Monthly Archives: October 2017

Politics Podcast: Mueller’s First Strike



The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast crew discusses the first round of indictments as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with President Trump’s campaign.

Paul Manafort, who served as chairman of Trump’s campaign, and Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates surrendered themselves to authorities on Monday. Documents were also made public Monday showing that a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contact with a Russian professor with ties to Kremlin officials.

The team puts the investigation into historical context and weighs the ramifications for the Trump administration and congressional Republicans.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.


The Dodgers’ Best Bats Heat Up At Just The Right Time

The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t buy a run, and their World Series chances were slipping away. After scoring six times off the Houston Astros but coming up short in a crazy, back-and-forth Game 2, they mustered three relatively low-leverage runs in Game 3None of those scores ever brought them any closer than within two runs of the Astros.

“>1 and were shut out for the first six innings of Game 4. A loss here would have dropped LA’s World Series odds to around 20 percent, if history was any guide, and left this 104-win juggernaut staring at another postseason disappointment.

But finally, after waiting most of the series for their bats to heat up, the Dodgers got what they were looking for late Saturday night. Cody Bellinger, who’d gone 0-for-13 in the World Series before the seventh inning of Game 4, delivered a double, then came around to score the tying run on a Logan Forsythe single. Two innings later, Corey Seager, who’d been hitless since Game 2, got on base with a single and scored on another Bellinger double, giving LA a lead it would never relinquish. (Joc Pederson’s three-run insurance homer four batters later also helped.) Suddenly, instead of falling into a 3-1 hole, the Dodgers knotted up the series at two games apiece and are back to being championship favorites again.

Before Game 4’s assault on the Astros’ bullpen, the Dodgers as a team had produced 7.1 fewer runs than average in the series based on their weighted on-base average (wOBA),Using the formula and constants provided at

‘>2 including a collective 6.5 runs below average from the team’s four best hitters during the regular season by wOBA — Bellinger, Seager, Justin Turner and Austin Barnes. But all four batters played a role in LA’s late-innings scoring outburst, during which they collectively produced 1.6 runs above average (to go with 0.9 runs above average from their teammates):

The Dodgers’ best bats showed up late in Game 4

Weighted on-base average (wOBA) and batting runs above average (RAA) for Los Angeles hitters in 2017 regular season and World Series

Justin Turner 3B .411 -1.2 +0.0
Cody Bellinger 1B .396 -3.5 +1.6
Austin Barnes C .396 -1.6 -0.5
Corey Seager SS .374 -0.2 +0.5
Chris Taylor LF .373 +0.5 -0.3
Yasiel Puig RF .360 -1.2 -0.5
Yasmani Grandal C .336 -0.8 0.0
Joc Pederson LF .331 +1.3 +1.3
Andre Ethier RF .326 +0.0 0.0
Chase Utley 2B .325 -1.4 0.0
Enrique Hernandez CF .320 +0.4 -0.5
Logan Forsythe 2B .313 -0.7 +1.0
Charlie Culberson SS .237 +1.3 0.0
Total -7.1 +2.5

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information Group, Fangraphs

It’s impossible to say whether the Dodgers’ well-timed turnaround at the plate will kick-start their offense over the rest of the series. But they’d definitely been hitting below their talents up to that point — with a wOBA 94 points below their regular-season average — so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bellinger and company’s late-game performance be part of a positive regression to the mean going forward.

As for the Astros, Game 4 was an enormous missed opportunity. Starting pitcher Charlie Morton pitched extremely well — he had a Game Score of 76, tied for seventh-best ever among World Series starters in a game the team ultimately lost — and it was looking like he’d steal Houston a crucial second series win in a game not started by team co-aces Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel. Leading up to the World Series, Houston was 5-1 in playoff games started by Verlander/Keuchel but 2-3 in all other games, so getting a pair of wins from Morton and Game 3 starter Lance McCullers would have been a major coup for the Astros at this point in the series.

Instead, Houston is left wondering how a bullpen that had outpitched Los Angeles’s early in the series managed to blow such a winnable home contest. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, Astros closer Ken Giles has now allowed as many earned runs (10) in 7⅔ postseason innings as he did in 50⅔ innings during his last 50 appearances of the regular season, and the Houston bullpen as a whole now has a 5.21 ERA during the playoffs — nearly two runs worse than their starters per nine innings.

