Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nice mention for book's research

Our book (available at Amazon) and research got a nice mention at this golf website. Here's an excerpt:

Some experts focus on conventional football statistics like: points tallied, points let, number of acquires, number of losses, turnovers, takeaways, yards derived, yards let, quarterback ratings, momentum, margin of victories, margin of losses and modern performances. And these measures are applicable

However, Dr. Granat and Carlton Chin show how moral toughness, training, leadership, focus, errors, social relationships, attitude, and ability to get into the zone lend to success in ample games. And they have nonverbal data which support many of their theories.

“I enjoy applying my approaches to the world of sports,” remarked Carlton Chin.

The new book, published by World Audience, Inc., is named Who Will Win The Big Game? 50 Characteristics of Champions. This easygoing to scan steer identifies the key mental and nonverbal issues that coaches, fans, team owners, sports executives, athletes and bettors necessitate to be consider when evaluating two top teams or two top athletes that are meeting in an ample game.

For the complete text, please visit:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quant Facts -- Prediction Update

Our "quant facts" methods picked the World Series winner (San Francisco) after a lackluster performance in the earlier playoff rounds. Some sports fans noted that we "jumped the gun" a bit because our book's research is based on actual Championship games and series -- and not necessarily "the earlier playoff rounds."

Still, it was a fun and interesting experiment -- and our results are still a solid 17-9 in published "quant fact" predictions. The predictions are based on concepts of sports psychology that we quantify based on decades worth of data across the major US sports championships. Note that these approaches often pick teams and players that are underdogs, so that the 17-9 record is significant.

Our research shows that sports psychology concepts such as:
  • leadership,
  • coaching,
  • experience,
  • minimizing errors,
  • consistency, and
  • hard work (for example, less-glitzy skills such as defense) --
win championships. Please check out our book, "Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Approach."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Additional World Series article

If you are following the World Series, here are some articles based on a combination of quant research on concepts of sports psychology by Carlton Chin, of Adamah Capital, and Jay Granat, of (for our book, "Who Will Win the Big Game?").

SF fans may prefer the NY Times article -- since the article (which focuses on the numbers) leans to the Giants...

Texas fans may prefer this article, by my co-author, who goes for the softer "psychological" factors.

For purposes of this blog's records, the "official" prediction for the World Series will remain the Giants (the original pre-World Series-published article in the NY Times) -- based on our "quant facts."

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Championship Traits that Win World Series

Please check out our article on the World Series featuring the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants.


After analyzing the championship games or series of the N.F.L., N.B.A., Major League Baseball and N.H.L., and the major finals in golf and tennis, we identified 50 championships characteristics in our book, “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological and Mathematical Method.”
... these championship characteristics were identified by looking at World Series results, so let’s review the factors again in analyzing the World Series matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.
Click here for the article:

Carlton Chin, co-founder of Adamah Capital, an alternative investment manager specializing in managed futures (with George Parr) -- and Jay Granat, founder of, are authors of "Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method." They have previously written about the N.B.A. finals, the N.F.L. playoffs, and the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament for the New York Times.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Excerpt from Book Review

"The authors come from a point of view not normally addressed by, say, the general manager of a baseball team. In particular, the saber metric people have statistics and ideas that should help win a lot of baseball games during the regular season -- but do those same rules apply during the World Series? Apparently not! It is well known that not all wins are the same - the champions are not the team with the best regular season record - but the ones that win the important games. And it is this issue the authors address - specifically, what traits should one have to win championships. Indeed, this is a question more traditional statistics ignore and now it seems there is a way to address this important question."
"Who Will Win the Big Game?" by Jay Granat, PhD and Carlton Chin, CFA.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MLB Championship Series

Our predictions for baseball's Divisional Series brought the performance down to a still-respectable 16-9 record for major sporting events over the past year (for our book's research/blog). Not bad for sports psychology factors that are sometimes overlooked (and sometimes selects underdogs).

