Friday, June 18, 2010

The World Cup

What's more fun than watching Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher fall on the floor like they've been hit by a steam engine? That's right! Watching two groups of 11 people each doing the same thing for 90 minutes with the non-stop mind-numbing ear-drum-bursting hum of vuvuzelas in the background! It's the World Cup! Can put numbers to the World Cup? Yes we can! For example:
Vuvuzelas have been measured at 127 decibels. A referee's whistle blown as hard as possible is 122 dB. That means one Vuvuzela is over 3 times as loud as a whistle (decibels are on a logarithmic scale). So we can't even hear our falling fouls.
There's an average of 1.86 total goals per game so far. In the "boring" american sport baseball there are about 9 runs per game. In a "boring" canadian sport (hockey) there are over 5 goals per game. Heck, even in the last World Cup there were 2.44 goals per game in the opening round.
Say you wanted to watch goals and not just listen to quirky british announcers (a plus for soccer), when should you watch? Lets look at goals by minute broken in to 15 minute groups:
It's clear from this that the end of either half (bins 3 and 6) is the best time to watch. Just don't tune in for the middle of the first half, because only three goals have been knocked in during that stretch. More specifically, the 79th minute is the best time to watch because 4 goals have already been scored then (yes, more than in the 15 minute stretch during the first half).
Notice that there have been no goals scored after the 90th minute. That's because soccer doesn't always use overtime. Already more 1 point ties have been handed out than 3 point wins (16 to 15). Which means "nil-nil" games for all of us. I think it might be time to start watching more baseball.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game 7

And so, the last game of the NBA season is upon us. It has seemed crazy, but the two teams left at the end are the two that on day 1 many thought would be there: the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers. Unlike two years ago though, this series has hinged on the play of many of the role players. Rajon Rondo led Boston's "Big 3" out of the nursing home and into the finals. Andrew Bynum's stellar first 3 games brought the Lakers a 2-1 lead, but Glen "Big Baby" Davis slobbered the Celtics back into the driver's seat as the series headed back to LA. Tuesday though, Kendrick "Jumbo Muffin" Perkins's injury resulted in a resounding Boston defeat. So now there's game 7 to decide it all. Which is kinda strange, because one play can make so much difference. What Kobe Bryant's legacy depends on a Ron Artest 3 at the end? Could one 'Sheed outburst forever put a black mark over the era of Boston's Big 3? Like in any game, the chance and luck play a big role. Running only the first 6 games of this series in the Power Rankings, I got the following Power Rankings:
Lakers 1.45
Boston 0.69
That means that after including home court advantage for the Lakers, there is a 75.9% chance the Lakers win tomorrow. Which isn't that far off from the 69% chance they had at the beginning of the series. So it really does all come down to one game. Let's just hope Ron-Ron's a little off.

Self Lineup Runs

Who's the best mlb hitter this season? We looked already at Ken Griffey Jr.'s best years using a lineup full of Griffeys. Now, through yesterday, I've looked at the same statistic (which I've decided to call "Self Lineup Runs" or SLR. Please suggest better names.) for the best hitters in baseball. Here's a look at how those with the top 10 OPS fare in SLR:












































Interestingly, for those who know the stats above, this is very closely related to OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging), but even closer to 2*OBP + SLG. This correlation was suggested in Wayne Winston's book Mathletics, and will be looked into more later.
Note: Although Ethier, Cano and Pujols don't have the same SLR, it's effectively a tie because of variance in the simulation. Running it again once actually put Pujols ahead of the other two, so it's too close to call.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

