"Worst statistical reasoning by a sports writer" award nominee: Israel Gutierrez

Here: "before last season, [Amar'e] Stoudemire hadn't had two straight seasons in which he missed a large chunk of games. So odds are it won't be three straight."

Well, if missing many games last season and missing many games this season were completely independent events, this would be an example of the gambler's fallacy: "I got dealt several bad hands in a row, so I'm due!"

But in fact, Gutierrez's reasoning is even worse than that, since, of course, one's physical state this year is not independent of one's physical state last year. In particular, injuries tend to linger, and to raise the chances of new injuries (from favoring a previously injured joint and so on). To take an extreme case, imagine hearing the following:

"Jones had never missed a game before last season. However, after his legs were amputated, he missed 50 straight games. So odds are that won't happen again."

Of course, Stoudemire didn't have his legs amputated. But, signs are aplenty that his knees may be starting to fail after years of problems. In any case, the fact he had lots of knee problems last year is certainly not evidence indicating that he won't have them again this year.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...I had to re-read that quote 3x to be sure, but yes, he does seem to be making the stupid claim you diagnose.