Posts tagged ‘coach’

Mathematical Vick

It’s difficult to live inside the beltway and not cheer for the Washington Redskins. The cashier at the grocery store, the teller at the bank, and even the soft pretzel vendor at the corner of 7th and Independence — all of them are just a little friendlier after a Redskins victory. So even though I’ve been a Steelers fan since birth, I still root for the burgundy and gold, knowing that my reward will be better customer service the following day.

But this past Monday night, I found myself cheering against the Redskins and for Michael Vick. Are you kidding me? Six touchdowns — two running and four passing — with 333 passing yards, 80 rushing yards, and a 20-for-28 performance with 0 interceptions. Wow. With his effort, he set the record for most fantasy points ever earned by a quarterback.

His performance earned him a passer rating of 150.7, just shy of the perfect quarterback ranking of 158.3. Which brings me to a question — WTF? Since when has 158.3 ever been considered perfect? Why not just multiply the result by 100/158.3 and convert it to a 0‑100 scale? Or multiply by 28/158.3 to convert it to a 0‑28 scale, in which case the top score would be truly perfect?

Have you ever looked at the formula for passer rating in the NFL? What a mess. Here’s how it works:

Calculate a, b, c, and d as follows:

  • a = 5 × (completions/attempts – 0.3)
  • b = 0.25 × (yards/attempts – 3)
  • c = 20 × touchdowns/attempts
  • d = 2.375 – (25 × interceptions/attempts)

Then, the value of each of a, b, c, and d must be between 0 and 2.375. If the value is negative, use 0 instead; if it’s greater than 2.375, use 2.375. Finally, once you have the four values, the final passer rating is equal to:

100/6 × (a + b + c + d).

For Vick’s performance on Monday night, the calculations for a, b, c, and d look like this:

  • a = 5 × (20/28 – 0.3) = 2.071
  • b = 0.25 × (333/28 – 3) = 2.223
  • c = 20 × 4/28 = 2.857
  • d = 2.375 – (25 × 0/28) = 2.375

Note that c = 2.857 above, but because a, b, c, and d cannot exceed 2.375, a value of c = 2.375 is used in the final step. Consequently, his final passer rating was:

100/6 × (2.071 + 2.223 + 2.375 + 2.375) = 150.733,

which the media reports to the nearest tenth, 150.7.

There are some interesting questions that can be asked, based on the formula. For instance, to garner a perfect rating:

  • What percent of passes must be completed?
  • How many yards, on average, must be gained per pass attempt?
  • What percent of passes must result in a touchdown?
  • How many interceptions can be thrown?

(In case you want to think about these questions, answers are included at the bottom of the post.)

All of this football talk reminds me of a math joke…

A college football coach walked into the locker room before a big game, looked at his star quarterback, and said, “You’re academically ineligible because you failed your math mid-term. But we really need you today. I talked to your math professor, and he said that if you can answer just one question correctly, then you can play today. So, pay attention. I really need you to concentrate on the question I’m about to ask you.”

“Okay, coach,” the player agreed. “I’ll do my best.”

“Good,” said the coach. Then he asked, “Okay, now really focus. What is 2 + 2?” All of his teammates watched quietly while the quarterback thought about the question.

The quarterback thought for a moment. Sheepishly, he answered, “Um, 4?”

“Really?” said the coach. “Did you really just say 4?”

To which his teammates shouted, “Oh, c’mon, coach! Give him another chance!”

For a perfect passer rating of 158.3, a quarterback must do the following: 

  • Complete 31 of every 40 passes (77.5%).
  • Maintain at least 12.5 yards per attempt.
  • Score a touchdown on 19 of every 160 passes (11.875%).
  • Throw 0 interceptions.

November 18, 2010 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

Baseball Probability

I happen to love sports. I’m a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I’ll attend any baseball game I can get tickets to, and don’t even think about calling my house during March Madness or the NBA Finals — I won’t answer the phone.

But if you’re one of those math folks who prefers numbers to games, here’s a primer on recent events, as well as a joke you can tell at the next math department happy hour if the conversation turns to sports.

A perfect game in baseball is one in which a pitcher retires every batter he faces. No players get on base during the entire game — no hits, and no walks. Twenty-seven players come to bat, and all 27 of them make an out.

As you might expect, perfect games are extremely rare. There have been only 20 in major league history.

But recently, they seem to be a little less rare. On Sunday, May 9, pitcher Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Just 22 days later, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies was perfect against the Florida Marlins. And 4 days after that, Armando Galarraga of the Chicago White Sox threw what has been officially ruled a one-hit shut-out… but because of an incorrect call by one of the umpires, most folks think it should count as a perfect game.

Two perfect games in a month is astonishing. Three perfect games in a month is nearly impossible. Don Leypoldt of Hardball Times claims that the odds of throwing three perfect games in a month are approximately 2,000,000 to 1.

But perfect games are not the most rare events in baseball. Can you name at least two single-game events that are less likely? (Of course, some events are completely impossible — such as a cow hitting a home run off a curveball thrown by a left-handed pig because, as we all know, every pig is right-handed. But by “events that are less likely,” I’m referring to events that have happened more than once, are considered extraordinary, and just aren’t commonplace.) Answers follow the joke below… and I should probably mention that there are way more than two.

The best pitcher on the baseball team failed his math mid-term. His coach, distraught at the possibility of losing his star player, cut a deal with the professor. In the locker room, the coach explained the situation to the pitcher.

“I was able to convince your math professor,” the coach began, “that if you could answer one math question correctly, you wouldn’t have to miss any games. So I’m going to ask you one question, and I need you to focus. If you answer it correctly, you can play in tomorrow’s big game. But if you miss it, you’re academically ineligible until your grades improve.”

“Okay, coach,” the player said. “I’ll do my best.”

“Great,” the coach said. “Here’s your question: What is 2 + 2?”

The player thought for quite some time. Finally, he said hesitantly, “Um, 4?”

“Really?” the coach asked excitedly. “Really? Did you really just say that 2 + 2 is 4?”

Upon hearing this, the other players in the locker room screamed out, “Aw, c’mon, coach… give him another chance!”

A lot of events in baseball are more rare than perfect games:

  • Losing a perfect game on the 27th batter. Armando Galarraga can apparently take solace — he’s the tenth player in MLB history to whom this has happened. But with only 10 occurrences, losing a perfect game on the last batter is more rare than pitching a perfect game.
  • The unassisted triple play. There have only been 15 in Major League history. But like perfect games, they’ve been less rare recently — Troy Tulowitzki completed one in 2007, Asdrubal Cabrera had another in 2008, and Eric Brunlett recorded a game-ending unassisted triple play in 2009.
  • Four or more home runs by the same player in a single game. Only 15 of these, too, just like unassisted triple plays. No player has ever hit five or more home runs in a game.
  • Grounding into four double-plays in a single game. Joe Torre is the only one to hold this distinction. 
  • Stealing six or more bases in a game. Two players stole 7 bases in a game: George Gore (1881) and Billy Hamilton (1894). Five other players have stolen six, a feat that Eddie Collins of the Philadelphia Athletics accomplished twice (on September 11, 1912, and then again 11 days later on September 22, 1912).
  • Three or more triples in a game. George Streif (1885) and Bill Joyce (1897) both had 4 triples in a game, and 12 players have had 3 triples in a game.
  • Twenty strike-outs in a nine-inning game. Only three have done this, the most recent Kerry Wood in 1998.

There are a lot of single-game records that are more rare than perfect games. If you’re interested in other crazy baseball statistics and records, check out the Play Index at

June 8, 2010 at 12:21 am 1 comment

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The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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