The National Coin Flipping League Championship Series

The National Coin Flipping League Championship Series

  • Comments 62

No tech today, but a little basic math.

In baseball, a sport I know little about, apparently the Boston Red Sox have recently come back from a three game deficit to win a best-of-seven series against their traditional rival team, the New York Yankees.

Baseball is a game which attracts statisticians, and many have noted that this is the first time in major league baseball history that a team has won a best of seven series after being down three games to none.

However, it has happened twice in hockey.

I have a modest proposal. Suppose once a year, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball decide all their various championships without going to all the trouble and expense of playing the game. Rather, they could simply hold a best-of-seven coin-flipping championship. (Call it the Numismatic Hockey League if you'd like.)

Suppose Boston calls heads. The odds of Boston flipping T T T and then coming back to win with H H H H are one in 128.

Therefore, there should be one such occurrence on average every 128 series. There are four such series a year: the American and National League finals, one "world" series (for which only North American teams are eligible, strangely enough), and one Stanley Cup. You'd expect to wait 128 / 4 = 32 years on average between occurrences.

We've been playing pro baseball and hockey, what, about a hundred years in North America?

Three such series, in about a hundred years -- or, roughly one every 32 years. It seems like the math works out rather nicely. Maybe they have been deciding the games via coin flipping and just not telling anyone. Hmm...

Is Boston's victory really that impressive? I mean, the last time I played Risk I rolled three sixes on three dice and England crushed Iceland -- odds of that are 1/216, almost twice as long as Boston coming back from a three tail deficit in the National League Coin Flipping Championship. That's because my blue plastic army guys really worked together as a team and gave 110%!

And yet it didn't make headlines in even the local paper.

In related news, if Houston wins their championship, and it ends up being Texas vs. Massachussets in both baseball AND the presidential election, that's going to be freaky weird. What are the odds of that?

  • Except that baseball has only had a seven game league championship series since 1985, and if you're going to factor in the league championship series, why not factor in the hockey conference finals?
  • ...or hockey quarterfinals? They are 7 games as well.
  • What about HHH TTTT? That makes it 1/64 for evenly matched teams.
  • And reading "The Red Sox were the 26th team in Major League history to fall behind 3-0 in a seven-game series." from will make it seem like even less impressive.
  • It troubles me greatly when people who admittedly know next to nothing about sports apply the kind of logic they ARE familiar with to sound reasonable. Don't try to sound smart by making something else sound dumb...especially something that's so extremely important to a great many people.

    By the way, baseball attracts statisticians because of its complexities, not its simplicities.

    Oh yeah, and GO CARDS!
  • Yeah, I agree with Fryguy and feel the need to make a major correction here.

    Why are you assuming the chance of any team beating any other team is 50%? The Yankees have a payroll that far and away outstrips ANY other team in MLB. It's not like the NFL where the salary cap means that parity rules. In baseball, there is only the luxury tax and Steinbrenner has no problem paying it out due to crazy revenues from TV contracts, merchandising, etc. etc.

    Remember also that the Sox were down 3-0 and in the 9th inning of game 4 they were within 3 OUTS of being eliminated!!

    So, what are the chances of a team loaded with misfits will come from down 3-0 and losing in the 9th inning, to win over a button-down team of the best that money can buy? Compute that one buddy.

    Oh wait, your smug "isnt sports so silly" attitude only reveals your shallow attempt to snub something you know nothing about. Stick with Technology... and good luck with those Marines (Baaahahahaha)
  • You do realize <a href="">Boston</a> has the second highest payroll in baseball, no?
  • Alright, HTML doesn't exactly work.
    The link:
  • OK, suppose the odds are 60-40 in favour of the highest paid team vs the second highest paid team.

    Then the odds of a T T T H H H H series are... 1 / 181 instead of 1 / 128.

    Big whoop. My victory over Iceland is still WAAAY more impressive at 1/216.
  • Oops I meant to say good luck with those *Mariners*, not Marines. Although I guess Marines apply to your little fantasy plastic toy guys too.

    And Tad: You tell us, what is the difference in payroll for the Yankees and Red Sox?? Hmmm? It's about as big as some teams entire payroll!!!!
  • Eric you are not factoring in "The Curse"!!!
  • I'm going to have to go with about 57 million, which isn't that large considering Boston also has a 24 million dollar advantage on the third place team. And Boston is still going to have well over double the team payroll of whoever it plays in the WS.
  • You are not factoring in the curse either!!
  • Well we need to get this right. Exactly how much is the curse worth? 68 Million?
  • You're totally disregarding the psychology part of it. You'd be surprised at how many teams even get to game 5 after being down 3-0.
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