THE 2015 WORLD SERIES—DANIEL MURPHY’S EXPERIMENT IN RANDOMNESS. The 2015 World Series between the Mets and the Royals begins tonight. In addition to the games, there will be an experiment in randomness. I posted here six years ago about the debate on whether a basketball player can have a “hot hand” in shooting. Are streaks of success simply the result of randomness—as result when you flip coins? Or can they be influenced by “muscle memory”.

This article by Robert Silverman on the Daily Beast site describes the situation as of this morning. Daniel Murphy, a second baseman for the Mets who has been a decent but not a great hitter, has been on a hot streak that is hard to explain. He has never hit more than 14 home runs in a season. He has now hit 7 home runs in his last 9 games, including a home run in each of his last 6 games. His batting average and slugging percentage over that period has also been unprecedented.

Silverman summarizes where things stand. For 30 years analysts have had a general consensus that any streak like Murphy’s is simply statistical noise. The belief that it is not noise is known as the “hot hand fallacy”, which is defined in this wikipedia entry as: “the fallacious belief that a person who has experienced success with a random event has a greater chance of further success in additional attempts”.

The issue is still alive. Silverman links to two recent research papers that find that “lingering effects of a hot streak will have an impact on the next at-bat or jump shot”—although the effect they find is small.

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