College Football Winners and Losers

Because the Celtics are getting their butts thoroughly kicked, it seems like a good time to discuss the new conference realignments in the NCAA (and really, just in football).
For those of you don't remember much about last season, here's an excerpt of my final rankings:
9 Oregon 10 3 365.1351385
21 Stanford 8 5 206.7906192
24 Southern Cal 9 4 196.9013724
31 Oregon St 8 5 144.8142221
33 Arizona 8 5 136.8915592
44 Washington 5 7 112.9405358
47 UCLA 7 6 99.71857331
48 California 8 5 98.35135469
57 Arizona St 4 8 80.31118691
153 Washington St 1 11 7.85820361
Big 12
3 Texas 13 1 741.1500129
6 Oklahoma 8 5 435.2079459
14 Texas Tech 9 4 265.2266125
32 Oklahoma St 9 4 142.6887075
45 Missouri 8 5 103.9479536
49 Kansas 5 7 96.83809863
50 Texas A&M 6 7 94.68885479
61 Kansas St 6 6 66.69280004
69 Iowa St 7 6 51.93482029
81 Baylor 4 8 42.94916289
Big 10
7 Ohio State 11 2 419.4915248
11 Penn State 11 2 307.9650998
22 Iowa 11 2 202.6684293
28 Wisconsin 10 3 161.9426895
43 Michigan St 6 7 113.215311
62 Purdue 5 7 65.91140341
63 Minnesota 6 7 63.99163737
65 Michigan 5 7 62.57196326
70 Northwestern 8 5 51.5339931
82 Illinois 3 9 42.44594732
89 Indiana 4 8 35.27651734
8 Nebraska 10 4 379.605562
10 Boise St 14 0 309.586632
75 Colorado 3 9 49.11184134
Best MWC
5 TCU 12 1 541.2771632
26 Brigham Young 11 2 165.9322645
40 Utah 10 3 119.3573139
The (former) Big 12 has an average power ranking of about 133, and that stays the same with the subtraction of good Nebraska and Bad Colorado.
The (12-team) Big 10 has an average ranking of about 100, but by adding Nebraska, which will immediately compete for best team in the conference, their average improves to 107.
The (Mountain) Pac-10 has an average ranking of 107, but with the addition of a terrible Colorado team (worse than all but lowly Washington State), that ranking drops to 100.
Colorado and Nebraska are both in a way losers, because each leaves a better conference for a worse one.
There is a clear winner from the switching though, and that's the newfangled Mountain West Conference which now puts together a top 4 group of teams that can compete with any conference's top 4 year in and year out.
The biggest loser of all though is of course the Boston Celtics. Fingers crossed for game 7.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Big Ten

Here's some simple math: 11 +1 =/= 10. nor is it equal to a cool 11 hidden in one of the best logos in the history of logos. The Pac-10 has also forgotten that 10+1 =/= 10. And that Colorado isn't on or really near the pacific coast. Let's hope they remember that 5 more still isn't 10. Someday, when college football isn't king of the hill the Big Ten will regret Nebraska lacking a basketball team and being the worst academic school in the conference.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Ken Griffey Jr.

With the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. last week baseball lost one of it's best and most liked players, one who even made it through the steroid era unscathed. But just how good was he, and when was he best? Sounds like a perfect time to debut my new baseball simulator program! The program plays a full nine innings with up to 9 batters using singles, doubles, triples, and home runs (it has yet to include speed things like stolen bases and advancing an extra base, and it counts walks as singles). Putting in a player's stats for a year then having them bat over and over repeatedly for a game gives a good indication of how good a player is at swinging away. So, how good was Griffey? Here's the results by year ("runs" being the program calculated category):
GRIFFEY JR 1989 Sea 0.74896 3.862
GRIFFEY JR 1990 Sea 0.84987 5.274
GRIFFEY JR 1991 Sea 0.93168 6.8
GRIFFEY JR 1992 Sea 0.89248 5.661
GRIFFEY JR 1993 Sea 1.02355 8.356
GRIFFEY JR 1994 Sea 1.07558 8.828
GRIFFEY JR 1995 Sea 0.85999 6.146
GRIFFEY JR 1996 Sea 1.01857 8.006
GRIFFEY JR 1997 Sea 1.02992 8.006
GRIFFEY JR 1998 Sea 0.97242 7.037
GRIFFEY JR 1999 Sea 0.95552 7.117
GRIFFEY JR 2000 Cin 0.93908 7.081
GRIFFEY JR 2001 Cin 0.89663 6.045
GRIFFEY JR 2002 Cin 0.78522 4.621
GRIFFEY JR 2003 Cin 0.91595 6.458
GRIFFEY JR 2004 Cin 0.86276 5.713
GRIFFEY JR 2005 Cin 0.95036 6.746
GRIFFEY JR 2006 Cin 0.8019 4.682
GRIFFEY JR 2007 Cin 0.8741 6.029
GRIFFEY JR 2008 Cin/CWS 0.7761 4.583
GRIFFEY JR 2009 Sea 0.7333 4.183
GRIFFEY JR 2010 Sea 0.45506 0.712
GRIFFEY JR Total -- 0.90428 6.264

