C. Frederick Mosteller, the founding chairman of Harvard’s statistics department and a pioneer in using statistics to analyze an array of topics as disparate as anesthesia, presidential elections and baseball, died on Sunday in Virginia. He was 89.
In addition to all his many accomplishments in the field of applied statistics,
In 1952, he published one of his best-known articles, “The World Series Competition,” in The Journal of the American Statistical Association. That work, inspired by the Boston Red Sox’s loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946, was the first known academic paper looking at the statistics of baseball. Dr. Mosteller showed that the stronger team — the one with a higher winning percentage — would still often lose a series to a weaker team, simply because of chance.
“There should be no confusion here,” he wrote, “between the ‘winning team’ and the ‘better team.’ ’’
[h/t to Brian Ferguson]