Look at the table below. It lists the champions in the modern era, along with their ranking the year before, and the year after. Just because somebody wins a title, does not tell you much about their future success. In fact, the champions usually perform better the year BEFORE their title (3.0 finish) than after (4.0 finish).
The relationship between ranking in year (P)rior to championship and year (A)fter championship is
A = 4.0 + 0.04 * P
So an average of fourth place finish for all defending champions, without any regards to how they finished the year before the title.
Does winning the title suggest that they can ease on the pressure the next year? But then would there be a much higher slope involved for P? Are champions just random?
These guys are all consistent performers though. Only 3 champions were out of the top 10 the year before, and only 2 champions finished outside the top 10 in their year of defense. Consistency reigns supreme, but the actual winner is more up to chance.
Sorry Dale, Jr. fans - that means you can pretty much forget about any title next year. Try to focus on a Top 10 instead.
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