We used the following factors for our New York Times analysis:
  • Pitching leadership (top of the starting rotation),
  • Consistency factor (batting average),
  • Minimizing errors (defense).
Based on these factors, our quant facts predict that the Yankees will meet the Phillies in the World Series.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who Will Win the Baseball Playoffs?

Here's an excerpt and summary of some analysis I did for the New York Times:

After analyzing the championship games or series of the N.F.L., N.B.A., N.H.L. and Major League Baseball, and the major finals in golf and tennis, we identified 50 championships characteristics in our book, Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological and Mathematical Method. Here we use this research to take a look at the matchups for this year’s baseball playoffs.


Some of the sports psychology factors produced interesting results -- predicting underdogs to advance:
  • The article predicts that the Reds, with their offense, and namely their "consistent" offense (league-leading batting average, in particular) will beat the Phillies.
  • The sports psychology factors also point to Tampa Bay, the New York yankees, and Atlanta (another underdog) to win their series.
  • The article predicts that the Reds will meet the Yankees in the World Series.
More text:

Prediction Update

We'll have information soon on the baseball playoffs. First, we thought we would recap the performance of our blog's performance since we started posting results related to our book's research.

With the World Cup and the US Open (Men's Tennis), our results are now 15-6. It is noteworthy, that the sport psychology factors oftentimes "key in" on less popular statistics, so that underdogs are sometimes selected.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tennis US Open: Men's Final & Big Point Performance

Djokovic defeated Federer in a thrilling five-set semifinal match at the tennis US Open on Saturday (September 11, 2010). Some people said that Djokovic played the role of "spoiler" -- ruining our chances of seeing another Nadal-Federer final. Federer and Nadal are two of the all-time greats in tennis, and they have dominated men's tennis over the past few years, winning a combined 17 of 18 Grand Slam events from 2005-2009. The only final Nadal & Federer did not win over that time period was won by... Djokovic.

Nadal and Federer are truly two of the all-time greats. However, scanning the stats shows that Djokovic, at age 23, isn't far behind. His career stats are just a notch below the world's top two players.

Tennis Big Point Performance (BPP)

What does our Tennis "Big Point Performance" (BPP) say about today's finalists? Our book's tennis measure focuses on performance during big points (break points for and against). BPP has been a good predictor of the latter matches in major tennis tournaments and predicted Federer's loss in last year's final.

BPP gives a very slight edge to Djokovic in this year's US Open final. As you can see in the chart below, the semifinal match gives a tiny edge to Nadal, but using both the quarterfinals and semifinals gives the overall edge to Djokovic. Djokovic has been playing the big points consistently well.

Big Point Performance - Men's Finalists

Djokovic = + 7% and +1 in his five-set match over Federer in the Semi-Finals
Djokovic = +24% and +5 in QF match

Nadal = +13% and +2 in his semi-final match over Youzhny
Nadal = -56% and -2 in QF match

Other Factors
  • Head to head: Nadal holds the lead at 14-7, but Djokovic has prevailed in their last three meetings.
  • Surface: Djokovic has done particularly well on hard courts versus Nadal.
  • Nadal has had a great season, losing just four ATP matches in 2010 (compared to Federer's 10 and Djokovic's 12 losses this year).
Nadal is the "easy" pick, but we will go out on a limb and pick Djokovic to upset Nadal.
  • Our main "quant fact" predictor (BPP) points to Djokovic.
  • Djokovic also has other factors such as the playing surface and
  • current winning streak over Nadal.
Because Nadal has the bigger name, he is a heavy favorite at almost 3-1 odds. However, we think the match will be closer than that -- with a Djokovic upset a solid possibility.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Final

Our factors for the Semi-final match-ups were 1-1. Germany played a tough match but fell 1-0 to Spain. The Netherlands, with their "big game experience" were able to defeat Uruguay -- and move into the World Cup Finals against defending European Champion, Spain.