The Astros aren’t doomed, of course. The series is basically a toss-up now, a de facto best-of-three affair that will see them face the Dodgers’ best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) at home and also be able to use their own top starter (Verlander) to neutralize LA’s home-field advantage in Game 6. But in a flash, the Dodgers’ cold bats warmed up and saved their season, turning what would have been a commanding Houston lead into a series either team can now win.

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2017, 11 a.m.): A previous version of this article mischaracterized the regular-season stats of Ken Giles. His 10 regular-season earned runs allowed came in his last 50 appearances of the season, not the entire season.

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2017, 3:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article said Los Angeles scored seven times in Game 2. The Dodgers scored six times.

David Roberts’s Overworked Bullpen Is A Bad Omen For The Dodgers

A poor start from Yu Darvish hurt the Dodgers early on Friday, and they never mounted a comeback. With the Astros now riding a 2-1 lead and two games left in Houston, the Dodgers are in trouble. In addition to their deficit, a pattern of heavy reliever usage might leave them understaffed in the remaining World Series games.

Darvish didn’t have his best stuff Friday night. Despite impressive fastball velocity, his slider was unusually flat. Houston pounced on the normally dominant ace in the second inning, gaining a four-run lead. From then on, the Dodgers attempted to build a handful of unsuccessful rallies but only managed to score three runs.

Darvish’s bad outing adds to two other shorter-than-necessary starts for Los Angeles and might leave the bullpen tired in the next two pivotal games in Houston. Even if the relievers were fine Friday, the pattern of short starts is a poor omen for the Dodgers.

LA is taxing its bullpen

Teams with the fewest innings pitched by starters in the first three games of the World Series, 2000-17

Giants 2002 11.0 16
Cardinals 2004 11.3 15
Rockies 2007 11.3 14
Angels 2002 12.7 13
Dodgers 2017 12.7 6


Of the five teams who leaned on their bullpen most in the series since 2000, three went on to lose, and the Dodgers’ fate is still undecided. Only the 2002 Anaheim Angels came back, and they faced an opponent (in the San Francisco Giants) who employed their relievers even more frequently.

That’s not to say that reliever usage is a death sentence. Oftentimes, it simply reflects poor starting pitching: Each of the teams who used their starters less than the Dodgers saw them give up more than a dozen runs. This underscores how unusual Roberts’s reliever usage has been because his starters, comparatively, have been quite good. Aside from Darvish’s clunker last night, the Dodgers had two of the best starts for their length in World Series history, from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. If Roberts had allowed them to go deeper into games when they were dealing, the bullpen might be fresh now.

Roberts didn’t help matters when he used his bullpen aggressively Friday night, attempting to keep Houston within striking distance. In total, the Dodgers manager called on five different relievers to end the game, and only one — Kenta Maeda — went longer than 2 innings. Combined with the workload from the previous two games, key relievers have been pitching almost as much as the starters. So far, Maeda has pitched 4 innings this series, and Brandon Morrow, the crucial bridge to closer Kenley Jansen, has pitched 2 2/3 innings as well. Jansen himself has pitched 3 full innings.

But as ESPN’s Sam Miller pointed out, if the Dodgers had managed to come back, Roberts’s tactics would have been hailed as strategically brilliant. Like many other postseason managerial moves, the aggressive reliever usage is easy to criticize in hindsight but much harder to argue with in the moment. It might have been a good bet that failed to pay out, but the strategy still leaves the Dodgers depleted of bullpen arms at the time when they need them most. In contrast, Houston manager A.J. Hinch relied on only two pitchers to carry the Astros to victory: starter Lance McCullers and starter-turned-reliever Brad Peacock. Despite running into some high-leverage jams, they managed to hold a powerful Dodgers lineup to only three runs. Like Roberts’ decision, keeping McCullers in the game in the third inning with the bases loaded was a gamble. But Hinch’s call managed to pay off when Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager hit into an uncharacteristic double play.

