NHL goalies and luck

Fascinating post from 538 to feed my growing obsession with hockey goaltenders.  Apparently, a huge amount of goaltending is really luck and a good portion of hot (and cold) streaks are surely just statistical anomalies, rather than great (poor) goaltending:

But herein lies a great paradox: Despite goaltending’s outsize impact on the outcomes of hockey games, it’s extremely hard to say exactly which goalies are truly good or bad at their jobs.

This perplexing point was raised by the authors of the 2010 book “Stumbling on Wins,” and it still stands today. Using Hockey-Reference.com’s adjusted version of the save percentage statistic, adjusted Goals Against Percentage (GA%-),4 the correlation of goalie performance from year to year is so low5 that, in practical terms, only 30 percent of the difference we see between a goalie and the league average in any given season actually “belongs” to the goalie himself. The rest is just random. [emphasis mine]

The poor correlation of save percentage from one year to the next also indicates that goalies are extremely volatile commodities. For instance, if a goaltender is above average in a given season, there’s only a 59.2 percent chance he’ll be above average again the following year. And if he’s below average now, don’t worry: There’s a 47.2 percent probability that he’ll be above average next season…

A goalie’s save percentage only begins to stabilize after facing around 3,000 shots, at which point we would expect half of his observed performance to be talent (the rest is still luck). The busiest goaltenders each year face roughly 2,000 shots, so it takes about a season and a half for GA%- to offer insight on even the biggest goaltending workhorses…

If chance overwhelms skill in an entire regular season’s worth of goaltending statistics, imagine what can happen in the playoffs, when the leading goalies face but 800 shots at most…

It’s something to keep in mind during this year’s playoffs. Just as we found the correlation for regular-season GA%- to be quite low from year to year, the correlation between a goalie’s regular-season and his playoff GA%- is even smaller, as is the correlation between his previous career GA%- and playoff GA%-. We can’t predict who will fluctuate, just that somebody likely will.

I’m a modest fan of the Carolina Hurricanes.  I think Cam Ward is probably a better-than-average goalie (or maybe not), but I cannot help but thinking that his whole career/reputation was made by having a great run– the majority of which was just luck– during his 2006 rookie season in the ‘Canes’ Stanley Cup run.

Quick hits

1) I loved seeing “Sue” the T. Rex in Chicago a few years ago.  Here’s the story of how Smithsonian was blindsided on how expensive she would be and was massively outbid.

2) Here’s a school system that thinks making a fellow student “uncomfortable” (in this case by twirling a pencil) should lead to a suspension and psychiatric evaluation.

3) I was prepared to think Jezebel was over-reacting, but these ads are truly horrible.

4) The reason that acceptance rates at top colleges are down is because too many kids are applying to way too many schools.  And you get this:

Bruce Poch, a former admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., said he saw “the opposite of a virtuous cycle at work” in admissions. “Kids see that the admit rates are brutal and dropping, and it looks more like a crapshoot,” he said. “So they send more apps, which forces the colleges to lower their admit rates, which spurs the kids next year to send even more apps.”

5) The marijuana legalization opponents predicted a major crime way if marijuana became legal.  Not at all surprisingly, they are wrong.

6) Not just unemployment, but labor force participation rate is a real problem these days.

7) All those constant Lumosity pitches are not based on a lot of actual science, but here’s some evidence that brain-training really works.  Time to start playing the N-back game?  (I’ve actually been thinking this might really benefit my son with ADHD).

8) The best evidence Obamacare is working.  Drum on how you’ll never actually hear even a modest admission of that from conservative sources.

9) I love looking at American health care in a comparative perspective.  A really good article on how the German system works and what we can learn from them.

10) Tell white people they will be a minority and they become more conservative.  Yikes.  Jamelle Bouie on how this means the whole country could end up like Mississippi (double-yikes!)

11) American’s are hopelessly resigned to the fact that we can’t make meaningful changes in campaign finance.  And I’m one of them.  Larry Lessig says we need to get past this.  He’s right, of course.  But I’m just too skeptical of real change.