It turns out that Griffey's strike shortened 1994 season was his best, even better than his 56 home run performances in 97 and 98. How does this compare to other players? The average for the MLB so far this year is 3.68 runs (meaning this program is about half a run too low, most runners go second to home on a single) so even Griffey's worst years were better than average. Amongst other Seattle greats Griffey's '94 (8.83) is better than both A-Roid's '96 (8.41) and Ichiro's '04 (5.39). Still, Junior's not quite on Pujols's level (10.93 in 2008) and a long was behind former greats like the Babe (a whopping 17.63 in 1920). Nevertheless, with his 10 Gold Gloves, 184 stolen bases, and 630 home runs I'd take Ken Griffey Jr. on my team anyways.
Good suggestion Woozle.

Ray "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Allen

Last night's savior Ray Allen kept the Celtics in the game and even up throughout the first half, despite an almost total absence of Kevin "Heels on the 3-point line" Garnett and Big Baby's unlucky 4 inch height disadvantage. Allen's 8 for 11 three point shooting set an NBA Finals record, and got the Celtics the road win they needed. But were the Celtics really the better team?
The Celtics won by 9, but it was close all second half and the Celtics padded the final score with some free throws. The Lakers started fouling while down 7, so even if Allen had only hit 6 of 11 the Celtics probably would've still won, but not if he hit less. What are the chance the Celtics win then?
Using Allen's career 3 point percentage of 39.6 (which is higher than the 36.8 percent he shot this year) there is actually only a 2.2% chance that Allen makes 8 of them ( and .5% chance of more). Adding in the probabilities of 6 and 7 three pointers, Allen makes at least 6 out of 11 23.8% of the time. So the Celtics only win last night's game about a quarter of the time? Yup. And that's not good news for them going forward.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Perfect Games

Poor Armando Galarraga. Today should've been a perfect game. However it'll still go down as one of the closest calls ever (Hey MLB, can we just fix the call and make it a perfect game?). Had Jim Joyce made the right call we would've had the third perfect game this season, and we're not even halfway done. What're the chances of that?! Funny I asked...
The key is on-base-percentage (we're not gonna count errors, dropped third strikes, etc.). There has to be 27 consecutive outs. Also useful is that there are 3,240, and about 345,000 all time. For the stats savvy I'm also assuming that perfect games follow poisson statistics, which can be a dubious assumption for low end odds.
The following stats are against MLB average, Yankees (best team), Houston (worst), Justin Morneau (best batter), Aramis Ramirez(worst, of course), and with each of the three "perfect" game pitchers.

Who OBP Expected 3+ All-time
MLB 0.33 0.065247621 4.40885E-05 6.966794621
Yankees 0.366 0.01468774 5.22314E-07 1.568278894
Houston 0.286 0.363409878 0.006106128 38.80297759
Morneau 0.487 4.82741E-05 1.86517E-14 0.005154448
A-Ram 0.227 3.100211665 0.598882668 331.0241437
Galarraga 0.218 4.237672039 0.794695585 452.476124
Halladay 0.258 1.02671629 0.08528064 109.627315
Braden 0.277 0.509658225 0.015130549 54.41859965

Because you get to have good pitchers against bad teams every once in a while, I'd suspect the odds of the number of perfect games are roughly equivalent to Houston (there are 18 perfect games in the modern era, plus a couple others that might've qualified in these stats), so we should have three perfect games in a year once every 200 seasons (actually as low as every 100 because poisson stats are kinda inaccurate here). That's more often than you think? Remember, there's now 30 teams in the league, many more than earlier, so more games. Also, this year's league average OBP is the lowest since 1992 (although roughly average overall. Can you say steroids?).
And in good news for Galarraga, let's suppose he pitches 30 starts a year for 15 year (a solid career). If he continues his opponent OBP of .218 (the lowest among league starters), he has a 44.5% chance of pitching another perfect game. Of course, with an OOBP like that, he'll also be the best pitcher of all time.
Good suggestion Greg.