Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Sports Section 

[] How to beat the spread on NFL football games: Bet against the visiting team the first time it visits a new stadium. There's lots of evidence that home field advantage in all sports results from the visiting team being unfamiliar with the home team's venue -- and the visitor is never more unfamiliar than on its first-ever visit.

To check whether this converts into something visible in results against the spread, the good people at Pro Football ran the "results against the spread" numbers for visiting teams to recently constructed football stadiums.

Visiting teams on their first visit went: won 169, loss 205, push 10 = 0.453.

"That 0.453 'against the spread' winning percentage in games for road teams in their first visit is statistically significant (p=0.03) compared to the expected .500 record"

That's not a huge edge against the spread, but it's something and it looks to be real -- and how often do you have a real something against the spread? It's logical (though untested) that the same effect may exist in other sports.

In subsequent visits, the effect against the spread basically disappeared.

[] Billy Beane really did change the way baseball values talent, says research cited by JC Bradbury.

[] Baseball's Gold Glove awards command all the respect of "the teen choice awards" observes Dave Cameron, after the Seattle Mariners' center fielder, Franklin "Death to Flying Things" Gutierrez, failed to receive one this week. Cameron points to how little thought goes into selecting the winners. The WSJ's Daily Fix Blog surveys the outrage among those who do think about it, and who empirically rate fielding ability, over the Gutierrez slight and others...
when the Gold Glove awards were announced earlier this week, Gutierrez was snubbed, as were the other top five fielders from 2007-2009, except Ryan Zimmerman.
Meanwhile, Derek Jeter of the Yankees won his fourth Gold Glove in spite of being maybe as good as the fifth best fielding shortstop in the American League, because, well, he is Derek Jeter of the Yankees.

[] Steve Phillips' mistress breaks her silence. ... who cares?

[] The Big Theme in the econo-sports blogs on the blogroll this week is warning against being seduced by the siren song of "big future economic benefits" into making taxpayer investments in new sports stadiums and big sporting events.

* Chicago likely won by losing its bid to host the 2016 Olympics, says Skip Sauer at the Sports Economist, citing reports that the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games all hurt the tourism industry of the host country on net.

* The near bankrupt great state of California may only put itself deeper in the hole with the new pro football stadium that governor Schwarzenegger just got approved by the state legislature for teamless Los Angeles. Dave Berri (normally of the Wages of Wins) writes in the Huffington Post's new sports section to warn Californians, "If You Build It, Nothing Really Comes"

* The sobering warning example of how the business-end of the Kelo v City of New London Supreme Court case has turned out is put before us by Brad Humphreys, also at the Sports Economist. This was the controversial case where the Court upheld the power of local government to seize private property, including and private homes, to further commercial development.
The case emerged from the desire of New London, CT, to tear down an existing residential neighborhood in order to create a mixed use commercial/residential "urban village" anchored by Pfizer, a big pharma corporation. Last week, Pfizer announced that it was leaving New London. What is the legacy of the Kelo takings?

"Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years...

"It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built...."

The important lesson here is that it is relatively easy to make seemingly credible claims about future economic benefits from an urban "revitalization" project ... But realizing those benefits is a much more difficult accomplishment, even if the planners mean well. The final outcome in New London should serve as a warning to those who swallow claims of future economic benefits hook, line and sinker.