Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bowling Alley Mural Review: Future-200


Today we review the bowling alley mural Future-200 by Murrey Bowling. This imaginative design features a set of unmolested pins in its center fronted by a hybrid of Rolling Stone lips and linked knackwurst. The lanes to the right and left have wild pin action from the impact of mottled fluorescent purple and blue balls . Fiery beams from alien craft scan the pins for biological life forms. On the right margin of the piece is a bizarre object, so futuristic that the observer feels too primitive to even know what it is. But of course, what makes this mural the work of a creative genius is the anthropomorphic chrome pin setter female cyborg unit awaiting your shot with an open posture. She is something to behold, or even to be held by. This magnificent objet d'art will be enjoyed by one and all, but mostly by Trekkies, Practioners of the Force, Battlestar Galacticons, Dungeon Masters, Warcrafters, Wannabe Ewoks, Elvish speakers, Guys Who Put Scrota on their Pickups, Renaissance Fair Goers, Balloon Boy Fathers, Bowling Stats Geeks, Guys Who Claim to Know Ninjitsu, Ufologists, and other dudes desperate for female robot attention.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The problem with averages

For any set of data, there are numerous ways to measure central tendency. Central tendency refers to the middle value. The most common way this is done is to use what is known as the "arithmetic mean", or more commonly the "average". Everyone knows how to calculate an average. Just add up all the values and divide by the number of values. This is how your bowling average is calculated. There are other ways to measure central tendency, such as the median, but I won't get into that. I would just like to make the point that the average is not always the best measure of central tendency.

In bowling, your average is used to establish your handicap. It is intended to represent the central tendency of your level of skill. Someone with a high average is "better" than someone with a low average, right? This idea pervades sports. We apply it to batting averages, field goal or free throw percentages, earned run averages, and the like (none of which are technically averages). Well, this idea that average reflects skill is not necessarily true. Averages can be wildly off, particularly if you are dealing with small sample sizes because unusual values, or outliers, can produce very skewed averages.

Let's say that over 100 games of bowling, you would average around 140. After your first three games, however, you get 139, 210, and 143. You are now sitting on an average of 164. This is not a good reflection of your skill. With time and more games, your average will come down to reality, but it will take a while. The average could also be skewed the other way, say if you rolled 120, 85, and 143.

Why do I bring this up? Well,we have lost 15 of 16 games, and in part this can be attributed to this unfortunate property of averages. During our first week of bowling this season, we (and especially I) had an outlier of a day. We bowled very very well. Except for Johnebob, we all started the season with somewhat inflated averages. This has put us at a major disadvantage. It was not difficult to see this coming (see here and here).

If you look at our team handicap over this time period, it shows the classic signs of being skewed by outlers. For the first three weeks of the season, it was constant because it was based on our averages at the end of last year (very long term averages). In Week 4, it was adjusted based on our bowling over the first three weeks. We started very strongly; I would say too strongly. In all, our handicap dropped 43 pins per game. This was big deal. It meant that we lost 129 pins a night to our final total.

If that handicap was a good reflection of our level of skill, it would have just stayed there, but instead it has been slowly climbing back up to where it should be. In part, our recent losing streak can be attributed to this simple fact. Over this time period, we have lost some close ones. If our handicap was where it should have been we would have a won a few of those games. Instead, we were screwed over by bowling too well to start the season.

That bothers me. I do not like a system that punishes bowling well because it encourages sandbagging. The ideal strategy for a team in the current system would be to intentionally bowl very poorly for the first three weeks, and ride the falsely high handicap to victory for many weeks to follow. Maybe this is what other teams do. I don't know. One way around this problem would be to use a running average that carries over from the previous year. For example, if your average was based on the last 20 times you bowled, it should eliminate this problem.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BM Summary Stats

I had a request from the Rookie to keep summary stats for the season on the site. I haven't figured out a way to do this efficiently on the margin yet. So, I thought I'd just post them as a pic here. Maybe, I'll just do this from time to time. These are one of the outputs of the new version of our spreadsheet, so they're really easy to produce. Here they are without commentary. Just click on the image to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Low Can We Go?

