Category Archive: Sports

NFL’s Blackout Rule undermines Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises last night, and was a bit disappointed by a major plot hole any hardcore sports fan would notice. Nevermind that Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field isn’t anywhere close to Gotham City, what I’m talking about is the NFL Blackout Rule.

The NFL Blackout rule states that if a team doesn’t sell out 100% of the tickets to the game 72 hours before kickoff, the game cannot be shown on television in the local market. The 2012 twist on that rule is that teams can opt-in to a relaxed version of the policy, where the sales required are reduced to 85% of non premium seats in order to be shown on TV in the local market.

What does this have to do with Batman? Very simply, Bane’s speech at Heinz Field where he introduces the nuclear bomb and kills the nuclear scientist would not have been an effective way to communicate with Gotham residents. Since the stadium was half-empty, no one else in Gotham City could have seen the spectacle on TV. The 11 million viewers would have been in the dark due to the NFL’s Blackout Rule.

The only rationalization is that perhaps in the alternate universe that Gotham City and Batman live in, the NFL doesn’t exist. There’s no blackout rule, and games are shown on television no matter how many overpriced seats the greedy owners can sell. The “No Fun League” is actually a Fun League. Dreams – that’s what comic books are all about.

[note: I think the movie was fantastic!]

Largest and Smallest Home-Road Batting Average Split Differential in Baseball

The Mariners return home tomorrow after a pretty good road trip – going 5-4 and putting up a bunch of runs. I wondered, why can’t the Mariners do that at home?

Largest Home-Road BA split differentials in baseball

I looked at the home-road batting average splits for MLB teams to see how the Mariners stacked up against other teams. I was not surprised to see that they ranked dead last in Home-Road split differential – the Mariners bat 64 points higher on the road than at home. The next closest team is the Padres, they bat 30 points higher on the road.

The effect of Safeco Field is the exact opposite of Coors Field in Colorado, where the Rockies enjoy 60 points higher batting average at home. While Mariners’ pitchers do enjoy the effects of Safeco, clearly the batters suffer. Is it time to move the fences in?

Was the Pujols drought driven by switching leagues?

Albert Pujols finally hit his first home run as an LA Angel on May 6th, the 29th game of the year for the team. He’s currently on pace to hit 6 home runs. I wondered, did switching leagues have anything to do with the drought?

Pujols has hit fewer HRs against AL pitching

Pujols has 446 career home runs, 406 of them have come against NL pitching. His HR hit rate (HRs / ABs) is 7% against NL pitching and 6% against AL pitching, and the NL rate is statistically significantly higher than AL at the 95% confidence level.

Albert’s power outage is also apparent in his hit rate of doubles. He hits fewer doubles against AL pitching, and that’s also statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

However, Pujols hits more singles against AL pitching

Interestingly, Pujols doesn’t have fewer hits across the board against the AL. He hits more singles against AL pitchers.

Key takeaway: It’s not that Pujols can’t hit AL pitching, it’s that he has less power against AL pitching.

Whose play is more critical to the Buckeyes men’s basketball team: Jared Sullinger or William Buford?

The Final Four is one of my favorite sporting events. Two amazing games with everything on the line. There’s nothing like it in sports. Interestingly, both games feature rematches from earlier in the season.

With the Final Four being played in New Orleans today, I wondered who is more critical to the Buckeye’s chances of winning, big man Jared Sullinger, or senior William Buford?

Hypothesis: Sullinger

Sullinger is an amazing player to watch, and Buckeye fans across the globe were relieved when he decided to come back for his sophomore season. My initial hypothesis was that Sullinger’s play is the most critical to the Buckeyes chances of winning.

Indeed, Sullinger’s shooting percentage is 12 points higher in games where the Buckeyes win vs. games the Buckeyes lose. We need Sullinger to shoot well.

Buford is as, if not more, important

When I looked at the same number for Buford, the difference was similar. Buford shoots 11 points higher in wins than losses.

Add to that the fact that Buford takes more shots: 479 vs. 420 for Buford vs. Sullinger so far this season, clearly shows that Buford’s shooting % has a bigger impact on the Buckeyes chances of winning.

