Bud Black Needs a Lesson in Probability; Baseball

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The National League wild card race will probably be as close this season as it was last season; the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, Mets, Braves and Phillies all have a chance to win 90 games. So Padres manager Bud Black isn't taking any chances in case there is a tie at the end of the year like there was in 2007. He's holding coin-tossing practice:

"Toward the end of a recent media session, Black pulled out a quarter and told general manager Kevin Towers to practice. Black then began flipping the coin, with Towers calling heads all four times. The first two were tails; the latter two were tails. Last season, Towers called heads for all but one coin toss to determine the site of potential one-game, tiebreaker playoffs. The one time he called tails resulted in the Padres going to Denver, where they lost to the Rockies in a one-game playoff."

Um, Bud...you realize that a coin toss is a discrete-time stochastic process that cannot be predicted and more importantly cannot be practiced. Worst of all, Bud, you're stuck in the Monte Carlo fallacy. The probability of an event in a random sequence is not dependent on preceding events! I think I still have my college probability textbook at home if you'd like to peruse it sometime. (full disclosure: there are doodles of naked chicks in the margins)

Perhaps Major League Baseball should get rid of the coin-toss completely and replace it with Rock, Paper, Scissors. Now that's a contest that requires some practice and skill.


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3 Comments

If you don't drill, you can't win. Remember when Brian Sabean panicked at the coin flip in '98 and shouted, "ZAMBONI!"? The Giants lost the play-in game at Wrigley and the rest was history. True-ish story.

I think they should do Rock Em Sock Em Robots.

Everybody knows you call tails everytime.

Tails never fails.

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