We came into the night having gone 1-7 against the Mighty Hucks, or Hulks, or whoever they are. On top of that, we had lost 11 of our previous 12. Johnebob was away playing with firearms, and K-Terk made the 50 mile journey from Chey Town. These were the story lines about which the media prodded during our pre-match press conference. The sports editor of the Laramie Boomerang, Cody Wyoming, asked us what was on everybody's mind, "You guys are in quite a slump. What is your mindset for the night?" The Rookie calmly answered with a flurry of cliché, "You know, slumps come and go. Sometimes you're feeling it. Sometimes, you're not. We just take it one game at a time. We don't look ahead to next week. We just go out and give 110%, or on a good night, 111."

With K-Terk not only making his debut, but batting lead off, anything could happen, but not much did. In short, despite his valiant efforts, we lost another four straight. More on that in a minute. First, I'd like to briefly dissect K-Terk's performance because it deserves some attention. We had no idea what to expect from this guy, except for maybe some witty commentary and well quaffed hair. He had a decent night, averaging a solid 138 1/3 pins a game. This was 1/3 of a pin above his estimate. Although he was the only bowler to not get a piece of the leader board, he had 17 marks vs. 13 opens, including 6 strikes. He picked up more than 50% of his single pin chances (6 of 11). He was solid for his first outing. Very solid. He'll be back next week as I'm traveling.

Ok. So, our slide over the last four weeks has been epic. We have lost 15 of 16, after having a commanding lead in the league. The reasons for this slide are multiple, and I won't dwell on them much right now. I'll leave that for later in the week. But in all, we have lost 10 games in a row. In actuality, we have lost 14 consecutively, but I'm not counting the "4th game" of the night because if you lose all three, the fourth loss is guaranteed. This streak is actually an impressive feat. It is very difficult to do. First, you must consider that there are two factors that come into play, how we bowl, and how our opponents bowl. Over the last three weeks, we have bowled very well, very poorly, and very average, and yet, the result is always the same. In part, our impression of the Detroit Lions is our fault, but also the guys against whom we have rolled have been on fire, no matter who they have happened to be.

Here's another way to see it. Before our 0-12 streak, we had a cumulative record of 76-68. We had won 52.8% of our games. Another way to see this is that for any given game, we have a 52.8% chance of winning, or 47.2% chance of losing. In actuality, the probability of winning is likely slightly less than 50% because of our handicapping system. Anyway, based on our past win percentage, the chance of us dropping 10 straight is 0.06%. This is a small number. It should only happen about once in every 1,800 chances. It is a very strange thing, so I will guarantee that we pick up at least one next week, even though I won't be there to see it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lane Effects

As I have progressed as a bowler, I feel like I have become of more aware of the subtleties of the game. For example, like most of you, I know probably 90% of the time whether a spare will be picked up well before the ball reaches the pins, even for tricky spares. One of the things that I feel I am increasingly in tune to are lane conditions. Before I adopted the hook, this was largely irrelevant, but now that I have not only started chucking the ball with spin but with variations on spin, speed, and starting position, I feel like I can better pick up on subtle or sometimes not so subtle differences between lanes. I suspect that most good bowlers do this and even some bad ones, like myself.

Over the last several weeks, for the first time, I have been trying to adjust my throw depending upon the lane on which I am bowling. This has been a big realization for me, but I'm not sure it has really helped my game that much. Anyway, it got me thinking about lane effects. There are nights when it seems like most of your strikes come from one particular lane, whether the right or the left. Last week, the right lane seemed very ornery, like it had been coated with Arrid Extra Dry.

