Simone Biles: Greatest Gymnastic Performance Ever – In Chart Form

So, unless you’re living under a rock you might be aware the Olympics are taking place.  And whenever the Olympics are taking place you can bet the American public will be treated to a tiny, whirling, young group of acrobats in the form of “women’s” gymnastics.  And I’ll be the first to admit I honestly don’t care much for a “sport” that relies upon fashions, smiles, hairtstyles and crooked judging when determining winners.  However, somehow this year I got sucked in.  Not sure how.

And everything was pretty much as I expected:  tiny girls with impossibly fit bodies performing jaw-dropping routines that no doubt required years of dedication, hard work, sacrifice and discipline.  I’ve never doubted the athleticisim and hard work required of any worl-class gymnast.  I’ve just never cared much about the outcome, as they usually seemed dependent upon which judge got the biggest bribe.

But there was something this year that was completely different: no-doubt domination.  American Simone Biles won the women’s individual, all-around competition by 2.100 points.  Note that I did not choose to use three decimal points, but I had to include three decimal points because most gymnastic competitions are determined by tenths and even hundreths of points.  So, Biles’ margin of victory here is pretty much unprecedented.  How unprecedented?  Let’s take a look.  Here’s the variance in scores between the gold and silver medal winners of every Olmpics between 1980 and 2012:

SB - VM 1

Several notes:

  • Five of the 9 competitions were decided by less than 1/10th of a point
  • Nastia Lukin’s 2008 victory was, by far, the largest margin of victory (6/10th of a point), more than twice the margin of 2012 winner Viktoria Komova
  • The average margin of victory was 0.158, or less than 2/10ths of a point
  • Note the scale of the chart….no need to go higher than .700 (7/10ths of a point) because the victory margins never reach that high.
  • Bottom line:  miniscule frations of points have historically differentiated champions from second place finishers in the women’s all-around; in fact ALL Olympic’s gymnastics (mens and womens) usually feature such tiny victory margins.

Now, an updated version of the chart including Biles’ historic performance:

SB - VM 2

Notes:

  • Insanity – one ginormous bard, a second small bar and a whole bunch of tiny, almost invisible lines
  • The scale of the chart had to be increased by more than 300% to accomodate Biles’ performance
  • The American’s winning margin is so large every other margin (except one) is reduced to some small portion of the first segment of the chart
  • Biles’ number is so big, it distorts the chart, rendering every other result “noise” with individual results virtually identical to ever other

Another way of looking at it:

SB - VM3

This was noted on that national broadcast…Biles’ margin of victory in this single competition is greater the aggregate of every women’s all-around between 1980 and 20212.  That’s 9 Olympics for those counting.  In fact, Biles’ 2.100 victory margin is so much higher than the aggregate…you could host 4 more Olympics and not expect the aggregate winning margin to match what Biles just completed.

Now, I’m a skeptic by heart so I was somewhat cynical of these claims.  So I did a little research.  And yep, it turns out the Olympic gymnastics has changed the way they score these things over time.  Back in the 80’s total scores tended to be in the 70’s, with the highest approaching 80.  Then from 1992 to 2008 the scores were generally in the 30’s with the highest approaching 40.  Since 2008 they’ve again been in the 70’s.

Now, different scoring systems can render “victory margin” numbers meaningless; winning by 1 point in a 100-point game is different than winning by 1-point in a 10-point game.  So, I decided to compare each winning score to the second place score by indexing them (silver medal score divided by gold medal score).  This eliminates the variances caused by varied scoring systems and determine whether Biles’ victory margin is really that historical.  The results from 1980 to 20012:

SB - SR1

What we see is these competitions are all incredibly close.  In no case did the silver winner accumulate less than 99% of the gold medal winner’s point total.  (This inherent drama is, I believe, one reason the gymnastics is so popular.)  Now, the same chart with 2016:

SB - SR2

 

Wow….just wow.  In a sport where the winners always have less than a 1% difference between gold and silver….Biles just won by nearly 3.4%  This, as the saying goes….is “off-the-charts”…..because her performance breaks the usability of the chart.  You can’t really see anything here other than the fact that Biles’ 2016 performance is a huge, huge outlier without historical precedence.

