I'm watching the Finals Game 4 postgame coverage on ESPN tonight, and it's clear at some point that the desk of Wilbon, Magic, etc, is wrapping up and they are about to send it back to the studio. As the conversation ends, Stuart Scott gets ready to do the send off. He looks at the camera like he has something terribly important to say, a real zinger.

He says, "Game 5 upcoming is crucial...in NBA playoffs history when the series is tied 2-2, the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series [I]73% of the time[/I]"

My first thought: OK, interesting, it [I]is[/I] important to win Game 5!

Wait a minute.

Let's analyze this. All else being equal, a team should have a 50% chance to win each game. Stuart in his statistic did not mention home court advantage, momentum, or team skill, so let's work within the same context of the stated 73% statistic. A 50% chance to win each game is roughly accurate.

[I]If a team wins Game 5[/I], they must then win 1 of the remaining games to win the series. However, Game 6 and Game 7 both carry roughly a 50% chance of a loss for the team that won Game 5. Since we are not considering momentum or home court (as per Stuart), Games 6 and 7 are independent probabilities.

Therefore, the chance that the team who won Game 5 will then go on the lose the next two is approximately: (1/2) * (1/2) = 1/4, or .25, or 25%.

Let's fit this back to what Stuart said. He stated proudly that Game 5 was critical because the winner would win the series 73% of the time, [U]or in other words lose the series [I]27% percent of the time[/I][/U]. When looking at the raw probabilities, this actually means that [B]if you win Game 5 you are slightly mathematically worse off than if the remaining games were played by [U]chance alone[/U].[/B]

Yes, I get that 73% is probably within the standard error for the sample size, and the 73% figure proudly quoted by Stuart Scott can roughly translate to: the average mathematical odds prevail - [B]there is no clear advantage to winning Game 5 other than the win itself[/B].

But then, why even make a point of this, ESPN? Why make it seem like you are revealing some huge mathematical wormhole that applies to the winner of Game 5? I just can't believe that people watch this crap religiously. What's sad is that a lot of Dallas and Heat fans heard that and went to bed tonight dreaming of the wonders that their team will reap if they can manage to win the magical Game 5. It truly is the dumbing down of America when our leading sports channel can freely apply any sort of misleading statistics to any story they'd like, and nobody gets put off by it.

You are a little confused here. There are two ways to look at probability... Classical approach and relative frequency approach. You are observing that each outcome of the game divided by the total number of possible outcomes equals 50%. This is the classical approach.

That is not what Stuart Scott is talking about. He is looking at historical data and taking number of successes divided by total number of trials... Relative frequency approach. In other words he is looking in the past and dividing the number of teams that won game five and then went on to win the series by the total number of teams that won game five. You cant use classical approach here. It only works when all the possible outcomes are equally likely, like flipping a coin or rolling a die. The two possible outcomes of a basketball game are not equally likely outcomes because there are many factors as you mentioned... Skill of the players and coaches, home court advantage,injuries, etc... You have to use relative frequancy here.

Last edited by ten-not-done; 06-08-2011 at 04:27 AM.

50-50 would only apply to things like coin tosses, where the previous toss does not affect the current toss.

There are hundreds (?) of factors in a basketball game that would have to be accounted for, if its even possible to get a complete list. Even something as trivial as environment controls in the building and how they affect your star player.

[QUOTE=quantum;4043711]50-50 would only apply to things like coin tosses, where the previous toss does not affect the current toss.

There are hundreds (?) of factors in a basketball game that would have to be accounted for, if its even possible to get a complete list. Even something as trivial as environment controls in the building and how they affect your star player.[/QUOTE]

thanks, but I was just referencing an old Steve Martin bit. poorly.

[QUOTE=Astoria;4043599]I'm watching the Finals Game 4 postgame coverage on ESPN tonight, and it's clear at some point that the desk of Wilbon, Magic, etc, is wrapping up and they are about to send it back to the studio. As the conversation ends, Stuart Scott gets ready to do the send off. He looks at the camera like he has something terribly important to say, a real zinger.

He says, "Game 5 upcoming is crucial...in NBA playoffs history when the series is tied 2-2, the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series [I]73% of the time[/I]"

My first thought: OK, interesting, it [I]is[/I] important to win Game 5!