The Astros’ win leaves them with a 67 percent chance of taking the World Series. That’s far higher than our opening prediction, but it comes almost entirely from the two victories they’ve edged out over the Dodgers. The remaining games are all coin-flip affairs, so the importance of that extra win in an evenly divided series can’t be overstated. That it came down to two managerial decisions that might have gone either way speaks to how balanced this matchup is. Had one or two pitches gone differently, the Dodgers might be in a commanding position right now, instead of fighting to tie the Series.

The Ultimate Halloween Candy Power Ranking

The social contract of Halloween is simple: Provide adequate treats to costumed masses, or be prepared for late-night tricks from those dissatisfied with your offer. To help you avoid that type of vengeance, and to help you make good decisions at the supermarket this weekend, we wanted to figure out what Halloween candy people most prefer. So we devised an experiment: Pit dozens of fun-sized candy varietals against one another, and let the wisdom of the crowd decide which one was best.This meant that we were able to sort through scores of entries without demanding each participant know everything about every entry. We don’t really need to care about the, say, hardcore Hershey fans attempting to rig the sample, because in order for someone to seriously dent their candy’s outcome, they’d have to go through scores of irrelevant matchups.


While we don’t know who exactly voted, we do know this: 8,371 different IP addresses voted on about 269,000 randomly generated matchups.That’s an average of 32 and a median of about 11 matchups from each IP.

“>2 So, not a scientific survey or anything, but a good sample of what candy people like. And here’s what they said:

How often did a fun-sized candy of a given type win its matchups against the rest of the field?

1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup 84.2%
2 Reese’s Miniatures 81.9
3 Twix 81.6
4 Kit Kat 76.8
5 Snickers 76.7
6 Reese’s Pieces 73.4
7 Milky Way 73.1
8 Reese’s Stuffed With Pieces 72.9
9 Peanut Butter M&M’s 71.5
10 Butterfinger 70.7
11 Peanut M&Ms 69.5
12 3 Musketeers 67.6
13 Starburst 67.0
14 100 Grand 67.0
15 M&M’s 66.6
16 Crunch 66.5
17 Rolo 65.7
18 Milky Way Simply Caramel 64.4
19 Skittles original 63.1
20 Krackel 62.3
21 Milky Way Midnight 60.8
22 Sour Patch Kids 59.9
23 Snickers Crisper 59.5
24 Hershey’s Special Dark 59.2
25 Junior Mints 57.2
26 Haribo Gold-Bears 57.1
27 Baby Ruth 56.9
28 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate 56.5
29 Hershey’s Kisses 55.4
30 Nerds 55.4
31 Skittles Wild Berry 55.1
32 Milk Duds 55.1
33 Swedish Fish 54.9
34 Mr. Goodbar 54.5
35 Life Savers Big Ring Gummies 52.9
36 Sour Patch Tricksters 52.8
37 Air Heads 52.3
38 Haribo Sour Gold-Bears 51.4
39 Almond Joy 50.3
40 Tootsie Roll Snack Bars 49.7
41 Whoppers 49.5
42 Tootsie Pop 49.0
43 Mounds 47.8
44 Trolli Sour Bites 47.2
45 Gobstopper 46.8
46 Mike and Ike 46.4
47 Payday 46.3
48 One quarter (25 cents) coin 46.1
49 Smarties 46.0
50 Tootsie Roll Midgees 45.7
51 Twizzlers 45.5
52 Welch’s Fruit Snacks 44.4
53 Fruit Chews 43.1
54 Tootsie Roll Juniors 43.1
55 Runts 42.8
56 Dots 42.3
57 Haribo Twin Snakes 42.2
58 Werther’s Original Caramel 41.9
59 Laffy Taffy 41.4
60 Pop Rocks 41.3
61 Dum Dums 39.5
62 Now and Later 39.4
63 Fun Dip 39.2
64 Lemonhead 39.1
65 Warheads 39.0
66 Charleston Chew 39.0
67 Candy corn 38.0
68 Nestle Smarties 37.9
69 Pixy Stix 37.7
70 Red Vines 37.3
71 Chewy Lemonhead Fruit Mix 36.0
72 Ring Pop 35.3
73 Sixlets 34.7
74 Strawberry bon bons 34.6
75 Tootsie caramel apple pops 34.5
76 Haribo Happy Cola 34.2
77 Sugar Babies 33.4
78 One dime (10 cent) coin 32.3
79 Sugar Daddy 32.2
80 Root Beer Barrels 29.7
81 Jaw Busters 28.1
82 Super Bubble 27.3
83 Chiclets 24.5
84 Boston Baked Beans 23.4
85 Nik-L-Nip 22.4
86 Good & Plenty 21.9

