What are the odds the Wizards go 0-41 on the road?
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.
| January 25, 2011; 4:08 PM ET
Categories: Caps, Wizards
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