Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

45
RANKING GREAT SPORTS COLLAPSES
With seventeen games left in the 2007 baseball season the New York Mets held a seemingly comfortable seven- game lead in the National League East over the second- place Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets collapsed and the Phillies won the division. This collapse inspired Fox News sportswriter Todd Behrendt to write an article ranking the “all- time great sports collapses.”1 In this chapter we will make some simple assumptions and then use basic probability to try and determine the probability of each collapse occurring. The “greatest collapse” would then be the collapse that had the smallest probability of occurring.
A List of Great Collapses
We now describe the great baseball, basketball, and football collapses listed by Behrendt. (I added the last three collapses on the list.)
The 2007 Mets (described above).
On September 20, 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies held a 6.5- game lead over both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. The Phillies went 3–9 down the stretch and the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League title.
On August 12, 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a 72–36 record and the New York Giants had a 62–51 record. The two teams had seven head- tohead contests remaining. The Giants wiped out the Dodgers' 13.5- game lead and beat the Dodgers in a three- game playoff capped off by Bobby Thompson's amazing home run (see chapter 8).
The L.A. Lakers trailed the Portland Trailblazers by 15 points with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter of the deciding game 7 of the 2000 NBA Western Conference Finals. The Lakers came back to win.

1 See http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7286840.

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