So, I thought I would check the BM database to see whether clear lane effects were present. I thought they would be. I expected that there would be many nights when the great majority of strikes came from a single lane. I also expected to see that for those of us who bowl with spin, there would be a greater bias toward a single lane than for straight ball throwers. It turns out that neither prediction is true.

Ok... this one is going to be a little dense from here on out. This is where everybody usually changes the channel. Bye bye.

Still here? You are a dork. For each bowler and night of bowling, I counted the total number of strikes that were garnered on the home and away lanes. If you start with the null assumption that a strike is equally likely for both lanes, then it is possible to compare actual outcomes to predicted outcomes. We have definitely had some biased nights, such as nights when all of a bowler's strikes came from a single lane. This has happened four times. However, it has never happened if a bowler has recorded more than four strikes. In other words, when it has happened, it has not been unusual. Think of it this way. If you are tossing a coin, you might get all heads or all tails, but this would only be an unusual result (less than 5% chance) if you made a lot of coin tosses, more than four to be exact. If you only made two coin tosses, you wouldn't be surprised if they were all heads. Likewise, if you only got two strikes, you wouldn't be surprised if they came from the same lane. If you got 10 strikes all from the right lane, yeah, that would be weird, but it apparently very rarely happens.

Ok, so for each series, I checked which lanes had the most strikes. Occasionally, both lanes had the same number. The lane with the most, I called "max" and the lane with the fewest "min". I then summed the total number of strikes for the max and min lanes by bowler. This allowed me to check how biased each of our strike numbers are to a particular lane. What I found, as shown below, is that on average, all five of the Movements record about 60% of our strikes from a single lane. The slight differences are not meaningful.

Well, 60% seems like there might be a meaningful bias here, but there isn't. I don't really want to explain why, but this is exactly what you would expect if there were no lane effects, meaning that a strike is equally likely in both lanes. The way the analysis is designed insures that these numbers will deviate from 50%, but the observed deviations are not large enough to be considered meaningful. I'll leave it at that. If I group the straight and hook bowlers, again no difference is evident.

What does this mean? Well, perceptions can be deceiving. My gut told me that clear lane effects should be present, but the reality is that they aren't. Unusual nights will happen, nights when it seems like you struggle to get a strike on the left side. But unless it is happening to you all the time, it can just be chalked up to chance.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Dawn of K-Terk: A sub for the new generation

Next week, the rookie will be senior. Johnebob has departed for the hills to try to bring home a couple hundred pounds of wild meat. The prey? Cervus canadensis, the North American wapiti. Warming the BM bench for first six weeks of the season has been the man with "turkey" in his name, K-terk. Although he was born to bowl, he really hasn't done it much. Instead, he just sits around humming a familiar Fogerty tune. In fact, here's a video of K-terk singing that song:



To this point, the coach has pretty much just ignored him. But no longer will that be the case. The time to shine as a Movement of the Bowl has arrived, especially if he puts on a shirt.

If the future repeats the past, K-Terk will put up a forgettable performance his first time out. This is common for rookies first experiencing the bright Bernaski lights. But we will forgive him. After all, just to make an appearance at the Lanes of Laramie, he must make the perilous winter journey from Cheyenne with a 9,000 foot mountain in between. It will be good to have him back in town to mingle with the lower half of the 2nd third of Laramie's social elite.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Acetone

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. No matter who “they” are, those anonymous people who define words and create quips and adages, they would no doubt agree that the road to insanity begins by doing different things but still obtaining the same result. This describes our last two weeks of bowling, and after Monday night, for some reason, a single word popped into my head to describe it: acetone.

Acetone is a volatile organic solvent that has a central carbon atom with three branches coming off of it. You would know it by its more familiar name “nail polish remover”. It is an apt description of our bowling for two reasons. First, volatility. We had one hell of a flip flop from Saturday to Monday night as I thought we might. We picked up an additional 252 pins. In fact, it was one of our best nights ever. Looking at our team time series down there on the right, it should be very evident that our bowling has been erratically volatile.

