Seeding Waves

As discussed before, seeding tends to enhance fairness (C), which measures the tendency of a tournament to distribute its rewards to the better players, at the expense of fairness (B), which measures the extent to which every entrant is given an equal chance.

But the extent to which the better players are given an advantage is not uniform through the skill distribution. Seeding creates a pattern of advantages and disadvantages that affect different parts of the skill distribution differently.

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Who Won the Draw?

The United States Open tennis tournament uses much the same procedures for draws and seeding as the Western and Southern. There are substantial structural differences, of course, as the Open has a draw of 128 with no byes, as opposed to the Western and Southern’s draw of 56 with 8 byes.

So, who benefits from the particular results of this draw?

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Small Ball

The Little League World Series (LLWS) is being played now. It is, as you might imagine, a tournament with some distinctive features.

As first blush, it would seem that little league baseball should be a competition that puts a high premium on participation, possibly compromising some other of the FEPS goals. And this is probably true, at least to some extent, of Little League Baseball in general. But a moment’s reflection should be enough to conclude that participation needs to be severely compromised in order to hold a Little League World Series.

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Fairness at the Western and Southern

So how does the seeding system in use at the Western and Southern (and most important professional tennis tournaments) affect the fairness of their brackets? First, we need to consider how the basic seeding structure affects the outcome. In a subsequent post, I’ll finally extend the analysis to this year’s actual Western and Southern.

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Seeding and Fairness

Is seeding fair? This would seem to be a fundamental question, but it’s one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer. Before further interrogating the data from the simulation of the Western and Southern, with its odd seeding style, for its effect on fairness, it may be well to revisit the question of just how fairness and seeding relate more generally.

In a nutshell, seeding usually enhances the meritocratic values embodied in fairness (C) at the expense of the egalitarian values embodied in fairness (B). But the decision whether to seed is not simply a way of expressing a preference for fairness (C) over fairness (B). The fairness effects of seeding may be incidental to some other goal.

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