Monday, July 16, 2007

Does anyone here know math?

ESPN's MLB page has a poll up asking viewers which team will be the next team in Major League baseball to lose its 10,000th game as a franchise. The choices are the Braves (9681 losses), Cubs (9425 losses), and Reds (9341 losses).

Only 47% of responders have voted for the Braves, presumably because they are a perennially good team and the Cubs and Reds are not. There's only one problem: the Braves are 276 losses "ahead" of the Cubs, with only 319 losses to go. The Cubs would have to lose at nearly twice the rate of the Braves for about the next five years to catch them. Even if the Braves play at a 100 win per season pace until their 10,000 loss and the Cubs play at a 100 loss per season pace until their 10,000 loss, the Braves will still get there first.

It will take an upset of epic proportions for the Braves not to be the next team to lose 10,000. For whatever reason, people are just too dumb to infer this from even the most cursory examinations of the numbers.

6 comments:

die Amerikanerin said...

Yeah, I'm gonna have to agree with you, methinks.

John Lynch said...

If you're agreeing with me about the math, don't bother. There's nothing to agree about. It's absolutely impossible for the Braves to not get there next.

If you're agreeing with me about people being generally dumb, thanks. I wish it weren't true.

John Lynch said...

And by "nothing to agree about," I definitely mean "nothing about which to agree."

Lisa said...

There's a difference between being dumb and generally understanding baseball statistics. With a clear explanation of how statistics works, which you gave for this particular instance, many of those voters would probably change their mind. Be careful here. Statistics are your particular interest, and many people probably shot off a quick answer to this poll, who with a little more reflection, might have caught their mistake. It's too easy to say "dumb" when the correct situation is "uninformed" or "hasty". "Dumb" is persisting in an incorrect conclusion when the evidence shows their position is indefensible.

John Lynch said...

I'll allow that most people weren't actually thinking about the question. That's fine. It's just a silly ESPN poll.

However, this is not a statistics problem. It's a basic reasoning problem. You only need to know how to subtract to to have a very basic idea of how often baseball teams win and lose.

As for calling people dumb, relax. For the most part, I'm just hamming it up a bit. It is a blog, after all. However, I submit that if you think people in general have a well developed sense of reason, you haven't been paying very much attention to public opinion lately.

Lisa said...

I agree that people don't reason things out very well these days. I don't pay much attention to opinion polls, but the editorial page can be a riot!