Just finished reading the book Scorecasting by University of Chicago behavioural economist Tobis Moskowitz and Sports Illustrated writer Jon Werheim. Although predominately based on the main sports in the US it does make for interesting analysis of the behaviour of players and officials during certain periods of a competitive game. They mention the fact that the strike zone in baseball gets smaller when there are two strikes on the batter. The strike zone is smallest when there are two strikes and no balls and largest when there are three balls and no strikes. However there were two areas that were particular interesting:
1. When golfers try to make a birdie they are less successful than when they line up the extact same putt for par.
Researchers found that professional golfers display a more aggressive behaviour on par versus birdie putts. When they missed birdie putts they tended to leave the ball short of the hole. Tiger Woods said that “Anytime you make big par putts., I think it’s more important to make those than birdie putts. You don’t ever want to drop a shot. The psychological difference between dropping a shot and making a birdie, I just think it’s bigger to make a par putt.” Why should golfers behave in this way as it is your final round total that counts and does it matter how you get there? According to the authors it is all about Loss Aversion and when they are threatened with the dropping of a shot they tend to try harder
2. What is driving the home field advantage? – for example from the Spanish Premier League La Liga
Three Spanish economists, all soccer fanatics, studied the behaviour of officials’ conduct during home games. They looked at 750 matches from the premier league in Spain and found that:
* when the home was winning referees shortened the extra time on average by 2 mins
* when the home team was losing referees added to the extra time on average by 4 minutes
* when the score was level the average injury time was correct – around 3 minutes.
* when a team was ahead by 2 goals or more there was no bias at all. Adding additional time to a game that has a clear favourite is unlikely to change the outcome and therefore accrue much benefit, so why risk the potential cost of being told off by superiors for playing too much time.
When 3 points were introduced for a win, injury time increased notably.
The researchers also found the exact same injury time bias, in favour of the home team, exists in the English Premier League (remember the post on Fergie Time), Italian Serie A league, the German Bundesliga, the Scottish league, and even MLS in the US.