Digging even deeper, I looked at Buford’s 3-point shooting percentage, and noticed an even wider discrepancy. When the Buckeyes win, Buford has > 2X the 3-pt field goal % than when the Buckeyes lose.

Key Takeaway

When you’re watching the second Final Four game tonight: Ohio State vs. Kansas, pay attention to William Buford’s 3-point Field Goal %. If he’s draining 3s, Ohio State has a great chance to win. If he’s bricking them, the Bucks are in trouble.


Don’t pick an NCAA Tournament winner that didn’t win their own conference

NCAA Football fans were up in arms about Alabama making it to the BCS title game when they didn’t win their own conference championship. I wondered, is winning a conference championship a leading indicator of winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament?


I looked at the 64+ tournament era (since 1985) to see how many teams that won the NCAA Tournament also won their conference championship. For conferences with a tourney, I used those results, and for conferences that didn’t have a tournament at the time, I used final regular season records.

I then did a separate analysis for teams that won either the conference tournament championship or regular season championship.

Results: Winning the conference tournament matters, but not as much as I thought it would

56% of NCAA tournament champions won their conference tournament (or regular season if there was no tournament). However, that still leaves 44% of teams that didn’t win their conference tournament, but managed to put 6 wins together in the NCAA tournament.

I was a bit surprised by the result. I thought that teams that conference tournaments were great indicators of success in the NCAA tournament. But, teams that lose their conference tournament shouldn’t be counted out.

However, 85% of NCAA tournament champions have won either the conference regular season or tournament

Looking at conference championship and regular season combined appears to be the better indicator of success. 85% of NCAA Tournament champs won either one.

Even more telling: No team in the past 14 years has won the NCAA Tournament without winning either their conference tournament or regular season

Implications for this year’s NCAA tournament

In the 2012 NCAA Tournament, there are a few teams you’ll need to avoid crowning the champion if they don’t win their conference tournament:

  • Duke: While they had a great season and may still clinch a #1 seed, they’re 2nd in the ACC. Unless they make a run in the ACC Tournament, stay away
  • Missouri: They fell 2 games back in the Big 12, so don’t count on them to have a resurgence in the NCAA Tournament
  • Wisconsin and Indiana: The Big 10 is stacked this year, and even though there was a 3-way tie at the top, Wisconsin and Indiana fell short.
  • Florida: You have no business picking an NCAA Tournament Champion out of the SEC that is not Kentucky

How to enter an NFL Draft with only 2 picks

Each team is assigned 7 picks in each NFL draft, but somehow the Oakland Raiders are entering the 2012 draft with only 2 picks – a 5th round and 6th round selection. How did they do it?

Basically, they traded their picks for Quarterbacks

Here’s a chart of where their picks went

1st Round: Traded to Bengals (Carson Palmer)

2nd Round: Traded to Patriots (2011 3rd & 4th Rounders)

3rd Round: Used in 2011 Supplemental Draft (Terrelle Pryor)

4th Round: Traded to Redskins (Jason Campbell)

7th Round: Traded to Seattle (Aaron Curry)

When will the Raiders finally pick?

The Raiders have the 17th draft spot, and won’t draft until the 5th round, so their pick of the draft will be on Day 3 (Sunday) with the 145th pick! However, Oakland could (and likely will) be awarded supplemental picks for losing free agents, so they could add a few picks and actually get in on some draft action in the first two days.

Is #Linsanity bigger than #Tebowmania?

I read a Business Insider report today that said searches for Jeremy Lin have now outpaced Tim Tebow, and I didn’t believe it. I used Google trends to do my own analysis.

It turns out that it’s a dead heat. Searches for Jeremy Lin are higher than Tim Tebow, but when searches for just “Tebow” are included, Tebow takes the cake. We’ll see if the #Linsanity continues.

Probabilities of winning the Super Bowl Box Game

One of my favorite games during the Super Bowl is the 100-square box game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

The premise is simple: a square with 100 boxes is drawn, and random numbers from 0-9 are filled in across and down. Everyone pitches in a buck and you get a square. If the score at the end of each quarter ends in your numbers (last number in the score of each team), you win $25.

