Don’t be fooled by a cold streak

Anyone who watches soccer knows that even the world’s best strikers may sometimes fail to score for a few matches in a row. But not every club has the luxury of employing one of the world’s best strikers. Let’s say your club has a fairly average striker. What will his cold streaks look like? To answer this question, let’s create an imaginary striker who takes four shots per match in 25 league matches per season. Two of his shots in each match have a 5% chance of scoring, one has a 10% chance, and the last one has a 40%…
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Diversity in analytics

For the past several months, I’ve been thinking hard about how to correct the diversity deficit in English-speaking soccer analytics. This is overwhelmingly a white male field, and – to my eye at least – poorer for it. Can a white man do anything to improve matters? There is some irony to this problem, as diversity in disciplines is actually one of the great assets of soccer analytics. Climate scientists, evolutionary biologists, computer scientists, marketing experts, and hobbyists with any day job you can imagine have all brought their unique abilities to the field. They’ve also imported ideas from many…
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Has choosing quality over quantity helped Leicester City?

This week I posed a simple question to the students in the “Sports Analytics in Practice” course that I teach with Philip Maymin at New York University’s Stern School of Business: “Would you rather have two 50% chances to score, or five 20% chances?” It’s a question that teams in the English Premier League and other competitions might want to ask themselves, too, in light of Leicester City’s performance this season. If the question was simple, the answer was not – and there was no consensus in the class. Some students thought a team should be indifferent. Others argued that in a low-scoring…
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