All posts by Elena Curtoni

Which Team’s Future Is Brightest: The Astros or Dodgers?

Hope you didn’t get sick of the Astros and Dodgers, because you’re going to be stuck with them for a lot of Octobers to come. Based on our analysis of all MLB teams since 1988,That’s when free agency truly began to reshape the way teams build following a period of collusion between owners.

‘>1 this year’s Astros and Dodgers each appear to have two of the brightest futures for any pair of World Series teams ever.

Here’s how we figured that out. We gathered data on all MLB teams from 1988 to 2012 and tried to see which factors best predicted their win totals over the following five seasons. After testing different combinations,Specifically, variable selection was performed using the Lasso.

‘>2 we found that five metrics emerged as significant predictors of a team’s future record: A team’s Elo rating through the end of the World Series (which contributed about 33 percent to a team’s future win projection); its batting wins above replacement (WAR)Averaging together the versions found at and

‘>3 (29 percent); its pitching WAR (13 percent); and the average ages — weighted by playing time — of its batters (6 percent) and pitchers (12 percent) — plus a bonus for making the World Series (7 percent).Winning the World Series, while all sorts of fun, didn’t predict much for the years to come, after accounting for all this other stuff.


Unsurprisingly, having a talented young core (especially on the hitting side) is a good ticket for a return trip to the World Series. After running the numbers for the final two teams standing this year, here’s how the Dodgers and Astros stack up against the other 56 World Series teams in our data set:

Los Angeles Dodgers (90.0 wins per season)

2017 Elo Rating: 1581.6 (11th)

2017 batting WAR: 29.9 (18th)

2017 pitching WAR: 21.3 (21st)

2017 average age, batters: 27.7 (5th-youngest)

2017 average age, pitchers: 29.7 (33rd-youngest)

Despite losing to the Astros in Game 7 on Wednesday, LA appears to have the brighter future of this year’s World Series teams, albeit only just. The Dodgers are projected to win about 90 games per season for the next five years, but that’s nothing new to them. Since 2013, the Dodgers have averaged an MLB-best 95 wins per season and were twice denied a shot at the World Series. The bulk of this year’s production for the Dodgers has come from a mix of young phenoms and veteran stars. Turner, Clayton Kershaw and 23-year-old Corey Seager were the top three WAR contributors to the Dodgers. Seager has emerged as one of the premier players in the league and, with just three years of MLB experience to date, he ranks sixth all-time for the most WAR among shortstops in their first three seasons. Although he was up and down during the playoffs — he missed the NLCS with a back injury and hit just .237 in the postseason — Seager is one of the biggest reasons LA’s future looks so bright.

Baseball’s best young shortstops

In a player’s first three MLB seasons, most wins above replacement (WAR) while playing at least half of games at shortstop

1 Arky Vaughan 1932-34 429 17.3
2 Johnny Pesky 1942-47 433 16.8
3 Francisco Lindor 2015-17 411 16.2
4 Carlos Correa 2015-17 360 15.0
5 Rogers Hornsby 1915-17 207 14.5
6 Corey Seager 2015-17 314 14.1
7 Nomar Garciaparra 1996-98 318 13.8
8 Glenn Wright 1924-26 422 13.3
9 Charlie Hollocher 1918-20 326 12.6
10 Cal Ripken, Jr. 1981-83 268 12.5

WAR is an average of the metrics found at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Sources:, FanGraphs

It’s not just Seager that has Dodgers fans drooling. Twenty-two-year-old rookie sensation Cody Bellinger launched 39 home runs and knocked 97 RBIs in 2017 to lead the Dodgers in both categories, and is a frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award. LA also has 21-year-old left-handed starting pitcher Julio Urias, who missed much of 2017 with a shoulder injury, but is still one of baseball’s most promising talents. And there’s more. LA has one of the top-ranked minor-league systems in the game, so there are even more talented Dodgers to come. Which is likely why they opened the offseason as 2018 World Series favorites.

Houston Astros (88.6 wins per season)

2017 Elo Rating: 1575.0 (15th)

2017 batting WAR: 36.5 (5th)

2017 pitching WAR: 17.0 (42nd)

2017 average age, batters: 28.8 (21st-youngest)

2017 average age, pitchers: 28.5 (17th-youngest)

For Houston, it’s been a completely different journey to the top. The Astros were really bad for more than half a decade, when they averaged an MLB-worst 69 wins between 2006 and 2014. But while the organization floundered at the major-league level, the Astros’ front office steadily stockpiled the organization’s minor-league system with high-ceiling talent through the draft and international free agency.

