ESPN Taking Stats to Another Level?


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I'm not too sure how many of you watch ESPN.  If you a guy I'm sure that you watch it pretty often.  I'm also sure that there are a few ladies out there that are interested in sports. 

Recently I was watching the Giants Redskins highlights from this weekends game.  With just under two minutes to go in the game Robert Griffin III threw a touchdown pass to Santana Moss.  Less than a minute later Eli Manning ended up throwing the game winning touchdown to Victor Cruz.

This may sound like a normal football game to you, and you all may think it was a pretty bland highlight real that detailed the end of the game.  However I found something very interesting about it.  

ESPN has reportedly started to calculate winning percentages after events in a game happen.  With less than two minutes to go after the Redskins took the lead, ESPN stated through their predictions that they had a 66% chance of winning due to the game conditions.  Shortly after the Giants scored and the tides changed.  With less than a minute to go and the Giants up by four points ESPN predicted that the Giants had a 74 % chance of winning.  

My question here is how accurate do you think as a fan these numbers really are?

ESPN has often used stats such as these on their tv shows.  Recently when watching a soccer feature ESPN showed the chance in a percentage that the US had of reaching the world cup.  According to ESPN, they state that using a complex system of numbers and analysis of previous games, they have enough information to predict the eventual outcomes of games.  

I am really not too sure what to think of this.  If you are a sports fan the first thing you may know is that ANYTHING can happen in ANY sport.  No matter what the score is or amount of time remaining things can always change.  However ESPN accounts for this.  They just give the team losing (if by a lot ) a lower chance in percentage of winning depending upon the time remaining. 

Although these numbers seems very odd, and maybe fictitious to a sports fan such as myself, I still find them very interesting.  For years now odds and percentages have been used with horse racing.  It may be in a different form but the odds they use are similar to the ones I saw in the football highlight.  

Although i think that these statistics and percentages could be very useful and accurate i think that there are in fact some loopholes.  ESPN has stated that it is hard to consider certain variables into the percentages.  First of all, each percentage is based off other games that have been played with similar scenarios.  However every game is played with different players, in various conditions.  In addition no two game situations due to these reasons and others will ever be the same.

As we have learned the more variables that you put into an equation or experiment the harder it is to solve.  In addition it may be impossible to account for certain variables in equations such as the one used to calculate the odd percentages.   For example you can never tell how tired players are.  It is something we personally do not know because we do not have players on the sideline constantly telling us how they feel.  


I wonder what all of you think about the system ESPN is beginning to use in order to predict odds. Do you think that ESPN just disregards all extraneous variables that they have no chance in accurately predicting?  In addition what problems do you think that this system could have, and how do you think ESPN can further improve it to get more precise odds. 

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1 Comment

Okay, so I am a huge sport nut. Watch ESPN whenever I can and know pretty much al l there is to know about it. Obviously ESPN can get there hands on any statistics they want and use them in any way shape or form. Obviously I know that anything can happen in sports and nothing is ever set in stone, but what I think ESPN does a nice job of is explaining what would happen if everything stayed the way it is as of right now. For example if you look above they give those teams a 100% chance of making the playoffs (assuming they did not clinch already) assuming everything else stays constant. Obviously you can not put a stat on a team for absolutely certainty because you can never know exactly what will happen.

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