The second reason why acetone is a good descriptor of Monday night is that pouring acetone into an open wound would not feel good, and this is essentially what happened to us. We ran into the team of young bowlers known as Overrated, who had what was easily one of their best nights of bowling ever. You see, this team is not so different from ourselves. They have their ringer, Boyer. They also have some decent bowlers in Kenik, Fondren, and Brackenridge, but these guys are generally of our caliber... pretty sad.

Anyway, we started off the night with two 900 games. In our league, a handicapped 900 game gives you like a 90-95% chance of victory, but we lost both of them. In the third, we got our ass kicked once again. We have now been swept for two weeks in a row. We bowled well, very well, and we have nothing to show for it. It was like pouring acetone into an open wound. Three weeks ago, we were No. 1 with a greater than 90% win percentage. We have since dropped of 11 of 12 to sit at .500. Ouch.

I'm not going to dwell on this demoralizing beat down much more, but I would like to point out one odd stat of the night as I so often do. First, I took most of the leader board. Johnebob picked up a few categories including Game 2 high score, spares (12), and pickup % (54.5%). One category went to JD, 1st ball average. Joe averaged 8.83 on his first ball scores, a very respectable score. In fact, it is tied for the 6th highest of all time. What is odd is that he paired it with a series barely in the 400's, a 408 to be exact. First ball average is often a very good predictor of series scores. Based on our prior data, the most likely series score after a first ball average of 8.83 is just over 500. Instead, he went just over 400. Check out the graph below for the 108 series we have on record.

So how does one average nearly 9 pins on their first ball and only put up a 408 series? By missing a lot of spares. Joe only got 4 of his 21 spare tries. His first ball was regularly in the neighborhood of the pocket, but his second was all over the place. It's not that it mattered. Nothing could have stopped the young guns against whom we rolled, except maybe 8 shots of acetone.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On bowling the same game twice

One of the things that fueled my interest in bowling statistics is a website that can be considered the best mathematical treatment of bowling scores ever written. If you like bowling, statistics, and math, it is definitely worth checking out. One of the first conclusions made on that website is that there are 5,726,905,883,325,784,576 possible games of bowling that can be rolled. That's a big number. If you multiply that number by 12,000 or so, you get the number of stars in the universe.

Given this remarkable diversity, it should be intuitively obvious that the chances of bowling exactly the same game twice are very low. In the simplest sense, if you assume that every game is equally likely, if you were to bowl two games, the probability of them being identical is one divided by that big number. Of course, not all games are equally likely, so the chances should be quite a bit better than that.

Now, I should specify what I mean by "exactly the same game". I'm not talking about two games ending with the same score. This happens quite frequently. What I mean is two games in which every single frame is identical. Determining the actual likelihood of this happening is incredibly difficult to do because certain frame outcomes are more likely than others. For example, if you are a really good bowler, who strikes more than 50% of your frames, then it should be clear that your chances of repeating a game, say a perfect game, should be better than for a bowler who is not very good.

What inspired all of this is a simple thought. I wondered if we had ever done this. Have we bowled the same game twice? We have 312 games in our database. Are any identical? To answer this question requires comparing all possible pairs of games... game 1 vs. game 2, game 1 vs. game 3, game 1 vs. game 4, etc. In all this meant making more than 48,000 comparisons. Each game has 21 possible scoring opportunities, two for frames 1-9, and three for frame 10. For each possible game comparison, I just counted how many out of those 21 scoring opportunities were identical.

The closest we have ever come to repeating the same game was 15, meaning that 15 of 21 scoring opportunities were identical. We have done this twice. To clarify what the hell I'm talking about, look at the two games below. I have highlighted in yellow the portions of the game that are identical. Johnebob rolled one, and Joe the other. Note that frames 1-3 are identical, as are the 2nd half of frame 4 through the end of frame 8. Both bowlers began frame 10 with a strike. That these games ended with nearly identical scores should not be surprising.