In 2006, Houston signed a 16-year-old named Jose Altuve for just $15,000 — Altuve is now a three-time reigning AL batting champion. In 2009, they drafted Dallas Keuchel in the 7th round of the draft, and he went onto win the AL Cy Young award in 2015. Two years after that they drafted George Springer out of Connecticut, who this week was crowned World Series MVP. Then in 2012, the Astros selected shortstop Carlos Correa with the No.1 pick in the draft — this year Correa had the team’s second-highest Wins Above Replacement in the regular season.

Put that all together and Houston had the largest WAR of any team in MLB from their homegrown players in 2017. They’ve done their time at the bottom, and now with their star trio leading the way, it’s Houston’s time to shine.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that although the Dodgers currently project for the most future wins of any current MLB team, the Astros rank third. Sandwiched in second place between the two World Series participants are the Cleveland Indians, who were upset in the ALDS by the New York Yankees but still had one of the most impressive seasons of any team in recent history. Across their entire roster, Cleveland was a little younger than either the Dodgers or Astros, so they should be a force to reckon with for the foreseeable future. Add in other up-and-coming teams (such as the Yankees) and old standbys (such as the Cubs), and 2017’s glut of good teams should continue into next season and beyond.

Which MLB teams have the brightest futures?

Most predicted wins over the next five seasons, based on 2017 team characteristics

1 Dodgers 1581.6 27.7 29.7 29.9 21.3 90.0
2 Indians 1596.7 28.1 29.1 27.6 32.5 89.2
3 Astros 1575.0 28.8 28.5 36.5 17.0 88.6
4 Cubs 1546.0 26.6 30.8 26.9 15.5 87.5
5 Yankees 1570.7 28.7 27.6 28.8 24.0 85.8
6 Nationals 1550.7 29.0 29.9 23.2 23.4 85.4
7 Red Sox 1549.9 27.3 28.4 19.2 22.8 84.8
8 Diamondbacks 1534.4 28.3 28.3 19.4 25.8 84.1
9 Twins 1509.8 27.1 29.7 26.5 8.4 84.1
10 Cardinals 1514.6 28.0 28.1 24.1 14.6 82.8
11 Brewers 1510.5 27.3 28.1 18.2 17.8 82.7
12 Rays 1505.6 28.3 27.6 24.0 12.0 81.5
13 Marlins 1483.2 28.1 28.7 27.1 2.5 81.0
14 Rangers 1497.1 28.4 28.9 16.1 12.1 80.4
15 Royals 1477.3 28.9 30.3 12.9 14.3 80.3
16 Rockies 1506.4 28.5 26.6 14.9 20.3 80.0
17 Angels 1512.8 29.9 29.2 17.4 12.6 79.9
18 White Sox 1463.9 26.7 28.9 15.1 5.8 79.9
19 Mariners 1506.6 29.6 27.9 22.4 10.4 79.8
20 Braves 1466.5 28.6 29.6 15.0 9.0 79.3
21 Phillies 1470.9 26.5 26.6 12.2 13.1 79.3
22 Reds 1454.1 27.2 27.7 22.8 1.2 79.2
23 Athletics 1491.5 28.7 27.6 17.1 10.3 78.9
24 Pirates 1486.5 28.3 27.1 11.1 13.9 78.1
25 Orioles 1474.2 28.6 28.0 15.4 7.3 78.0
26 Padres 1447.8 26.0 28.0 8.5 5.3 78.0
27 Mets 1460.3 29.1 27.3 18.6 7.7 77.6
28 Blue Jays 1496.6 31.1 28.9 9.3 17.5 77.5
29 Giants 1465.8 29.6 29.0 7.1 12.1 76.8
30 Tigers 1442.9 29.7 28.4 13.6 9.8 76.8

Sources:, FanGraphs

Beside The Points For Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017

Things That Caught My Eye

They finally pulled it off!

After 56 years of not winning a World Series, the Astros have done the seemingly impossible and did that exact thing. It was a record-breaking best of seven, but if you want to know what got the Astros there in the first place, it all comes down to losing nearly 600 games from 2009 to 2014. The team lost at least 106 games in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and all that allowed them to get some of the best players into their farm systems to get this team where it needed to be. Sometimes you have to go down before you go up. [FiveThirtyEight]

St. Louis is in hell right now

One side effect of the Rams being really good this year is that the current (and former) football fans in St. Louis — the city they spurned in order to go to Los Angeles — is pretty unhappy. Those who remain fans of the team or its players remain conflicted and those who rejected the team or even the league are ticked they had to watch bad football — 13 non-winning seasons — for so long only for another city to get the joy of watching good football. [Sports Illustrated]

What was with those balls though?

