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Archive of posts filed under the Sports category.

Fun example of an observational study: Effect of crowd noise on home-field advantage in sports

Kevin Quealy and Ben Shpigel offer “Four Reasons the N.F.L. Shattered Its Scoring Record in 2020”: No. 1: No fans meant (essentially) no home-field advantage With fans either barred or permitted at diminished numbers because of public-health concerns, the normal in-game din dropped to a murmur or — at some stadiums — to a near […]

The insider-outsider perspective (Jim Bouton example)

One theme that’s come up often here over the years is what the late Seth Roberts called the insider-outsider perspective of “people who have the knowledge of insiders but the freedom of outsiders,” and here’s one of many examples. I thought about this again after reading this interview by Steven Goldleaf on Bill James Online […] cheater-detection bot pisses someone off

Justin Horton writes: Of course are a private company. They have the right, within the law, to have who they want on their site and to ban who they want from their site. What they don’t have the right to do is to call somebody a cheat without backing it up. But that is […]

Bill James on secondary average

I came across this fun recent post by Bill James, who writes: [Before Moneyball] batting average completely dominated the market, and most baseball executives into the mid-1990s didn’t have the foggiest notion of the difference between an empty batting average and a productive hitter. And you couldn’t explain it to them, because they didn’t understand […]

“Maybe the better analogy is that these people are museum curators and we’re telling them that their precious collection of Leonardos, which they have been augmenting at a rate of about one per month, include some fakes.”

Someone sent me a link to a recently published research paper and wrote: As far as any possible coverage on your blog goes, this one didn’t come from me, please. It just looks… baffling in a lot of different ways. OK, so it didn’t come from that person. I read the paper and replied: Oh, […]

I ain’t the lotus

Some people wanted me to resolve this Minecraft dispute. But it’s so far outside my areas of expertise and interest that I have no plans to look into it. My reason for posting was that I thought it could interest some of the blog readership, not necessarily the same readers who are interested in posts […]

“Dream Investigation Results: Official Report by the Minecraft Speedrunning Team”

It’s almost Christmas, which makes us think of toys and presents, like . . . videogames for the kids and young adults in your life. And we have a story for you, all about ethics in video game speedrunning. Matt Drury writes: Recently a top player of Minecraft has been exposed as a cheater using […]

A new hot hand paradox

1. Effect sizes of just about everything are overestimated. Selection on statistical significance, motivation to find big effects to support favorite theories, researcher degrees of freedom, looking under the lamp-post, and various other biases. The Edlin factor is usually less than 1. (See here for a recent example.) 2. For the hot hand, it’s the […]

What happens to the median voter when the electoral median is at 52/48 rather than 50/50?

Here’s a political science research project for you. Joe Biden got about 52 or 53% of the two-party vote, which was enough for him to get a pretty close win in the electoral college. As we’ve discussed, 52-48 is a close win by historical or international standards but a reasonably big win in the context […]

My theory of why TV sports have become less popular

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about declining viewership for TV sports. Below I’ll link to a news article discussing various possible explanations, but first I want to share my theory, which is that we’re watching less sports because we’re talking about sports less, and we’re talking about sports less because we’re mixing with […]

Bill James is back

I checked Bill James Online the other day and it’s full of baseball articles! I guess now that he’s retired from the Red Sox, he’s free to share his baseball thoughts to all. Cool! He has 8 posts in the past week or so, which is pretty impressive given that each post has some mixture […]

Why we kept the trig in golf: Mathematical simplicity is not always the same as conceptual simplicity

Someone read the golf example and asked: You define the threshold angle as arcsin((R – r)/x), but shouldn’t it be arctan((R – r)/x) instead? Is it just that it does not matter with these small angles, where sine and tangent are about the same, or am I missing something? My reply: This sin vs tan […]

53 fever!

One thing statisticians love is a story about people acting foolish around probability . . . Paul Alper points us to this news article by David Robson: Fifteen years ago, the people of Italy experienced a strange kind of mass hysteria known as “53 fever”. The madness centred on the country’s lottery. Players can choose […]

The U.S. high school math olympiad champions of the 1970s and 1980s: Where were they then?

George Berzsenyi writes: Here is the last issue of the USAMO [math olympiad] Newsletter that was edited by Nura Turner and Tsz-Mei Ko along with a couple of additional summaries about the IMO participants. Concerning the Newsletter, I [Berzsenyi] just learned from Tsz-Mei Ko that it was the last issue. At the time, I really […]

The history of low-hanging intellectual fruit

Alex Tabarrok asks, why was the game Dungeons and Dragons, or something like it, not invented in ancient Rome? He argues that the ancient Romans had the technology (that would be dice, I guess) so why didn’t someone thing of inventing a random-number-driven role-playing game? I don’t have an answer, but I think we can […]

Two good news articles on trends in baseball analytics

Mark Brown pointed me to two recent popular articles on sports analytics: 1. The New Science of Building Baseball Superstars: review by Jack Hamilton of “The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players,” by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchick. This all seems very reasonable to me. 2. If baseball […]

Some of you must have an idea of the answer to this one.

Suppose I play EJ in chess—I think his rating is something like 2300 and mine is maybe, I dunno, 1400? Anyway, we play, and my only goal is for the games to last as many moves as possible, and EJ’s goal is to checkmate me in the minimal number of moves. Say I have to […]


Somebody points me to this by Benjamin Morris. I haven’t read this so I have no idea, but it does seem to have a lot of statistics! The one part I’m suspicious of item 3(c), where he says, “The statistical community over-values Margin of Victory and under-values raw winning percentages.” As I wrote a few […]

The Road Back

Paul Kedrosky points us to this news article by Liam Mannix, “Cold water poured on scientific studies based on ‘statistical cult.’” Here’s what I wrote about this when it came up last year: The whole thing seems pretty pointless to me. I agree with Kristin Sainani that the paper on MBI does not make sense. […]

Which teams have fewer fans than their namesake? I pretty much like this person’s reasoning except when we get to the chargers and raiders.

Someone pointed me to this delightful collection of short statistical analyses: In the Chicago Bears roast thread, 69memelordharambe420 posted “There are more Bears than Bears fans.” That got me [the author of this post] thinking: Is that true? And more generally, which teams have fewer fans than there exist whatever they’re named after? To start, […]