Sunday, January 23, 2011

Today's NFL games

My predictions were in late to The Prediction Tracker due to computer troubles, but for those interested here are my predictions:
Green Bay 24 Chicago 20
As unfortunate as it is, the Packers are a better team. Actual predicted line is 4.35.

Pittsburgh 25 New York 19
After taking down a couple of AFC powers, the Jets will likely finally go down to the Steelers this week. Actual predicted line is 6.00.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

100th Post!

After almost 3/4 of a year (with a month and a half layoff) this is finally the 100th post on Kobe, Tell Me How My Stats Taste (some of you who haven't been here for a while, aka the first post, may know it as Shaq's Big Brickhouse). While it's not easy to keep a sports statistics blog as a college student, it's so far been a fun experience. A lot of posts focus on looking forward at what will likely happen in sports, but for the one hundredth we're gonna look back at some of the best so far:

Five Top Innovations
All of the work here is unique, but sometimes even the methods used are K,TMHMST originals. Here's five of them that I'm most proud of:
1. The Rankings. A year and a half ago for Math of Sports class was really where the blog got it's start, and the rankings have shown over this year that they matchup well with the best of the business.
2. Random Chance in Sports. Originally I thought this would show just NFL parity, but it's already developed as a useful tool.
3. Comfortable Margin. 6*n^.5 has been super effective at knowing when to feel safe in basketball games.
4. Self Lineup Runs. This doesn't get as much play right now because it's not baseball season, but it has been a good indicator of batter performance. It also matches up surprisingly closely to OPS.
5. QB ratings. This was a challenge for our Math of Sports class, and a year later I finally did one I'm proud of.

3 Good Predictions
1. Pre-Season CF Predictions. There were a few rough spots, but many guesses turned out successful. Chief among them: the Stanford Cardinal at #13. My Dad made fun of me, but it turned out well.
2. Luckiest Big 10 Teams. Unfortunately my predictions of Michigan State success and Iowa failure turned out all too accurate.
3. True Hoop first round. Going 8 for 8 prompted the start of the blog. We won't talk about the second round.

3 Bad Predictions
1. The Unlikelihood of Sweeps. I was really proud of the math, but as Tyler Dawson pointed out here was an impressively large number of sweeps in the next round.
2. Thanksgiving Predictions. I thought it'd be a great idea to square up with and defeat my dad. Losing by 2 games after going 3-4 was not the plan though.
3. Dangerous Big Game. People at the time agreed that Cal at home would be a challenge, but the route was so bad I apologized to a Cal student I met on the airplane the next day.

5 Best Posts
1. Cubs Futility. Still my favorite post. There was some good math, some good research, and most significantly some interesting results.
2. 89 Games. An anonymous commenter said the article should be picked up by ESPN, and if any post ever could've been a media hit, it would've been this one.
3. Perfect Games. Suggested by Greg Siems, this was both relevant and informative. Still surprising that pitching against just Aramis Ramirez for an entire season should give you 3 perfect games.
4. Random Chance in the NFL. After a weird start to the season this answered my questions, and established a useful tool (used in 89 games too!).
5. Physics of Sports- Jump Balls. Capping off the best blog week of all time, this was straight out of my life. John Haskell still doesn't believe I won the tip.

There's a good look at the first 100 posts. Thanks to all of you who've stopped by to read, whether it's just once or repeatedly. Feedback, comments, and especially suggestions have often led to great posts. Hopefully the next 100 can be as good as the first.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

College Football Top 25 1/12/11

It's done, the college football season is over. Auburn has deservedly been crowned the champion, they had the most successful season. But were they really the best team? Here's the (final!) top 25:
Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Stanford 12 1 698.05 81.39
2 Boise St 12 1 508.5 32.57
3 Oregon 12 1 502.72 65.71
4 Alabama 10 3 424.76 58.41
5 TCU 13 0 412.31 27.65
6 Ohio State 12 1 355.73 38.97
7 Auburn 14 0 301.63 77.89
8 Oklahoma 12 2 256.26 67.97
9 Oklahoma St 11 2 228.26 50.36
10 Arkansas 10 3 216.93 64.83
11 Missouri 10 3 205.73 51.61
12 Florida St 10 4 191.02 62.13
13 Virginia Tech 11 3 188.91 55.09
14 LSU 11 2 187.6 66.13
15 South Carolina 9 5 166.64 79.45
16 Wisconsin 11 2 165.59 36.32
17 Nebraska 10 4 165.05 48.58
18 Texas A&M 9 4 158.54 68.72
19 Arizona St 6 6 147.93 78.55
20 Iowa 8 5 140.17 42.58
21 Florida 8 5 139.14 67.7
22 Arizona 7 6 137.38 80
23 Nevada 13 1 134.05 25.82
24 Southern Cal 8 5 131.54 91.19
25 Notre Dame 8 5 124.99 65.45

Stanford is still at number 1! Yup, it was true in the very first ranking, and it still is. In a special year for the Cardinal they were the best team in the nation, even if an unfortunate loss to Oregon derailed their title hopes. It's easy be skeptical (some might find some supposed bias up top, I swear there isn't any) but the results speak for themselves. The rankings system got 23 of 35 bowl games right (22.5 was predicted) and had 442 (437 expected) points on ESPN bowl mania (good for the 98th percentile).
The Bowl's are nice and all, but over Thanksgiving I proposed a playoff system, which if it had played out would've given us a very different result:

Seed Team Win%
1 Auburn 14.8
2 Oregon 29.3
3 TCU 11.4
4 Stanford 34.3
5 Wisconsin 1.8
6 Ohio State 8.4