Congrats to both Spain and the Netherlands, as well as other teams that accomplished their goals.

Factors favoring Spain
  • Higher-rated team
  • Defense: has won several tight World Cup games by the score of 1-0. Has not given up a goal in the knock-out rounds, winning three consecutive shut-outs.
  • Big game experience: while Spain has not made it to the World Cup Final Four recently, they are the defending European Champions, so they DO have some big game experience.
Factors favoring the Netherlands
  • Big game experience: the Netherlands has made it to the World Cup Final Four more recently.
  • Offense: the Netherlands have scored 2 or more goals in each of their knock-out round games. They also scored 5 goals in their 3 round-robin games (outscoring their opponents 5-1). Their 12 goals make them second only to Germany in the 2010 World Cup.

Who Will Win the Big Game?

Our factors lean towards Spain very slightly. This should be a good, tight, game. Note, however, in such a low-scoring sport, and with only one game for the championship, anything could happen.

Book: Who Will Win the Big Game?

Check out our book "Who Will Win the Big Game?" -- on analytics applied to concepts of sport psychology.

Carlton J. Chin, CFA, is an MIT-trained engineer who likes to apply math and statistics to sports and the financial markets. Dr. Jay Granat is a psychotherapist who has worked with Olympic athletes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup tidbits

We thought we would apply some of our same analysis for the World Cup. Here are some tidbits for this year's World Cup Final Four:
  • Over the past three World Cups (WC), Germany has reached two WC Final Fours.
  • The Netherlands has reached one Final Four.
  • Of the Final Four, Spain is rated as the best team.
Across all the major sports we studied, "Big Game" experience has proven to be more important than expected, and this factor alone can often predict the winners of championships. Congratulations to each of the Final Four participants: and GO Germany!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who Will Win? Predictions update

The NHL & NBA Finals are over. We had predicted that the Lakers would win, based on championship characteristics and "quant facts" (backed up by a statistical analysis of 30 years of data) such as superstar presence and coaching greatness. It was a great series, and the Lakers prevailed in a difficult seven games.

On the other hand, the statistical data and championship factors leaned towards the underdog Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals. This prediction was based on their goal tending and coach (who was successful in winning in his only previous Stanley Cup Finals appearance).

This brings the predictions, based on the Championship Characteristics in our book, "Who Will Win the Big Game? A Mathematical and Psychological Method" to 14-5.

Note that we sometimes select surprising underdogs based on these "winning factors" -- which are related to concepts of sports psychology such as minimizing errors (and not necessarily the general consensus as to who the better team is...).

Please check out this article that was picked up by EzineArticles, for more information.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NBA Finals Analysis -- in NY Times

This year’s N.B.A. finals present an interesting case. The two leadership factors point to the Lakers (coaching and star leadership), but the statistical factors (defense and consistency) favor the Celtics. Note, however, that the leadership factors have been the stronger factors over the years.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NBA Finals -- Factors Favor Lakers Slightly

More detailed info will be available shortly...


This year’s N.B.A. Final presents an interesting dilemma. The two leadership factors point to the Lakers (coaching and star leadership), but the other two factors (defense and consistency) favor the Celtics. Note, however, that the leadership factors have been the stronger factors over the years. In particular, the past twenty years have seen stars like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan lead their teams to championships at a rate of 70% (14-6).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals - Flyers vs. Black Hawks

Excerpts from some of our research were picked up by

The Chicago Black Hawks and Philadelphia Flyers are set to face off in the Finals of the NHL Stanley Cup. What do the sports marketplace indicators say? And are there other indicators or factors we can consider? We looked into some of the key championship factors researched in the book: "Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method."