12) Vox explains the oil curse.  Simple but compelling.

13) I started reading this column about the recent Ebola outbreak and thinking about the book I read last summer by David Quammen about zoonotic diseases.  Then I noticed the column was by Quammen.

14) Listened to a fascinating Fresh Air interview about a new book detailing how Michael Rockefeller (of those Rockefellers) was likely killed and eaten by cannibals.  And here’s a Slate piece on the book.  Pretty amazing and compelling stuff.

15) Been reading for a while about how caffeine can improve your athletic performance.  Here’s a nice how-to guide from Vox.  (Before our 5-mile doughnut run, I actually gave my 14-year old son some caffeine– something he otherwise never has).

16) Totally deserves it’s own post, but since I haven’t gotten around to it yet… Here’s how a recent study find tens of thousands “suspicious votes” in NC.  But history very strongly suggests that when they are examined more closely, only a very small handful will be the result of malfeasance.  Not surprisingly, Republicans are simply pretending otherwise.

17) I’ve long known Jim Demint is a moron.  He argued this week that “big government” had nothing to do with ending slavery.  Jamelle Bouie’s takedown.  Adam Gopnik’s is even better:

This is, in plain English, so ignorant that, as I say, there has been no shortage of corrections. A debate about whether big government freed the slaves is pretty much the only debate that a liberal is guaranteed to win. The Civil War was the original big-government overreach: it came from Washington, D.C.; it involved raising new taxes (in fact, it is the origin of a number of taxes); it confiscated rifles from rebels; it did special favors for minorities (in this case, the special favor of recognizing them as human beings and setting them free from lifelong bondage); and, in the end, it imposed a bureaucracy on an unwilling population (that is, it imposed the Union Army on the South). Many things can be said about the Civil War, but not that it was done with the benign neglect of the federales. The moral point was argued for decades, as it is with most issues in a democracy. But that big government freed the slaves is as sure a fact as any in history.


Quick hits

Got quite busy with a Political Science conference this week (gone Thursday through late last night), but better late than never:

1) Thought this was a really interesting analysis of why Manchester United is performing so much worse without Alex Ferguson.

2) Great essay by Mike Konzal on the conservative myth of building a safety net on charity.  Just doesn’t get the job done.

But this conservative vision of social insurance is wrong. It’s incorrect as a matter of history; it ignores the complex interaction between public and private social insurance that has always existed in the United States. It completely misses why the old system collapsed and why a new one was put in its place.

3) Is American democracy on its way to extinction.  I think not, but I do wonder sometimes.  Interesting essay.

4) Not so easy to work your way through college at today’s tuition prices.

5) How the extreme right has had hugely disproportionate influence in Arizona government.

6) Latest research suggests that Black Death was not spread by fleas on rats.

7) The NCAA cracks down on cat mugs.

8) How a long span of a particularly wet climate may have been the key go Ghengis Khan’s conquests.  On a related note, I also learned that roughly .5% of the world population is a descendant of Genghis Khan.

9) John Dickerson on how Obama learned the value of panic when confronted by the ACA website failure.

10) Nice piece on the Honeymaid “wholesome families” campaign.

11) Found this Post article on the difficulty of filling jobs in an egg-processing plant a really interesting read.

12) A student sent me an email about the government saving millions of dollars just by switching fonts in official publications.  As I expected, it was a pretty faulty analysis.  I am fascinated by fonts, though.

13) The child-less Reihan Salam argues that we should raise taxes on the child-less.


The clearest evidence of the Yankee infiltration of NC

Not much of a baseball fan these days, but I love this map of favorite baseball team by county for the whole country.  Must admit I was surprised that I’m actually in NY Yankee territory.  But, then again, my hometown of Cary, NC has been referred to as Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.  I guess this is the proof.  Also interesting to see that the Yankees basically fill in gaps where there is no favorite local team.  Lastly, it is sad to me, growing up a NoVA Orioles fan to see that they have been supplanted by the Washington Nationals.  I’ll always be an Orioles fan.

Now That the Baseball Season Is Here, Who’s Your Team ?