This past World Series was defined by a thoroughly ridiculous number of homers throughout, compounding the question that has beguiled baseball for the past several seasons: Yo, are the balls juiced? And while the case is pretty watertight that yes, something has been different about the baseballs over the past several seasons, whether they were specifically more slick this postseason or this World Series is a thornier statistical question that’s difficult to ultimately disentangle from the strong offenses involved. We may never have a conclusive answer, but do know that the numbers agree that yeah that was a pretty weird one. [FiveThirtyEight]

Quartback shuffle!

The New England Patriots traded Brady backup Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco in exchange for a 2018 second-round draft pick, and then picked up Brian Hoyer to back up Brady after the 49ers released him. Hoyer and Garoppolo were presumably two ships passing in the night somewhere over Kansas on the Logan-SFO redeye. [ESPN]

The NFL’s offensive line crisis

Scoring in the 2017 NFL season has dropped from 22.8 points per game in 2016 to 21.9 points in the first half of the year, and teams are scoring the fewest number of touchdowns per game since 2006. The declining quality of offensive lines has been a potential source of this scoring difficulty, but the reasons for that crisis are myriad and difficult to fix all at once. [The Ringer]


This weekend is the Oklahoma (No. 5) vs. Oklahoma State (No. 11) game, one of the most compelling matchups of the weekend. We have Oklahoma as the slight favorite, a 55 percent chance of winning. A win for Oklahoma would increase their chances of making the playoff from 30 percent to 52 percent; a win for OSU would increase their chances of making the playoff from 15 percent to 32 percent. A loss for either team pretty much destroys their chances of making it in. [FiveThirtyEight]

Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!

Big Number

18 percent

Over $1 million has been bet on the expansion franchise Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup, dropping their odds from 300-1 to win the NHL championship to 40-1 in the Westgate Superbook. At Nevada’s largest sportsbook, 18 percent of all Stanley Cup bets were on the Golden Knights, mostly smaller wagers. [ESPN]

Leaks from Slack:


guess who’s back.

ESPN: Tiger returning to competitive golf Nov. 30


#tbt to the tiger woods building lobby at nike


Tiger broke my heart. But I think I’m ready for him to be back? Is that weird? Are there polls on how people feel about him?

Also #tbt to this amazing Nike commercial.


Forgot about that one. Was pretty incredible at the time.


Blew my mind. I didn’t want to feel empathy for him. But I did

Damn you Nike


Oh, and don’t forget
God I wish that “pizzagate” was still in play as a scandal name.

Most GOP Senators Kept Mum About The Mueller Indictments

The information that came to light on Monday — the indictment of President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign official Rick Gates, and the guilty plea entered by former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — was a significant step in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility that Russia colluded with President Trump’s campaign. But you wouldn’t know it from the reactions of Republican senators. We looked at senators’ official statements, interviews and social media posts, and we were able to find comments from just 15 of the 52 GOP senators.As of Tuesday afternoon. Two caveats: First, it’s possible we missed comments from some senators. Second, in some cases, senators’ responses didn’t fit neatly into our categories. We sorted responses into five broad categories — including calling for Trump’s impeachment, calling the indictments serious, and attacking special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — but Republicans’ comments fell into only two categories: supporting the White House or supporting the continuation of Mueller’s probe. We used our best judgment when categorizing responses.


When Republican senators did weigh in, it was to assert that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation must be allowed to be completed. For example, in an interview with Fox News, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — who has co-authored legislation aimed at making it harder for Trump to fire Mueller — said there would be “holy hell to pay” if Trump tried to fire Mueller without cause, but “no politician should be afraid of the American legal system working its will.”

Every comment we found save one — from Sen. Marco Rubio — amounted to “let the investigation finish.” Rubio emphasized to TMZ that charges against Manafort involved conduct that took place before the campaign. That response was the most Trump-friendly we could find.

Republican senators who reacted to the charges against Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos

As of 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 31

Marco Rubio Florida Interview
Mike Crapo Idaho Statement
Joni Ernst Iowa Statement
Chuck Grassley Iowa Interview, statement
Susan Collins Maine Interview
Ben Sasse Nebraska Tweet
Richard Burr North Carolina Statement
Thom Tillis North Carolina Phone statement
Rob Portman Ohio Interview
Lindsey Graham South Carolina Interview
Tim Scott South Carolina Statement
John Cornyn Texas Interview
Ted Cruz Texas Interview
Orrin Hatch Utah Tweet
Mike Lee Utah Statement

Including statements issued by senators’ spokespeople or offices

None of the senators echoed the Trump administration’s argument that Papadopoulos was a low-level campaign staffer or that the investigation should focus on Hillary Clinton.