Leadership and This Year's Finalists
Over the past 30 years, the team with the better offensive star, measured by points scored, has gone 19-11 (63.3%) in Stanley Cup Finals. This factor favors the Black Hawks, and Patrick Kane (88 points) over the Flyers and Mike Richards (62 points).
We note, however, that generally, during hard-checking and physical playoff hockey, defense and goalies who are “in the zone” are major determinants of the eventual champions. The exception to the rule is when you have a standout offensive leader like Wayne Gretzky. “The Great One” ushered in a period of high-powered NHL scoring from the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s. During this time, offensive leaders were more easily able to “lead’ and “will” their way to championships. Gretzky led his Edmonton Oilers to several Stanley Cups, and then Mario Lemieux did the same for his Pittsburgh Penguins.
In less “high-powered” offensive times, defense and a good goalie have been key to winning the Stanley Cup. Over the past 30 years, teams with the better goalie save percentage have gone 18-11 (62.2%). Over recent years, since the high-scoring period of the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s, teams with the better save percentage have gone:
  • 3-0 over the last 4 years (teams had the same save percentage one year),
  • 6-1 over the last 8 years,
  • and 13-4 over the last 18 years!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NHL Stanley Cup Finals

Although the Chicago Black Hawks are almost 2.5-1 favorites, our factors show that the Flyers might make more noise than expected. More info coming soon...

Also -- please visit our blog for information on the NBA Finals once the finalists are determined.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sports Books remain solid sellers

Our sports book remains a solid seller, with good reviews:
Stay-tuned for our analysis of the NBA and NHL finals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

DWTS - Top Five Predictions

Similar to our "American Idol" predictions, here are the results of our poll for "Dancing With The Stars."

1. Nicole & Derek
2. Evan & Anna
T3. Erin & Max
T3. Ochocinco & Cheryl
5. Nicey & Louis

American Idol -- revisited

Our previous pseudo-scientific poll did pretty well until Sibhon's surprising ouster... Up until that point, our list predicted the bottom three correctly. Here is an updated list as of May 10, 2010.

  1. Crystal Bowersox
  2. Lee Dewyze
  3. Big Mike
  4. Casey James

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pseudo-Scientific Prediction for American Idol

In the past, we've taken a poll from some friends and have done well at predicting the winners of shows like American Idol or dancing shows. Here are our rankings for American Idol as of 4/12/10.

1. Bowersox
2. Siobhan
3. Casey James
4. Lee Dewyze
T5. Aaron Kelly
T5. Michael Lynche
7. Katie
8. Andrew Garcia
9. Tim Urban

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sports Investing Book # 1

This interesting book "Sports Investing" -- applies concepts of contrarian investing to the sports marketplace. The book has been holding the # 1 spot in its Amazon "Sports" category.

The academic viewpoint will interest everyone from the casual sports bettor trying to improve results - to the professional sports gambler looking for additional angles - to the Wall Street trader researching additional markets to trade.

Public sentiment and betting activity cause the sports marketplace to act irrationally, in a way which can be measured and exploited. The massive flow of public wagers force betting lines to fluctuate like an inefficient market. Point spreads, betting line movement, public betting percentages, money management, statistical analysis, and other important topics are studied. The implementation of contrarian investing – and theories such as "Betting against the Public" and "Smart Money" are developed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Final Four Recap, Predictions & Book

Research related to our book picked Duke to win the National Championship, running our record to 13-4 for predictions posted on our blog.

Please check out our book, by clicking here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Built to Win:Duke

In case you wanted to "read between" the lines and save some reading, our analysis for the Final Four pointed to Duke. Please read the previous post for more details.

Here's the NY Times article:

Friday, April 2, 2010

March Madness: Final Four

Our analysis for the Final Four was picked up by the NY Times.