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and their spinoffs come out huge here, taking four of the top 10 spots and appearing pretty synonymous with the platonic ideal of Halloween candy. The brand was the best-selling candy in the U.S. as of 2013, and market research showed it was the top snack-sized candy in Halloween times.

But what made some candies more desirable than others? Was it price? Maybe it was just sugar content? Nah, neither really. I pulled fun-sized portion sugar content from a series of dieting websites (FatSecret, MyFitnessPal), and in cases of particularly hard-to-find candies, I just went to the nearby drugstore. I pulled bulk prices from Candy Warehouse. After a spooooky regression with a truly hellish r-squared, there’s no evident link here between price, sugar and perceived quality.

So if it’s not price or sugar, there must be something about what’s in the candies that make some better and some worse. With the fervency of a stay-at-home dad who recently learned of a child’s mild peanut allergy, I scoured the internet for descriptive ingredient data about all the candies in our data set. Were they chocolate? Did they contain peanuts or almonds? How about crisped rice or other biscuit-esque component, like a Kit Kat or malted milk ball? Was it fruit flavored? Was it made of hard candy, like a lollipop or a strawberry bon bon? Was there nougat? What even is nougat? I know I like nougat, but I still have remotely no clue what the damn thing is.

With a full typology in hand and access to some of the most powerful statistical software available on the market, my questions were answered.

That’s a lot to take in! In general, here’s what this information says. According to the regression, about half the variance observed in the quality can be explained by these nine properties of candy, which isn’t great but also isn’t awful — and is thus enough for us to work with.

A Halloween candy that has none of those ingredient components would be expected, as a baseline, to win a matchup about 35 percent of the time. Sure enough, this bears out in our data: For giggles we also put in “one dime” and “one quarter” to see how desirable they were, and the dime — which is neither chocolaty, nor fruity, nor full of caramel, peanuts, wafers, et cetera — beat 32 percent of competitors, and the quarter beat 46 percent.

Chocolate 61% +19.9
Fruit 44 +10.3
Peanuts & nuts 57 +10.1
Crispy 64 +9.0
Caramel 60 +3.4
Nougat 66 +2.4
Multi-piece 41 -0.2
Candy bar 61 -0.7
Hard candy 47 -4.9

The table adjacent to this paragraph simplifies that “coef.” column. If a hypothetical candy had chocolate in it, we’d expect its win percentage to rise by about 20 points. If it’s fruity, we’d expect it to rise by 10. If it had nuts, we’d also expect its win percentage to rise by 10, with wafers or crisped rice rising by 9. And nougat and caramel don’t bring a ton to the table. A candy being hard — like a lollipop or jawbreaker — actually knocks about 5 points off its win percentage. Whether it’s in bar form or a bunch of little candies makes no major difference.

Note that a candy can be one or two or all of these things: A Snickers is a chocolate (+20), peanut (+10), caramel (+3), nougat (+2) candy that we’d expect to have in the ballpark of a 70 percent win rate, and it does in fact have a 77 percent win rate.

Which brings up an obvious question: Can we build the perfect Frankencandy based on this information?

On one hand, no, that’s a ridiculous oversimplification of a somewhat scientific process and is likely to result only in an abomination.

On the other hand, that exact ethical dilemma did not stop Dr. Frankenstein, and ’tis the season!

We’ve got to have chocolate — the win percentage of contenders containing chocolate was about 11 points higher than the average contender and 19 points higher than contenders that did not have chocolate. The same goes for both crispiness and nuttiness: Entrants with peanuts or almonds had win percentages about 13 points higher than the average contender, and ones with crispy wafers or puffed rice were nearly 16 points higher than average. Nougat and caramel are net positives for sure, so throw them in.