Wait a minute.

Let's analyze this. All else being equal, a team should have a 50% chance to win each game. Stuart in his statistic did not mention home court advantage, momentum, or team skill, so let's work within the same context of the stated 73% statistic. A 50% chance to win each game is roughly accurate.

[I]If a team wins Game 5[/I], they must then win 1 of the remaining games to win the series. However, Game 6 and Game 7 both carry roughly a 50% chance of a loss for the team that won Game 5. Since we are not considering momentum or home court (as per Stuart), Games 6 and 7 are independent probabilities.

Therefore, the chance that the team who won Game 5 will then go on the lose the next two is approximately: (1/2) * (1/2) = 1/4, or .25, or 25%.

Let's fit this back to what Stuart said. He stated proudly that Game 5 was critical because the winner would win the series 73% of the time, [U]or in other words lose the series [I]27% percent of the time[/I][/U]. When looking at the raw probabilities, this actually means that [B]if you win Game 5 you are slightly mathematically worse off than if the remaining games were played by [U]chance alone[/U].[/B]

Yes, I get that 73% is probably within the standard error for the sample size, and the 73% figure proudly quoted by Stuart Scott can roughly translate to: the average mathematical odds prevail - [B]there is no clear advantage to winning Game 5 other than the win itself[/B].

But then, why even make a point of this, ESPN? Why make it seem like you are revealing some huge mathematical wormhole that applies to the winner of Game 5? I just can't believe that people watch this crap religiously. What's sad is that a lot of Dallas and Heat fans heard that and went to bed tonight dreaming of the wonders that their team will reap if they can manage to win the magical Game 5. It truly is the dumbing down of America when our leading sports channel can freely apply any sort of misleading statistics to any story they'd like, and nobody gets put off by it.[/QUOTE]

whut?

your nerdacity is hurting my brain, not to mention affecting the very delicate intellectual imbalance of teh Hampur.

[QUOTE=ten-not-done;4043604]You are a little confused here. There are two ways to look at probability... Classical approach and relative frequency approach. You are observing that each outcome of the game divided by the total number of possible outcomes equals 50%. This is the classical approach.

That is not what Stuart Scott is talking about. He is looking at historical data and taking number of successes divided by total number of trials... Relative frequency approach. In other words he is looking in the past and dividing the number of teams that won game five and then went on to win the series by the total number of teams that won game five. You cant use classical approach here. It only works when all the possible outcomes are equally likely, like flipping a coin or rolling a die. The two possible outcomes of a basketball game are not equally likely outcomes because there are many factors as you mentioned... Skill of the players and coaches, home court advantage,injuries, etc... You have to use relative frequancy here.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE=quantum]50-50 would only apply to things like coin tosses, where the previous toss does not affect the current toss.

There are hundreds (?) of factors in a basketball game that would have to be accounted for, if its even possible to get a complete list. Even something as trivial as environment controls in the building and how they affect your star player.[/QUOTE]

No, as I stated, I know that in actuality each game is not 50/50, but I am working within Stuart Scott's confines. In his 73% statistic he did not reference if it mattered if the home team won Game 5, he did not mention superstars, nor momentum. He looked at the aggregate data (and with a large enough data set one would assume those things would all cancel out) and gave a broad summation of his findings. So in a way we agree, ten-not-done, that Stuart was using a relative frequency approach, looking at series winners and not game by game winners.

But you simply have to use a game-by-game prediction model for prediction of [I]future[/I] outcomes in sports...it's how all web based generators work, from WhatIfSports to ESPN's own NBA playoffs predictor. Since I don't have a data set to work with, I'm assuming that the rules of Stuart's set (aggregate, over time each game would be 50/50 because of all the cancelling factors) will apply to my game-by-game approach...that's why I roughly surmised it to be 50/50.

My gripe is exactly this: Stuart stated his relative, aggregate findings as if it was a tell-all mathematical compass for who would win the series....but by operating within [B]his[/B] guidelines, if you use a classical probability approach (as one naturally would for purposes of prediction), the numbers reveal that Stuart's 73% tells us [B]exactly the opposite[/B] - that if the Game 5 winner wins the series 73% of the time it is actually [I]below[/I] the likelihood that they [I]should[/I] win, given all else equal.

