Joel Smith

Joel Smith, former technical sales manager at Minitab, wrote for the Minitab Blog from 2012-2016. He is currently director of rapid continuous improvement at Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

Much is made following the World Cup draw every four years over which group is the “group of death.”  This is generally considered to be a really difficult group that is tough to advance from, although there is no true definition (more on that below). First, for readers not familiar with World Cup groups, a brief explanation of how teams are “grouped” in the World Cup is in order.  Thirty-two teams... Continue Reading
This weekend my 3-year-old son and I were playing with his marble run set, and he said to me, "The marbles start together, but they don't finish together!" It dawned on me that the phenomenon he was observing seems so obvious in the context of a marble run, and yet many practitioners fail to see the same thing happening in their processes.  I quickly made a video of me placing six marbles in... Continue Reading
Kevin Rudy has recently written two great posts (here and here) about how fantasy football studs perform the following year.  For any fantasy team manager, the results demonstrate how difficult it can be to predict player performance...pity the person with the first pick in a draft, who seems almost certain to not pick the best performer that year! But why is this the case? One cause is special... Continue Reading
When you learned statistics, most of what you learned was centered around the Normal distribution.  Maybe you became close friends and you later found out his birth name was Gaussian, but either way you probably just call him Normal. You might know Normal’s a pretty popular guy with plenty of relationships with other distributions.  There are some obvious connections, like how eNormal is Lognormal,... Continue Reading
One of the most poorly understood concepts in the use of statistics is the idea of assumptions. You've probably encountered many of these assumptions, such as "data normality is an assumption of the 1-sample t-test."  But if you read that statement and believe normality is a requirement of the 1-sample t-test, then you have missed a subtle and important characteristic of assumptions and need to... Continue Reading
When Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall stepped to the line to take two free throws with 0:27 remaining against Ohio State, it didn’t really matter whether he made the shots. The game was already out of reach, and although the Nittany Lions would attempt to foul their way into a miracle victory, most of the fans were all too aware that Penn State was now 0-8.  That Marshall then missed both free... Continue Reading
In this year's BCS Championship game, Alabama dominated Notre Dame 42-14 in a game that was never really even close. While many people felt Alabama would win the game, most expected a defensive battle. Few predicted it would have been so lopsided (and only a small percentage of those would have actually bet money on a blowout). But should we really be surprised?  I mean, Alabama... Continue Reading
I have a birthday coming up, and wanted to share a wealth of statistics about birthdays that you may find entertaining. First is the "Birth Day Problem."  Some of you probably encountered this one in a statistics class at some point.  The Birthday Problem is as follows: How many people would need to be in a room in order for there to be a 50% chance that two share a birthday?  This is a fun problem... Continue Reading
It's no secret that in the world of control charts, I- and Xbar- are pretty much the popular kids in school.  But have you ever met their cousin EWMA? That's him in the middle of the class, wearing the clothes that look nice but aren't very flashy. You know, when Xbar- and I- were leading the championship football team last month, EWMA won the state tennis championship?  I didn't go either --... Continue Reading
Admit it—if you follow NFL football, both of the following statements are likely true: When talking about the preseason with friends, you say that the preseason doesn't matter and doesn't mean anything for the regular season, so you're not really worried or excited about your team's performance.   You are worried or excited about your team's performance. All of us say it doesn't matter, but after so... Continue Reading
With apologies to Charles Dickens, I'd like to begin this post by summing up the Anderson-Darling statistic this way: It was the best of fits, it was the worst of fits, it was the test of normality, it was the test for non-normality, it was the plot of belief, it was the plot of incredulity, it was the p-value of Light, it was the p-value of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of... Continue Reading
As a follow-up to my recent article on how judges did in evaluating performances at two previous Olympic events, I wrote a blog post recently comparing the events from the 2008 Olympics and whether each demonstrated judging bias and if so, how much. But regardless of whether bias exists, the real purpose of judging these events is to determine the best performances and specifically to award gold,... Continue Reading
You may have read my recent article applying statistical analysis to how judges did in evaluated performances at two previous Olympic events. If so, perhaps you found yourself wondering how other events stack up… Anticipating a desire to see the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” judging performances, I pulled all of the data I could find on every event from the 2008 Beijing Olympics that is judged on a... Continue Reading
If you've ever looked at the results of Olympic Triple Jump, you've probably noticed that right beside the athlete's "mark" (jump distance) is the wind as measured at the time of the jump: The natural assumption to make is that, of course, wind must affect how far the athlete's are able to jump.  In track lingo jumps with a tailwind are referred to as "wind-assisted" and most track records set... Continue Reading
Readers of a certain age or interest in Olympic history probably know the name Bob Beamon, but for those who don’t, I’ll quickly provide a summary of “the leap.” Born in Queens, Beamon was raised by his grandmother after his abusive father threatened to kill him if his mother brought him home from the hospital. As fate would have it, his mother died eight months later at age 25. Despite entering... Continue Reading
Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell are identical twin sisters from New Zealand. But they are not identical only in the sense that they look alike; they are both very strong and very competitive athletes, and both excel at the sport of rowing.  Rather than compete against one another, however, they compete together in the sport known as Women’s Double Sculls. (To those of us less familiar with... Continue Reading
Most of us who are married have a picture of our spouse somewhere in our office—maybe a wedding photo, a picture from last year's vacation, or a family shot with the kids.  Matt Emmons likely keeps a picture of his wife as well, but it probably looks something like this: You see, Matt is a professional sport shooter who had a very interesting 2004 Olympics. Just prior to the Olympic Team... Continue Reading
In my recent article on judging in the Olympics, I included an analysis of the controversial 2002 Pairs Figure Skating results. As a result of that scandal, the International Skating Union (ISU) changed the rules for judging competitions to eliminate judging inconsistencies and prevent future scandals. In the new system, pairs are judged on Grade of Execution—which is scored differently and not... Continue Reading
57 Seconds. After more than 2,000 miles and nearly three weeks of grueling cycling, Cadel Evans needed 57 seconds to catch the leader.  And he would have to do it riding alone for only 26.4 miles. He gained two and a half minutes. When you watch the Tour de France, you realize that amid the extreme physical challenges of the race comes a high level of personal drama. And while most people picture a... Continue Reading
My wife and I are expecting a baby girl soon—very soon, in fact, as in "Will this blog post be published before the baby is born?" soon. The due date given is May 19th, but we stat geeks know that a point estimate just isn't good enough...we want probability intervals that reflect the uncertainty in the data. I found a chart that lets me know the number of babies born to "spontaneous labor" by each... Continue Reading