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!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Press

Thanks to the popularity of the NFL Playoffs, our book's research has received some publicity. Below is a round-up of some of the press. Soon, we'll be coming out with a more complete Super Bowl report, right here on our blog.

Media and Press

Other Interviews / Mentions
CNN Radio, Sirius Radio

SNY (Sports New York) Blog Post on Book