Friday, July 16, 2010

The Brooklyn Strike and the Optimal Pocket

My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am well into my fourth decade, but I have only visited that borough once. Still, it seems familiar to me. You could hear Brooklyn in the way she spoke. Recently, I sat next to a woman on an airplane who reminded me so much of my grandmother that I instantly knew she was also a native of Brooklyn, although she had long since moved away. I guess I have some kind of strange cultural connection to the place. Maybe this is why my bowling ball is so happy to collide with the pins on the Brooklyn side.

A while back, I asked, "What's wrong with Brooklyn?" I find it interesting how bowlers are often apologetic about getting a Brooklyn strike because it was an unintentional and accidental good outcome. You screwed up, and yet you were rewarded. Hell, I think that's something to celebrate. Anyway, in that post, I wrote the following of the Brooklyn pocket:

What is interesting, though, is that it is my impression that if I hit the 1-2 pocket, I have a better chance of getting a strike than if I hit the 1-3 (I am right-handed). Still, I always aim for the 1-3 because that's what you're "supposed to do". Conventional wisdom is a funny thing. There are many forms of knowledge derived from many places, but conventional wisdom grows from consensus. If a large majority of people believe something to be true, many other people will simply accept it as truth without much thought. The conventional wisdom in bowling is that for right-handed folk, it is better to hit the 1-3 pocket than the 1-2. Is this true? I have no idea.

Well, during the last bowling season, I decided to investigate this question. It's not a very difficult thing to do. I simply recorded outcomes of ball that struck the 1-2 or 1-3 pockets to ask the question, "What percentage of pocket balls resulted in strikes for the normal and Brooklyn pockets?" I was simply trying to determine what is the optimal target for bowlers, or is there even a difference between the two? I should note that I considered any ball which first struck the 1 pin and then the 2 or 3 be in a "pocket". Ok, here's what I found...

I recorded a grand total of 353 balls in the pocket. Of those, 261 connected with the "normal pocket", and 92 found the Brooklyn side. Of those that hit the normal pocket, 138 resulted in strikes, or 52.9%. On the Brooklyn side, 39 resulted in strikes or 42.4%. In other words, in this case conventional wisdom appears to be correct. It is optimal to aim for the "normal" pocket because your chances of getting a strike are approximately 10% better than on the Brooklyn side.

That said, I think it is important to note that in the case of every one of these 353 balls thrown, all were intended to connect with the normal pocket. When they did connect with the Brooklyn side, it was accidental. So, it is possible that the lower percentage on the Brooklyn side could be attributed to less accurate strikes. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with intentional targeting of the Brooklyn pocket to see if the result holds. In the meantime, just keep doin' what you're doin'.


  1. Interesting. My Brooklyn-side shots almost always result in strikes when they nick the 1-2 pocket, and that's usually because of a delivery error in targeting the 1-3. If I tried to target the 1-2 side, I'd end up with a mess of ugly spares.

  2. I think you're right, unless of course you miss right, and hit the 1-2 pocket.


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