Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'll send an S.O.S. to the world

In each of Frames 1 through 9, there are three possible outcomes: strike, spare, or open. That's it. As you know, in Frame 10, things are a little different, but for my purpose, it is of no consequence. The relative desirability of each outcome is ranked as I have listed them in that sentence. Any bowler (at least a bowler who knows how to score) would like more strikes than spares and more spares than opens and for obvious reasons.

The graph below shows our average scores depending upon the outcome of that frame. For open frames, we average almost eight pins. For spares, we average 17 and for strikes, 21. For better bowlers, these differentials would be even greater, particularly that for strikes and spares.

A simple way to gauge a bowler's skill is the relative frequency with which each of these outcomes occur. I will call it your S.O.S. profile, which stands for Strike, Open, Spare. In actuality, the order is strike, spare, open, but acronyms that start with "S.S." just creep me out. So I'll call it S.O.S. This acronym, normally a plea for help, describes a simple bar graph that you can use to gauge your skill. If you suck at bowling, like we do, it also serves as a useful double entendre. Here's the framework:

For beginning bowlers, open frames will be most common followed by spares and then strikes. The S.O.S profile will slant up to the right. As you improve, they will equalize in frequency, each accounting for roughly 1/3 of your frames. If you reach this stage, you will average in the 150's to 160's. As you improve further, strikes will be most common followed by spares and then opens, giving your profile a downward to the right slant.

To give you an idea of what these profiles mean in terms of average, here is how our team shakes out for the current season:

Notice how the slope formed by the top of the bar is a nice indicator of average. The Sub and the Rookie (top row), with the lowest averages, slope strongly up to the right. The veterans (bottom row) are leveling off, have leveled off, or maybe just maybe, are starting to reverse that trend. The key is to get your strike percentage above 33.3% If you can do that, you are well on your way.

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