t have made a difference, however, as even if all the “other” votes went to the Spartan girls, they still would have finished well behind the Stanwood boys. The Stanwood girls reached the semifinals and earned the fifth-place trophy, while the Kamiak boys were the only other local team that even won a game.
Date: March 5.
Prediction: Tie between first place and third-to-sixth place (29 percent).
Outcome: Miss. Seattle, coming off a Western Conference championship, had just dropped its season opener 1-0 to expansion Los Angeles FC. The voters ended up bracketing the actual result, as the Sounders finished second in the conference, which 23 percent of the voters predicted. While this is technically a miss, averaging out the votes may have resulted in the correct answer.
Date: April 2.
Prediction: Second (42 percent).
Outcome: Miss. The Mariners finished third behind Houston and Oakland, a result picked by 26 percent of the voters. However, Seattle won 89 games, which in most seasons would have put the team into second. So, like the Sounders, while this wasn’t actually a hit, it kind of feels like it.
Date: April 17.
Prediction: Everett (79 percent).
Outcome: Hit. The readers nailed this one. The Silvertips bested the Tri-City Americans 4-2 in the best-of-seven series to claim their second Western Conference championship and first since their inaugural season in 2004.
Date: May 24.
Prediction: Other (51 percent).
Outcome: Miss. This was another case of Twitter’s limitations being a complicating factor, as there were eight local teams that advanced to state. The team that received the most total votes was Lakewood softball (23 percent plus a portion of the “other” vote), which wasn’t one of the options on Twitter, but had a strong following on the blog. There ended up being a correct answer as the Jackson softball team was the area’s lone state champion, and the Timberwolves received the second-most votes at 22 percent.
Date: June 18.
Prediction: Riley Sutter (52 percent).
Outcome: Miss. Connor Dewar, who received the fewest votes (23 percent) among the three candidates, was selected first at 92nd overall in the third round by the Minnesota Wild. But the voters just missed out on being right as Sutter was taken with the next pick by the Washington Capitals.
Date: Aug. 27.
Prediction: Washington (76 percent).
Outcome: Miss. This is the one that started this project, as there wasn’t much belief within the department that the Huskies would win what was essentially a road game against an SEC power. Auburn won 21-16, but to be fair the Huskies had every chance to win that game, yet couldn’t capitalize.
Date: Sept. 3.
Prediction: Seven or eight (37 percent).
Outcome: Miss. There wasn’t a lot of optimism surrounding Seattle at start of season, with 64 percent predicting eight wins or fewer. Seattle bucked expectations and will finish with either nine or 10 wins, depending on outcome of Sunday’s finale against Arizona. Thirty percent got it right by choosing nine or 10 wins.
Date: Oct. 29.
Prediction: Win the MLS Cup (59 percent).
Outcome: Miss. Everything was set up like the previous two seasons, as Seattle started slow, took off in the second half and had all the momentum heading into the postseason. But while the Sounders reached the MLS Cup final the previous two years, they lost to the Portland Timbers on penalty kicks in this year’s conference semifinals. Just 7 percent predicted a loss in the conference semis.
Date: Nov. 5.
Prediction: Lake Stevens (71 percent).
Outcome: Hit. Lake Stevens made it all the way to the 4A state championship game before falling 52-20 to Union in the title tilt. Given the options’ records, rankings and histories, the Vikings were the answer that made the most sense, and no other local team advanced past the first weekend.
Date: Nov. 19.
Question: Which team prevails in this year’s Apple Cup?
Prediction: Washington State (56 percent).
Outcome: Miss. Washington State was the favorite, as the Cougars were the higher-ranked team (seventh vs. 16th) and playing at home. Yet it was the Huskies who adjusted better to the snowy conditions, winning 28-15. The voters should have known better, as this was Washington’s sixth straight Apple Cup victory.
Tally it all up and the readers only hit on four of the 14 polls, which is 29 percent — far below a passing grade. That said, the percentage isn’t fully indicative of how the voters performed, as many of the polls had more than two choices, and on several occasions the voters came oh so close to producing the right answer.
It’s also clear that the voters love the home team. The voting in the poll tends to skew toward the local team, which is hardly a surprise. In some sense the accuracy of the polls is affected by the performance of the local teams.
There was one final predictive Seattle Sidelines poll this year, as last week the readers were asked to weigh in on Tuesday’s Rose Bowl contest between Washington and Ohio State. The voters picked the Huskies to upset the Buckeyes (65 percent).
Based on the poll voters’ performance over the past year, I wouldn’t be feeling particularly confident right now if I were the Huskies.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.