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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Recycle Sunday - Pickleball Statistical Analysis

A blast from the past...

This week's Recycle Sunday article was originally published February 8, 2016.


I am a big fan of statistical analysis. I believe that mathematics is unbiased and reveals the reality that mythology sometimes hides. It was with some disappointment that I mentioned in several posts that I have never seen any statistical analysis of pickleball play. I am happy to now say that particular void has been filled. I recently stumbled across an extensive analysis developed by Noel White, Club Statistician, Palm Creek Pickleball Club. I am also happy to say that the conclusions confirm the preponderance of observed play and my strategy recommendations. But, while the conclusions shouldn't surprise anyone who watches high level matches, the numbers supporting these conclusions just might.

Noel's study listed 5 conclusions (labeled "Results Nutshell") for 5 areas of play:
  1. Unforced errors
  2. Drop shots
  3. Return of serve
  4. Getting to the net
  5. Conversions

Each of these will be discussed separately in a series of posts. However, this post will discuss the study itself in order to establish the validity of the conclusions by highlighting the extent of the analysis.

1. The portion of the study regarding unforced errors included the observation of approximately 9,000 consecutive playing hits in 50 full games of tournament play. Nearly 100% of the games were played at the 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 level.

2. The portion of the study regarding drop shots required observing 48 separate games of tournament play, also at the 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 level.

3. The portion of the study regarding return of serve required watching portions of 25+ games during tournament play. Games were at the 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 levels. Observations were specifically of approximately 160 serving, returning, and 3rd hit sequences. 

4. The portion of the study regarding getting-to-the-net when serving was based on the observation of 6 full games. 

5. The portion of the study regarding conversions required observing 10 full games at the 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 levels. 

My background in financial analysis and probabilities has led to my understanding and acceptance of statistical analysis as a solid basis for decision-making. Clearly, a significant effort was expended to develop the conclusions in the study and I accept these conclusions without any doubts.Posts over the next week will discuss the study conclusions more fully. My challenge will be to make statistics into readable posts. This post will end with a link to the study and the website that provided it.  (Edit: has removed the linked analysis)

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