Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Air is Pretty Thin Up Here

Anybody have an oxygen tank? It's getting hard to breathe up here on top of the league. We're not really used to being this high. I mean Laramie is way up there, like 7,200 feet above sea level. But we're 11-1. We've won nearly 92% of our games this season. We're going to need Sherpas to carry our balls into the lanes if we keep this up.

Last night the lanes were dry. How dry were they? They were so dry that most strikes to be had were Brooklyn's. They were so dry that grains of sand were piling up into barchan dunes on the leeward side of the lanes. They were so dry that they made the Atacama look moist. They were so dry that in the 6th frame of Game 2, Daniele had to bowl a strike through the legs of a dromedary migrating southward with a Bedouin caravan. In addition to the unusually xeric lane conditions we were up against P. Rose, the 2nd place team in the league. Not to mention, "forced" by extraneous circumstances, I "had to" show up to bowling stinking of Jameson.

Despite all of these factors, the Movements went 4-0. We were led this week by Daniele and Johnebob. The rookie came back to Earth, and I dropped my average a nice 10 pins or so. Daniele took the majority of the leader board, missing two milestones by a hair. In the 1st game and 10th frame, he was sitting on a spare with a 174. He went 7-spare to get his score to a 192. He needed eight pins to reach the promised land, but on his bonus ball, he got a 7 to finish with a 199. For the night, he put up a 495 series, missing the fiver by five pins. He had a great night picking up spares, getting 65.2% of his chances including going 8 for 9 on single pins.

Johnebob had a nice bounce back with a 473 series bringing his average over 150. He carried us in Game 3, and took the high 1st ball average for the week with an 8.60. The Gingmeister struggled as rookies should, ending with a 358 series. The 2nd ball wasn't there for him, as he only got 9.1% of his spares including going 0 for 7 on single pin chances. This is after he picked up more than 50% last week. I had decent games in the first and second and finished with a 113 in the 3rd. I guess the boozing finally caught up with me.

So, here are two statistical notes for the night. First, let's look at Gingis Khan's 0 for 7 on single pin spare opportunities. It seemed to me very unlikely that anyone had ever matched this stat, so I thought I would check. I compiled all 0-for single pin series on record. It turns out it has only happened two other times. On the 23rd of February, the Canadian went 0 for 3, and on March 30, Daniele went 0 for 1. In short, Gingy set a record that is not only very unusual, but also should be tough to beat.

In Game 3, Daniele was frustrated by the number of 9's he was getting on his first ball. In that single game, it happened seven times. He asked me to check if anybody has ever done that before. It turns out that nobody has. For the 288 games we have on record, this is the first time it has been done. The most common occurrence is two first ball scores of nine. We have seven occurrences of six 9's in a single game. JD's seven is the most ever.

These two stats make a nice contrast. On the one hand, Gingy went 0 for 7 when a single pin was left standing. In the third game, Joe picked all but one of his chances, of which there were only six because the 7th case was on the bonus ball in the 10th.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Does throwing a hook increase the likelihood of a strike?

Happy anniversary! This is the 100th all time post on the BM Report. When I started this blog, I didn't know if it would have legs, but it seems to, even if they are short and stumpy. I thought I'd try to answer a classic bowling question for this one. So, the question of the day is whether throwing a hook shot, a curve, or a spin increases your chances of getting a strike. Everybody who throws a hook believes the answer is yes, and that has certainly been our personal experience.

The best way to answer this question would be controlled experimentation, and I'm fairly certain that this has been done. Anyway, here is how I approached the question. First, for the last two years, three of us (JD, JL, and myself) have been throwing a hook. The 4th bowler, whether it has been the Canadian or Gingy have thrown a classic straight ball. So, first we can ask who gets more strikes? The "hookers" or the straight men? Unfortunately, that analysis is confounded by another variable, namely skill. Those of us who throw a hook have considerably more experience than the straighty's which could explain any observed differences, so fundamentally what I want to ask is when a ball hits the pocket, who gets more strikes?

