Statistical Thinking in Sports

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Jim Albert, Ruud H. Koning
Taylor & Francis, Jul 12, 2007 - Mathematics - 298 pages
Since the first athletic events found a fan base, sports and statistics have always maintained a tight and at times mythical relationship. As a way to relay the telling of a game's drama and attest to the prodigious powers of the heroes involved, those reporting on the games tallied up the numbers that they believe best described the action and best defined the winning edge. However, they may not have always counted the right numbers. Many of our hallowed beliefs about sports statistics have long been fraught with misnomers. Whether it concerns Scottish football or American baseball, the most revered statistics often have little to do with any winning edge.

Covering an international collection of sports, Statistical Thinking in Sports provides an accessible survey of current research in statistics and sports, written by experts from a variety of arenas. Rather than rely on casual observation, they apply the rigorous tools of statistics to re-examine many of those concepts that have gone from belief to fact, based mostly on the repetition of their claims. Leaving assumption behind, these researchers take on a host of tough questions-
  • Is a tennis player only as good as his or her first serve?
  • Is there such a thing as home field advantage?
  • Do concerns over a decline in soccer's competitive balance have any merit?
  • What of momentum-is its staying power any greater than yesterday's win?
  • And what of pressure performers? Are there such creatures or ultimately, does every performer fall back to his or her established normative?

    Investigating a wide range of international team and individual sports, the book considers the ability to make predictions, define trends, and measure any number of influences. It is full of interesting and useful examples for those teaching introductory statistics. Although the articles are aimed at general readers, the serious researcher in sports statistics will also find the articles of value and highly useful as starting points for further research.
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    Modelling the development of world records in running
    The physics and evolution of Olympic winning performances

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    About the author (2007)

    Albert is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Bowling Green State University. He has served as Chair of the Sports Section of the American Statistical Association.

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