A number of Democratic senators voiced support for Mueller’s continued investigation and mentioned how serious the allegations were. But the GOP response is the important one here — the extent to which Republicans in Congress, particularly the Senate, stand with Trump could have a big effect on the policy agenda and the president’s political future. You could read their muted response to Monday’s news as good for Trump; Republicans weren’t attacking the president, after all. But they weren’t exactly supporting him either. No Republican senators disparaged Mueller’s investigation, for example, even though administration allies have been pushing that line of attack.

In other words, these are Republican elected officials and a Republican president — anything short of clear support is likely a problem for the White House.

Rachael Dottle contributed research.

Politics Podcast: Mueller’s First Strike



The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast crew discusses the first round of indictments as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with President Trump’s campaign.

Paul Manafort, who served as chairman of Trump’s campaign, and Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates surrendered themselves to authorities on Monday. Documents were also made public Monday showing that a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contact with a Russian professor with ties to Kremlin officials.

The team puts the investigation into historical context and weighs the ramifications for the Trump administration and congressional Republicans.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.


The Dodgers’ Best Bats Heat Up At Just The Right Time

The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t buy a run, and their World Series chances were slipping away. After scoring six times off the Houston Astros but coming up short in a crazy, back-and-forth Game 2, they mustered three relatively low-leverage runs in Game 3None of those scores ever brought them any closer than within two runs of the Astros.

“>1 and were shut out for the first six innings of Game 4. A loss here would have dropped LA’s World Series odds to around 20 percent, if history was any guide, and left this 104-win juggernaut staring at another postseason disappointment.

But finally, after waiting most of the series for their bats to heat up, the Dodgers got what they were looking for late Saturday night. Cody Bellinger, who’d gone 0-for-13 in the World Series before the seventh inning of Game 4, delivered a double, then came around to score the tying run on a Logan Forsythe single. Two innings later, Corey Seager, who’d been hitless since Game 2, got on base with a single and scored on another Bellinger double, giving LA a lead it would never relinquish. (Joc Pederson’s three-run insurance homer four batters later also helped.) Suddenly, instead of falling into a 3-1 hole, the Dodgers knotted up the series at two games apiece and are back to being championship favorites again.

Before Game 4’s assault on the Astros’ bullpen, the Dodgers as a team had produced 7.1 fewer runs than average in the series based on their weighted on-base average (wOBA),Using the formula and constants provided at

‘>2 including a collective 6.5 runs below average from the team’s four best hitters during the regular season by wOBA — Bellinger, Seager, Justin Turner and Austin Barnes. But all four batters played a role in LA’s late-innings scoring outburst, during which they collectively produced 1.6 runs above average (to go with 0.9 runs above average from their teammates):

The Dodgers’ best bats showed up late in Game 4

Weighted on-base average (wOBA) and batting runs above average (RAA) for Los Angeles hitters in 2017 regular season and World Series

Justin Turner 3B .411 -1.2 +0.0
Cody Bellinger 1B .396 -3.5 +1.6
Austin Barnes C .396 -1.6 -0.5
Corey Seager SS .374 -0.2 +0.5
Chris Taylor LF .373 +0.5 -0.3
Yasiel Puig RF .360 -1.2 -0.5
Yasmani Grandal C .336 -0.8 0.0
Joc Pederson LF .331 +1.3 +1.3
Andre Ethier RF .326 +0.0 0.0
Chase Utley 2B .325 -1.4 0.0
Enrique Hernandez CF .320 +0.4 -0.5
Logan Forsythe 2B .313 -0.7 +1.0
Charlie Culberson SS .237 +1.3 0.0
Total -7.1 +2.5

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information Group, Fangraphs

It’s impossible to say whether the Dodgers’ well-timed turnaround at the plate will kick-start their offense over the rest of the series. But they’d definitely been hitting below their talents up to that point — with a wOBA 94 points below their regular-season average — so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bellinger and company’s late-game performance be part of a positive regression to the mean going forward.

As for the Astros, Game 4 was an enormous missed opportunity. Starting pitcher Charlie Morton pitched extremely well — he had a Game Score of 76, tied for seventh-best ever among World Series starters in a game the team ultimately lost — and it was looking like he’d steal Houston a crucial second series win in a game not started by team co-aces Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel. Leading up to the World Series, Houston was 5-1 in playoff games started by Verlander/Keuchel but 2-3 in all other games, so getting a pair of wins from Morton and Game 3 starter Lance McCullers would have been a major coup for the Astros at this point in the series.

Instead, Houston is left wondering how a bullpen that had outpitched Los Angeles’s early in the series managed to blow such a winnable home contest. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, Astros closer Ken Giles has now allowed as many earned runs (10) in 7⅔ postseason innings as he did in 50⅔ innings during his last 50 appearances of the regular season, and the Houston bullpen as a whole now has a 5.21 ERA during the playoffs — nearly two runs worse than their starters per nine innings.