Below is an excerpt; click here for the entire article:

Over the past 25 tournaments, 14 of 25 champions have had Final Four experience from the previous three years. This factor favors Michigan State, the only remaining team that has a recent Final Four appearance (2009). Big game experience has proven to be one of the strongest and most consistent championship characteristics in every sport we have studied. Experience is related to confidence, focus, successfully managing big moments and relaxed aggression. On average, teams and athletes that have more big game experience have won about 70 percent of championship games.
Coaching leadership is also a key ingredient. This factor favors Duke and Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 10-7 record once he reaches Final Four. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has been to five previous Final Fours, but he is only 3-4 in the national semifinals and finals, winning one championship. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins lost his only Final Four game, while Butler Coach Brad Stevens is in his first national semifinal.
Leadership on the court is also important. Over the past 25 years, teams with more All-Americans have gone 11-7 in championship games. This factor points to Duke and West Virginia, each with one All-American, as opposed to Michigan State and Butler, with none.....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MLB: Springing into the Regular Season

by Carlton Chin and Don LaFronz
Spring training is in full swing and your team is red hot. Or maybe your team is stinking. But who cares? It's "just" spring training, right? Do wins and losses during spring training mean anything at all? We took a look at how spring training can potentially be an indication of how teams might perform during the regular season.

Data shows that spring training can be a leading indicator for regular season performance. In fact, some big surprises are sometimes predicted by spring training performance. If you are looking for undervalued and overvalued teams -- spring training can give you this edge, especially early in the season.

Spring Training Correlation to Regular Season

Lots of players are trying new things out. Split squads often represent teams, so can the games be meaningful? Players are just loosening up. Established teams have nothing to prove while less-proven teams are looking forward to the freshness and hope of a new spring. We actually expected little or no correlation between spring training and regular season records.

We took a look at results over the past seven years, or data from 2003-2009, and found that spring training records are somewhat correlated to the regular season. The actual statistical correlation is 0.21, but because this correlation statistic means little to most people, we tried to come up with meaningful ways to present the results.

Using the best and worst five teams in spring training going back to 2003, we looked at how these specific sets of teams performed. Teams that played well in spring training were three times as likely to make the playoffs as teams that played poorly (37.1% versus 11.4%). We also show the average winning percentage during the regular season for the best and worst-performing spring training teams.

Regular Season Performance of Best and Worst Spring Training Teams (2003-2009)
Playoff ProbabilityAverage Regular Season Winning %
Top Five Teams in Spring Training37.1%.525
Worst Five Teams in Spring Training11.4%.482

Additional Notes on Results
  • The results have been even more striking over the past three season, with the top five spring training teams playing .545 ball, with 47% of these teams making the playoffs.
  • Spring training results can also flag some potential surprises such as Tampa Bay's 2008 season, where they played .599 ball to make the playoffs following a .407 regular season in 2007. Tampa Bay had a 2008 spring training winning percentage of .731!
  • If your team struggles during spring training, don't worry: even the worst teams made the playoffs at an 11.4% rate.
Spring training is not as meaningless as some fans think. Teams can use spring training as a springboard into the regular season. Teams may get into the habit of winning or losing. They might gain confidence - or lose confidence - as the season is set to start.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March Madness and Championship Characteristics

We will revisit the factors listed below as the NCAA Tournament gets down to the Final Four. We've done research on the key factors related to our book's "Championship Characteristics" and have shown them to be relevant for March Madness:
  • Big Game Experience
  • Leadership -- on the court
  • Leadership -- coaching
  • Consistency factor -- three-point shooting percentage.
All of these factors have proven to be good predictors and indicators of which teams will succeed in the NCAA Tournament. For now, we cross-referenced teams with some of these factors -- with the AP Rankings -- and this "screen" kicks out the following teams that might advance far in the tournament (not in any particular order):
  • Michigan State
  • Villanova
  • Kansas
  • Ohio State
  • Georgetown
Enjoy the Madness!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Olympic Recap and Home Field Advantage

The Canadian Olympic team capped off a terrific Winter Olympics by winning the Olympic Gold medals in ice hockey -- both on the men's and women's side. The Canadian team set a new record for most gold medals at a Winter Olympics, with fourteen. The US men's hockey team surprised many by taking the Canadians to overtime in the Gold medal game.