Our other example involved myself and Daniele. Here it is with the identical portions in blue:


These games are very similar, but they are still not exactly the same. In fact, both are only 71.4% similar. Given enough time, we will repeat a game, but we may not have enough time in our lives to do so. We have on record 312 games. Every single one is unique. As we add more unique games to our database, the chances of repeating one improves. Think of it like birthdays. As you increase the number of people in a group, the chances of finding a repeated birthday should increase. There are after all only 366 possible birthdays. (In fact, you only need to get 23 people together for the probability of a repeated birthday to exceed 50%. Check out the presidents if you don't believe me.) However, given the immense number of possible bowling games, you have to get a large sample before you have a good shot at repeating a game. I'm not sure how large that sample must be, but I am sure that it is very large.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Regression to the Mean

In statistics, there is a concept known as "regression to the mean". It refers to extreme values. Essentially, if you have an observation that is really unusual, it will typically be followed by an observation closer to average. Why? Well, really unusual things don't happen very often and only very rarely do they occur back to back. So, if you bowl really well one week, let's say you have your best day of bowling ever, chances are that next week, you won't bowl as well. The same can be said for bowling poorly. If you have your worst day of bowling, the next time you go out, there is a very good chance you will bowl better. These ups and downs don't have much to do with skill. They are more about random factors that affect any system, bowling included.

I don't know if anybody has ever noticed it, but on this blog, I keep a team time series. It's on the right side toward the bottom. This little squiggly graph shows the total number of pins we recorded as a team by date. It is an excellent example of regression to the mean. If you look at the peaks, the days that we bowled really well, they are always followed by a day when we didn't bowl as well. Likewise, the dips, those days we'd rather forget, are always followed by a better day of rolling.

We started the season with one of our best days of bowling ever. Not surprisingly, the next time we went out, we didn't bowl as well. What is interesting, though, is that since that first day, our scores as a team have dropped. For four consecutive weeks, they have dropped, and yesterday during our makeup bowling session, they dropped precipitously. In fact, it was our worst day of bowling ever. We beat our old record low series of 1,629 from March 30 by 38 pins.

How bad was it? As a team we were 222 pins under our average, or 18.5 pins subaverage per bowler per game. For the first time ever, we had more open frames than marks (66 vs. 56), and our average score for all 12 games was a paltry 132. JD took almost every category on the leader board, getting a respectable 155 average, but the rest of us just sucked.

I'm not going to make excuses, but one factor really did not help: splits. I haven't been tracking split statistics for very long. We have stats for 26 weeks of bowling, but for only 16 of those have I been tracking splits. Over that time period, we have had as few as 5 splits as a team and as many as 16. We average just under 10 per night. Yesterday, we had 20! When a split occurs, obviously it means that you probably aren't going to pick up the spare. I haven't checked our stats on this, but my hunch is that we pick up splits about 15% of the time. Yesterday, we picked up 2 of 20. One was a 3-10, and the other a 2-7. We had two or three 7-10's.


I'm not going to dwell on how badly we bowled. I could point out another 20 stats that would suggest that we can't blame it on bad pin falls. What I will say is that we can be thankful for regression to the mean because on Monday, we will bowl better. We will bowl considerably better, and finally that time series will start moving in the other direction.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Welcome back!


Much to the shagrin of our opponents, we are back from our temporary hiatus.
The post-bowl for this past week will be one for the history books, and hopefully not take place during rock 'n' bowl as that seems to hinder mildly skilled bowlers over 30.

