Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When Lady Luck Plays Moneyball When Lady Luck Plays Moneyball

TCS Daily: When Lady Luck Plays Moneyball points out what we all should know, that most of what we think of as streaks in professional sports is really just random chance.
Using probability theory and Monte Carlo simulations, we've proved that the probability of a team that wins 60 percent of its 162 games having at least one losing streak of five or more games is 80 percent. Such a team will have, on average, 1.2 such losing streaks a season. In other words, it's almost a certainty that a playoff team will have had at least one substantial losing streak during the regular season. So it shouldn't have been shocking -- and was hardly informative about their future -- that the Detroit Tigers ended the season on a five-game losing streak. The worst teams, in comparison, generally win only 40 percent of their games... Using probability theory and Monte Carlo techniques, we've shown that the probability of such a team having at least one winning streak of three or more games is virtually 100 percent. Such a team will have, on average, 6.4 such winning streaks a season. In other words, even the worst teams can expect to have winning streaks. That's why it shouldn't have been so shocking that the Detroit Tigers, with the third-best American League regular-season record, ended the season by losing all their games against the Kansas City Royals, the second-weakest AL team.
But we, as rational thinking humans, continue to look for the patterns in these fairly random events.

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