Over the past few weeks, several of our friends, associates, and media contacts discussed "home field advantage" with us. For instance:
  • Both the 1960 and 1980 US Olympic Gold medals in ice hockey were won in the US.
  • Italy had great medal results when they hosted the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
  • Some researchers predict medal counts for the Olympics before each Olympic games begin. In addition to looking at population, demographics, wealth, etc. -- a key factor is the actual host country!
  • Home field advantage is well-documented across all of the major sports, with individual performances also impacted by this result. In baseball, players bat about 10 points higher at home than on the road, on average.
  • The Canadian Olympic team highlighted the home field advantage by winning a record 14 gold medals at a Winter Olympics.
Home field advantage is definitely a key factor in sport psychology. Big games can magnify this factor -- and the Olympics, with national pride, and a country in unison -- can multiply this impact even more.

The predictions on this, our book's blog, continue to run up good results, with results now totaling 12-4.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game

Some readers asked us about today's Gold Medal match-up between the US and Canada ice hockey teams. Based on a similar Monte Carlo approach that we used for the NY Times article, Canada is a heavy favorite. On average, Canada would beat the US team by an average of about 1.4 goals and would win around 70% of the games played.

There appears to be value on Canada because the US defeated Canada earlier in the tournament (despite getting outshot badly) -- as well as other recent game results (for example, the final score of Canada's semi-final game was closer than the actual game).

One big sport psychology factor on the US side is Ryan Miller, a hot goalie who is "in the zone" and is certainly playing with great focus!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1980 Miracle on Ice: Quantifying Sport Psychology

The New York Times published an abridged version of our white paper on the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Please see below for the article and some text. Our white paper goes into more specifics of concepts of sport psychology, reviews specific examples of team chemistry and motivation -- and shows more results / details about our Monte Carlo simulations.

Some text from the article:

Today is the 30th anniversary of “The Miracle on Ice,” the stunning victory of the United States men’s hockey team over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. The young American team of amateurs went on to win the gold medal against Finland two days later.
But how big an upset was it? Using quantitative methods and Monte Carlo simulations, we studied the magnitude of the 1980 victory. Sport psychology played a big role in the Americans winning the gold medal and helped bridged the gap from 1,000-to-1 odds, down to a more manageable level of a 17-1 long-shot.
Brooks used just about every trick in the sport psychology book.
He graduated from college with a degree in psychology, and was a successful college coach at University of Minnesota, winning three championships in four finals appearances.
Brooks gave each prospect a psychology test to help him select a certain type of player.
Brooks said, "I'm not looking for the best players... I'm looking for the right players."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beauty of Quantification

Recently, I was corresponding with an acquaintance. Some people are surprised that I enjoy quantifying so many different things -- ranging from sports to financial markets. I particularly like applying probability and statistics to quantify the impact of sport psychology. These factors are normally "intangibles" -- but it is interesting to measure them because they are certainly material.

Here is a link to Carl Sagan's chapter, "The Beauty and Power of Quantification" (from his book, "Billions and Billions").

Carl Sagan often talks about science, but around page 37, he makes an interesting analogy to sports and hunting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cost of Olympic Gold Medal

Fun article on the value of the Olympic Gold Medal

Gold Medal Trivia Question: Which of the following is/are made out of solid gold?

a) Olympic Gold Medal

b) Nobel Prize Gold Medal

c) Congressional Gold Medal

(The answer is at the end of this post.)

What is the value of Olympic gold?

(Please click on the link)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sport Psychology Quant Facts

We enjoy studying principles of sport psychology and analyzing how we can help athletes and teams improve. We use mathematics and quantitative methods to analyze the impact of these factors.

In particular, we are interested in concepts of sport psychology that are more-readily taught, practiced, and coached. Our research has shown that many of these factors -- as well as many of the fundamentals of each particular sport -- are key championship characteristics.

This has been a common theme across all of the sports we have studied.