What is the probability of winning based on my numbers?

That’s an interesting question, and there are many ways to answer it. One could look at recent Super Bowl results to assign a probability. From Print Your

  • The number 0 appeared 99 times – 27.50%
  • The number 7 appeared 75 times – 20.83%
  • The number 3 appeared 56 times – 15.56%
  • The number 4 appeared 38 times – 10.56%
  • The number 6 appeared 30 times – 8.33%
  • The number 1 appeared 20 times – 5.56%
  • The number 9 appeared 15 times – 4.17%
  • The number 2 appeared 9 times   – 2.50%
  • The number 8 appeared 9 times   – 2.50%
  • The number 5 appeared 9 times   – 2.50%
  • Takeaways: double-zero is king, and any combo of 0, 7, and 3 is gold

However, this methodology does not take into account current factors. The Wall Street Journal ran scenario analysis on the New York Giants and New England Patriots and came up with the following matrix:

  • Takeaways: In this scenario, double-zero is still king, but 0-7, 0-3, and 7-0 are close runners up
Unfortunately, in either scenario, if you’re sitting on the double-2, the double-5 or the double-8, you’re screwed

Results of the 2011 – 2012 Bowl Pick-em Strategy

As you may know, I posted my strategy for picking College Football Bowl winners. I broke them down into several categories:

  • Home Teams
  • Playing Absent Coaches
  • Playing Little Sisters of the Poor
  • Better Records Last year
  • Playing teams I watched Lay Eggs throughout the year
  • Toss Ups

Turns out one strategy was superior to the others: Teams playing absent coaches

Teams playing others with their coach either getting fired or leaving for another opportunity were vastly superior bets vs. the spread this year. If you picked solely against absent coaches, you would have gone 6-of-7, and would have lost the 7th game by 0.5 points.

One other strategy played out the opposite of what I expected: Little Sisters of the Poor went 2-0 against big conferences.

The rest of the strategies were break-even at best. Betting on the home team yielded a 56% win %, and toss ups were indeed toss-ups (50%). Teams playing ones I considered “Egg Layers” went 2-1, but the small sample size was not convincing.

So next year, when you’re formulating your Bowl pool, pick against the teams that lost their coach, and steer clear of the rest.

Top posts of 2011

Pacific Northwest-Coast Bias had a great year. But what articles did readers enjoy the most?

5.  Redmond is the most expensive Washington city to live in – Were you like me and thought Bellevue was the most expensive city in Washington?

4. US Debt-to-GDP Ratio– Deservedly, the US got downgraded from AAA debt in 2011. Not surprisingly, Switzerland and Germany are on the list of AAA, but I was quite surprised that the UK was still among the top-rated countries, along with Hong Kong and Norway. Interestingly, the US is one of the few countries with a Debt-to-GDP ratio below 100%. I was quite surprised by The Netherlands and Norway above 400%. It’s clear that the path to solvency is getting the US budget back on track. With the current leadership on both sides, my confidence of this happening is very low.

3. NBA Arena in Bellevue – I don’t know precisely where the NBA might build an arena in Bellevue, but I have a couple ideas.

2. NFL Concussions – My magnum opus of 2011 was inspired by a head injury that I suffered myself, and realized that others were undergoing the same injury with no idea of the long-term implications. Although I wasn’t playing football, I hit my head and blacked out, going into seizures and needing to be revived by medical staff. I was woozy for days. At that time, much less was known about the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, so my recovery consisted of lying on the couch. Like NFL players, the only thing I can do is hope I won’t suffer any long-term impacts.

1. Who has the toughest college football schedule in 2011 – The top post in 2011 wasn’t without controversy. The SEC had the weakest schedule among top conferences, yet the got both spots in the Championship. Do I think they deserved it? No Way. Oklahoma State or Stanford definitely deserved that spot over Alabama. But I’ll be watching the game, and rooting for a playoff in future years.

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