Bucks clunker vs. Wiz; Follow up on 70% law

What was that??  The Bucks were basically blown out at home by the Washington Wizards.  The Bucks are a really frustrating team to watch, analyze, write about… probably read about, too.  I’m just out of things to say about them.

Oh, there is one thing.   I think tonight was a clear vision of what the Bucks would look like without a consistent and superior defensive effort.  In other words, what they would look like without Coach Skiles.  They would indeed be one of the worst teams in the NBA.  They gave a half effort on defense tonight and got destroyed on their own court by a Washington Wizards team that is a very below average road team, and in fact a 30 to 33 win team overall.

One other thing quick.  What’s up with Bogut?  Seattle Bucks is right.  The guy is maddeningly inconsistent lately.  One night he won’t miss, the next he goes 5 for 13.  I guess he’s just being a “2009-10 Milwaukee Buck” because I could kind of make the same comment about everyone on the team.  But I expect more and the team needs more out of the Aussie big man.

Follow up on that “Law of 70%” business

Remember the post I did a day or so ago where I wondered aloud why it seemed that the stronger team wins exactly 70% of the time in basketball and football.

Well I found this interesting article on the “Sabermetric Research” blog.  It turns out that my casual observations were right on the money, but my broader speculation about the existence of a “Law of 70%” in sports wasn’t right at all.  It was right for the TWO sports I looked at, but as it turned out I looked at the two least competitive sports, and they both happen to have the “70% law”.  So it was coincidence, not something widespread.  In the other three sports this article commented on, the “better” team wins in a “one-off” contest even less.

But still, why is that basketball and football “best team wins” outcomes are so steadfastly fixed at right around 70%, and why are the other three sports at their levels, and why do those levels veer from the 70% figure?   Well, the article posits the reason is something about the distribution of talent in the sports.  Somewhat persuasive, if you can crawl through the math, but I have a slightly different theory.

I think perhaps it has to do with the method and relative ease of scoring inherent in the rules of the different sports.

If you look at it that way, let’s take the sport that lends itself most strongly to upsets, soccer, a sport where the stronger team only wins on average, 55% of the time.  Soccer is the sport where, arguably, scoring or more precisely scoring differentiation is most difficult to come by.  In that type atmosphere, I would think that even superior teams don’t normally demolish their opposition.  Thus a 1-0 lead could feel like insurmountable dominance based  on the superior skill of the leading team, but even then one or two quick breaks and the weak team gets lucky and steals a win.

Baseball’s slightly lower rate of upsets might be explained instead by the sport’s method of  scoring.  A team can dominate a game, in terms of “productive actions” (getting men on base without creating outs) but yet if those productive actions aren’t bunched just right, the score might not reflect that dominance.  And suddenly the tide turns and the weaker team steals a win.

Of course, this isn’t yet perfected logic.  For instance, how does my theory of score differentiation and method of scoring explain football being the most stratified?  It kind of doesn’t, on its face.  But its just a working theory at this stage. (Although I will note that with regard to basketball, the working theory is consistent with what the commenter Josh said about the win variance caused by the 3 point shot.)

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3 Responses to “Bucks clunker vs. Wiz; Follow up on 70% law”

  1. Redhopeful Says:

    Interesting that the Bucks are 3-8 in the games Redd has participated. Not laying the blame squarely on his shoulders, but do the Bucks need him? You mentioned the lack of defensive intensity against the Wizards. Could any part of that be attributed to the fact a lot of guys who were used to getting touches while he was out (and had developed some sort of chemistry) are now just standing around on offense? Consequently, they simply just aren’t that into the game and no wonder the D suffers?

  2. Moin Says:

    There are two levels of scoring to consider when it comes to sports and luck. First, of course, is how often does the actual scoring that determines wins or losses occur in the game itself. Logically, the more often it occurs (basketball), the less likely the results will be due to luck or “one offs” (like soccer).

    However, the second level is the total number of games (trials) that are carried out over the course of a season. Sure only 55% of soccer matches are won by favorites, but over a season in, say the EPL

  3. Moin Says:

    Cont’d (sorry, got cut off and accidentally hit submit).
    In the EPL or La Liga or Serie A, even if the best team wins 55% of the time, they play 38 matches to even out some of the randomness.

    Think of it this way, 30 NBA teams play each other team at least once during the season for a total of 82 games each, 30 NHL teams play each other team at least once for 80 games each, 30 MLB teams play each other several times over 162 games each, 20 soccer teams play each other exactly twice for 38 games each. But 32 NFL teams only play 16 games in a schedule in which teams could not play each other at all. That just add to the randomness.

    In a kind of reverse “Law of Large Numbers”. Of course WL record of the teams aren’t independent, but the idea is still applicable. If you flip a coin 16 times and record the results in 32 separate days, you’ll notice that the numbers will be much further away from 50% as flipping the coin 162 times on 30 different days.

    TL;DR version: the randomness in win-loss records in football is the result of small sample size, not necessarily in the randomness of each game in and of itself.

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