In this vein, in the 2nd analysis, I looked only at frames with first ball scores of 9 or X. I assume that if a bowler got a 9 or an X then the ball was in the pocket. I know this isn't always true, but most of the time it is. So if you look at the total number of frames in which 9's and X's occur and examine the relative frequency of each, it should tell you who is more likely to get a strike when the ball hits the pocket, straight on bowlers, hookers, or perhaps there is no difference between the two. So here we go...

The graph above shows strike percentages for five bowlers, three who throw hooks, and two straight ballers. This graph tells us very little except that we all suck at getting strikes. Yes, those of use who throw hooks have a greater likelihood of getting a strike on any given frame than the straight on guys, but that does not mean a whole lot. It probably means that we have been bowling longer. In sum, hookers have strike percentage of 28% and straighty's come in at 17%. We could pick up a hell of a lot more strikes than we do. I would be happy to see those numbers get up around 40%.

Ok, but what if we only look at likely pocket shots, those frames that ended up with a first ball score of 9 or X? Again, a similar pattern is evident with one exception, the Ging man. When we have a likely pocket shot (a 9 or X), John, Joe and I have strike percentages between 53 and 59%. Gee-off, last year's straight bowler, has a strike percentage of only 41%. Gingasaurus Rex unfortunately ruins this pattern. His straight ball has been very effective at picking up strikes when his house ball is in the pocket (55.6%). My hunch is that the Ging anomaly is due to sample size. We only have 36 frames recorded for JG in which a strike or 9 occurred in comparison to hundreds of frames for everybody else. Parenthetically, his strike percentage is statistically indistinguishable to those for both hook and straight ball throwers. This means with a larger sample size, he could stay right where he is, or drop down with the Canadian. My gut tells me that it will be the latter.

If we combine the data for all straighty's and hookers (shown below), the pattern is very evident. For the three of us who throw a hook, if the ball is in the pocket, there is a 55% chance that we will get a strike. For straight ballers, it's only a 43% chance, and this difference is highly significant.

I suppose one could question whether these results are universal, meaning whether they would apply to all bowlers, particularly very high skill bowlers. To be honest, I don't know. At least for our team, it looks like throwing a hook gives you approximately a 12% advantage at knocking down all ten if you find the pocket.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cops Bowl While Seizing Drugs

If there is one thing I have learned after a almost ten months of blogging about bowling, it is that bowlers do not share my obsession with bowling statistics and probabilities. So, after posting two heavily math dork pieces, I will change gears for a moment. Before I do so, I will note that 4-6 months from now some kindred spirit nerd dude will find that last post and leave a comment about how awesome it is. Until then, I will just sit content having solved the kind of problem that most people will think is not worth solving. Woe is me.

So, anyway, did anyone else hear about the cops serving a search warrant in Tampa ? Here's the short version. Michael DiFalco, a suspected drug dealer was in jail. The Polk County mounties got a warrant to search his house. In the process, they discovered meth, weed, weapons, stolen property, and a Nintendo Wii. What they did not discover was that the homeowner had a surveillance camera that filmed everything they did. What did they do? They played Wii. They bowled. Apparently, they bowled for a long time. You can watch it here.

So, we could certainly dwell on the legality and professionalism of this act. We could even analyze their Wii bowling skillz or celebratory postures, such as jumping and pelvic thrusting, but no, I'd rather not. Instead, I'd like to ask two questions: 1) What would you have done? And 2) How often does this happen?

So, put yourself in this situation. You are working. You successfully complete your assignment. You are still on the clock, and you think nobody is watching. You have the opportunity to screw around. Who among us has not committed this sin? I had a moment very much like this once. I worked at an awful country club, cleaning golf clubs and picking up balls off the range. On my last day, I went down to the range in a cart with my coworker Anthony. We picked up the range balls, and then screwed around on the outskirts in our carts, skidding around in the mud, playing chicken, etc. We did not know that the boss watched us do this for 10 minutes. He fired Anthony. I would have been fired, but it was my last day. Of course, at the time I was 16. That's excusable. These are adult officers of the law. I don't find this as much shameful as funny. Imagine the shit that could be broadcast on the internet if you unknowingly had a camera on you all the time.

