“There are three kinds of lies:.” –
Scorecasting is sold as a “Freakanomics” of sports, using statistics and common sense to dubunk some of sports biggest myths and misconceptions. The above noted chapter is titled “Damned Statistics” and subtitled “Why ‘four out his last five’ almost surely means four of six.” In it, the authors make the simple argument that people selectively choose numbers to support their point. To quote:
We are bombarded by stats when we watch games, but the data are chosen selectively and often focus on small samples and short-term numbers. When we’re told that a player has reached base in “four of his last five at-bats,” we should assume right away that it’s four of his last six. Otherwise, rest assured, we’d have been told that streak was five out of six. Clearly, a team that “has lost three in a row” has dropped only three of its last four–and possibly three of five or three of six or…otherwise it would have been reported as a four-game losing streak.
To apply this principle to the current Nationals, realize that going into Friday night’s game against the Pirates:
- The Nationals have won 2 games in a row
- The Nationals have lost 3 of their last 5
- The Nationals have won 5 of their last 8
- The Nationals have lost 7 of their last 12
All of the above statistics are correct, but people can pick and choose whatever numbers they want to support their position. Are the Nats hot? Sure. Are the Nats cold? Yeah, look at the “numbers”.
Beware small sample sizes. To get an accurate picture, you need to take a step back.
In any event, the statistic you’re looking at is probably a lie. Or a damned lie.