The Astros aren’t doomed, of course. The series is basically a toss-up now, a de facto best-of-three affair that will see them face the Dodgers’ best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) at home and also be able to use their own top starter (Verlander) to neutralize LA’s home-field advantage in Game 6. But in a flash, the Dodgers’ cold bats warmed up and saved their season, turning what would have been a commanding Houston lead into a series either team can now win.

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2017, 11 a.m.): A previous version of this article mischaracterized the regular-season stats of Ken Giles. His 10 regular-season earned runs allowed came in his last 50 appearances of the season, not the entire season.

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2017, 3:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article said Los Angeles scored seven times in Game 2. The Dodgers scored six times.

David Roberts’s Overworked Bullpen Is A Bad Omen For The Dodgers

A poor start from Yu Darvish hurt the Dodgers early on Friday, and they never mounted a comeback. With the Astros now riding a 2-1 lead and two games left in Houston, the Dodgers are in trouble. In addition to their deficit, a pattern of heavy reliever usage might leave them understaffed in the remaining World Series games.

Darvish didn’t have his best stuff Friday night. Despite impressive fastball velocity, his slider was unusually flat. Houston pounced on the normally dominant ace in the second inning, gaining a four-run lead. From then on, the Dodgers attempted to build a handful of unsuccessful rallies but only managed to score three runs.

Darvish’s bad outing adds to two other shorter-than-necessary starts for Los Angeles and might leave the bullpen tired in the next two pivotal games in Houston. Even if the relievers were fine Friday, the pattern of short starts is a poor omen for the Dodgers.

LA is taxing its bullpen

Teams with the fewest innings pitched by starters in the first three games of the World Series, 2000-17

Giants 2002 11.0 16
Cardinals 2004 11.3 15
Rockies 2007 11.3 14
Angels 2002 12.7 13
Dodgers 2017 12.7 6


Of the five teams who leaned on their bullpen most in the series since 2000, three went on to lose, and the Dodgers’ fate is still undecided. Only the 2002 Anaheim Angels came back, and they faced an opponent (in the San Francisco Giants) who employed their relievers even more frequently.

That’s not to say that reliever usage is a death sentence. Oftentimes, it simply reflects poor starting pitching: Each of the teams who used their starters less than the Dodgers saw them give up more than a dozen runs. This underscores how unusual Roberts’s reliever usage has been because his starters, comparatively, have been quite good. Aside from Darvish’s clunker last night, the Dodgers had two of the best starts for their length in World Series history, from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. If Roberts had allowed them to go deeper into games when they were dealing, the bullpen might be fresh now.

Roberts didn’t help matters when he used his bullpen aggressively Friday night, attempting to keep Houston within striking distance. In total, the Dodgers manager called on five different relievers to end the game, and only one — Kenta Maeda — went longer than 2 innings. Combined with the workload from the previous two games, key relievers have been pitching almost as much as the starters. So far, Maeda has pitched 4 innings this series, and Brandon Morrow, the crucial bridge to closer Kenley Jansen, has pitched 2 2/3 innings as well. Jansen himself has pitched 3 full innings.

But as ESPN’s Sam Miller pointed out, if the Dodgers had managed to come back, Roberts’s tactics would have been hailed as strategically brilliant. Like many other postseason managerial moves, the aggressive reliever usage is easy to criticize in hindsight but much harder to argue with in the moment. It might have been a good bet that failed to pay out, but the strategy still leaves the Dodgers depleted of bullpen arms at the time when they need them most. In contrast, Houston manager A.J. Hinch relied on only two pitchers to carry the Astros to victory: starter Lance McCullers and starter-turned-reliever Brad Peacock. Despite running into some high-leverage jams, they managed to hold a powerful Dodgers lineup to only three runs. Like Roberts’ decision, keeping McCullers in the game in the third inning with the bases loaded was a gamble. But Hinch’s call managed to pay off when Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager hit into an uncharacteristic double play.

The Astros’ win leaves them with a 67 percent chance of taking the World Series. That’s far higher than our opening prediction, but it comes almost entirely from the two victories they’ve edged out over the Dodgers. The remaining games are all coin-flip affairs, so the importance of that extra win in an evenly divided series can’t be overstated. That it came down to two managerial decisions that might have gone either way speaks to how balanced this matchup is. Had one or two pitches gone differently, the Dodgers might be in a commanding position right now, instead of fighting to tie the Series.