Now for partie deux. I am a firm believer in probabilities and the law averages. Essentially, if something has happened, it has very likely happened before. This is not always true. Records will always be set. Super rare things do happen. But it is my contention is what is rare about this particular event is not what the cops did but that the homeowner had a secret surveillance camera. So, how often does this happen, and what particular forms of entertainment do cops find appealing? For example, did 1980's cops do the same thing with Rubic's cubes or Atari's? How many times have police searched a house, found a stash of porn? Have they just ignored it? And of course, there is the age old question what did they find versus what did they report to find? One joint for evidence. One for me. Five grand for evidence. Ten grand for me. Which brings us back to question one. What would you have done?

Why is your team more likely to get seven in a row than you are?

In this post, I explore a question I posed in my last post. Unless you really like statistics and probability, you might want to skip this one, but obviously, this is the kind of stuff I love. In the last post, I noted how unusual it was that as a team we have strung together five or more strikes five times. Individually, it has only happened once. As a team this week, we got seven in a row, something no individual bowler has accomplished. This was contrary to my expectations because certain individuals are on average better bowlers (more likely to get a strike) than the team as a whole. So, the chance of getting seven in a row should be highest for the best bowler on the team and lower for the team as a whole.

Well, that is true, and it isn't true. It would be true if individuals had the same number of opportunities to get seven in a row as the team as a whole, but they do not. If we look at a game of team bowling as the sum of four individuals, both the team and individuals have the same number of opportunities to get a strike, but they don't have the same number of opportunities to get seven strikes in a row.

For an individual, in any given game, you only have six chances to get seven strikes in a row. They are in frames: 1-7, 2-8, 3-9, 4-10, 5-10, and 6-10. In comparison, the team has many more opportunities, beginning with the first bowler in the first frame and ending with the 2nd bowler in the 10th frame. In fact, for a four man team in a single game, there are as many as 42 chances to get seven in a row.

So, even though the skill of the team will be lower than that of the best bowler on the team, in many cases the team will have a better chance of stringing together a large number of strikes in a single game than the best individual bowler.

Here's a demonstration of that. The best bowlers on our team have a strike percentage of about 30%. The probability of getting 7 in a row for that bowler is about 0.022%. If you have six chances in a single game of getting seven in a row, this equates to a probability of 0.153%, meaning it should happen roughly once in every 654 individual games (If you really want to know how I calculated that, leave a comment. I won't be holding my breath.)

Our team as a whole rolls strikes in approximately 25% of frames. The probability of the team rolling 7 in a row then is 0.006%. If the team has on average 40 chances to roll seven in a row in a single game, this equates to a probability of 0.244% meaning it should happen on average once every 410 team games.

That's why your team will almost always be able to string more together than individual bowlers. If you don't really follow the math, think of it this way. Who is more likely to get 14 strikes in a row in a single game, one person, or the team? It is impossible for an individual to do it, right? It has to be the team.

The Team Turkey

In the first game this week, as a team, we threw seven consecutive strikes beginning with Ebob in the 5th and ending with Gingy in the 6th. Johnebob and I pondered whether we had ever pulled this off before, so I thought I would check. It turns out that it was a new record for the Bowl Movements. Our prior high streak was a team 6-bagger, which occurred on March 16 earlier this year.

A few months ago, I looked at consecutive strikes for individuals in this post, and in thinking about this problem, I started wondering why it is that as a team, we have thrown seven straight X's, but individually, we have never thrown more than five.

It's an interesting problem because I would expect just the opposite, and here's why (reader should start dozing off now). The probability of throwing any number of consecutive strikes is the probability of a strike raised to that power. So, if an individual bowler has a 30% chance of getting a strike on any given frame, then the chance of a turkey (3 in a row) is 0.3 raised to the 3rd, or about 2.7%. We all vary with respect to the probability of getting a strike.

For Johnebob and me, it's around 30%. For Daniele it's 24%. For Gingy, 22%. Canadian, 16%. So, Johnny and I should be the most likely to get long streaks of strikes, and that is in fact what has happened. Johnny has bowled at least a turkey 13 times. I have done it 10 times. Daniele has done it 8 times. But for our team as a whole, the probability of getting a strike is less than for our best strike throwers. It's about 25%.