Bowling Alley Mural Reviews: Stained Glass

Today, we review the fresco di bocce titled Stained Glass by Anonymous. This magnificent piece portrays an abstract scene of pin action in a cubist rendering of stained glass. A blue bowling ball knocks asunder a purple pin, all depicted in blocky cartoonish forms divided by lead cames. Bisecting the mural horizontally is a row of pastel triangles and capping it, is a parade of purple, yellow, pink, and green balls. The playful mimicry of glass with paint is reminiscent of the great works of Chinese craft artists who reproduce classic Ming ivory sculpture in polyethylene. Bowling in the shadow of this piece puts the roller in a pious mood, as it transforms the normative alley dinge into a cathedral of sport.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Win one for the Rox

This week, three of the Movements missed league night to go to Coors field. It was a crazy weekend. We sat for more than four hours in subfreezing temperatures on Sunday to watch the Rox lose by one in the NLDS because the Phillies put up one run in the top of the 9th.

On Monday, the hearts of 50,000 people were extracted from our chests Temple of Doom style. The Rox took a two run lead to the top of the 9th after an amazing 8th, only to have the Phil's get three to seal the victory. Once I recovered from getting emotionally yanked around like a bipolar psychopath, I thought to myself, "I missed bowling for this?" Actually, it was well worth it because they were both great baseball games, and the Rox had a great season. As crappy as it was to see them lose, I'm glad we were there.

So, soon we must make up our missed week. We will probably have to do it midday when the lanes feel like Crisco with old people, kids, and weirdos as lane neighbors. But let's win one for the Rox.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Scotch or Favre? On Age and Bowling Ability

When I started doing the research for this post, my goal was to determine the age at which bowlers peak. I am 36 years of age, and my game is improving, but I can't help but wonder when that trend will reverse itself. Eventually, the body breaks down and my average should start to decline. Baseball players, for example, seem to peak in batting average in their mid to late 20's. What about bowlers?

To this end, I went to the PBA website, which lists all active pro bowlers and their stats. In particular, I looked at annual bowler averages, which the PBA lists for some bowlers as far back as 1998. They also list date of birth, so it's fairly simple to look at age vs. average. In all, this gave me 236 data points to work with. When you plot them, you get a really lousy correlation, but a correlation nonetheless.

What it suggests is that from age 20 to age 50, bowlers just keep getting better. To make this pattern a little clearer, I looked at the average average (not a typo) for bowlers ages 20-50 for five year intervals (e.g., 20-25, 25-30, etc.), and the pattern really stands out. PBA bowlers in their 20's tend to bowl in the low 2-teens. Bowlers above 40 tend to average around 220.

When I first saw this, I was somewhat incredulous. Can you think of any other sport in which you reach your peak performance above age 40? Certainly golfers can compete well into their forties, but they usually peak in their 30's. So, can it be true that bowlers are like scotch? Do they just keep getting better with age?

If that were true, wouldn't the ranks of professional bowlers be dominated by old guys? Well, check out the PBA website. This does not appear to be the case. The average age of the 31 bowlers I examined was 37. In other words, there is a good mix of young and old, but certainly this is a fairly advanced average age for professional athletes.

Here is what I think is really going on here. I will call it the "Favre effect" for Minnesota Vikings QB, Brett Farve who is still kicking ass in the NFL at 39 years of age. My hunch is that as professional bowlers age, there is a "weeding out" effect. In other words, if you are still rolling in the PBA after age 40, it's because you are a really good bowler. So, by the time we get into the upper age brackets, they are dominated by very high skill bowlers. This is not to say that skills do not improve with age or experience, but only that what is really driving this correlation is that many bowlers leave the PBA before say age 40 because it is not a fruitful career.

Consider that if you are not in the top 40 in earnings, you are not making $40,000 per year. I have no idea how much income bowlers make in other places, such as endorsements and such, but I imagine that unless you are in the top 20, it's not much. When you are in your early 20's, I think it is a lot easier to bowl professionally and not make much money, particularly if you are dreaming of being the next Walter Ray. In other words, you can struggle through your early years because there is the chance of a big payoff in the future. But as you get older, and it is clear that you are never going to break into the top 20, you will see greener pastures elsewhere. The net effect will be that young bowlers will have a large range of skills (and averages), but as you get into the later middle ages in the PBA ranks, you only have those bowlers good enough to make a very decent living at it.

