loki/tinymce : /sports/bsb/2009-10/releases/100528_numbers : 100528 numbers : pwk0ixox0569nh5w



It's All About the Numbers

In the Commencement Edition of the Harvard Gazette, staff writer Corydron Ireland told Ahmed's story.

Alexander Ahmed was 5 years old when he started playing a board game called Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Armed with stats cards from seasons going back to 1911, players roll dice to pitch, swing, and make defensive plays. “It simulates real-life baseball pretty well,” said the senior from suburban Springfield, Mass.

For Ahmed, Strat-O-Matic combined two early passions: sports play and statistics. Growing up, he studied box scores, and kept stats on every game he played. In high school, Ahmed was a three-sport varsity athlete who excelled in science and math too. At Harvard, there was ample opportunity to put the two worlds together.

On the sports side, Ahmed, an applied mathematics concentrator at Winthrop House, played junior varsity baseball for his first two years. He then masterminded the transformation of the struggling team from junior varsity status to the Harvard Baseball Club, where his batting average (.490) was second on the team this year.

Then there are all those intramural sports. “I try to do as many as I can,” said Ahmed. “It’s what I do for exercise.” Those included soccer, flag football, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, softball, crew, swimming, and ice hockey. Of the last, he said, “I learned to skate last year so I could play.”

Ahmed also has explored the mathematical and scientific dimensions that sport offers. His senior thesis — 63 pages of narrative, equations, and appendices — uses a statistical modeling tool called the Markov Chain to estimate “run expectancy” in baseball.

He also belongs to the 20-member Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, where weekly meetings draw in concentrators from fields such as math, statistics, economics, and psychology. “We try to ask interesting questions that any sports fan would ask,” said Ahmed, “then try to answer them with the tools that we have from our studies.”

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