The Ultimate Halloween Candy Power Ranking

The social contract of Halloween is simple: Provide adequate treats to costumed masses, or be prepared for late-night tricks from those dissatisfied with your offer. To help you avoid that type of vengeance, and to help you make good decisions at the supermarket this weekend, we wanted to figure out what Halloween candy people most prefer. So we devised an experiment: Pit dozens of fun-sized candy varietals against one another, and let the wisdom of the crowd decide which one was best.This meant that we were able to sort through scores of entries without demanding each participant know everything about every entry. We don’t really need to care about the, say, hardcore Hershey fans attempting to rig the sample, because in order for someone to seriously dent their candy’s outcome, they’d have to go through scores of irrelevant matchups.


While we don’t know who exactly voted, we do know this: 8,371 different IP addresses voted on about 269,000 randomly generated matchups.That’s an average of 32 and a median of about 11 matchups from each IP.

“>2 So, not a scientific survey or anything, but a good sample of what candy people like. And here’s what they said:

How often did a fun-sized candy of a given type win its matchups against the rest of the field?

1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup 84.2%
2 Reese’s Miniatures 81.9
3 Twix 81.6
4 Kit Kat 76.8
5 Snickers 76.7
6 Reese’s Pieces 73.4
7 Milky Way 73.1
8 Reese’s Stuffed With Pieces 72.9
9 Peanut Butter M&M’s 71.5
10 Butterfinger 70.7
11 Peanut M&Ms 69.5
12 3 Musketeers 67.6
13 Starburst 67.0
14 100 Grand 67.0
15 M&M’s 66.6
16 Crunch 66.5
17 Rolo 65.7
18 Milky Way Simply Caramel 64.4
19 Skittles original 63.1
20 Krackel 62.3
21 Milky Way Midnight 60.8
22 Sour Patch Kids 59.9
23 Snickers Crisper 59.5
24 Hershey’s Special Dark 59.2
25 Junior Mints 57.2
26 Haribo Gold-Bears 57.1
27 Baby Ruth 56.9
28 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate 56.5
29 Hershey’s Kisses 55.4
30 Nerds 55.4
31 Skittles Wild Berry 55.1
32 Milk Duds 55.1
33 Swedish Fish 54.9
34 Mr. Goodbar 54.5
35 Life Savers Big Ring Gummies 52.9
36 Sour Patch Tricksters 52.8
37 Air Heads 52.3
38 Haribo Sour Gold-Bears 51.4
39 Almond Joy 50.3
40 Tootsie Roll Snack Bars 49.7
41 Whoppers 49.5
42 Tootsie Pop 49.0
43 Mounds 47.8
44 Trolli Sour Bites 47.2
45 Gobstopper 46.8
46 Mike and Ike 46.4
47 Payday 46.3
48 One quarter (25 cents) coin 46.1
49 Smarties 46.0
50 Tootsie Roll Midgees 45.7
51 Twizzlers 45.5
52 Welch’s Fruit Snacks 44.4
53 Fruit Chews 43.1
54 Tootsie Roll Juniors 43.1
55 Runts 42.8
56 Dots 42.3
57 Haribo Twin Snakes 42.2
58 Werther’s Original Caramel 41.9
59 Laffy Taffy 41.4
60 Pop Rocks 41.3
61 Dum Dums 39.5
62 Now and Later 39.4
63 Fun Dip 39.2
64 Lemonhead 39.1
65 Warheads 39.0
66 Charleston Chew 39.0
67 Candy corn 38.0
68 Nestle Smarties 37.9
69 Pixy Stix 37.7
70 Red Vines 37.3
71 Chewy Lemonhead Fruit Mix 36.0
72 Ring Pop 35.3
73 Sixlets 34.7
74 Strawberry bon bons 34.6
75 Tootsie caramel apple pops 34.5
76 Haribo Happy Cola 34.2
77 Sugar Babies 33.4
78 One dime (10 cent) coin 32.3
79 Sugar Daddy 32.2
80 Root Beer Barrels 29.7
81 Jaw Busters 28.1
82 Super Bubble 27.3
83 Chiclets 24.5
84 Boston Baked Beans 23.4
85 Nik-L-Nip 22.4
86 Good & Plenty 21.9

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and their spinoffs come out huge here, taking four of the top 10 spots and appearing pretty synonymous with the platonic ideal of Halloween candy. The brand was the best-selling candy in the U.S. as of 2013, and market research showed it was the top snack-sized candy in Halloween times.

But what made some candies more desirable than others? Was it price? Maybe it was just sugar content? Nah, neither really. I pulled fun-sized portion sugar content from a series of dieting websites (FatSecret, MyFitnessPal), and in cases of particularly hard-to-find candies, I just went to the nearby drugstore. I pulled bulk prices from Candy Warehouse. After a spooooky regression with a truly hellish r-squared, there’s no evident link here between price, sugar and perceived quality.

