Randomization in Sports

Posted on December 11, 2007  Comments (1)

Here is my comment on, The Sun Devil Suggestion System:

My father was a professor (of statistics, chemical engineering… at the University of Wisconsin. I remember one time he wanted the football coach to randomly select the play for certain situations. They would have say 4 plays for 3rd and 3. Instead of making the decision of which to run he thought they should just randomly pick from those 4. The idea was that would eliminate the coaches’ bias which the defense could predict and plan for. The theory was being more unpredictable would lead to more success. They didn’t go for it.

Here is a post on the Freakonomics blog today, Why Don’t Sports Teams Use Randomization? by Ian Ayres:

Levitt and others have tested the degree to which professional tennis and soccer players are successful at playing randomized strategies. But it remains a mystery to me why coaches don’t have random number generators (any laptop would do) to help them pick the next pitch in baseball, or the next play they will call in football.

He then goes on to discuss an equally interesting but different topic faulting coaches for failing to take enough risk in football – in going for a first down on fourth down. That supports my gut instincts. The “conventional wisdom” seems mainly about not “seeming stupid” not the best long term results.

Related: Testing Mixed-Strategy Equilibria When Players Are Heterogeneous: The Case of Penalty Kicks in SoccerMinimax Play at WimbledonStatistics for Experimenterssports related posts

One Response to “Randomization in Sports”

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