Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A backlog of Trent McCotter's columns

Apparently Trent McCotter's brief stint writing thought-provoking articles about stats and sports for the News & Observer has come to an end. I'm disappointed by this, because I enjoyed each of his columns (not just the two we previously linked to from here). Indeed, I've been asking him every week for the past month whether a new one was coming or not. His columns were concise, and I know Trent well enough to know that he could have found a lot more to write about each topic. I'm certain it can't be an easy task to condense such thoughts into the strictly allotted newspaper space.

Trent's stories that appeared are still online:

How to fix the 'perfect game'

Zimmerman best in state at hitting streaks

'Tiger-proofing' golf courses yields surprises

Time to monkey around with BCS?

Ichiro a version of Wee Willie Keeler

The 'hot hand' in basketball: Does it exist?

Statistics gaffes highlight sports history

When is a conversion worth the risk?

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trent McCotter talks about the monkeys

A quick but big thank you to Trent McCotter for mentioning our random walker "monkey" rankings in his latest column! See "Time to monkey around with the BCS?"

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quarterback ratings

Trent McCotter is back again as one of the targets of links in today's post, courtesy of his first column in the The News & Observer, which he will write in his copious spare time as a UNC law student. Yesterday, I sang the praises of Steve Strogatz, so now it's Trent's turn. One of the outwardly most mellow people I know, Trent's outward calm conceals a strong passion for sports statistics. A four time winner of the Jack Kavanagh Memorial Youth Baseball Research Award from SABR (three times in the college division, once in the high school division), Trent distinguishes himself by frequently taking a different tack in his work while also delving into the detailed numbers when needed.

In "How to fix the 'perfect game'," Trent avoids the details of the quarterback ratings definition and gets right to the interesting issue of the recent prevalence of perfect passer rating performances, wondering along the way quite how perfect they are.

While we're talking about quarterback ratings and looking forward to the upcoming season, check out "Vick as a Quarterback? He’s Underrated" by Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats in The Fifth Down (both sites are full of interesting items). Without getting into recalculations of possible quarterback ratings, Burke's discussion about more conventional statistics makes clear that neither they nor quarterback ratings tell the whole story.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Mathematics of Hitting Streaks

With the hope that there's actually someone other than my coauthors reading these posts once the college football season arrives (when the hits to the old page understandably ramped up in past years), one of the upsides to transitioning to a blog is to provide easy pointers to other interesting work in the mathematics and statistics of sports.

There are a pair of papers about hitting streaks that have appeared on arXiv.org in the past year. Making things particularly interesting, these two papers take completely different methodological approaches. Sam Arbesman and Steve Strogatz "examine Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and look at its likelihood, using a number of simple models. And it turns out that, contrary to many people’s expectations, an extreme streak, while unlikely in any given year, is not unlikely to have occurred about once within the history of baseball." Meanwhile, Trent McCotter uses permutation tests to find that there appear to have been a significantly larger number of 20-25 game streaks in real life than one would obtain in an independent-games model. You can hear Steve talk more about both studies in a Radiolab podcast from earlier this summer.

Finally, for perhaps the only timely element of this post, Steve has a new book just out this past week, The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life while Corresponding about Math. If it's like everything else Steve does, it will be amazing.

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Addition (29Aug): For more discussion about hitting streaks, other streaks, and the way that people tend to overinterpret streaks, check out Leonard Mlodinow's interesting WSJ essay, "The Triumph of the Random."

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Another addition (31Aug): Trent McCotter's second N&O column is about hitting streaks, with a decidedly local-to-NC flavor ("Zimmerman best in state at hitting streaks").

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