Good job Simone!  All the hype and overheated breathless commentary is well-deserved in this case.

Dallas Sports History in a Single Chart (and 2,500 words)

So, it’s a great time to be a fan of Dallas’ sports teams.  Consider:

  • The hockey Stars had their best season in years and currently lead their 1st round playoff series 3-1.  They have a young, exciting team with numerous prospects who should keep the team competitive in the near future.
  • The basketball Mavericks completed their 15th consecutive winning season, reached the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons and somehow managed to win game 2 of their 1st round series against the much better OKCity Thunder.
  • The baseball Rangers currently lead the American League West division early in the season and are in the midst of the best long-term run in franchise history.  Like the Stars, they also have a bevy of youngsters ready to become household names to Dallas fans.
  • The football Cowboys aren’t playing and are coming off their worst season since 1989’s disastrous 1-15 campaign, but they were 12-4 the season before, have the 4th pick in the draft and hope a healthy Tony Romo can return the team to winning ways.

So, this got me thinking.  Have all four major Dallas franchises ever enjoyed real success simultaneously?  Have all four franchises had terrible seasons simultaneously?  What year was the best to be a Dallas fan?  What year the worst?

So I crunched the numbers and created a spreadsheet and made a chart (as I’m prone to do).  Before we look at it, a couple notes:

  1. “Years” are based upon when the championship was played for each sport, except football, when it is based upon when the vast majority of games were played.
  2. I’ve color-coded each team’s season into one of six categories:

Categories

You’ll notice I assigned “fan point” values to each category.  These are arbitrary and strictly my own creation.  Anyone else could come up with their own point system and I could easily be talked into revising this.  But for right now, this is what we’re working with.

Here then, is the history of the four major Dallas sports franchises captured in a single image (this chart crams 55 years into a single image so it’s hard to read.  Click it for a full-scale (easier-to-read) version):

History 4

There is a lot to digest here but I’m gonna do my best to make sense of it all.  First off, let me make clear that as long as a season isn’t under .500 I’m pretty fine with it.  All I really ask of my teams is they be competitive so that when I tune in or attend a game there’s a reasonable expectation of a good performance and a decent shot of a win.  Yeah, it’s a lot better when the team is really good but no team can be really good all the time.  Basically….don’t suck. Continue reading

The Dallas Stars Season in 9 Charts

So, tonight the Dallas Stars enter the NHL’s post-season for only the second time in the last 8 years. The team’s 109 regular season points is the highest since the ’05-06 season.  Fans are hoping this post-season run is a return to the Stanley-Cup winning ways of the late 90’s and not the underwhelming results from the early-to-mid aughts.

In fact, the team has had almost no post-season success since making the Cup finals in 2000.  Between 1998 and 2000 the team won 9 post-season series, including a Stanley Cup win in 1999.  The team has won exactly 3 since.  Most recently, in 2014, the upstart Stars had taken the heavily favored Anaheim Ducks to a 6th game and seemed to have that game in hand with a 2 goal lead and just over 2 minutes remaning.  Less than five minutes of ice-time later the team’s season – and fan’s hopes – were over.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying the franchise and its fans have endured their fair share of suffering.  Today, however, offers the promise of a brighter future.  Looking at how the team got here, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

Most of the following charts use rolling-10 game results.  So any number represents what happened over the previous 10 games; sometimes it’s a total, sometimes an average.  Also, fans should be sure to check out the Defending Big D site.  It’s the best, most passionate, comprehensive and well-informed source of all things Stars.  Now, let’s take a look at the team’s season:

WINS – LOSSES

Win-Loss

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Super Bowl History in a Single Chart

So, because it’s a relatively low-key event, some of you may not be aware the Super Bowl is this Sunday.  Yeah, I know, it surprised me too; I hadn’t heard or seen any mention of it.  But I checked the schedule and sure enough…the NFL’s championship game is this Sunday.  Who knew?!