So, seven in a row should be much more likely for Johnebob than for the team. John's chances are around 1 in 4,500. For our team, it is closer to 1 in 16,384. This shows you how unusual our seven in a row really was. Above is the number of singles, doubles, turkeys, etc. for individuals and for the team. What is interesting, though not really surprising is that the two graphs mirror each other perfectly, at least for anything up to a turkey. Four in a row has occurred more often for individuals, but for anything beyond 5 in a row, we are better as a team.

Individually, we have achieved this feat once, when I got five in a row. As team we have hit at least five in a row on five occasions. So why is this? I think there are likely two explanations. One is chance. It is possible that these slight differences are not meaningful but simply reflect the ever present role of luck. The other possibility is that it is mental, but I'm not sure how. Do we put more pressure on ourselves when we are trying to keep our own streak alive, or is there more pressure when you feel like you are bowling for the team?'

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, I have figured out the right answer. You can find it here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Team 10? No, that's Team #1

We are no longer the unknown bad bowlers who walk into Laramie Lanes Lounge at 7:45 on Monday nights and sit with our pitcher of bowling juice. We are well known entities of the League of Bernaski. Case and point: When we sat down to sip the golden juice of bowling last night, Dooley walked in and said, "IT'S THE BOWL MOVEMENTS!". Not 20 minutes later did Schneider see the red and black and say "Hey, it's the Bowl Movements." We are not only known, but we are loved for our charisma, good looks, good humor, and bad bowling skills. I wouldn't say we are familiar to all in a Cheers way, where everybody knows your name, but certainly most everybody knows our team name. It must be easy to associate skills with names.

Anyway, in the 2nd week of our 4th year, we expected the league standings to reflect the history we have with the league, but alas, no. The league standings showed "Team 10" at the top of the league. Likewise, the screen above Lane 16, our home for the evening, read "League Practice, Team 10". Come on Lanes of Laramie, where's the respect for your chosen sons? We are not Team 10. We are the proud men who call themselves the Bowl Movements!

On top of this, we had no idea against whom we would bowl, and in our first opposed match of the season, it turned out to be Laramie Lazer Wash, last year's league champions. Lazer Wash is by far the best team in the league, anchored by young Baker and Caldwell, who hit 200's with the ease of a trucker picking up a hooker at the Iron Skillet. The Briefcase Baker has an average that also floats around the deuce, and The Godfather Soll bowls with the coolness of a man who is at ease with life. This was not going to be a walk in the park. We came into Week 2 leading the standings, and it would be tough to stay there against the Lazers. Yet, due to some bizarre occurrences, that's right where we are, like a blue ribbon alpaca, we're #1. Enjoy it while you can, boys. It will take a miracle for us to stay up there.

Game 1: We kicked ass, but we lost. We put up a 900 game and still fell. This is only the 2nd time this has happened. The other time was on the 6th of April against PBR. Interestingly, our 2nd worst loss occurred against Lazer Wash when we had an 899 and lost.

Game 2: We dominated. We put up 668 pins (HCP=971 pins), or an average of 167 pins per bowler. The Rookie and the Italian dueled it out for top score, and JD took it with a 186. This game was so dominant, we took the total lead in pins to give us the advantage going into Game 3.

Game 3: In this battle of greatness, the final outcome of the series would come down to Game 3. Which team would step up? Neither. We came in with a miserable 813 game (handicapped), and Lazer wash didn't even break 800. It came down to the final frame with Daniele going head to head with the younger Baker, the best bowler in the league. Both were sitting on 9th frame marks, Baker an X, and Daniele a /. Baker released his wicked high break high speed first ball, and left a nasty 2-8-10 split, which he did not pick up. Daniele went 9-. Two head to head open frames gave us the 3-1 victory for the night. Interestingly, our worst win ever, a 796, was also against Lazer Wash on March 30.

Here are some interesting statistical notes for the night. We are off to a hell of a start. Last night was our 5th best performance ever. When combined with last week, the first two weeks of the season have been our best two week performance ever, unless you count the end of last season and the start of this season. Over the last two weeks, we have recorded 3,734 pins, or an average of 155.6 pins per bowler.

