Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dumb and dubious "records"

Some stats and records just aren't worth writing about. From the Toronto Star:
"The Rangers are trying to avoid the fate that befell the Vancouver Canucks, the top seed in the West, who lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. That left Ottawa as the only Canadian team alive, a lunch-bucket crew who started the playoffs as a happy-to-be-here bunch and perhaps surprised even themselves with how far they’ve gone. But they find themselves fighting history. Never before has the NHL lost both top seeds in the first round since the conference format was set up in 1993-94."

So, why is this a dumb record? It implies that these are somehow dependent events - that Vancouver's loss is in some way predictive of Ottawa's chances and that it has in some way made it more unlikely that the Senators will win. Which makes no sense, because these aren't dependent events and Daniel Sedin's concussion has nothing to do with whether Daniel Alfredsson will come through on the power-play.

The history that the Senators are fighting - the history that has some bearing on their chances, and so would have made much more sense to report - is the woeful performance of #8 seeds in first-round match-ups against #1 seeds. ("Woeful" is relative, of course. Compared to the NBA, this record is stellar!) Since the turn of the century, the #8 team has won only 5 of 22 series. (My sincerest apologies for using a Bleacher Report link. I find their "slideshows" and pop-ups unbelievably annoying, but they were also the easiest source to locate for the info.)

So, if you need to give the Senators a historical record to fight against, use 23%, not 0%. Not only is it better math, but it also bears a much closer resemblance to reality. (Which, as I understand it, is something that journalism aspires to?)

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