How to Calculate an Odd Occurrence


man showing a statistics chart

Here’s a way to impress your friends by providing an exact statistic on just about any odd occurrence.

While the Google machine is your friend for well-known stats, there are times when you need to do your own calculations. In doing this, you’re almost certain to hear a friendly protest that your statistic is a made-up fabrication and has no merit.

It’s time to make those bothersome protesters look silly. Familiarize yourself with this method and you’ll be able to offer any proof needed with a simple notepad or smartphone calculator.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Greg Van Niel

Let’s say you went to a baseball game that had 30,000 fans in attendance. At an average of 30 foul balls in a Major League baseball game, what are you chances of catching four foul balls in one game?

To find our answer, we would calculate the odds of catching one ball, which are 30,000 fans divided by 30 balls or 1 in 1,000. Not too shabby. You could definitely find yourself lucky enough to leave the ballpark with a ball at some point in your life if you’re an avid fan.

But four foul balls?

We would take 1 in 1,000 to the 4th power, which equals 1 in a trillion.

Sound impossible? This just happened tonight, as Cleveland Indians fan, Greg Niel, accomplished the feat of catching four foul balls in a baseball game. Impressive, though it almost seems a shame he didn’t use his one in a trillion opportunity on winning the lottery.

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