We set new team records for single pin spares with 25 and single pin% with 71.4%. We also set a new team record for spares with 46 and picked up 49.5% of our spares as a team going 46 for 93. We struggled with the first ball, only getting 32 strikes. The rookie had a remarkable night picking up spares, getting 13 for 24 or 54.2%. In 20 weeks of bowling last year, the Canadian only broke the 50% mark once. The rookie is bowling well, maybe too well. He currently has a 140 average, a 21 pin improvement from last year.

Next week, if the league standings do not reflect our true identity, we will continue to take out our indignation on whomever is so unlucky as to be opposed to the red and black.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bowling Alley Mural Reviews: Bowlar System

Continuing in the space theme, today I review the mural Bowlar System by Anonymous. In this piece the artist envisions a galaxy in which reside planets of bowling balls in a spiral orbit gliding gently toward a pair of pins soon to be demolished. One gets the feeling that a mass extinction is to occur when these heavenly bodies collide. The artist envisions a space of blue fading to black, freeing himself from the strictly colorless space so commonly chosen as default in the space genre. In the foreground, a beautiful bowling ball is rendered in the palette of a painted bunting. Trailing and to it's right is a ball speaking to a stormy day on Mars. On the left side, is an Earth-like ball world with rings of orbiting rocky debris. Since you have now contemplated the mural for yourself, you have no doubt come to the same conclusion as have I. It is a shame that our solar system leaves so much to be desired. If only we could reside on a large bowling ball orbiting spirally toward its own demise.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Goals for the New Season

I don't know if anybody cares or even pays attention, but obviously, I like to set goals. Two are team goals; One is individual. I did this twice (here and here) last season, and we met them all, although it took until the final game of the season to get there. Here are a few more things to shoot for. I suspect that these will not come easily.

1. Team 2,000 series- To get a 2,000 series, we need to average 500 pins per bowler for a three game set. This equates to approximately a 167 average per bowler. Now, it is asking a bit much of the rookie to put up a 500 series, but the rest of us should be able to cover him. He'd probably need to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 430 to 450 for us to do so. Our high team series to date was a 1,938 on the 5th of January when Becker subbed for the Canadian. This week was the 2nd time we topped 1,900 with a 1,924. I think we can get to the 2k, but it won't be easy.

2. Individual 9.0 First ball average - First ball average is a great predictor of game and series scores. The higher, the better. This stat is also a great indicator of whether you are regularly finding the pocket because you should never be left with than more than two pins standing if your ball lands just off the head pin. I'd like to see one bowler average nine pins or higher for a three games series. I put up an 8.9 on the 5th of January. On the same day, Johnebob recorded an 8.8. That's as close as we've gotten.


3. Team 75% Single Pin %- We are getting better at picking up single pin spares. This week, we converted 67.7%, just under our best ever of 68% set in February. Of these three goals, this seems like the easiest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Would you screw your team over for glory?

Two weeks ago, when the greats of Laramie bowling met for the Informational Meeting at the Lanes of Laramie, a bit of good fortune fell our way. We were the first to draw for team number. Troy "the briefcase" Baker tossed a small red bottle full of numbers onto our table, and one came flying out on its own. We did not choose a number. It chose us. It was #10. When the remaining eight teams drew, one number remained. This was #9. In the Bernaski League this year, one slot remains unoccupied, and we were the first team to bowl against this slot. To win a game against a vacant slot, you only have to bowl ten pins under your individual average, or 40 pins beneath your team average. This does not guarantee victory, but it makes it very likely. Because of our lucky draw, we will bowl twice unopposed this first half, something only six of nine teams will get to do.

So, in this first week, bowling against terrible ghost bowlers, we did well. In fact, we had our 2nd best night of bowling ever, even with Gingy occupying the three spot in the lineup with his 119 average. Our best pin total for three games up to this point was 1,938 pins. Last night, we recorded 1,924, or an average of 160.3 pins per bowler per game. In order to go 4-0, we only needed to average 131. In short, we kicked ass. We have come off of the starting line 4-0 sitting atop the league in 1st place.