Photo of the day

I almost went with the ostrich racing photo from this Wired gallery of weird sports, but could not resist the drama in this frog-jumping photo:

Breanna Ziehlke encourages her frog to get on with it at the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee. SOL NEELMAN

Quick hits (part 1)

Never posted a quick hits last week.  Friday night (when I usually work on them) at the ACC Tournament and busy weekend of soccer, etc., plus a busy week.  Anyway, I’ve got two weeks worth of hits now.  My goal is part 1 for Saturday morning with part 2 to follow on Sunday.  Enjoy.

1) Totally intrigued by this speed reading app.  It really does work.  Though, I have a hard time imaging myself using this for more than a few minutes at a time.  The Atlantic throws some cold water on things.

2) Really enjoyed this story about the SAT overhaul.  Seems like this will generally be a more meaningful test.  Glad this will take effect in time for my oldest son in a few years.

3) The physics of the new World Cup soccer ball.  Probably better than the last ball.

4) There really is just too much good television these days.  David Carr.

5) Federal judge rules that college faculty don’t have the right to proselytize while teaching.  Damn, there goes next week’s lecture on lobbying.

6) Really amazing first-person account from one of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre (shared on FB by a VT professor friend who had some friends/colleagues among the victims).

7) Maybe buy local isn’t so great when it comes to meat.

8) It ain’t easy going from being a political reporter to working as a wage slave in a Sporting Goods store.  Nice essay.

9) If the moon were only 1 pixel.

10) Can a rubber hand make you less racist?  Yes.

11) I didn’t actually know about the “thigh gap” till I read this.  Interesting.  And awesome in the “photoshop fail” sense.

12) Robert Reich on America’s “great U turn.”  Good stuff.

13) More evidence that we are just stupid to expect our teenagers to start high school so early in the day.

14) Love this gallery of awkward photos of cats and dogs with furniture.


“Student” athletes

I get that the NCAA tournament is a really big deal for the universities that get to participate.  But do the “student” athletes really need to miss two entire days of school for a basketball game?!  This photo is from the NC State basketball team at 9am yesterday, flying to Dayton, Ohio  (I’m guessing about a 2 hour flight) for a 9pm game today.  I know it’s not this bad for regular season games, but even then it seems that teams regularly leave the day before for 7 and 9p games.  How that is compatible with being a properly functioning university student is beyond me.  Maybe UNC has it all figured out.

How to score goals in hockey

Take a time machine and go back before the butterly approach to goaltending took over in the 1990′s.  A few weeks ago, I gave a quick hit link to a great story on how the Finns have come to dominate goaltending using this approach.

Now, there’s more on the matter from my new favorite website (Nate Silver’s new 538– just wow.  Expect to being seeing a lot from here.  Completely in my stats nerd journalism sweet spot).  Great article about how Wayne Gretzky had it so much easier scoring most of his goals before the butterfly style was popularized.  Yes, he was great, but you can definitely see how hockey goalkeeping has dramatically improved.

Compared with today’s game, you can really see the difference in goaltending technique (notice how many of the goalies tried to stop Gretzky’s shots without dropping to the ice). Modern goalies are more athletic and mobile, and, yes, their pads are plainly bigger. But they’re also using a style much more grounded in the probabilities of where pucks are shot.

Photo of the day

I haven’t been out to a Durham Bulls game in a couple of years.  Definitely will this season, though.  A project documented the 2013 season in photographs and here are some cool one’s in Behold:

DSC_3987Approaching Storm, Goodmon Field*

Quote of the day

Sure, I was not the biggest fan of Dean Smith back when he was coaching. It’s hard– he’s a Carolina institution and I’ve been a Duke fan for literally as long as I can remember.  But he’s not been on the opposite side for a long time and while still pretty much rooting for ABC (anybody but Carolina) I’ve come to have a begrudging respect for the great history of the program.  Anyway, a great appreciate for Dean Smith, who is sadly suffering from severe dementia, from fellow Duke grad John Feinstein.  I had never seen this quote before and it’s brilliant (in reference to Smith’s efforts to integrate restaurants in Chapel Hill):

“You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.”

