Dorhauer: The probability of streaks

From Adam Dorhauer at The Hardball Times on July 2, 2019:

On September 15, 2017, Cleveland lost a close game to Kansas City. Cleveland would go on to clinch the division the next day while the Royals were hovering around .500, a long shot to qualify for a Wild Card spot. It wasn’t the type of game that would typically catch much attention, except for one exceptional circumstance: Cleveland had not lost a game in over three weeks.

Cleveland’s streak ended that day at 22 games, an AL record and second in major league history only to a 26-game winning streak by the 1916 Giants. This is obviously a remarkable feat, but before we start talking about the probability of something like this happening, I want to start with something a little simpler: flipping coins.

Say we want to flip a coin to land heads 22 times in a row. Assuming we have a fair coin, half the time it will land heads and our streak will keep going, and half the time it will land tails and the streak will end.  No matter how long our streak continues, each additional flip carries a 50/50 chance of ending the streak.

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Originally published: July 4, 2019. Last Updated: July 4, 2019.