Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bernaski's Dirty Little Secret (Why It Sucks to Suck)

We bowl in a handicapped leagued. Handicapping systems are intended to level the playing field, so teams lacking skill (like the Bowl Movements) can compete with teams with tremendous skill (like Laramie Lazer Wash). Yet, if you have ever taken a glance at the Bernaski League standings, you may have noticed that as the season progresses, team standings appear to sort according to team average. The teams with the best bowlers finish near the top of the league, and the worst teams, like the Bowl Movements, tend to finish near the bottom. Isn't there a contradiction here? If the handicapping system equalized all teams, regardless of skill, team average should have no effect on team standings. What's going on here?

Here's "Bernaski's dirty little secret". Our fine league is a 90% handicap league. Handicaps are calculated this way. First subtract your average from 220. Take this number and multiply it by 0.9. Remove anything after the decimal, and voila, you have your handicap. The one exception to this rule is if your average is greater than 220. In this case, your handicap is zero. The following graph shows the relationship between bowler average and handicap.

Why does this disadvantage us? Without getting bogged down in the math of it, I will simply point out that the secret is in the 90% calculation. In a 100% handicap league, all teams bowl on a truly level playing field. When the 90% deduction is used, the disadvantaged teams become more disadvantaged. But how much? Here's an example.

Let's compare our handicap with that of the best team in the league, the Fabulous Baker Boys, aka the Dell Sol Lynch Mob, aka Laramie Lazer Wash. Let's start with us. Our current averages are 150 (John), 139 (Todd), 125 (Geoff), and 147 (Joe). These correspond with handicaps of 63, 72, 85, and 65, or a total team handicap of 285. Lazer Wash's averages are 203 (Troy), 200 (Cody?), 221 (Bret), and 173 (Dell). This corresponds to a team handicap of 75. Now, what happens if both teams bowl their averages, or have a typical night of bowling.

Team: Average+Handicap=Score
Lazer Wash: 797 + 75 = 872
Bowl Movements: 561 + 285 = 846


In other words, we go into nearly every night at a disadvantage. In fact, if we want to beat Lazer Wash when they bowl an average game, we have to bowl 26 pins over our average. Put another way, each bowler has to roll 6.5 pins over our averages every game just to level the playing field. This means that we would have to average 146.75 pins per bowler per team just to compete. Here's the worst part. We can actually bowl slightly better than Lazer Wash and lose!

if I am not mistaken, our team average is the 3rd worst in the league. That we currently stand in 7th place out of 10 means that we are right where we should be according to the probabilities. Actually, if the league standings perfectly matched team averages, we should be 8th. Maybe we should be proud of ourselves.

Here's the hard part. Is this system fair? Should better bowlers be rewarded for their greater skill? This is how the current system operates. It rewards the bowling rich and punishes the bowling poor. Despite my socialist tendencies, I have to admit that it is probably a good system. In a 100% handicap system, any team could win on any night. Imagine bowling against a troop of baboons. In a 100% system, we would not be rewarded whatsoever for being more skilled than baboons (assuming we are). That bothers me. What bothers me more, though, is that in the current league, we are the troop of baboons. This system gives us strong incentive to become better bowlers.


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  2. Yeah I'm not so sure this systems is fair but it seems very similar to golfing handicaps. If I'm a 5 handicap and I'm playing a 20 handicap, I have to beat the guy by at least 15 strokes...kind of unfair, but if you're that good you should be able to do it.

  3. This is the best explanation of why teams with high handicaps (i.e. mine) are at a disadvantage when playing teams with lower handicaps (i.e everyone else). Thanks!


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