I recognize margin of error, but the insignificant difference between 73% (derived from aggregate) and 75% (classical approach) begs the question: why is ESPN even wasting their breath with such a meaningless statistic, and then trying to pass it off like they are revealing some great piece of wisdom? Actually I can guess the answer to that, but it's still pathetic.

Michael Wilpns head does not fit on his body. He used to be fat and looked proportionate. But he lost a lot of weight, but his head did not follow suit. So now he is a skinny guy with a fat head. weird.

[QUOTE=Astoria;4043965]No, as I stated, I know that in actuality each game is not 50/50, but I am working within Stuart Scott's confines. In his 73% statistic he did not reference if it mattered if the home team won Game 5, he did not mention superstars, nor momentum. He looked at the aggregate data (and with a large enough data set one would assume those things would all cancel out) and gave a broad summation of his findings. So in a way we agree, ten-not-done, that Stuart was using a relative frequency approach, looking at series winners and not game by game winners.

But you simply have to use a game-by-game prediction model for prediction of [I]future[/I] outcomes in sports...it's how all web based generators work, from WhatIfSports to ESPN's own NBA playoffs predictor. Since I don't have a data set to work with, I'm assuming that the rules of Stuart's set (aggregate, over time each game would be 50/50 because of all the cancelling factors) will apply to my game-by-game approach...that's why I roughly surmised it to be 50/50.

My gripe is exactly this: Stuart stated his relative, aggregate findings as if it was a tell-all mathematical compass for who would win the series....but by operating within [B]his[/B] guidelines, if you use a classical probability approach (as one naturally would for purposes of prediction), the numbers reveal that Stuart's 73% tells us [B]exactly the opposite[/B] - that if the Game 5 winner wins the series 73% of the time it is actually [I]below[/I] the likelihood that they [I]should[/I] win, given all else equal.

I recognize margin of error, but the insignificant difference between 73% (derived from aggregate) and 75% (classical approach) begs the question: why is ESPN even wasting their breath with such a meaningless statistic, and then trying to pass it off like they are revealing some great piece of wisdom? Actually I can guess the answer to that, but it's still pathetic.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE=Astoria;4043965]
My gripe is exactly this: Stuart stated his relative, aggregate findings as if it was a tell-all mathematical compass for who would win the series....but by operating within his guidelines, if you use a classical probability approach (as one naturally would for purposes of prediction), the numbers reveal that Stuart's 73% tells us exactly the opposite - that if the Game 5 winner wins the series 73% of the time it is actually [I]below[/I] the likelihood that they [I]should[/I] win, given all else equal.

I recognize margin of error, but the insignificant difference between 73% (derived from aggregate) and 75% (classical approach) begs the question: [B]why is ESPN even wasting their breath with such a meaningless statistic, and then trying to pass it off like they are revealing some great piece of wisdom?[/B] Actually I can guess the answer to that, but it's still pathetic.[/QUOTE]

So, [U]that[/U] is really your question.

ESPN ≠ meaningful statistics
ESPN ≠ wisdom
Stuart Scott ≠ Mensa member

[I]That's an "is not equal to" sign for all you non-math-loving hampurites. ;)[/I]

Generally, the Axiom of ESPN is:

For all non-biased, fact-based, worthwhile information about sports,
ESPN Reporting < a bag of ****s.

[QUOTE=Astoria;4043965]My gripe is exactly this: Stuart stated his relative, aggregate findings as if it was a tell-all mathematical compass for who would win the series....but by operating within [B]his[/B] guidelines, if you use a classical probability approach (as one naturally would for purposes of prediction), the numbers reveal that Stuart's 73% tells us [B]exactly the opposite[/B] - that if the Game 5 winner wins the series 73% of the time it is actually [I]below[/I] the likelihood that they [I]should[/I] win, given all else equal.

I recognize margin of error, but the insignificant difference between 73% (derived from aggregate) and 75% (classical approach) begs the question: why is ESPN even wasting their breath with such a meaningless statistic, and then trying to pass it off like they are revealing some great piece of wisdom? [/QUOTE]

Stuart Scott read a teleprompter.

You give him waaaaaaaaay too much credit if you think he even thought about the Math.

## Bookmarks