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Archive of posts filed under the Sports category.

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, […]

Top 5 literary descriptions of poker

Yesterday I wrote about Pocket Kings by Ted Heller, which gives one of the most convincing literary descriptions of poker that I’ve ever read. (Much more so than all those books and articles where the author goes on expense account to compete at the World Series of Poker. I hope to never see that again.) […]

Pocket Kings by Ted Heller

So. I’m most of the way through Pocket Kings by Ted Heller, author of the classic Slab Rat. And I keep thinking: Ted Heller is the same as Sam Lipsyte. Do these two guys know each other? They’re both sons of famous writers (OK, Heller’s dad is more famous than Lipsyte’s, but still). They write […]


We’ve been talking a lot about football lately. I just wrote a football-themed post. It will appear in two weeks, that is, the morning of 26 Jan. Please send an appropriate picture of your cat and I can append it to the post? Thank you.

Field goal kicking—like putting in 3D with oblong balls

Putting Andrew Gelman (the author of most posts on this blog, but not this one), recently published a Stan case study on golf putting [link fixed] that uses a bit of geometry to build a regression-type model based on angles and force. Field-goal kicking In American football, there’s also a play called a “field goal.” […]

The hot hand and playing hurt

So, was chatting with someone the other day and it came up that I sometimes do sports statistics, and he told me how he read that someone did some research finding that the hot hand in basketball isn’t real . . . I replied that the hot hand is real, and I recommended he google […]

Padres need Stan

Cody Zupnick writes: I’m working in baseball research for the San Diego Padres, and we’re looking for new people, potentially with Stan experience. Would you mind seeing if any of your readers have any interest? Cool!

Golf example now a Stan case study!

It’s here! (and here’s the page with all the Stan case studies). In this case study, I’m following up on two earlier posts, here and here, which in turn follow up this 2002 paper with Deb Nolan. My Stan case study is an adaptation of a model fit by Columbia business school professor and golf […]

Josh Miller’s alternative, more intuitive, formulation of Monty Hall problem

Here it is: Three tennis players. Two are equally-matched amateurs; the third is a pro who will beat either of the amateurs, always. You blindly guess that Player A is the pro; the other two then play. Player B beats Player C. Do you want to stick with Player A in a Player A vs. […]

More golf putting, leading to a discussion of how prior information can be important for an out-of-sample prediction or causal inference problem, even if it’s not needed to fit existing data

Steve Stigler writes: I saw a piece on your blog about putting. It suggests to me that you do not play golf, or you would not think this was a model. Length is much more important than you indicate. I attach an old piece by a friend that is indeed the work of a golfer! […]

Blindfold play and sleepless nights

In Edward Winter’s Chess Explorations there is the following delightful quote from the memoirs of chess player William Winter: Blindfold play I have never attempted seriously. I once played six, but spent so many sleepless nights trying to drive the positions out of my head that I gave it up. I love that. We think […]

Leonard Shecter’s coauthor has passed away.

I don’t really have anything to add here except to agree with Phil that Ball Four is one of the best nonfiction books ever. (And, no, I don’t consider Charlie Brown to be nonfiction.)

Book Review: Good to Go, by Christie Aschwanden

This is a book review. It is by Phil Price. It is not by Andrew. The book is Good To Go: What the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery. By Christie Aschwanden, published by W.W. Norton and Company. The publisher offered a copy to Andrew to review, and […]

What pieces do chess grandmasters move, and when?

The above image, from T. J. Mahr, is a cleaned-up version of this graph: which in turn is a slight improvement on a graph posted by Dan Goldstein (with R code!) which came from Ashton Anderson. The original, looks like this: This is just fine, but I had a few changes to make. I thought […]

“In 1997 Latanya Sweeney dramatically demonstrated that supposedly anonymized data was not anonymous,” but “Over 20 journals turned down her paper . . . and nobody wanted to fund privacy research that might reach uncomfortable conclusions.”

Tom Daula writes: I think this story from John Cook is a different perspective on replication and how scientists respond to errors. In particular the final paragraph: There’s a perennial debate over whether it is best to make security and privacy flaws public or to suppress them. The consensus, as much as there is a […]