Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pujols: One of the Best (Performances & Batters)

Albert Pujols has been big news in the 2011 World Series.  AND -- we are glad that Game 3's performance will go down in baseball history as one of the great World Series' performances in baseball history.  Pujols went with 5-for-6 with 3 HRs.

Here's a quick recap of the highlights:
  • Only player ever to compile 14 total bases in a World Series game.
  • 6 RBIs tied a World Series single-game record (Bobby Richardson, 1960; Hideki Matsui 2009)
  • 5 hits ties a record of 5 hits in a World Series game with Paul Molitor.
  • 4 runs scored.
  • 3 HRs (tying Babe Ruth & Reggie Jackson's single-game record).
  • St. Louis goes up 2-1 in the World Series, winning 16-7.
Below is a great article putting Pujol's performance in perspective, relative to other great World Series single-game batting achievements.

We are particularly excited about Albert Pujols gaining some recognition because in our book, "Baseball + Numbers = Fun & Games (Math & Ratings for Young Fans)" by Carlton Chin and Julia Chin (see below), my daughter and I rank Pujols amongst the all-time great baseball hitters.  Our book introduces baseball and math for young fans -- and includes several lists that may interest fans of all ages (all-time great baseball teams and batters).

We normalized statistics (including, for instance: league averages, peak years, era & level of competition), and ranked Albert Pujols as one of the best hitters in baseball history.  Our overall top 3 hitters:

  1. Ted Williams
  2. Albert Pujols
  3. Babe Ruth

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Will Win the 2011 World Series? (Analysis for the NY Times)

Here is some analysis we did on the World Series for the NY Times:

... Last year these factors correctly predicted that the San Francisco Giants would beat the Texas Rangers. So how do the Cardinals and Rangers fare in analyzing their championship characteristics?

Pitching Leadership

In baseball, top starting pitchers are a good indicator of success during baseball’s playoff series. In particular, the finalist with the better top of the rotation, measured by total wins by its top two pitchers, has won 70 percent of the World Series over the past 22 years (not including 1994, when there was no postseason).  

Read more here: 

Hindsight = 20/20: The 2011 Dallas Cowboys

The 2011 Dallas Cowboys stand at 2-3 -- but remain a team to be reckoned with.  The Cowboys have had a tough schedule, playing the likes of the Jets, Patriots & Lions.  The Cowboys suffered three very difficult fourth-quarter losses to these teams, by a combined 11 points.  Without the three losses, fans and the media wouldn't be hounding Tony Romo & the Cowboys...  Let's rewind and take a look at the Cowboys' already-turbulent season (and we have just completed Week 6)!

Tough Loss #1 (NY Jets)

In Week 1, the Cowboys lost a tough game, as reported by the Washington Post, with this blazing headline "Tony Romo turnovers doom Dallas Cowboys in loss to New York Jets" --

After jumping out to an early lead against Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, the Dallas Cowboys failed to hold on to a 14-point fourth quarter advantage, ultimately conceding a Nick Folk 50-yard field goal that secured the Jets’ winning margin. 
Wide receiver Plaxico Burress had a touchdown catch as the Jets overcame a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 27-24

Read more here:

Tough Loss #2 (Detroit Lions)

A few weeks later, after beating San Francisco and Washington (also in close games), Dallas lost a heart-breaker to up-and-coming Detroit -- after holding a 27-3 third quarter lead.  ESPN reports:
the Lions provided further proof they're a legitimate contender by turning a 24-point, third-quarter deficit into a 34-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
 Detroit's defense started the rally with interceptions returned for touchdowns on consecutive drives, then Stafford and Calvin Johnson took over from there, hooking up for a pair of touchdowns in the final period, including a 2-yarder for the winning points with 1:39 left.

The "interceptions returned for touchdowns" on consecutive drives did not do much for Tony Romo's reputation.  Fans complained about the interceptions and play-calling.  The bad taste of another bitter loss was particularly bad for the continued hammering of Romo and the Cowboys (in the press and otherwise), with ESPN reporting:

Tony Romo and the Cowboys (2-2) continued to show there's no lead and no deficit too big for them. They blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead for the first time in franchise history in the opener, and this was their largest lead blown in a loss in franchise history. 


On Tony Romo and Volatility

After the loss to Detroit, fans and writers said that Tony Romo was on the "hot seat" -- and in some cases, wanted him benched.  Lest we forget, Romo remains one of the best QBs in NFL history, with the fifth-best career quarterback rating in NFL history.

While it is true that Romo and the Cowboys have suffered more than a few painful losses (including playoff losses), this may be  a combination of bad luck and "volatility" (importance of key plays) -- being magnified by a huge fan base (focusing on the negative, and airing out their feelings).  A cursory look at Romo's stats does not show systematic under-performance during the fourth quarter.

In the game of backgammon, experts often talk about "volatility," key points in the game, and the use of the doubling cube to exploit the situation.  Similarly, in the financial markets, high volatility implies that prices are likely to change considerably.  In football, concepts of volatility can be combined with game theory to help maximize in-game results for the team.

Tough Loss #3: New England Patriots

Even with these difficult losses coming into this past weekend, Dallas is considered to be one of the better NFL teams.  And they proved their mettle, with a great showing against the Patriots.  The Cowboys led the Patriots 16-13 with 3:36 left in the game.  This is when controversy arose:

With the lead and just 3:36 left to go, the Cowboys ran the ball three times -- and went three-and-out, with a penalty, as follows:

  • First and 10 at the Dallas 28 (3:36): run up the middle for -2
  • Second and 12 at the Dallas 26 (2:52): run right tackle for -1
  • Timeout #1 by NE at 2:47
  • Third and 13 at Dallas 25 (2:47): penalty on Dallas (False start)
  • Third and 18 at Dallas 20 (2:47): run right tackle for 8 yards.
Dallas then had to punt and the rest is history, being repeated.  Tom Brady led his Patriots down the field for a winning touchdown.  

