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Posted at 4:08 PM ET, 01/25/2011

What are the odds the Wizards go 0-41 on the road?

By Dan Steinberg

I'm in Las Vegas, which has me thinking about odds.

For example: what are the odds the Wizards would have uniform malfunctions during two consecutive games, starting with Mustafa Shakur's Salvation Army jersey top, and concluding with Kevin Seraphin's backwards shorts? I asked a Vegas sharp named Falstaff that question, and he offered me a 75-1 estimate. Then he went back to figuring out whether betting yes on a Super Bowl safety at +800 was a good use of his retirement funds.

Or how about this one: what are the odds that the Capitals would go 1-9 in their previous 10 trips past regulation, as they've actually done? The complicated answer would have to factor in how the Caps skaters and goalies have historically performed in four-on-four situations and shootouts, and how their specific opponents have done in the same situations, and who had home ice, and how that mattered, and the quality of the intermission sports drinks.

But if you assume that any trip beyond regulation is roughly a 50-50 proposition, then the chances of a given team going 1-9 would be slightly less than 1 percent, or about 103-1, according to a pair of math nerds, Caps blogger Neil Greenberg and government economist Matt Swartz. As Swartz points out, the odds of going either 1-9 OR 0-10 are slightly better, at 1.07 percent, but it's still a pretty rare feat.

Now back to those Wizards. The best statistical accomplishment any D.C. team has going at the moment is the Wizards and their 0-21 road mark, bizarrely coupled with a 13-9 home record that is 7th best in the Eastern Conference. What are the odds of such a thing happening?

Swartz, a PhD economist who also does work for BaseballProspectus.com, notes one possibility: calculating the odds of losing all 21 road games given a 13-30 overall, if you assume home and road losses are equally likely. Obviously, they aren't, but just for fun, he calculates these odds at just 0.0014 percent. What an accomplishment!

More to the point, what are the chances the Wizards reach 0-41 road perfection? Let's now be more realistic, and use the Wizards' road record from 2009-'10 as some sort of benchmark. Sure, that was a different, more experienced team, but their overall winning percentage was remarkably similar to this year's group.

Last year's Wizards had a 26.8 percent road winning percentage. Swartz and Football Outsiders's Bill Barnwell both told me that the odds of losing 20 straight games for a .268 road team would be just over 0.20 percent.

That means, were they at heart a .268 road team, the Wizards would go oh-fer in about one out of every 500 20-game road trips. It might also imply that the chances of finishing off this season 0-41 on the road aren't very high.

Greenberg and Swartz both independently assumed the Wizards should probably be about a .200 team on the road, given their overall record. If that's a better number, then the chances of an 0-for-20 stretch would be about 1.15 percent, or 87-1.

(Too many numbers? Here's a brain-cleanser: While Vegas has both the Steelers and the Packers at 100-1 to finish with exactly zero points in the Super Bowl and 500-1 to finish with exactly two points, the Steelers are judged much more likely to have exactly 3 points (60-1) than the Packers (125-1). Go figure.)

Ok, mind cleared? Now for the really sick stuff, we'll turn to Justin Monaldo, a government statistician with a master's degree in the stuff. Don't worry, these government workers are totally doing this research in their spare time.

Monaldo decided to take things one step further, by calculating the Wizards' chances of losing their final 20 road games according to the home winning percentage of their remaining opponents. Since home records tend to be much more mediocre than the Wizards' assumed awfulness, he came up with a 0.0015 percent chance of the Wizards dropping their next 20 on the road, a virtual statistical impossibility.

But this, of course, doesn't factor in the Wizards' poor quality, so then Justin took these home winning percentages and calculated an inflation factor that includes Washington's overall winning percentage. This is a fairer fight, since it at least accounts for the Wizards being a bad team in general.

And this raises the chances of the Wizards losing 20 more consecutive road games to 0.032 percent, which is probably about as good as we're going to get. In other words, you'd still probably want to bet against it. Depending on what price Vegas would give you.

By Dan Steinberg  | January 25, 2011; 4:08 PM ET
Categories:  Caps, Wizards  
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Comments

What are the chances that I have bet on all of the Wizards last 10 road losses and lost, not just on the moneyline, but on the spread each and every time?

100%

Posted by: Barno1 | January 25, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Barno,

Sounds like you should have bet the moneyline. Remember this next time you rant about how you're right all the time.

Posted by: GeorgeTowner2 | January 25, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't recall ever ranting about how i'm right all the time. Also don't understand why it sounds like I should have bet the moneyline, considering we are 0-21. Do you know how to read?

Posted by: Barno1 | January 25, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Easy on him Barno. He's from Georgetown. He's used to daddy reading and thinking for him.

Posted by: fushezzi | January 25, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm utterly confident that this squad doesn't go 0-41 on the road. 1-40 maybe, but 0-41 is out of the question.

Posted by: randysbailin | January 25, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

@fushezzi

Good one smart guy. Yeah, those Georgetown kids, a real bunch of lunkheads. Anybody can get in that school...LOL.

Posted by: dbunkr | January 25, 2011 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Don't recall ever ranting about how i'm right all the time. Also don't understand why it sounds like I should have bet the moneyline, considering we are 0-21. Do you know how to read?

Posted by: Barno1 | Janu

Barno, perhaps you could have written your comment better. Betting the moneyline would have worked out very well if you were betting against the Wizards. You did not make it clear at all who you were betting on.

Posted by: Thundershock | January 25, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Thundershock, let me break down the sentence for you since you obviously have issues reading plain English:

"What are the chances that I have bet on all of the Wizards last 10 road losses and lost, not just on the moneyline, but on the spread each and every time? 100%"

Clearly, when I state that I "lost, not just on the moneyline, but on the spread" that indicated I lost on both the moneyline and the spread. Impossible to do unless you are betting on the same team in both instances.

Wow. Some people just aren't very smart.


Posted by: Barno1 | January 25, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse

How about a contest who guesses the first road win this year?

I say it will be against Memphis.

Posted by: charley42 | January 25, 2011 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Thundershock, let me break down the sentence for you since you obviously have issues reading plain English:

"What are the chances that I have bet on all of the Wizards last 10 road losses and lost, not just on the moneyline, but on the spread each and every time? 100%"

Clearly, when I state that I "lost, not just on the moneyline, but on the spread" that indicated I lost on both the moneyline and the spread. Impossible to do unless you are betting on the same team in both instances.

Wow. Some people just aren't very smart.


Posted by: Barno1
____________________
I don't bet, and don't know the difference between the moneyline and the spread, but you still don't see the problem. The above post claims that you must have bet on the same team as to each. Thundershock is simply pointing out that you never made clear whether you were betting for the Wizards or against them. You only said that you bet on all the Wizard's GAMES, not that you bet on the Wizards.

Posted by: JoeT1 | January 26, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

@JoeT and @Thundershock

By saying he bet on all the Wizards ROAD LOSSES barno implies he is betting on the wiz. deductive reasoning homez.

also, who cares. Barno, stop betting the Wiz

Posted by: jpfterps | January 26, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

It could happen. They missed their big chance when they lost to the Timberwolves in Minnesota on January 13th.

Posted by: rcgus | January 26, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

jpfterps breaks it down. And he's right, I need to stop betting on the Wiz.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 26, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

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