IS THERE MORE LUCK IN SOCCER THAN IN OTHER SPORTS? In the September 6 TLS, David Goldblatt reviewed a book which, in the MONEYBALL tradition, applies statistics to football (soccer): THE NUMBERS GAME by Chris Anderson and David Sally. Anderson and Sally say that soccer is less predictable than other important team sports; favorites win less often than in baseball, basketball, or ice hockey. (I’m surprised by this, since in the course of a baseball season, most teams will win between 40% and 60% of their games.) Anderson and Sally have also done an analysis of over 2000 soccer goals and concluded that: “45 % of them were significantly affected by a chance action or mistake.” I wonder what a similar analysis of scoring in other sports would show. Turnovers are important in American football; often they are said to result from the bounce of the ball. In baseball, there are line drives hit right at a fielder (I posted here on Charlie Brown’s thinking: “If only McCovey had hit the ball two feet higher.”) For me, the emphasis on luck is helpful. I tend to greatly underestimate the role of luck in sports.

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