As a team, we set a number of records. We put up 677 pins in the 1st game. We set a new record for handicapped series (2,833), in part attributable to our new handicaps, but it would have been a new record anyway. We had 85 marks vs. 43 open frames, almost a 2:1 difference. We picked up 52.9% of our spares. This is a record and only the 2nd time we have broken the 50% mark. As the graph below shows, interestingly, these two occasions are the last two times we have rolled in competition, despite being separated by 147 days. We got 21 single pin spares and set a new high mark for accuracy with 47.8%. We showed up and wore the red and black proudly.


Everyone had a good night. Johnebob crested a 150 average for the night and picked up 85.7% of his single pin chances, the high for the team (6 for 7). Daniele averaged 156.3 and tied with me for strikes with 12. Daniele's best strike occurred when he fell on his ass during his delivery, almost fouling, but still knocking down all ten. The rookie averaged 135.7, a good 16 pins over his average inherited from last year and had the 2nd highest score for Game 1 with a 165.

Now for the interesting part. I went absolutely nuts with a 596 series, averaging nearly 199 pins per game. This is far and away my best three game series ever. The highlight was a 226 in the 2nd, a new record. While it is tempting to believe that this ridiculous start to the season portends a new level of bowling prowess, I don't see it that way. Bowling was easy last night, and I don't know why. I left only two frames open, one of them involved a 4-6-7-9 split, which I damn near picked up. It was fun, but it was also bad timing. I did this when we were bowling unopposed and during one of the first three weeks in which our averages are established.

So, at the end of last season, I finished with a 147 average. I currently sit with a 198. This outlier will be haunting me for a long long time because I am certain I can't do this week after week. If I average 150 for the next two weeks, I will be coming out of the gates in Week 4 with a 166 average, something that still feels way too high. The point is that by having this outlier of a day on the first day of bowling, I may have put my team at a serious disadvantage for the first ten or so weeks of bowling.

So here's the question. Should I have sandbagged last night? Sandbagging is intentionally bowling poorly to increase your handicap. Last night, there were clear opportunities to do so. By the end of the 8th frame in each game, we knew we had the games won. I could have bowled poorly with no downside and lots of upside. The simple answer is that sandbagging is a violation of USBC Rule 17.a.3. which defines "establishing an average below the player’s ability to gain an unfair advantage in handicap or classified competition" as an unfair tactic. I did not. Instead, I chose to screw my team over for glory in competition against a vacant slot.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Calling All Bowl Movements

Four years ago, four brave men set out on a perilous journey in the Battlefield of the Lanes of Laramie. These men put their balls on the line in competition against stiff odds. Since that fateful day in the year aught six, these men have risen to the occasion, year after year, putting themselves in humiliation's way to consume bowling juice and put their balls on the greasy hardwood. Once again, duty calls. Tonight, it is time to reaffirm our commitment as men, soldiers, and patriots to the League of Bernaski. Now is not the time to sulk in cowardice! Now is not the time to let your fellow Movements carry your weight! Now is not the time to make up excuses, like I have a dentist appointment! Now is the time to pull your balls out of their sacks and let them once again collect grease in the field of battle.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bowling Alley Mural Review: Space Ball Wars


Rendered with the delicate grace of a Delacroix battle scene, the mural Space Ball Wars by Anonymous is a classic example of the science fiction realist genre which commonly adorned 1980’s video arcade games. Bowling ball shaped craft cruise through a tightly packed solar system firing space weapons to obliterate enemy pins. As your eyes travel across the mural, you are forced to consider the brave men and women piloting these checkered space balls. This piece inspired countless other copycat bowling space murals, but none will ever live up to the original. Red tones dominate the work symbolizing war, blood, fury, and sexuality. One glance at this sure to be classic of bowling art will be felt deep within your loins.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bowling Like a Freight Train