So if it’s not price or sugar, there must be something about what’s in the candies that make some better and some worse. With the fervency of a stay-at-home dad who recently learned of a child’s mild peanut allergy, I scoured the internet for descriptive ingredient data about all the candies in our data set. Were they chocolate? Did they contain peanuts or almonds? How about crisped rice or other biscuit-esque component, like a Kit Kat or malted milk ball? Was it fruit flavored? Was it made of hard candy, like a lollipop or a strawberry bon bon? Was there nougat? What even is nougat? I know I like nougat, but I still have remotely no clue what the damn thing is.

With a full typology in hand and access to some of the most powerful statistical software available on the market, my questions were answered.

That’s a lot to take in! In general, here’s what this information says. According to the regression, about half the variance observed in the quality can be explained by these nine properties of candy, which isn’t great but also isn’t awful — and is thus enough for us to work with.

A Halloween candy that has none of those ingredient components would be expected, as a baseline, to win a matchup about 35 percent of the time. Sure enough, this bears out in our data: For giggles we also put in “one dime” and “one quarter” to see how desirable they were, and the dime — which is neither chocolaty, nor fruity, nor full of caramel, peanuts, wafers, et cetera — beat 32 percent of competitors, and the quarter beat 46 percent.

Chocolate 61% +19.9
Fruit 44 +10.3
Peanuts & nuts 57 +10.1
Crispy 64 +9.0
Caramel 60 +3.4
Nougat 66 +2.4
Multi-piece 41 -0.2
Candy bar 61 -0.7
Hard candy 47 -4.9

The table adjacent to this paragraph simplifies that “coef.” column. If a hypothetical candy had chocolate in it, we’d expect its win percentage to rise by about 20 points. If it’s fruity, we’d expect it to rise by 10. If it had nuts, we’d also expect its win percentage to rise by 10, with wafers or crisped rice rising by 9. And nougat and caramel don’t bring a ton to the table. A candy being hard — like a lollipop or jawbreaker — actually knocks about 5 points off its win percentage. Whether it’s in bar form or a bunch of little candies makes no major difference.

Note that a candy can be one or two or all of these things: A Snickers is a chocolate (+20), peanut (+10), caramel (+3), nougat (+2) candy that we’d expect to have in the ballpark of a 70 percent win rate, and it does in fact have a 77 percent win rate.

Which brings up an obvious question: Can we build the perfect Frankencandy based on this information?

On one hand, no, that’s a ridiculous oversimplification of a somewhat scientific process and is likely to result only in an abomination.

On the other hand, that exact ethical dilemma did not stop Dr. Frankenstein, and ’tis the season!

We’ve got to have chocolate — the win percentage of contenders containing chocolate was about 11 points higher than the average contender and 19 points higher than contenders that did not have chocolate. The same goes for both crispiness and nuttiness: Entrants with peanuts or almonds had win percentages about 13 points higher than the average contender, and ones with crispy wafers or puffed rice were nearly 16 points higher than average. Nougat and caramel are net positives for sure, so throw them in.

Now we get to some major qualitative components. Candies in bar form generally had a higher overall win rate than those in pieces, so we’ll want a bar. Yes, fruitiness can be fine, but things that had a fruity taste had a win percentage 11 points lower than those that did not. This is due to the near mutual exclusivity of fruity flavors and chocolate, with Tootsie Pops being the sole exception.The science is clear here: A Dum Dum wins 39 percent of the time, a Tootsie Pop wins 49 percent of the time, and a Tootsie Roll Snack Bar wins 50 percent of the time. I think we can all agree on why people are so eager to get to that center of the Tootsie Pop.


So, in the end, the best Frankencandy has the chocolate of a Hershey bar, the nougat of a Baby Ruth, the caramel of a Milky Way, the peanut butter of a Reese’s Cup and the wafer of a Twix, and it’s assembled in a castle looming over an Eastern European village. Or if you’re trying to make this at home: Maybe take a Twix bar and smush it on a PayDay, or roll a Snickers around in rice crispies.

Call me what you will — the modern Prometheus, a contemporary, pre-diabetic Frankenstein — but I think I have the next big idea in Halloween candy. So what I’m trying to say is, yes, Mr. Wonka, I am available to consult if you’re interested in entering the abomination business.

What The GOP Budget Taught Us About The Party’s Tax Reform Plans

After a month of wrangling, Republicans in the House narrowly passed a budget resolution on Thursday that has no direct policy effects. Like all other budget resolutions of this kind, it doesn’t even go to the president for a signature.

