EppsNet Archive: Predictions

Even Stephen A. Smith is Right Occasionally

4 Jul 2016 /
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

From the Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut files: Stephen A. Smith calls Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors “the weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar.”

Stephen A. Smith is never right about anything. In case you missed it, Stephen A. Smith has picked the last six NBA Finals winners incorrectly. It’s hard to be that wrong. How hard? The odds are 63-1 against.

That means if you chose 64 random drunks at a sports bar, 64 dart-throwing monkeys, whatever — 63 of them would do a better job picking NBA Finals winners than Stephen A. Smith.

(FYI, the “dart-throwing monkey” is a go-to metric in assessing investment portfolios. Follow the above link if you don’t know what I mean. It’s not a racial reference.)

But Stephen A. Smith is exactly right about Kevin Durant. The Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors and lost a series that they should have won and Durant sells out his teammates and signs on with the team that beat them.

It’s unfathomable. It’s like Magic Johnson going to the Celtics or Kobe Bryant going to the Spurs or Larry Bird or Tim Duncan going to the Lakers.

A superstar in his prime does not do this. A competitor does not sell out his teammates like this.

I am dismayed.


‘Expert’ Predictions for the NBA Finals

1 Jun 2016 /

26 experts give their predictions for the championship series rematch between the Warriors and Cavaliers. — ESPN.com

“Experts.”

Provide some insight or context if you have any. How does a prediction add to anyone’s understanding or enjoyment of the game? What is the difference between a prediction from an “expert” and a prediction from a random loudmouth drunk at a sports bar?

I notice that a large majority of the “experts” are predicting a victory by the favorite (the Warriors), which is the same result you’d get from a bunch of drunks at a sports bar, or a group of dart-throwing monkeys (of course adjusting the monkeys’ targets to provide a proportionally larger area for the favorite).

So what have we learned?

NBA Finals 2016


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Joe Lunardi

15 Mar 2016 /
Joe Lunardi

Does anyone have a more useless job than “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi? He spends the entire college basketball season forecasting tournament seedings: this team’s in, this team’s out, this team’s on the bubble, this team is going to be seeded number whatever . . .

Then the season ends and the actual tournament seedings are announced, making all of Joe Lunardi’s work meaningless. Either the actual seedings line up closely with Joe Lunardi’s predictions or they don’t, but other than Joe Lunardi, who cares?

On that note, here’s an article by Joe Lunardi explaining “how the selection committee got so much wrong” with this year’s brackets:

The committee’s performance is slipping, year over year, and it’s my job to point that out when necessary. . . . what you have is a selection and bracketing process that appears to have gone off the rails.

Actually Joe, your job, if I understand it correctly, is to accurately forecast the results of the selection committee. It’s not the job of the selection committee to match your predictions. And if your predictions don’t match the actual selections, that doesn’t indicate that the selection committee sucks, it indicates that you suck.


No One Seems to Understand Point Spreads

24 Oct 2015 /

I lost track of the number of headlines I saw this week regarding how USC (3-3) could possibly be a 3.5-point favorite over undefeated and third-ranked Utah (6-0).

USC logo

It’s weird that no one in sports journalism seems to understand what a point spread really is.

It’s not a prediction. It’s not a scientific analysis. It’s a gambling mechanism. The only purpose of a point spread is to distribute the betting equally on both teams so the bookmaker can pay the winners with the losers’ money.

USC is a 3.5-point favorite for one reason and one reason only and that is because there are more people willing to bet on USC than there are people willing to bet on Utah, so a carrot is offered in the form of 3.5 points to induce more bettors to put their money on the Utes.

Substitute any other team . . . Team X is a betting favorite because more people want to bet on Team X than on Team X’s opponent.

“Team X is a betting favorite” is not the same thing as “Vegas thinks X is the better team.” Vegas has no opinion on who has the better team. That’s why point spreads fluctuate, sometimes by a lot. If too much money comes in on Team X, the point spreads changes to be more favorable to X’s opponent.

FIGHT ON!


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

12 Dec 2014 /

The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.

 

A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.

 

It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.

 

The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify.

 

Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world. The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity, and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.

 

Hindsight bias has pernicious effects on the evaluations of decision makers. It leads observers to assess the quality of a decision not be whether the process was sound but by whether its outcome was good or bad. . . . This outcome bias makes it almost impossible to evaluate a decision properly – in terms of the beliefs that were reasonable when the decision was made.

 

Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression. These stories induce and maintain an illusion of understanding, imparting lessons of little enduring value to readers who are all too anxious to believe them.

 

For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold those beliefs.

 

Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.

 

We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers.

 

The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained. . . Everything makes sense in hindsight . . . And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight was predictable yesterday. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.

 

[Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania] interviewed 284 people who made their living “commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends. . . . In all, Tetlock gathered more than 80,000 predictions. . . . Respondents were asked to rate the probabilities of three alternative outcomes in every case: the persistence of the status quo, more of something such as political freedom or economic growth, or less of that thing.

The results were devastating. The experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to each of the three potential outcomes. In other words, people who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists.

 

Rehearse the mantra that will get you significantly closer to economic reality: you win a few, you lose a few.

 

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.

 

During the last 10 years we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled than we were before.


Which Experts Predicted a Red Sox-Cardinals World Series?

21 Oct 2013 /

With two storied franchises making the 2013 Fall Classic, let’s take a look at which of the 63 experts we tracked this year (from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS, Yahoo, and Fox) pegged the series correctly.

(… Calculating …)

(… Calculating …)

Well, how’s this for embarassing: 0 of the 63 so-called experts had both the Red Sox and Cardinals in the World Series.

Perhaps this is not a huge surprise, as Vegas gave each team less than a 10% probability of making the Series. So let’s lower the bar considerably and look at the pundits who picked either the Red Sox OR the Cardinals to make it.

(… Calculating …)

You guessed it — zero. Not one.


Predictions

10 Sep 2011 /
Destiny

When did it become so imperative for sports pundits to make predictions on every goddamn game? Predictions are like assholes — everybody’s got one and they’re all full of shit.

Give me some insight if you have some, but spare me the fucking picks!

We may as well listen to people guess how many jellybeans are in the 10-gallon jar.