Bernaski League hot shot bowlers, I'm calling you out. You see what that is? That's right. In preparation for the new season, it is now affixed to the left shoulder of my Bowl Movements jersey with the skill and care of a Bangladeshi sweatshop worker. I'm calling you out, Soll, the Fabulous Baker Boys, and you, too Schuster. For three years, we've seen the smirks on your faces when you have to roll against the Movements. Well, you know what? There's a bowling freight train a comin', and you better stay off the tracks. That's right, the almighty USBC has recognized me for a lifetime achievement. A 180 game. When you see my cheap iron-on patch, you will have fear in your eyes. It's no different from the skull on the stake in my front yard. It sends a clear message. It means I might (if I get really lucky) bowl a 180 again. So bring it. And could somebody please tell the Bowling Hall of Fame to stop calling me. I will give my induction speech on my own schedule.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bowling Handicaps

Handicapping systems are nice things. They allow people lacking skill (like us) to compete with people with a lot of skill (like most of the rest of the league). This way, you can get greater participation in bowling leagues, and everybody feels like they have a chance to win. Handicaps level the playing field, but usually only partly. There is no standard handicapping system in bowling. In our league, we have a 90% handicap standardized to a score of 220. It only applies if your average is less than 220. If your average is greater, you have a zero handicap. It is calculated this way:

Handicap = (220 - average) x 0.9

After you've done the calculation, just remove anything after the decimal. Notice that there are two parts to the calculation. There's the 220 part. We'll call that the constant. Then, there's the 0.9 part. That will be the percentage. For those of you who used to run out of math class crying, 0.9 is the same thing as 90%. Different leagues use different constants and percentages. But how do they affect your chances of winning as an individual or team?

What inspired this post was something that happened at our pre-league meeting last week. It was decided to change our handicaps for next year. One bowler in the league (not on our team) last year finished the season with an average over 220, a 223. So, it was proposed that we change the constant to a 225. At this point, John and Joe looked at me and asked, "How does that affect us?" I must admit embarrassingly that I had no idea.

So, here's the skinny on handicaps. I've already written about some of this, but here's a bit more. The constant part is largely irrelevant. It turns out that the new handicap will have no effect on our chances of winning. It's really the 0.9 part that matters. Here's an example. One bowler has a 100 average, another a 200 average. Using the equation above, these equate to handicaps of 108 and 18, respectively. If each bowler bowled their average game, they would get scores of 208 and 218. So, the the better bowler has a 10 pin advantage. If the constant is changed to a 225, does this advantage change? Here are the numbers: Bowler 1: Avg=100, Hcap=112, Avg Hcap Game=212; Bowler 1: Avg=100, Hcap=22, Avg Hcap Game=222. Notice, there is still a 10 pin advantage. So, the constant is largely irrelevant to your chances of winning.

It only affects those bowlers who have VERY high averages, averages exceeding that constant. Here's why. Imagine if the constant was 100 meaning that anyone with an average over 100 has a zero handicap. This would help no one, except people with sub 100 averages. In this case, our team would not stand a chance against most other teams because we would all have zero handicaps. This is why the constant is always set above the highest average anticipated for the league.

What if you can't anticipate the highest league average? One way to avoid this problem would be to set the constant to 300. I'm not sure why this isn't done, but my hunch is that it is to make handicapped game scores exceeding 300 pins a rare thing. Do you want to see someone bowl a 400 in a single game? It just bothers you, doesn't it? It would be like snow in July, something that occasionally curses us in Laramie. If a constant of 300 was used, this would happen fairly regularly. In our 252 games on record, the highest handicapped game is a 284. Without the handicap, it was a 225 by Johnebob. With Johnny's current handicap, he could get a score over 300, but he'd have to roll a 242 to do it, not an easy thing to do for a guy with a 154 average. By using a constant which includes everybody but is as low as possible, you can level the playing field without producing artificially high scores.

The percentage is what really matters in the handicap calculation. If a 100% handicap is used, all bowlers compete equally. As the percentage gets smaller, the advantage to better bowlers increases. The graph below shows relationship between percentage and the advantage a 200 average bowler has over a 100 average bowler using a 220 constant.