I’m somewhat of a Super Bowl nerd in terms of the actual games played.  Name a year or a Super Bowl and I can recite more information about that game than I care to admit.  And I was trying to think of how to capture the history of the game in the most concise way possible and I came up with the chart below (click the image to see a larger version).

SB History At a Glance

I love this chart, so what does it mean?  There’s four pieces of information shown for each team:

  1. The logo size represents the total number of appearances by a team.  One SB appearnce Tampa Bay?  You get one tiny circle.
  2. The team’s overall SB record is noted in white; the Dallas Cowboys, for example have won 5 and lost 3 Super Bowls.
  3. The team’s winning percentage is noted on the X (vertical) axis; the higher up the chart the better a team’s overall SB performance record.
  4. The team’s average point differential is charted on the Y (horizontal) axis.  Take a team’s total points scored and divide by number of appearances….then sum total points against and divide that by appearances….then subtract the second number from the first ((Pts scored / appearances) – (Pts against / appearances)).  Basically, if you’re a team that wins big you’re to the right, if you score about what you give up you’re in the middle and if you lose big you’re on the left (sorry Broncos fans).

So, there’s just so much going on….let’s note a few things:

  1. Hey look, all the NFL’s great teams stand out:  Yep, Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, Packers, Giants….all big circles up there in the “winning” quadrant, just like you’d expect.  These five franchises have won 24 of the 49 Super Bowls played to date.  The 49ers, Packers and Cowboys are also high up the points differential scale, which says something when you consider the number of SB games they’ve played in.  This basically says these teams play in a lot of SBs and generally win big:
    1. Combined record:  14-4
    2. Combined score:  548 – 356
    3. Average SB involving 49ers / Cowboys / Packers:  39 – 25 victory
  2. Wait…where are the Patriots?  Seems like they’re in every Super Bowl lately.  Well, yes…they have played in six of the last 15 SBs.  And they’ve won 4 of them….but also lost two.  All six of those games were decided by 3 or 4 points.  So while they”re in the SB a lot their games are all toss-ups without a single definitive victory (or loss).  The Pats also lost 2 prior SBs, including a 46-10 shellacking in SB XX.  So despite their recent success the franchise’s overal SB record is pretty meh, with 4 wins and 4 losses.  They also have a negative point differential because their four wins have come by a combined 13 points and their four losses by a combined 42 points.
  3. Wait…how did the Redskins get in that upper-right “winners” quadrant?  Believe it or not, the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL was once a pillar of excellence.  It’s hard to believe that when the 1991 Redskins finished dismantling the Buffalo Bills in SB XXVI they had just won their 3rd SB in 10 years and were widely regarded as one of the most successful franchises of the Super Bowl era.  (No, it’s true, really; you can look it up).  Needless to say, things have changed (1 playoff win since).  Speaking for all Cowboys fans….Thanks Dan Snyder!
  4. Where are the Raiders?  I remember them winning a couple SB.  Yes, in fact they won three from 1976 to 1983.  Their 3-2 record, .600 winning percentage and 3.6 point differential makes their chart appearance almost identical to that of the Redskins (3-2, .600, 3.8).  You can just make out the silver circle right next to / underneath the Redskin circle.  It’s somewhat amazing how similar are the arcs for the Raiders / Redskins with both enjoying sustained success then becoming completely irrelevant.
  5. So, four teams with perfect SB records?  Yes.  Mostly sad-sack franchises (Jets, Bucs, Saints) that won the only time they got to the the big game.  So, kudos for winning when you got there!  Too bad the clock struck midnight and your franchise turned back into a pumpkin.  Admittedly, the relatively new Ravens have been twice, won both times and have had a number of high quality teams; so there’s that.
  6. My….those Broncos occupy a big space by themselves.  Indeed they do.  On the one hand, including SB 50 they will tie Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most SB appearances (8) in NFL history.  Unlike Pittsburgh and Dallas, however, Denver hasn’t done well once they got there.  They’re basically the opposite of the SF / Dallas / GB triumverate:
    1. Most losses in SB history:  5