But Thursday’s budget resolution, which was also approved by the Senate last week, really matters. Most importantly, to use the so-called reconciliation rules — by which lawmakers can pass a bill with a simple majority vote in the Senate instead of needing 60 votes to end a filibuster — Congress has to approve a budget resolution first. So now, Republicans can move forward with their proposal to reform America’s tax system and potentially pass a bill without any Democratic votes. (All Democrats voted against the budget resolution in both the House and the Senate).

But beyond legislative tactics, Republicans also made three telling decisions during this process, each with a potentially big impact:

1. They chucked aside concerns about the deficit

The original House version of the budget bill called for a tax reform plan that would be deficit-neutral, meaning that any tax cuts would have to be made up for with tax increases. The Senate, however, passed a budget last week that said tax reform could increase deficits by as much as $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

How did congressional Republicans deal with this difference? At President Trump’s urging, House leaders simply took up the Senate bill and adopted that version. The resulting budget does not guarantee that the GOP’s eventual tax bill will raise the deficit by $1.5 trillion, but it’s a clear signal that Republicans are not committed to a deficit-neutral tax plan despite constantly complaining about rising deficits when Barack Obama was president.

2. They left open the possibility of getting rid of or limiting state and local tax deductions

Earlier this week, Rep. Peter King of New York, a Republican, demanded that party leaders commit to leaving in place the local and state income tax deduction, which allows Americans to deduct those taxes on their federal tax filings. King wanted that commitment before they held a vote on the budget resolution. The beneficiaries of that deduction are disproportionately upper-income people in states with high local taxes, such as New York and New Jersey. Republican leaders have not released the formal details of the party’s tax plan yet, but they have hinted publicly that they want to either eliminate or limit state and local deductions (which would be one way for Republicans to raise money in this legislation and reduce the amount that it increases the deficit).

Party leaders refused King’s request and held the vote anyway. That led 11 of the 14 GOP House members from New York and New Jersey, including King, to vote against the budget resolution. (Overall, 20 Republicans voted no, while 216 approved it. Several of the other 9 Republicans to vote no are either members of the House Freedom Caucus or known to be iconoclastic members who often vote against major party priorities.)

That House Republican leaders wouldn’t drop the idea of eliminating this deduction, even as some GOP lawmakers strongly objected to it, suggests that they are determined to include some version of it in the final legislation. At the same time, the 11 GOP “no” votes from New York and New Jersey nearly brought down the resolution. (It passed 216-212, meaning that the bill would have failed if two more Republicans voted against it.)

If King’s bloc is not placated on this issue, Speaker Paul Ryan will have a very narrow margin on which to pass the tax bill through the House.

3. They left Obamacare out of the bill

The last budget resolution passed by Republicans, in January, explicitly laid out a path for health care legislation to be passed using reconciliation. That’s how they were going to repeal Obamacare.

This budget does not lay out such a path. That does not mean Obamacare is safe by any means. The budget adopted by both chambers calls for reductions in Medicaid spending, a big part of Obamacare. And, of course, Republicans can weaken Obamacare in other ways, from the Trump administration not really trying to enroll people in the law’s marketplaces (as it appears to be doing) to Republicans on Capitol Hill blocking a bipartisan bill (Murray-Alexander) to give insurers money to make up for certain cost-sharing subsidies that they provide for consumers. And Republicans could adopt another budget bill that explicitly called for an Obamacare repeal through the reconciliation process.

But at least for right now, Republicans do not have a clear path to repeal Obamacare with 50 GOP senators (plus Vice-President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote). This budget bill is in some ways a formal concession that the party can’t find the votes to get rid of Obamacare. And Republicans don’t have that much time to make good on their promise to do so, as they could lose control of the House, Senate or both after next November elections.

This all sets up a dicey path on moving forward with tax reform. Republicans are saying they will roll out the formal tax bill as soon as next week. That will set up three big intra-party debates as members of Congress, lobbying groups and the public examine this legislation and potentially push for changes.

  • Is this bill going to spike the deficit?
  • If not, how? Will Republicans propose smaller tax cuts? Or, alternatively, will they propose raising some taxes?This is where proposals like limiting how much Americans can put in their 401(k) plans, which GOP officials have floated, or the state and local tax deductions move come into play. Republicans are also talking about keeping in place the highest income tax rate, which is 39 percent, instead of lowering it to 35, as was in the original draft of the tax proposal.


  • Are Republicans committed to the general tax structure that they laid out last month, which showed huge reductions in taxes for the wealthy and either modest cuts or even increases for middle-income Americans, or are they open to changing the distribution of the cuts?

Passing the budget resolution was the easy part for Republicans, just as it was with Obamacare. Now comes the hard part: Writing a bill that will get the votes of 218 House members and 50 senators.