Streaks are interesting phenomena. They are also very difficult to pin down with any language, be it spoken or mathematical. On top of that, the human brain seems to have evolved to recognize patterns, and we can spot them even where they don't exist. Children can't look at a cloud, a stipple ceiling or the grain in wood panelling without seeing an image. Ask one if you don't believe me.
One way of analyzing streakiness is to look at rolling averages. For example, if you looked at Canuck forward Alex Burrows during last season, and plotted out the 20 game rolling average of shooting percentage (even strength, no empty netters) you'd get this:
We can evaluate Burrows streakiness, or inconsistency, by summing up how many black pixels we needed to draw that picture. Then we compare that to how many black pixels we'd expect to use by chance alone. In Alex's case, nearly 99 times out of 100 we'd expect to use fewer black pixels. So he had a streaky season. How much of that was down to chance and how much of that was down to circumstance? It's a good question. The first thing you'd need to do is look at every other forward in the league, but that's a subject for another day.
This idea is taken from a 2008 article in The Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. It has been coined the BLACK stat.
For now I have a little test, so you can check yourself for streak bias:
If you rolled a ten sided die 100 times, counting a seven as a success and any other number as a failure, and you happened to get 10 sevens ... what sort of pattern would you expect?
The pattern immediately below this paragraph would be too consistent to be true. We've all played enough board games to know that dice don't work that way:
Copy that series of 0s and 1s into a word processor or text editor, and drag the 1s around in the series until it seems properly random to your mind.
Next, copy and paste the modified series of 0s and 1s into this URL. Simply replace the original series in the URL with your modified version. Open a browser window with that URL, and voila, you'll get a little graph like the one above for Burrows, and you'll also get a bit of BLACK stat data. The number to notice is the BLACK statistic rank, that shows how many pixels your series required, as compared to 10,000 randomly simulated series.
Please note that this will NOT count towards your final grade. If you're going to do it, trust your instincts. I got a shockingly small ranking with my first go, implying that I was subconsciously putting a pattern into my random series. That's not good, but it's humanity. Or so I think.