If you are a good bowler, no doubt you will be in favor of using a smaller percentage to calculate the handicap. If you are not so good, you will want it to be closer to 100%. When a percentage close to 100% is used, like 90% in our league, it is attempting to optimize two factors: 1) It allows people with less skill to still compete. 2)It gives skilled bowlers a slight advantage, essentially a reward for being better.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bowling Scoring and Statistics Spreadsheet, v. 2.0


I have now updated the BM Bowling Scoring Spreadsheet to give it a number of new features. Unlike the first version, v. 2.0 has built in code (or macros), which give it the ability to do a number of new things. Unfortunately, Microsoft Excel for Macintosh no longer supports Visual Basic macros, so if you are Mac user, you won't be able to use this version unless your Mac can run Windows. Sorry. The old version should still work. (This capability will be returning to Excel for Mac in the future.)

The basic spreadsheet is identical to the first version, but it can be configured for up to 225 bowlers and more than 100 games. For a description of the basic spreadsheet, click here. If you bowl in a league with a three man team and four game series, the spreadsheet can be built this way. If you only want to track your own stats, you can do this, too.

Updates to v. 2.0:

1) Increased flexibility- Can be configured for any number of bowlers and any number of games.
2) Spreadsheet unlocked- The spreadsheet has been unlocked, so formulas can be viewed, and all cells can be selected, copied, and pasted.
3) Marking of high scores- Do you want to know who got the most strikes or spares on your team for the week? Who picked up the greatest percentage of single pin spares? The spreadsheet will automatically highlight the bowler who got the high stat for the week for many statistical categories.
4) Data archiving- the spreadsheet will store your week to week data allowing you to generate reports showing cumulative and average number of strikes, spares, and other statistics for individuals and your team as a whole over the course of a season.
5) Language translation- Do you want to translate the spreadsheet from English into another language? You can do this, too.

Here are a few more screen shots:





Obviously, I have put a lot of work into this spreadsheet, and I have given it away for free. There are no strings attached whatsoever. When I created the first version, I got an overwhelmingly positive reaction, and I received many suggestions for improvement. I have tried to incorporate all of those suggestions in version 2.0. No doubt, I will get additional ideas for changes and improvements. If you have suggestions, just post them as comments below. To support continuing development of this spreadsheet, all I ask is a voluntary donation of $10. Alternatively, you can donate whatever you can afford or think it is worth to you. This is completely voluntary, and the spreadsheet will continue to work whether you donate or not.

Thanks. -Todd

To make a donation, use the Donate button on the upper right hand corner of this blog.

To download version 2.0 of the spreadsheet, right click here, select "save link as...", and save the spreadsheet to your computer.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bowling Haiku VI


Barack bowls poorly
Needs to work on a leg kick
and a beer belly

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bernaski Season Preview


At 8:00 PM sharp on the warm evening of August 31, Anno Domini 2009 the greats of Laramie bowling convened for the austere occasion of the Informational Meeting of the Bernaski Memorial Bowling league. Dress was formal. Six teams sent representatives including Lazer Wash, Lounge, PBR, Lesser Fat, Prairie Rose, and the Movements. A Little Caesar had the gall to show his face just as the meeting ended. Typical.

Never before had a Movement graced the presence of the Informational Meeting, but seeing as how this was our 4th season, and how we are now firmly fixed in Laramie's bowling elite, we felt we should be there. Three of us, the core of our team, attended. We sat quietly with a pitcher of bowling juice and steely eyes letting our competition know that we meant business. No longer would we be pushed around. As a team, we will finally crest the 150 average mark, meaning we have evolved from crappy bowlers to still pretty lousy bowlers. This message was conveyed by our stoic demeanor.

Once again, we will be bowling with a new man and a new sub. Headlining the three hole in the lineup will be our super sub of last year, the Gingasaurus Rex. Subbing will be K-Terk. These two new men will be walking in footsteps of bowling midgets, serving the role of making the rest of us feel great about how far our bowling has come.

After the meeting, we rolled three games, and Johnebob and JD made a statement. Johnebob averaged a stout 196, a performance that would have set new records in almost every category had it occurred in league. JD put up his first 500 series since the start of the information age. I floundered in Season 2 form, barely putting up a 400 series.

The season begins in two weeks. We will be ready to roll and ready to dominate.