Editor’s Letter—Vol. 31, No. 3

Dear CHANCE Colleagues,

Children across the globe are fascinated with sports statistics. For many, this fascination never goes away. That’s why we devote this special themed issue of CHANCE to sports.

Interest in sports statistics has grown rapidly over the past decade. We have the data! My friend and colleague, Mark Glickman, and I founded the New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports (NESSIS) at Harvard University. In its first offering in 2007, we had 110 registrants. Since then, we have held NESSIS biannually with growth to 125, 150, 180, 240, and 245 registrants in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017 respectively. (Please consider joining us for NESSIS VII in September 2019.)

This is an exciting time for statistics in sports. New technologies have been created and an explosion of data is available for analyses. The “Moneyball” culture has spread to many other sports beyond baseball. It is difficult to identify professional teams that do not have a developing group of statistical analysts to evaluate players and game strategies.

In this special issue, we have eight interesting articles with statistics applications to baseball, football, golf, horse racing, marathon running, and soccer.

The honors go to the Stiglers. Stephen and Margaret Stigler use data from the four major men’s golf tournaments from 1994–2015 and two of the four major women’s golf tournaments from 10 unspecified years to determine how much of the variation in scores is due to skill level (the persistent capacity to play at a certain level) and how much is due to “luck” (transient variations in a player’s score). Their analysis leads to interesting insights regarding the relative contributions of skill level and luck that depend on the particular major tournament for men and the sex of the players.

In other articles, Leonard Cupingood illustrates why a 1-for-45 record in the Kentucky Derby does not imply underachievement. David Cottrell and Michael Herron evaluate the curious case of German twins Anna and Lisa Hahner, who finished the 2016 Olympic marathon simultaneously. Was this intentional or coincidental? Harold Sackrowitz revisits the point(s)-after-touchdown decision, three years after the NFL made the rule change that the one-point kick conversion was to be made from 33 rather than 20 yards. Gabriel Chandler and Simon Rosenbaum analyze the first round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Erik Heiny and Cody Frisby describe an ordinal logistic regression model that can be used to estimate score probabilities for each player and hole in the Masters. Craig Heard and A. John Bailer evaluate the likelihood of another Leicester-type miracle in the EPL.

Beyond sports, in the column “The Odds of Justice,” Rebecca Wexler discusses a code of silence and how companies hide flaws in software that is used by governments for imprisonment and release decisions.

Overall, this is an exciting issue for fans of almost any sport. We hope you enjoy it.

Scott Evans

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