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Thursday, October 15, 2009

WSJ: Bialik: A Very Unlucky Nats Fan

Yet one unlucky Nats fan told Washington Post sports blogger Dan Steinberg he went to 19 home games, and saw the Nats lose all 19 games. What are the chances? The fan, Stephen Krupin, consulted with mathematician friends, and they came up with a probability of one in 131,204. That’s a reasonable estimate, according to several mathematicians I consulted.

Here’s how to arrive at the estimate. Look back on the Nats schedule and figure that Krupin could have chosen any game as his first to attend. That game would have had a chance of 48/81 of being a loss. His next choice, though, would have a lower chance of 47/80, because one loss was taken. The third’s probability of being a loss would be 46/79, and so on. Multiply those probabilities for all 19 games and you arrive at one in 131,204.

There are other ways to look at it. Suppose that the Nats had a 40.7% chance of winning any given home game. Then the probability of seeing 19 straight losses would be 48/81 to the 19th power, or one in 20,800. Or suppose that the Nats’ 33-29 performance in the 62 games Krupin missed was truly indicative of the team’s quality. Then the probability was an infinitesimal one in 1.86 million.

Which, oddly enough, is the same odds as catching a Frank Coggins HR ball.

Repoz Posted: October 15, 2009 at 01:19 PM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nationals, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. BringBackTimTeufel Posted: October 15, 2009 at 01:38 PM (#3352678)
"A Very Unlucky Nats Fan," a publication of the Department of Redundency Department.
   2. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: October 15, 2009 at 01:45 PM (#3352681)
So the Nats were better than .500 when this guy didn't show up? I think we've identified the problem. The Nats should pay this guy to sit his ass on the couch.
   3. with Glavinesque control and Madduxian poise Posted: October 15, 2009 at 02:12 PM (#3352706)
An event like this is particularly unlikely given the percentage of total Nats fans this guy represents.
   4. KronicFatigue Posted: October 15, 2009 at 02:18 PM (#3352712)
what are the odds that someone would even go to 19 nats games in the first place?
   5. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: October 15, 2009 at 02:37 PM (#3352739)
what are the odds that someone would even go to 19 nats games in the first place?


Among commenters? One in five. :-(
   6. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: October 15, 2009 at 02:43 PM (#3352748)
Man. That's awesome.
   7. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: October 15, 2009 at 02:46 PM (#3352754)
So the Nats were better than .500 when this guy didn't show up? I think we've identified the problem. The Nats should pay this guy to sit his ass on the couch.


Hmmm...but he wasn't at the road games, either...
   8. Gamingboy Posted: October 15, 2009 at 03:53 PM (#3352839)
The Nationals will no doubt mess this up and offer the guy season tickets, thus ensuring a .000 winning percentage at home next season.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: October 15, 2009 at 03:58 PM (#3352845)
The Nationals will no doubt mess this up and offer the guy season tickets, thus ensuring a .000 winning percentage at home next season.


But, on the plus side, it will enhance their chances of landing the hotshot junior high SI coverboy who's skipping high school to enter the draft.
   10. Steve Sparks Flying Everywhere Posted: October 15, 2009 at 04:00 PM (#3352848)
what are the odds that someone would even go to 19 nats games in the first place?


After a Nats game last year I met a guy on the subway who had season tickets and claimed to have gone to something like 150 Nats games since they had been in Washington. I'm not sure whether he was extremely devoted, had nothing going on in his life, or was just crazy. I'm guessing when the Nats start winning it will make it all that sweeter for him.
   11. Gamingboy Posted: October 15, 2009 at 04:03 PM (#3352851)
After a Nats game last year I met a guy on the subway who had season tickets and claimed to have gone to something like 150 Nats games since they had been in Washington. I'm not sure whether he was extremely devoted, had nothing going on in his life, or was just crazy. I'm guessing when the Nats start winning it will make it all that sweeter for him.


That man is more devoted than any fan in New York, Boston, Chicago or St. Louis.
Or he is slowly committing suicide.
One of the two.
   12. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: October 15, 2009 at 04:04 PM (#3352854)
what are the odds that someone would even go to 19 nats games in the first place?
Yo.

Of course, they pay me.
   13. DJ Endless Grudge Is Nobody's Disciple Posted: October 15, 2009 at 04:18 PM (#3352878)
I don't think this is right at all. That would make the odds of a Nats loss in the last game .476 ... I don't think holding the number of losses fixed works, especially if you aren't accounting in any way shape or form the results of any game he DOESN'T go to.
   14. Chris Needham Posted: October 15, 2009 at 04:21 PM (#3352881)
There's a Nats Blog that proudly trumpets the fact that he and his wife have been to every game since the team moved to D.C.

