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Anthology of Statistics in Sports

Jim Albert, Jay Bennett, and James J. Cochran, editors
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
ASA-SIAM Series on Statistics and Applied Probability
[Reviewed by
Raymond N. Greenwell
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Not interested in sports? Don't worry; neither am I. Yet I find that real life examples, particularly in sports, can enliven any classroom discussion. The lower level articles in this anthology might provide enrichment for an introductory statistics course. The advanced articles might be useful in a senior honors seminar or project in statistics.

The 36 articles in this collection previously appeared in four different publications of the American Statistical Association (ASA): Chance, Journal of the American Statistical Association, The American Statistician, and the Proceedings of the Statistics in Sports Section of the American Statistical Association. They are now organized, along with eight introductory articles, in one volume with six parts, each on a different sport or theme: football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, statistical methodologies and multiple sports, and miscellaneous sports. Each part includes a short introductory article followed by anywhere from three to nine articles. There are two additional articles which serve as an introduction to the entire book.

I particularly enjoyed the combination of Chapters 19, 21, 22, and 31. In the title of Chapter 19, Patrick D. Larkey, Richard A. Smith, and Joseph B. Kadane proclaim that "It's Okay to Believe in the 'Hot Hand'." (The "Hot Hand" theory in basketball says that sometimes a player is on a shooting streak and more likely to make a basket that his shooting percentage would indicate. Similar phenomena are alleged to occur in other sports.) Amos Tversky and Thomas Gilovich declare an opposing view in Chapter 21, "The Cold Facts about the 'Hot Hand' in Basketball." In Chapter 22, "Simpson's Paradox and the Hot Hand in Basketball," Robert L. Wardrop considers why both sides may be partially correct because of the phenomenon known as Simpson's Paradox. Robert Hooke takes a philosophical approach in Chapter 31, "Basketball, Baseball, and the Null Hypothesis," to speculate on why statisticians such as Tversky and Gilovich don't observe the "hot hand" phenomenon even though intuition and experience shout that it must exist.

Each chapter has its owns references. Chapter 2 is particularly helpful in this regard. This introductory survey article by editors Albert and Cochran give references containing additional examples and discussing how to teach a special probability and statistics class focused on sports.

This is an enjoyable and useful book. Even those who subscribe to the various ASA publications will appreciate having all the articles in one place.

Raymond N. Greenwell ( is Professor of Mathematics at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. His research interests include applied mathematics and statistics, and he is coauthor of the texts Finite Mathematics and Calculus with Applications, both published by Addison Wesley.

Chapter 1: Introduction; Chapter 2: The Use of Sports in Teaching Statistics;

PART I: STATISTICS IN FOOTBALL. Chapter 3: Introduction to the Football Articles; Chapter 4: A Geometry Model for NFL Field Goal Kickers; Chapter 5: A State-Space Model for National Football League Scores; Chapter 6: Predictions for National Football League Games via Linear-Model Methodology; Chapter 7: The Best NFL Field Goal Kickers: Are They Lucky or Good?; Chapter 8: On the Probability of Winning a Football Game;

PART II: STATISTICS IN BASEBALL. Chapter 9: Introduction to the Baseball Articles; Chapter 10: Exploring Baseball Hitting Data: What About Those Breakdown Statistics?; Chapter 11: Did Shoeless Joe Jackson Throw the 1919 World Series?; Chapter 12: Player Game Percentage; Chapter 13: Estimation with Selected Binomial Information or Do You Really Believe that Dave Winfield Is Batting .471?; Chapter 14: Baseball: Pitching No-Hitters. Chapter 15: Answering Questions About Baseball Using Statistics; Chapter 16: The Progress of the Score During a Baseball Game;

PART III: STATISTICS IN BASKETBALL. Chapter 17: Introduction to the Basketball Articles; Chapter 18: Improved NCAA Basketball Tournament Modeling via Point Spread and Team Strength Information; Chapter 19: It's Okay to Believe in the Hot Hand"; Chapter 20: More Probability Models for the NCAA Regional Basketball Tournaments; Chapter 21: The Cold Facts About the "Hot Hand" in Basketball; Chapter 22: Simpson's Paradox and the Hot Hand in Basketball;

PART IV: STATISTICS IN ICE HOCKEY. Chapter 23: Introduction to the Ice Hockey Articles; Chapter 24: Statistical Methods for Rating College Hockey Teams; Chapter 25: Overtime or Shootout: Deciding Ties in Hockey; Chapter 26: It Takes a Hot Goalie to Raise the Stanley Cup;

PART V: STATISTICAL METHODOLOGIES AND MULTIPLE SPORTS. Chapter 27: Introduction to the Methodologies and Multiple Sports Articles; Chapter 28: Bridging Different Eras in Sports; Chapter 29: Data Analysis Using Stein's Estimator and Its Generalizations; Chapter 30: Assigning Probabilities to the Outcomes of Multi-Entry Competitions; Chapter 31: Basketball