    2. Total score in five losses:  206 – 58
    3. Average score in those losses: 41 – 12
    4. Can you imagine the number of times Broncos fans have sat down for the long-awaited big game only to be changing channels by halftime?  Ugh.
  7. What’s up with the Giants?  How can they have an .800 win percentage and 0 point differential?  Simple; the Giants are basically Super Bowl frauds.  Okay, okay, fraud is a strong word.  But….some simple facts:
    1. Three of the four Giants SB wins came by 4, 3 and 1 point.  Each of those games were basically decided on the last play.  The franchise needed a helmet catch, a Wes Welker drop (how often does that happen) and an errant, last-second FG to win those three games.  The Giants could very easily be 1-4 in SB games.
    2. Two of the wins came from Giant’s teams that were lucky to even be in the playoffs, including one team sporting an unsightly 9-7 regular season record.
    3. Meanwhile the team’s one SB loss featured a team that failed to score an offensive point.  They lost 34-7 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated and the Giant’s lone score came on a kickoff return.
    4. No, I’m not bitter at all about the Giants having 4 SB wins despite usually fielding teams that didn’t deserve to be in the SB let alone winning it.
    5. In seriousness, the 1986 team was legit, the 1990 team was also very good and prevented the 49ers from a potential 3-peat (again, on a last-second play) and the 2007 team went on the road / into a neutral stadium and beat three teams with a combined record of 45-6 (no easy feat).  Still, I would rank both the 2007 and the 2011 teams among the bottom 4 SB winners in history.  Like I said, not bitter at all.
  8. There sure are a lot of teams on the bottom; and how come their logos are cut in half?  Yes, that’s because while 49 Super Bowl trophies have been awarded only 21 franchises have been on the receiving end.  And if one of these 0-win teams want a full logo on this chart they can earn it by winning an NFL championship.  Also, there’s a few teams completely missing from this chart because they’ve never, ever so much as participated in a Super Bowl (Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville and Houston).
  9. Wait…you haven’t said anything about the team with the most SB wins?  What’s with that?  Meh, it’s hard to talk about the Steelers.  On the one hand, yes, they have the most appearances and the most wins.  And the franchise is pretty much a model for how to do things right in the modern sports world.  And their SB wins are all pretty legit (well, except for that SB 40 robbery against the Seahawks when Bill Leavy should have donned a ski mask and escaped in a get-away car after what happened on the field).  It’s just that two of those Steelers victories came over the vastly more entertaining and equally good Roger Staubach-led Dallas Cowboys and if justice had been served the Cowboys would be remembered as the team-of-the-70’s but nooo, Benny Barnes gets penalized for running down the field, Franco Harris gets a key block from the referee on a long TD run, freakin Randy White tries to field a kick-off with a cast on his arm and promptly fumbles and Jackie Smith drops a ball I could have caught and……let’s just say I don’t recall those games fondly so I’m gonna stop before this gets out of hand.
  10. Finally, because I have to…how ’bout them Cowboys!  Eight appearances, tied for most in NFL history.  Five wins, tied for second.  But the impressive thing is the performance in the games.  Basically, when the Cowboys win, they blow the other team out and when they lose they lose in memorable, last-second fashion.  Consider:
    1. The team’s three losses were by a combined 11 points (3, 4, and 4).
    2. The team’s five wins were by a combined 100 points (average score 32 to 12).
    3. It is not the slighest exaggeration to say the Cowboys are three plays away from an 8-0 SB record…but I’ll take 5-3 (let’s not be greedy).

Anyway, I think it’s really interesting but, like I said, I’m kind of a SB nerd.  Feel free to share some thoughts.

The 2015 Texas Rangers

GettyImages-491329118.0

So, the 2015 Texas Rangers were not expected by many to do much.  In fact, looking at popular sports sites not one media “expert” predicted a post-season appearance.

ESPN choices for Division Winners:

1. ESPN DIv

Hmmm…Seattle and the Angels.  They’re arranging tee times.  Well, how about the easier-to-obtain wild card spot?

2. ESPN WC

Angels, Mariners, Indians, Redsox, White Sox, A’s…all watching now while the Rangers play on.

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