Auburn would still have a chance of winning, but the most likely champion would be: The Stanford Cardinal! Okay, so you don't believe me, but it sure would be interesting to find out. Maybe next year (Mark Cuban). For now, all we can do is congratulate Auburn for over coming the odds and winning the National Championship.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Championship Game

Tonight's the big night, the championship (or at least as close as there is to one) for college football. The Oregon Ducks are statistically maybe the best team in the nation and have been at the top all season. The Auburn Tigers have their doubters, but they also have the Heisman Trophy winner and they're favored by most at places like ESPN. So who's going to win? There's more at stake in that question than you might think.
On one hand Oregon is heavily favored by both of my rankings systems, having a 9 point advantage and 2/3 chance of winning. This is the same system that currently places in the 98.9 percentile in ESPN's College Bowl Mania. A closer look though reveals two teams going in opposite directions. Auburn started off squeaking through some close games against poor teams, while Oregon thoroughly trounced all comers, including a 21 point win over Stanford. Since then though, the Tigers have trended sharply up, with the Ducks have gotten worse. In fact, continuing the trend lines out to the championship game the Tigers are suddenly favored by 10 points! Here's a look at the game by game performance:

Auburn Tigers Game Score By Game

Oregon Ducks Game Score By Game
Which of the two systems should we go with, and how do such different outcomes fit together? One key trait of both ranking systems is that they count all games equally, regardless of when they were played. The assumption of consistent skill ignores the possibility that a team like Auburn could improve over the course of the season. On the other hand, relying only on the most recent games leaves the possibility that one fluke game would have too strong of an impact. Especially with 12 game schedules I think it's important to take all games equally into account to cancel out some natural variation. Uncle Leo might even note that this method has led to a 58% success rate against the spread in the NFL this year (but that's another article). So tonight I'm going to stick with my prediction that Oregon wins by 9 (41 to 32), but if it goes the other way it might be time to rework the rankings systems. Or it might just be random variation.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dunking On The Moon

Blake Griffin has been throwing down emphatic dunks all across the NBA, soaring high above the 10 foot rim. Many people might wonder how high Griffin could actually dunk, but I'll go a small step (or maybe a giant leap) beyond in the spirit of applying for a SpaceX internship. How high could Griffin dunk on the moon? And who would be the highest dunker?
It's not actually very complicated physics, just use M*G*H (conservation of energy), and M (for mass) doesn't actually matter here because it's the same for a player on the moon. With gravity (G) on the moon roughly 1/6 of earth gravity, just multiply an earth vertical (H) by 6 to get a moon vertical. Here's what happens with some of Earth's best basketball players:

Player Height Vert Earth Moon
Yao Ming 7'6" 21 10'11" 19'9"
Austin Link 6'4" 24 9'11" 20'0"
Blake Griffin 6'10" 35.5 11'3" 26'2"
Nate Robinson 5'9" 43.5 10'9" 29'0"
Jamario Moon 6'8" 43 11'8" 29'9"
Michael Jordan 6'6" 48 12'4" 32'6"
Kadour Ziani 5'10" 60 12'0" 37'3"

Even I could dunk on a 20 foot hoop on the moon, despite inconsistency on the earth. It's also striking how much more important jumping ability is on the moon. All of a sudden I can out dunk Yao Ming, and Nate Robinson has almost 3 feet on Blake Griffin. The aptly named Jamario Moon and Michael Jordan can of course hold their own (MJ based off his probably inflated vertical may be the best earth dunker) but the title of best moon dunker probably goes to the man with the highest vertical on earth, Kadour Ziani. Of course, he already makes his living as a professional dunker, so he may not even need the moon. But with it, he'd outshine even the brightest of NBA stars.
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Iowa Basketball Resurgence- Or Not

My family used to have season tickets to Iowa Men's basketball games, but for a few years now we've passed. Partially at fault is just growing up, having activities of our own (or living in California), but partially it's because the Hawkeyes weren't that good anymore. A couple weeks ago though we went to the Illinois Iowa game at Carver-Hawkeye. The Hawks put up a decent fight, my former North Dodge Stars teammate Jordan Stoermer got some playing time and Fran McCaffery heads floated over the student section. For the first time in while there was some optimism surrounding the program, but is it justified? Should the Hawks really expect to improve upon last year's 4-14 Big Ten campaign?

Using the most recent rankings (before the Ohio State game, which would slightly increase the Hawk's win total) here's what Iowa's chances look like the rest of the way adjusted for home court advantage:

Opponent Win%
@ Purdue 0.153
Northwestern 0.48
@ Minnesota 0.326
@ Ohio St 0.087
Indiana 0.528
@ Penn St 0.429
@ Michigan 0.309
Michigan St 0.374
@ Indiana 0.332
Wisconsin 0.34
Minnesota 0.521
@ Northwestern 0.291
Michigan 0.501
@ Illinois 0.198
@ Michigan St 0.21
Purdue 0.289

Expected wins for the Hawks: 5.37. With a standard deviation of 1.8 there's still significant room for variations (they could reasonably still win either 2 or 9 games).
5 wins sounds like a surprisingly small improvement over last year, so what gives? There are two main things. First, the Big Ten has improved this year with even the worst team (Penn State) being ranked higher than last year's bottom three. Second, the Hawks are missing a game at home against Penn State, which they would have a 63% chance of winning. 6 wins may not sound like much, but it might've be enough for the Iowa to jump out of the bottom tier. As it is, barring the continued improvement of old Stars foe Matt Gatens, this season still won't be a return to .500 ball. I wouldn't rule out next year though.
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