Posts tagged ‘win’

Nationals Win Probability, and Other Meaningless Statistics

BaseballThe first pitch of last night’s Nationals-Phillies game was 8:08 p.m. That’s pretty late for me on a school night, and when a 38-minute rain delay interrupted the 4th inning, well, that made a late night even later.

The Phillies scored 4 runs in the top of the 5th to take a 6‑2 lead. When the Nationals failed to score in the bottom of the 5th, I asked my friends, “What are the chances that the Nationals come back?” With only grunts in response and 10:43 glowing from the scoreboard, we decided to leave.

On the drive home, we listened as the Nationals scored 3 runs to bring it to 6‑5. That’s where the score stood in the middle of the 8th inning when I arrived home, and with the Nats only down by 1, I thought it might be worth tuning in.

The Nats then scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to take an 8-6 lead. And that’s when an awesome stat flashed on the television screen:

Nats Win Probability

  • Down 6-2 in the 6th: 6%
  • Up 8-6 in the 8th: 93%

Seeing that statistic reminded me of a Dilbert cartoon from a quarter-century ago:

I often share Dogbert’s reaction to statistics that I read in the newspaper or hear on TV or — egad! — are sent to me via email.

I had this kind of reaction to the stat about the Nationals win probability.

For a weather forecast, a 20% chance of rain means it will rain on 20% of the days with exactly the same atmospheric conditions. Does the Nats 6% win probability mean that any team has a 6% chance of winning when they trail 6-2 in the 6th inning?

Or does it more specifically mean that the Nationals trailing 6-2 in the 6th inning to the Phillies would only win 1 out of 17 times?

Or is it far more specific still, meaning that this particular lineup of Nationals players playing against this particular lineup of Phillies players, late on a Sunday night at Nationals Stadium, during the last week of June, with 29,314 fans in attendance, with a 38-minute rain delay in the 4th inning during which I consumed a soft pretzel and a beer… are those the right “atmospheric conditions” such that the Nats have a 6% chance of winning?

As it turns out, the win probability actually includes lots of factors: whether a team is home or away, inning, number of outs, which bases are occupied, and the score difference. It does not, however, take into account the cost or caloric content of my mid-game snack.

A few other stupid statistics I’ve heard:

  • Fifty percent of all people are below average.
  • Everyone who has ever died has breathed oxygen.
  • Of all car accidents in Canada, 0.3% involve a moose.
  • Any time Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team below 100 points, they almost always win.

Have you heard a dumb stat recently? Let us know in the comments.

June 26, 2018 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Great Gift for a Math Dad

Before school let out for the summer, every student in Eli’s class made a Father’s Day gift for their dads. When I arrived home today, I found my gift in a lunch bag with the following note stapled to it:

Eli's Lunch Bag

(Eli signed his name. The rest of the note was written by his teacher as Eli dictated the message.)

Truth be known, Eli and Alex never win because I let them win. Sure, I may occasionally misplay a turn, but I don’t just tank an entire game on purpose. (On the flip side, I never deliberately cheat just to beat them, either, even though I could totally get away with it.) Primarily, I think kids know when you’re letting them win, and I believe it sends the message that you think they’re not capable of winning on their own. I also agree with psychologist Sara Diemerman who says, “There’s nothing like winning fair and square to make a kid feel terrific.”

I recently did a Game Night for the Northern Virginia Math Teachers Circle. During that meeting, participants played the following game:

Player A chooses an integer from 2 to 9 inclusive. Then Player B multiplies Player A’s number by any integer from 2 to 9, then Player A multiplies the result by any integer from 2 to 9, and so on. The first player to get a result greater than 1000 wins.

Have fun figuring out the winning strategy for that game.

As part of our Father’s Day activities, I plan to teach this game to Eli and Alex. But they’re going to have to earn their victories.

June 16, 2012 at 5:03 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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