I'm praying they don't have children. ::waits for standard BBTF retort should they have them::
   15. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: October 15, 2009 at 05:05 PM (#3352944)
After a Nats game last year I met a guy on the subway who had season tickets and claimed to have gone to something like 150 Nats games since they had been in Washington. I'm not sure whether he was extremely devoted, had nothing going on in his life, or was just crazy.


Did he, by chance, convey an irrationally exuberant and perhaps icky devotion to the mascot "Screech"?
   16. Gamingboy Posted: October 15, 2009 at 05:25 PM (#3352969)
There's a Nats Blog that proudly trumpets the fact that he and his wife have been to every game since the team moved to D.C.


I suggest they see if there is any way of repressing all memories that do not involve Ryan Zimmerman or Racing Presidents.
   17. Karl from NY Posted: October 15, 2009 at 05:28 PM (#3352972)
What about the multiple endpoints?

Jokes aside, let's say there's 10,000 fans who attended 19 games this year. The chances of this guy going 0-19 might be 1 in 131,000. But the chance of any one of those 10,000 fans going 0-19 would be (roughly) 10,000 in 131,000, or around 7.6%. But the news only notices the one fan that does go 0-19 and we never hear anything about the other 9,999. A chance of 7.6% that it's going to happen to somebody is certainly in the "unlikely but possible" stratum.
   18. Randy Jones Posted: October 15, 2009 at 05:44 PM (#3352990)
Jokes aside, let's say there's 10,000 fans who attended 19 games this year.


you say "jokes aside", but then the rest of that very sentence is a joke. You think there are 10000 people that attended 19+ Nats games this year?
   19. Walt Davis Posted: October 15, 2009 at 07:05 PM (#3353106)
I don't think this is right at all. That would make the odds of a Nats loss in the last game .476 ... I don't think holding the number of losses fixed works, especially if you aren't accounting in any way shape or form the results of any game he DOESN'T go to.

It's the finite population approach. It's essentially answering the question "what are the odds that a random sample (without replacement) of 19 of the Nats' 81 home games in 2009 would be losses?" It's your standard probability problem with a bag with 48 blue balls and 33 red ones.

The other approach is the superpopulation approach -- assume win/lose is a random variable with a known mean and distribution and treat his 19 games as a random draw from that population.

#17 makes a valid point.

And also missed is whether his 19 games were actually a random sample. Probably not. Weekend vs. non-weekend games probably doesn't matter but if he was more likely to go see them play the Phils or the Dodgers than the Pirates, that would either be a biased sample or require you to change the definition of your population (for either approach).
   20. BDC Posted: October 15, 2009 at 07:14 PM (#3353112)
I had a year somewhat like that in reverse, 1988, when I went to a dozen Yankee games in the Bronx and they won all of them. And the Yankees played .528 ball that year (albeit .575 at home).

Come to think of it, the Yankees always win when I watch them in Texas now, too.
   21. AndrewJ Posted: October 15, 2009 at 11:08 PM (#3353359)
I've read where Gen. Douglas MacArthur, after being relieved of his duties in Korea by Truman, attended 11 games at Ebbets Field during the 1951 season -- and the Dodgers went 0-11 (and of course lost the pennant to the Jints by one game). Dunno if there's any truth to this anecdote.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: October 15, 2009 at 11:42 PM (#3353394)
I've read where Gen. Douglas MacArthur, after being relieved of his duties in Korea by Truman, attended 11 games at Ebbets Field during the 1951 season -- and the Dodgers went 0-11

This is what happens when you let him return.
   23. Santanaland Diaries Posted: October 15, 2009 at 11:55 PM (#3353403)
The problem with Karl's point is that his estimated population of people who went to 19 Nats games is crazy high. There may be 10,000 people who went to at least 19 games, though I have my doubts, but how many of the people who went to at least 19 games went to 20 or 21 or 22, etc. So to get an idea of how unlikely it is to find someone who saw at least 19 losses without a win you'd have to sum up the probabilities for seeing 19 losses, 20 losses, and so on to 48, but those higher numbers will have much lower probabilities attached to them.

It's still true that the odds of finding one person who went to a crazy number of losses is a lot higher than the article implies, but I do think it's a lot less likely than one in 12 or 13.
   24. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: October 16, 2009 at 12:27 AM (#3353424)
Or suppose that the Nats’ 33-29 performance in the 62 games Krupin missed was truly indicative of the team’s quality. Then the probability was an infinitesimal one in 1.86 million.


Even crazier, suppose that their performance in the 33 games they won at home was the true indicator of their quality!

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