This is just like quarterbacks. There aren't many QB's who play until they are 40. Those that do were really good, ala Brett Favre.

[Want to read more? Click here for an update to this post.]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The BM Report makes it big

For all two of our readers, I should first point out that the BM Report has a rival blog, the Thumbhole Chronicles, which oddly enough is about the trials and tribulations of another team of generally crappy bowlers in Arlington, Texas. Thanks to E.B., who maintains it, we now have proof that inane ramblings about bowling can make it big. We have been featured in the October issue of Bowlers Journal International, and there is evidence of this thanks to his post. Check out the lower left of this page from the magazine (Thanks, E.B!).


Johnebob's back adorned with our scatological team name is now being admired by ball rollers around the world. Next thing you know, we'll have our own show. What should it be called? Dominating the Lanes of Laramie? Crappy Bowling? The BM Show?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Don't bet on a pair of deuces

Every time I think I have this league figured out, the Briefcase changes things. The League of Bernaski was downsized from ten to eight teams this week, which is a surprise since I thought it was the league that everybody wanted to join. It's an exclusive club, reserved for the upper crust of the lower third of Laramie's social elite. According to last week's schedule, we were to roll against the Hulks, but upon arrival, we soon discovered that once again we would face Lazer Wash. Given their history of league domination, it may somewhat of surprise to learn that the Bowl Movements have fared well against the Lazers, at least during the BIA. Over our last three bouts, our record was a solid 8-4.

That said, we were entering the night having dropped some 43 pins off of our cap, or a total of 129 for the night. In addition, the Lazers came out of the gates looking for blood, giving us a solid beat down in the first, putting us in the hole by triple digits, 111 pins. We managed to pull off the 2nd to avoid the sweep, but they stepped it up again in the 3rd, taking 3 of 4, and giving us our first losing week of the season. Despite their humbling victory, I must note that in the 3rd game, circa 4th frame, I pulled the Black Stallion from the rack to hear Cody "Kid Wonder" Caldwell say, "I am going to pick this up." I looked up to see the old 1, 2, 4, 6, 10 leave, no doubt his first ball came in well shy of the head pin. He threw that nasty breaker, and it came in across the head pin missing it by a hair, only picking up the 2 and 4 (maybe the 10 fell, too). See Cody, I told you I'd make you famous.

In spite of the sullen mood of the night, there was one bright spot in Game 2. Both Daniele and I put up 200 games. Two in one game is a team first. In fact, we had never recorded two in one night. This was JD's first. Here is how it came about, forever immortalized below. He started the game with a turkey but couldn't convert the spare in the 4th. To start the 5th, he chucked one in the gutter but managed to convert what is known among the Movements as a "man spare". He opened up the 6th, leaving a single pin untouched. The 200 looked in doubt until he turkeyed 7 through 9. He was sitting on the turkey with a 173 as he approached the line in the 10th needing a first ball 9 to guarantee the deuce, which is exactly what he did. But he was not done yet. He rolled his 2nd ball picking up the single pin as the foot fault indicator buzzed to erase it. Only Daniele could get a 200 in such style, leaving three frames open, a man spare, and a foot fault.


Johnebob has been struggling of late. Last night, he had his worst night on record with a 380 series. At the close of last season, he replaced the old Brunswick Axis with a Brunswick Twisted fury. In the off season, all signs pointed to a big start. He was getting a ton of break and finding the pocket like mad. During the outing just prior to the start of league, he damn near got a 600 series. In league, though, he is struggling to find the pocket, often getting brooklyn's for strikes. When he does find the pocket, the breaks aren't going his way. It seems like the greasy lanes of midday suit the new ball well, while league dry is the source of his struggles. J-Bob carried the team last year, and he will soon be back.