Some of our research has been used to predict winners in championship matches. Please let us know if you have any interesting ideas for the Olympics or March Madness. Stay-tuned for an interesting article on the Olympics.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Super Bowl Recap

Thanks for the emails and correspondence from readers who found our blog from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times articles. People seemed to enjoy our article on the Super Bowl Square Pools in the NY Times' Super Bowl Sunday spread:

as well as our Super Bowl information:

One of our friends pointed out that including the College Football title game (1-0) and Australian Open (9-4), predictions on our blog have gone a combined 11-4. Not that we're counting (well, I guess we are...).

Carlton Chin and Jay Granat study principles of sport psychology and are particularly interested in key factors that can help teams and athletes improve -- and that are more easily coached and practiced.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super Bowl Square Pool Probabilities

We thought it would be fun to look at the chances of winning the Super Bowl Square Pools. Special thanks go to a good friend, Don LaFronz, who thought of the idea and helped devise the methodology.

The New York Times published the probabilities we worked up in their Super Bowl Sunday spread -- as well as online. Here's a link to the online article.

Carlton Chin, a fund manager and MIT graduate, and Jay Granat, psychotherapist, are authors of “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method.”
Don LaFronz, a financial advisor, originated the idea and helped devise the methodology.

Super Bowl Quant Facts

These stats are not related to sport psychology, but with the "biggest of the big games" coming up tomorrow, we thought you might find some of these tidbits interesting:

Will the Game be Close?

We've been spoiled lately, because many of the recent Super Bowls have been close and exciting games.
  • 4 of the last 6 games have been decided by 4 points or less, and
  • 5 of the last 8 games have been decided by 4 points or less.
And, due to the nature of the game (Conference Champions are competing!), many fans expect close games. However, do you remember the blowouts we've had in the past? Let's take a look at what the past Super Bowl numbers say:
  • About two-thirds of Super Bowls are decided by 10 points or more, and
  • About 50% of the games have been decided by 14 points or more.
These Offenses are Strong: How Many Points Might be Scored?

At first glance, the expected total points scored in this game seemed high, but when we looked at recent Super Bowl total scores, we thought otherwise. Here's a look at the average total points scored in the Super Bowl, by half, and in total. We looked at three sets of games: every Super Bowl, games since 1983 and games since 1994 (the years listed in the charts are based on the regular season; this includes every Super Bowl through Feb. 2009).

1st Half

2nd Half


All Super Bowls












How do Underdogs perform in the Super Bowl?

Recent underdogs have performed well in the Super Bowl:
  • 2-0 in the last two Super Bowls,
  • 6-2 in the last 8 Super Bowls, and
  • 8-4 in the last 12 Super Bowls.
However, if we look at every Super Bowl played, the underdogs are:
  • 19-21-3 in forty-three Super Bowl games. Slightly subpar, with 3 pushes.
  • When the point spread is 5 points or less (like this year), the underdog is 8-8.

Who Will Win the Super Bowl? PART 2 (2010)

Some of our readers asked us to be more definitive about who we really like in the Super Bowl. In our previous post on this topic, we had 3 factors in favor of the Saints (leadership/errors, confidence, and consistency-rushing game), and 2 factors in favor of the Colts (experience and consistency-defense).

If we use some additional factors from our research, that also are correlated with winning the Super Bowl, in total, we have 6 "sport psychology stat" factors favoring the Saints, and 3 favoring the Colts.
  • Sacks - a defensive category that is close, but favors the Saints.
  • Takeaway-Giveaways - the Saints have been strong in this category this season.
  • Defense (Fewer Passing Yards / Attempt) - a defensive category that favors the Colts.
  • Fewer Fumbles - weirdly enough, this is a negative indicator. Some analysts have said that fumbles are "luck of the draw," more of a random event, as opposed to QB interceptions, that are an important part of a QB's skill set. Perhaps this leads to teams focusing on holding on to the ball -- but net-net -- this factor favors the Saints.
Thus, we now have 6 factors favoring the Saints, and 3 factors favoring the Colts

Jay Granat, founder of, and Carlton Chin study and quantify championship characteristics related to sport psychology. We are particularly interested in qualities that are more readily coached, taught, and practiced.

