Who doesn't enjoy second-guessing coaches? Aside from the smug feeling of
superiority, it's interesting to debate the best strategies. On this page,
you'll find a list of different questions we've had during the course of
watching games, as well as our attempts to determine whether or not the coach
goofed. Have a particular strategic question you'd like answered?
Tell us about it.
Have you ever breathed a sigh of relief when the
opposing team sent out the punting unit on 4th and short? Or booed when
your own coach sent out the kicker? Does it pay
to be cautious and play for field position or are you better off trying for a
new set of downs?
In certain situations it's obvious whether to kick
the extra point or go for two following a touchdown. The conventional
wisdom is that you kick the extra point unless it's late and (after scoring the
touchdown) the margin is one of a few particular numbers (e.g., -2, +1, +5,
etc.). But are these the only situations in which it makes sense to go for
two? We examine the optimal strategy for the case
where a team trails by 14 before scoring a touchdown to cut the lead to 8.
When a team protecting a one-point lead scores a
late touchdown, they usually kick the extra point to go up by 8.
Does it make sense to attempt the two-point conversion to
make it a two-possession game?
If a team trails by a point late in the game, does
it make sense to concede a score to the offense
to expedite possession of the ball?
When leading by 8 points after a touchdown, naive
two-point conversion "cheat sheets" suggest attempting a two-point conversion to
go up by 10. When is this strategy optimal?
Are all turnovers created
equal? Are interceptions more damaging than fumbles, or vice versa?
Does it matter?
Our strategy discussions are based on maximizing the
probability of winning the game. Another reasonable criterion is
maximizing expected point differential. When do these objectives result in
the same optimal strategy and when do they differ? We answer this question
by assessing the marginal value of an additional
When does bunting to advance the runner make sense?
Will a successful bunt improve the offense's chances of winning the game?
Using 12 seasons of Major League Baseball data, we evaluate when bunting is
beneficial and when it is detrimental. The results
show that in most cases, bunting is a losing strategy.
Many basketball analysts feel strongly about whether
or not to foul your opponent when protecting a three-point lead. The
thinking goes that by immediately fouling (before a shot can be taken), you
prevent your opponent from attempting a potential game-tying three-point
field-goal. Which is the better strategy?