With our loss, we now sit at 12-4. the Hulks were two games behind. Unless they swept last night, we should still have a share of the league lead. A pair of deuces was only good enough for a single win. After all, it is a fools hand to bet. Next week, it's Lesser Fat, except of course, if the Briefcase decides that we have to bowl Lazer Wash every week.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Daniele and the Deuce

Last week, Daniele put up a 199 game. He missed the magic number by a single pin. If memory serves me correctly (since our records don't go back that far), he was the first person to roll a 200 game in league. Hell, I've seen him go into the 2-teens, just not in league. Yet, since that groundbreaking 200 game, he has failed to reach the promised land again. He went through a major slump in the 2nd half of last year. It was so bad that he couldn't even bring himself to read the Report. Well, he retooled with a Hammer Raw Acid, ditching his old sidekick, the Qubica house ball. He has come out this season showing marked improvement, now sitting on a once unthinkable 155 average.

He asked me to check how many times he has neared but not toppled the 200 mark. It was fewer than I expected. He has crested 190 three times. His three best games on record are 191, 193, and 199. For the 72 games we have on record, the mode of his game score distribution falls between 120 and 130. He is a better bowler than this, which really speaks to his struggles last year.
I decided to get out our old friend, the BM Simulator. This way, I could check how often he should be hitting 200 given his basic stats. This simulation works on two sets of probabilities, which are determined by past performance: 1) The likelihood of all possible first ball scores; 2) The likelihood of picking up a spare for a given first ball score. It is remarkably good at predicting actual outcomes. Below is a comparison of the predicted vs. actual game score distribution for JD.

The real benefit doing this is that it makes it really easy to estimate the likelihood of any possible outcome, such as a 200 game. I simulated 5000 games of JD bowling, and of these 44 were greater than or equal to 200. This means that given his performance over the last 24 weeks of bowling, he has approximately a 0.88% chance of rolling at least a 200 in each game. It should happen roughly once in every 113 games. He currently has 72 on record.

It is not very difficult to take this a bit further. For example, we can ask what is the probability that he should have a 200 in league over the last 72 games (other than the one not in our records)? It is approximately 47%. Furthermore, we can ask, what is the probability that he will have one by the end of this year? It's about 75%. All of this assumes that he doesn't show any improvement (or decline) in skill over this time. Now that he seems to be rolling the Hammer with a new found sense of confidence,I expect to see that average climb. So, as I like to fancy myself the Nostradamus of Numbers, I will predict a 200 game in his near future. I know what he will say to this:

Never tell me the odds. - Han Solo

Of course, this makes me an effeminate gold-plated human-cyborg relations robot, something my teammates think is not far from the truth.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Poof! There goes the handicap.

Next week we roll against The Mighty Hulks. There are two reasons why next week should be tough. For one, the Hulks have our number. In our massive archive of bowling data, this team has an impressive 7-1 record when facing the Bowl Movements. It's pretty clear that Daniele is scared of young Hopkins and Rambo.

But here's the real problem. The first three weeks of the season are over, and now our established averages are legit. This means that our handicaps will be recalculated to reflect our recent bowling. This will not be a slight hit to our team. It will be HUGE. In short, our team handicap will drop by 44 pins. So for example, a game this week that was a 900 will be an 856 next week. That's the difference between like a 94% chance of victory for that game this week to a 26% chance of victory next week.

I know you all want to blame me, and I am in part to blame. But I'm not the only one. Except for Johnebob, we are all to blame. Johnny will actually add three pins to his hcap. This is basically no change from the end of last year because of the new way that handicaps are calculated. I have done the most damage to our team by dropping my handicap by a hefty 22 pins. JD has taken 12 pins off of his handicap, and the rookie has trimmed 13.


There may be one saving grace. It is possible that other teams will suffer similarly, but I doubt it. For one, we are showing signs of improvement, possibly due to the Great Ball Transplant. For another, I think we have a lot more upside than other teams simply due to where we started- really sucking at bowling. To keep this streak alive, we are going to have to bowl as well as we have over the last three weeks and very possibly even better.