Quick hits

1) Saletan on the pro-choice case for infanticide.  Or at least for making us wrestle more fully with the morality and philosophy of the issue.

2) Yes, Whole Foods is America’s temple to pseudoscience and making liberals, therefore, look bad.

3) Alec Baldwin (who, by the way, I love) on why he is saying goodbye to public life.

4) The Republican talent gap on political campaigns.

5) A collection of sad faces from silver medalists.  Pretty irresistible.

6) Love this “how to take a shower with a gay athlete.”

7) Chipotle will soon be offering a vegan burrito based on shredded soy.  If you’ve been following my occasional musing about meat, you know I’m excited about this.  I optimistic that it will be tasty enough that I will, sometimes, replace it for my usual carnitas.

8) How to get fit in a few minutes a week.  High-intensity interval training is awesome.  But even more awesome if you don’t do it every day.

9) Ads in the science magazine Omni from the 1980′s.  Loved these.

10) The real IRS scandal.

11) John Dickerson on the dangers of trying to “be real” for politicians.  Great line:

The most wonderful version of this is the Nixon administration effort to humanize their boss. He met small groups of reporters for cocktails and tried to peddle amusing stories to make them think he was not such a cold fish. He didn’t succeed, because he was a cold fish.

12) Great Businessweek piece on the academic/athletic scandal at UNC.  The part that always kills me about this is that just because there were some non-athletes in fake classes (who’s enrollment was disproportionately athletes) the UNC administration has the gall to insist this is not an athletics scandal.  Sure, as a Duke grad and NC State employee, I’m supposed to hate UNC.  I don’t.  It’s a great university that usually reflects very well on our state.  I hate to see them ruining that.

13) Ivy League schools very narrow view of increasing economic diversity.

14) I was vaguely aware that big stuff was happening in Venezuela.  Nice piece in the Atlantic explains what’s really going on (was especially fascinated by the role of Cuba).

15) Teenager blows families $80,000 settlement because she blew the confidentiality agreement by posting about the settlement on facebook.

16) Love this– former Pizza Huts re-purposed (I can think of several in Cary and Raleigh).

Quick hits

1) This XKCD visualization of the frequencies of various events is simply awesome.

2) Nice WUNC gallery of images that explains the nature of the NC coal ash spill

3) A system to seal battlefield bullet wounds with lots of tiny sponges.  Very cool.

4) The CEO of AOL blamed a sick baby for the company’s need to cut benefits.  The baby’s mom responds in Slate.

5) David Pogue gives you five easy ways to get hacked.  Do not do these things.

6) Why serious injuries at the Olympics seem to be disproportionately affecting women.

7) I had no idea Whole Foods banned products with so many different ingredients.  Things are quite different at Wal-Mart.

8) Love this– best Olympic performance as z scores above mean score in event.

9) Interesting scientific facts about redheads.  I did already know that we are more sensitive to pain.  Did not know that we have fewer, but thicker hairs.   And I learned that red hair with blue eyes (my son Evan, most of us Greene’s are red with green) is super rare.

10) I like hockey.  I love Olympic hockey (the nationalism, but especially the positive impact of additional 15 feet of width to the ice) so I’ve been watching a lot lately.  Fascinating story on how Finns have come to dominate goalkeeping (this is for you DJC!).

11) Being rich really does make you more selfish.  Great causal evidence from lottery winners.

12) Really liked this Chait take on the somewhat controversial CBO analysis suggesting minimum wage will costs some jobs.  That’s okay!

I suppose that if you care a lot about making sure as many workers as possible have a job, however poorly paid, and don’t care very much about low-income workers earning higher wages, you could embrace this report as a case against a higher minimum wage. That’s the conclusion embraced by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the National Reviewand gleeful conservatives everywhere.

And yet if you did care so much about reducing unemployment that you were willing to suppress wages for millions of the most hard-pressed workers in order to squeeze every last bit of joblessness out of the market, what other elements of the Republican economic agenda make even the slightest bit of sense?


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