Who Will Win the Super Bowl? A Look at Sport Psychology & Stats (2010)

Based on research from the book, “Who Will Win the Big Game,” nineteen factors were studied that might help predict the winner of the Super Bowl. The results are based on every Super Bowl from Super Bowl I in January 1967 to Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, or forty-three games. The authors have been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and CNN Radio.
With an eye towards key concepts of sport psychology, as well as statistical analysis that attempts to identify factors that are as independent from one another as possible, five key statistical factors were identified. These statistics are related to principles of sport psychology such as experience, leadership, error control, and consistency. So important are these concepts to winning championships that they have proven to be common themes across all sports.
The team with more Super Bowl experience, as measured by Super Bowl appearances over the past three years, has won 63.6% of the Super Bowls. Although this may seem obvious, it's interesting to put a number on this concept. In fact, the 63.6% success rate of “Big Game Experience” in the NFL underperforms that of other sports partly because the Buffalo Bills had difficulties, going winless in four straight Super Bowl appearances from 1991 to 1994.
With a Super Bowl appearance in 2007, the Colts pick up experience points. Some people favor the Colts mainly due to this one key factor.
Most sports fans believe that "defense wins championships." Research shows that defense is, indeed, a crucial ingredient to winning the Super Bowl. A large majority of Super Bowls (68.3%) has been won by the team with the better defense, measured by points against. The Colts’ defense ranked number 8 this year, while the Saints’ defense was ranked number 20.
Quarterbacks, as the teams’ offensive leaders, are major factors in determining championships, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. Quarterback interceptions during the regular season are great predictors of Super Bowl success, but quarterback rating is not. Champions need high-level performance, but with few errors and mistakes. The team with fewer interceptions during the regular season has won 59% of the Super Bowls. This factor favors the Saints and their 12 interceptions, compared to the Colts’ 19 interceptions.
Interestingly, rushing yards per rush was the most important offensive indicator studied. The team with a better running game, as measured by rushing yards per rush, has won 59.5% of the Super Bowls. The Saints averaged 4.5 yards per rush this season, compared to 3.5 for the Colts.
The team that has achieved more double-digit wins during the regular season and including the playoffs has gone on to win 59.0% of Super Bowls. This category favors the Saints, with 10 double-digit wins, compared to 8 for the Colts. The Saints should be very confident as they prepare for the Super Bowl.
Research has shown that consistency measures are often more important to winning championships than the more exciting events that each particular sport has to offer. For example, defense and rushing yards/rush are more consistent parts of the game, as opposed to long TD passes and glitzy quarterback ratings.

Super Bowl Championship Characteristics
Factor Winning %
Defense – Points Against per Game (Rank)
19.2 (8)
21.3 (20)
Big Game Experience
2007 Super Bowl Appearance
Offense – Rushing Yards per Rush (Rank)
3.5 (30)
4.5 (7)
Fewer Interceptions
Double-Digit Wins
These are the five most important characteristics identified by an analysis of psychological and mathematical factors. Factor Winning % is that factor’s success at predicting the Super Bowl winner. Results are based on 43 Super Bowls, going back to Super Bowl I.
Many people favor the Colts in this year’s Super Bowl. Fans remember recent performance, and in particular, the Conference Championship games. However, data shows that this factor, as measured by margin of victory, in the Conference Championships, has very little correlation with winning the Super Bowl.
So who will win the big game? Will it be the Colts with their playoff experience and superior defense? Or will it be the Saints with their leadership, consistent running game, and confidence? In this article, we highlighted five factors - three of which favor the Saints. However, two of the strongest factors favor the Colts. PART 2 of this article has been posted.
Enjoy the big game!