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.


  1. K-Terk, K-Terk, he's our man... If he can't do it, no one can! Gooooooooooooooooooo, K-Terk!

    By the way, the odds are very difficult to call in bowling, especially on "developing" bowlers like us. And, I/we know about streaks and slides... I'm the guy that lost 11 pins in average in only 3 weeks. (Getting them back is much more difficult than letting them go!)

  2. Yeah, K-Terk represented.

    As for the odds, that is blasphemy, E.B.! I'll make a believer out of you yet. But there is more to this story that I have yet to reveal. Most of this losing streak, however, can be chalked up to bad luck.

  3. There is an unforgiving, universal law in bowling-- a thread that runs through this tapestry of ups and downs-- and that is THAT THERE IS NO BAD LUCK IN BOWLING. Just bad bowling. I was watching Walter Ray Williams, Jr., on Classic ESPN and the he kept leaving a weak 10 (in maybe half of the frames). Bad luck? No. A weak 10 happens because the physics happens a certain way; the ball enters the pocket just slightly off of target and...well, you know I mean. Conversely (I think), the guys that bowl consistent high 200s and multiple 300 games know how to deliver the goods the same way most every time... Next time someone shouts "You were robbed!", they're just being nice. Go ahead, call me a blasphemer and burn me at the stake, but you weren't robbed, it's just a simple case of operator error.

  4. Hey E.B.,

    Interesting comment. I have to agree with you in that it is a very deterministic system, and if you can hit the pocket perfectly every time, you should get a strike every time. But nobody can do this. There are inevitably other factors that come into play. Some, you can control, and others you cannot. In our case, we can control to a large extent how we bowl, but we can't control how our opponents bowl, nor other things like the effects other people have on the lanes when it is not our turn to bowl.

    I would expect that if you were to look at the scores of pros, they would vary within a predictable range, and that they could replicated with a simple probabilistic model, meaning a model based on chance. This works very well for us.

    Why do they vary? Differences in skill? Differences in psychological factors? Differences in lane conditions? Ball condition? All of the above? Can we agree that those factors you can control fall under the realm of "skill", and those that you can't, "luck", "chance", or whatever you want to call it?


  5. Todd, I would pay for the pitcher of beer(s) that fueled this discussion topic between you and, say, the team doctor... I'm too philosophical, really. But I understand what you mean. No matter how we slice it, bowling is mental-- good games and bad ones. I swear, though, that if I ever get good at this game (by my standards), I'm going to quit.

    Right now I'm still on the hunt for a white whale (a 600 series) and, apparently, a pink elephant (170 avg.). But, it keeps me off the streets and that Friday practice, beer, and counseling session with the team doctor make it all worthwhile.

  6. Can I just continue telling myself that we got home-towned?

    The lanes in Laramie are nothing like the ones I learned on in San Quentin.

    I'm still reeling from a recent pregnancy.

    I pulled my left extensor digitorum longus.

    I'm under the influence of a voodoo curse.

  7. I choose option D. I've always thought that a good witch doctor is tantamount to a good mechanic.

  8. Sorry to be so long getting back, I've been out of town. In response to your previous question/blog, I do seem to leave a lot of 5 pins. It feels like it comes from hitting the pocket too lightly.
    Also, I read your blog from June regarding bowling and beer. Don't have the statistics to back it up but I'm a believer in the Carla effect. We experience it most often at Friday afternoon practice when we bowl more games (and drink more beer). Usually, scores seem to deteriorate with the 3rd pitcher.
    HCLC doc


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