Some fans think that the Cowboys played things too safe -- and believe the Cowboys should have passed the ball -- and potentially increasing their chances for a first down.  Here is one example, by an author we highly respect:  


Many of us love sports because drama often plays out and controversies often arise.  Reading so many articles about Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys over the past few months made us think that, "Hindsight is 20/20..."

Dallas is in the bittersweet position of having a large following.  When things go badly, there are many detractors and naysayers.  On the other hand, there is the saying, "Any love is better than no love."

Do we think the Cowboys should have passed the ball?  Using concepts of game theory and volatility, we do not believe that there is any set right or wrong answer for this specific situation.  A simple model of game theory says that the proper strategy is to mix things up.  

Based on this model, taking the riskier path MAY have been a decent path.  However, based on the difficult losses earlier in the season, the risk/reward could have been devastating for an already wounded Romo psyche.  Based on this back-of-the-envelope analysis, we like the decision to run -- and wished, for the Cowboys' sake, that they got a first down -- or that the defense held.

In the end, teams need to execute: in this case, the Dallas offense didn't get the first down with the three rushes -- and the defense couldn't stop Tom Brady's Patriots.  In psychology, people often focus on the negative.  Fans remember losses -- and especially painful losses -- more deeply.


The Cowboys remain in the middle of a tight NFC East race.  The division is one of the strongest in the NFL, with the Eagles (formerly the Dream Team!) in the cellar.  It is also notable that the current leaders of the division, the NY Giants, have one of the toughest schedules in the league for the remainder of the season.  In addition to their strong NFC East divisional rivals, the Giants will face New England, the Jets, New Orleans and Green Bay during the playoff stretch.

Dallas does not have a schedule as difficult as the Giants -- but they will need to execute, be careful of volatility, and use these tough losses as a "stepping stone" rather than as a distraction.


Carlton Chin, CFA, a fund manager and MIT graduate, and Jay Granat, PhD, a psychotherapist, study and quantify concepts of sports analytics and sports psychology that can help teams and sports organizations improve results.  Our work has been featured in the New York Times and Wall St. Journal.  We would like to work with your team or organization -- and welcome research projects related to sports analytics and / or sports psychology.  Recent work has involved the development of computer game simulators that can be used to study game situations and strategies in baseball and football.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quant Facts now 25-14

With the St. Louis Cardinals advancing to the 2011 World Series, the "Quant Facts" from our "book's blog's official" predictions are now 25-14 (64%).  These predictions are based on research from our book, "Who Will Win the Big Game?"  Our quant fact predictions analyze angles related to sport psychology -- and are often overlooked by many sports analysts; the quant facts regularly predict surprises and underdogs to win.  Stay tuned for our analysis on the World Series.

Teams, coaches, athletes, and sports organizations may be interested in more in-depth analytical research that range from quantitative analytics of sports statistics and sport psychology -- to sports analytics based on our development and use of game simulators for major sports such as baseball and football.  A simple version of our baseball simulator was developed for our book, "Baseball + Numbers."  Please contact us for more information.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

NL Championship Series

The St. Louis Cardinals stunned the Philadelphia Phillies and all of their "Phans" -- but on closer inspection of the statistics, the Cardinals are very strong in one of the key sports psychology categories we study: consistency.

In baseball, one measure of consistency is the batting average.  A high team batting average means longer rallies -- and indeed, St. Louis led the National League in runs scored this season.  The Cardinals will face the Milwaukee Brewers, led by the dynamic duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder (who defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks).

What do the "quant facts" say about the 2011 NL Championship?  Here is a quick look at some of the factors related to sports psychology from our book, "Who Will Win the Big Game?"  (A Psychological and Mathematical Method).

  • Pitching Leadership: Favors Milwaukee, with aces Gallardo & Greinke.  
  • Focus, Defense & Fielding: Both teams were equally mediocre on the field this year.
  • Consistency: This factor -- based on "batting average rank" points to the Cardinals in a big way.  The Cardinals led the NL with a .273 team batting average.  The Brewers were a respectable third in the NL, but a distant third at .261.  
  • Big Game Experience: Neither team reached the World Series over the past three years (so this is neutral based on how we measured this category).  We do note, however, that the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006.
Overall, the factors lean to the Cardinals with their big team batting average.  This will count for our book's blog's "official" quant fact predictions.


With the baseball playoffs in full force, there has been some interest in my new baseball book.  The book is meant to teach math to younger fans, but includes rankings of batters and greatest teams that some may like.  Please check it out:

Friday, October 7, 2011

AL Championship Series

The Detroit Tigers surprised the New York Yankees and will be facing the Texas Rangers (who defeated the Tampa Bay Rays) for the American League Championship.  Who do we think will win the 2011 AL Championship?

Let's take a look at some of the quant factors from our book, "Who Will Win the Big Game?"  (A Psychological and Mathematical Method).

  • Pitching Leadership: Favors Detroit.  Verlander had a huge season and it will be interesting to see how far he can carry the Tigers.
  • Focus, Defense & Fielding: Also favors Detroit.
  • Consistency: This factor -- based on "batting average rank" favors Texas.  This factor has one of the highest relationships to winning the World Series.
  • Big Game Experience: Favors Texas because Texas reached the World Series recently.
Overall, the factors are even (so this will not count as an "official" quant fact prediction).  However, Detroit has a bigger edge in pitching leadership and focus/fielding -- so the quant facts lean to Detroit slightly.

With the baseball playoffs in full force, there has been some interest in my new baseball book.  The book is meant to teach math to younger fans, but includes rankings of batters and greatest teams that some may like.  Please check it out: