Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Rise of the Samurai Pitcher

Masahiro Tanaka stands on the mound, rubbing the ball vigorously between his hands. It's a crisp, cool night in the Bronx. Stepping back, he digs his right foot into the rubber, winds up and, with a seven-foot stretch, steps towards the catcher, unleashing a blistering four-seam, 95 mph fastball. Less than half a second later, it explodes into the catcher's mitt with a loudpop. The batter can only stand and watch as it flies by. Strike one!

It's a common scene when Tanaka takes the mound for the New York Yankees. With the focus and discipline of a Samurai warrior, their star rookie pitcher has taken Major League Baseball (MLB) by storm in 2014. His stats[1] (as of August 15, 2014) are gaudy: 2.51 ERA(Earned Run Average), 12-4 record and a 1.01 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched). Further, the guy's a strikeout machine, fanning 135 hitters vs only 19 walks. Tanaka is the latest Japanese ace to infiltrate MLB. Twenty years ago, you'd have to look long and hard to find a Japanese pitcher in this league (in fact, you'd find only one: Hideo Nomo, aka the "Tornado"), but today, it is an increasingly common site. What's going on?

This article was written by Patrick Rhodes - the the author of "Graph of the Week" - for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Swallowing the Bitter Pill: England, the Premier League and the World Cup

Discussions abound about England’s chances at the 2014 edition of the World Cup. For a country which has produced elite football players such as Gary Neville, John Terry and Paul Scholes (and yes, David Beckham), there isn’t a lot of optimism about their chances this summer. The sports collective favors Brazil followed by Argentina, Germany or perhaps Spain (defending champs) to win it all. In other words, nobody is predicting an English title for this edition yet everybody is looking for something to blame. It’s become somewhat trendy to blame the Premier League (England’s top professional Association Football league) for England’s national team downfall. Why? Because fewer than 1/3 of its players are actually English. Rampant speculation about this phenomenon has led to intense discussion at all levels of the sport in England - the same country in which the sport was invented. Let's try to settle this debate.

Best League in the World?
If we “follow the money” (for 2013) and judge a league not only by its top teams, but also the bottom-feeders and every team in between (in terms of money), then the Premier League is indeed the best (meaning: although Manchester City is an outlier, most of the league isn't as far behind, salary-wise as in other leagues[1]).
This article was written by the the author of "Graph of the Week" for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL

Introduction
"Three yards and a cloud of dust" (1) - that's how Woody Hayes described his "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle", the offense that defined the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 50s and 60s. He went on say that, in regards to the passing game, "only three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad". Hayes' colourful description of his offense springs directly from the original vision of American Football: run, run, run. Were he alive today, he would be shocked to see that the game has evolved into a philosophy of pass, pass, pass. This phenomenon has elevated one player position above all others: the quarterback. He has become king; all other players are subject to the whims of the crown. How did this happen? Let's review the game, its history and follow it through.
thumbnail image: Three Yards and A Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL
The Most Popular Sport in the World
American Football - simply known as “football” in the United States - generates the most revenue of any sporting franchise in the United States and indeed the world (2). In 2012, the NFL (National Football League) took in nearly $10 billion dollars (U.S.) compared to the Premier League at $3.3 billion. Still not impressed? Attendance numbers tell the same story: the NFL attracts nearly 4 million spectators more than the nearest competitor which, interestingly, is not what you might guess (hint: it’s not the Premier League and it’s not some other American sports league). If you guessed the Bundesliga association football (i.e. “soccer”) league in Germany, congratulations! That league holds the number two designation (3), which drew 13.8 million visitors during the 2011-12 season compared to 17.2 million for the NFL.
This article was written by the the author of "Graph of the Week" for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Rise, Fall and Rise of English Triple Crown Racing Speeds

A horse with a crimson “6” displayed on either side of its girth processes to the parade ring. There are people milling about, looking over “Six” as well as the other entrants for the 2013 running of the St. Leger Stakes. Alongside Six stands a very short, wiry man dressed in a matching crimson outfit. He speaks with the trainer in hushed tones, discussing race strategy. Six is alert; energy radiates from the tip of it’s brown and white snout to the end of its finely groomed tail. As the pair leave the ring and canter to the gate, Six snorts a couple of times as the gates are closed behind it. In short order, the other steeds are similarly lined up and a bell rings. And they’re off!
thumbnail image: The Rise, Fall and Rise of English Triple Crown Racing Speeds
Speed
Horses are fast; according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest average speed ever attained by a horse is 70.76 kph (43.97 mph) (1). That record was obtained over two furlongs (about 402 meters or 1/4 of a mile). For distances more comparable to Triple Crown racing, the fastest average speed over ~2.4 km (1.5 miles) is 60.86 kph (37.82 mph)1. It stands to reason that the longer the distance, the slower the average speed will be although the track surface has a large impact on this (see Table 1).

See the rest of this article from the author of Graph of the Week on Statistics Views.

Monday, July 22, 2013

David vs. Goliath in Men's Professional Tennis

David dances lightly from side to side, his small feet stirring up wisps of dust from the clay surface. Twirling his racket in anticipation, he peers intently at his colossal foe hoping to spot some clue where the first serve will go. Across the net is a giant of a man, glaring at David with a stone-faced scowl. The crowd, once rowdy, is now silent; all eyes are riveted on Goliath as he bounces the ball on the rust-colored surface. Known for his amazing strength and exceptional height, they eagerly await his first monster serve.

See the rest of this article from the author of Graph of the Week on Statistics Views.


Friday, November 2, 2012

The New Madrid Fault - Past, Present and Future

New Madrid, Territory of Missouri, March 22, 1816
Dear Sir,
In compliance with your request, I will now give you a history, as full in detail as the limits of the letter will permit, of the late awful visitation of Providence in this place and vicinity. 
On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do - the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species - the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi - the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed -- formed a scene truly horrible.
[Remaining text of this letter not shown] 
Your humble servant,
Eliza Bryan

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2014 Winter Olympics: Home Court Advantage - Russia

winter olympics home country advantage

"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
 -- Winston Churchill, radio address in 1939

A couple of weeks ago, Graph of the Week published an article describing the significant improvement in medals won by the host country as opposed to how that country 'normally' performs when not hosting. We concluded that Great Britain (the host country) would end up with between 53 and 70 medals (roughly 1.5 - 2.0 times more than 'normal'). As it turns out, they won 65.

The Winter Olympics may not be until 2014, but why not make another prediction for the host country?  So, Russia, let's take a look at you and see what we can surmise.

Fact: Russia has never hosted the Winter Olympics - nor had the Soviet Union. That seems a bit odd seeing that the Russians usually do well in these games. There is probably another story lurking around there, but we'll let someone else field that one.

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