Monday, January 11, 2010

The Rookie Syndrome

Everyone who has bowled in league has had a rookie season, and it was usually something very forgettable. It is my impression that there is remarkably little variation in rookie averages. For example, both Gingy and K-Terk are rookies this year. K-terk may have been in a league once before, and Ging subbed for us a couple of times last year. Neither has really bowled regularly. Remarkably, though, their averages are pretty much identical... 128 and 127. Last year, our fourth man was Gee-off, the Canadian. What did he average? 127 on the dot. What about the rest of us? Well, Johnebob was a 128. Of the nine people for whom I have rookie averages, four of them averaged either 127 or 128 pins per game. That is remarkably consistent.

To be fair, the range of averages for rookie BM bowlers is considerably greater. The worst BM rookie of all time? Timmy B., who bowled nine games for us, averaged a nice 84 pins per game. The best? Woody. He rolled 24 games and averaged a 139. Here's a bar graph of Movement rookie averages ranked from lowest to highest:

Low rookie averages obviously speak to one thing. Rookies suck. Bowling is not something you can just step into and dominate. It takes practice. It takes repetition. On the surface, it's a really simple game. As you are immersed in it, you become aware of its many subtle complexities. Getting better is about learning what you need to do, but more importantly learning how to do it regularly. The only way to do so is to roll a bowling ball over and over and over and over and over again.

I think the rookie average speaks to a couple of things... general athletic ability and prior bowling experience. Having some coordination is a good thing, but practice makes perfect. Being a rookie means leaving most of your frames open, averaging 1-3 strikes a game, and picking up about 1/3 of your spares. It's not a pretty thing, but everybody's gotta start somewhere. If you can deal with the humiliation of being the worst guy in league (maybe even for a couple of years), you will slowly improve.

Nonetheless, rookies have their moments. There are games when things seem to come together. The marks form long strings on the scoreboard, and triple digits (the rookie relief point) are reached by the 6th frame. Every bowler, good, bad, or indifferent, has unusually good and bad games. What brought this to mind was our current Rook's claim that he could bowl 200. i have no doubt that one day he will, especially if he continues to bowl beyond this season. But will he do it this season? Before I go on, I should note that of the nine bowlers in that graph up there, other than the core movements, none regularly bowled longer than one season, and none rolled a 200 game in their first year.

So, what are the Rook's chances of rolling 200? Without getting bogged down in the details, I took his stats, and I simulated 5000 of his games. Of those 5000 games, 9 were 200 or above. In brief, his chances of getting to the deuce on any given game are currently about 0.2%, or getting there once in every 500 games. For comparison, I checked his chance of breaking our low game record of 88. He has about a 1.8% of doing this every game he bowls. Here's the simulated score distribution:

Now for the interesting part. In league, we bowl a total of 96 games. He has already missed three of those and probably will miss another three. That gives him 90 chances to break 200 at a 0.2% chance per game. What are his chances of getting there during league? They are better than I thought. It comes to about a 15% chance of having a 200 game this season. He also has an 80% chance of rolling 88 or below. That's life in the big leagues, Rookie. Now, buy me another pitcher.


  1. So that is extraordinary! 15% I had no idea my chances were that high. My guess was much lower but the only reason I thought I could pull off the deuce was my two 180+ games. One of which was a 187 with three open frames - basically a mark away. Anyway with games like last night I might be farther away then I think. Thanks for the write up about the tribulations of the rookie season.

  2. I'd put money on the rook setting a new low.

  3. Last night, he had a 78 going into the 10th. Without a mark he would have set a new record. With a ton of pressure on him, he knocked all ten down. He finished with with a 97.

  4. I will never join the 88 club! or start my own club!

  5. I'd put money on the Rookie rolling a 200 game this season. Not much money though.

  6. Maybe we should get Vegas interested.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.