Now we get to some major qualitative components. Candies in bar form generally had a higher overall win rate than those in pieces, so we’ll want a bar. Yes, fruitiness can be fine, but things that had a fruity taste had a win percentage 11 points lower than those that did not. This is due to the near mutual exclusivity of fruity flavors and chocolate, with Tootsie Pops being the sole exception.The science is clear here: A Dum Dum wins 39 percent of the time, a Tootsie Pop wins 49 percent of the time, and a Tootsie Roll Snack Bar wins 50 percent of the time. I think we can all agree on why people are so eager to get to that center of the Tootsie Pop.


So, in the end, the best Frankencandy has the chocolate of a Hershey bar, the nougat of a Baby Ruth, the caramel of a Milky Way, the peanut butter of a Reese’s Cup and the wafer of a Twix, and it’s assembled in a castle looming over an Eastern European village. Or if you’re trying to make this at home: Maybe take a Twix bar and smush it on a PayDay, or roll a Snickers around in rice crispies.

Call me what you will — the modern Prometheus, a contemporary, pre-diabetic Frankenstein — but I think I have the next big idea in Halloween candy. So what I’m trying to say is, yes, Mr. Wonka, I am available to consult if you’re interested in entering the abomination business.

What The GOP Budget Taught Us About The Party’s Tax Reform Plans

After a month of wrangling, Republicans in the House narrowly passed a budget resolution on Thursday that has no direct policy effects. Like all other budget resolutions of this kind, it doesn’t even go to the president for a signature.

But Thursday’s budget resolution, which was also approved by the Senate last week, really matters. Most importantly, to use the so-called reconciliation rules — by which lawmakers can pass a bill with a simple majority vote in the Senate instead of needing 60 votes to end a filibuster — Congress has to approve a budget resolution first. So now, Republicans can move forward with their proposal to reform America’s tax system and potentially pass a bill without any Democratic votes. (All Democrats voted against the budget resolution in both the House and the Senate).

But beyond legislative tactics, Republicans also made three telling decisions during this process, each with a potentially big impact:

1. They chucked aside concerns about the deficit

The original House version of the budget bill called for a tax reform plan that would be deficit-neutral, meaning that any tax cuts would have to be made up for with tax increases. The Senate, however, passed a budget last week that said tax reform could increase deficits by as much as $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

How did congressional Republicans deal with this difference? At President Trump’s urging, House leaders simply took up the Senate bill and adopted that version. The resulting budget does not guarantee that the GOP’s eventual tax bill will raise the deficit by $1.5 trillion, but it’s a clear signal that Republicans are not committed to a deficit-neutral tax plan despite constantly complaining about rising deficits when Barack Obama was president.

2. They left open the possibility of getting rid of or limiting state and local tax deductions

Earlier this week, Rep. Peter King of New York, a Republican, demanded that party leaders commit to leaving in place the local and state income tax deduction, which allows Americans to deduct those taxes on their federal tax filings. King wanted that commitment before they held a vote on the budget resolution. The beneficiaries of that deduction are disproportionately upper-income people in states with high local taxes, such as New York and New Jersey. Republican leaders have not released the formal details of the party’s tax plan yet, but they have hinted publicly that they want to either eliminate or limit state and local deductions (which would be one way for Republicans to raise money in this legislation and reduce the amount that it increases the deficit).

Party leaders refused King’s request and held the vote anyway. That led 11 of the 14 GOP House members from New York and New Jersey, including King, to vote against the budget resolution. (Overall, 20 Republicans voted no, while 216 approved it. Several of the other 9 Republicans to vote no are either members of the House Freedom Caucus or known to be iconoclastic members who often vote against major party priorities.)

That House Republican leaders wouldn’t drop the idea of eliminating this deduction, even as some GOP lawmakers strongly objected to it, suggests that they are determined to include some version of it in the final legislation. At the same time, the 11 GOP “no” votes from New York and New Jersey nearly brought down the resolution. (It passed 216-212, meaning that the bill would have failed if two more Republicans voted against it.)

If King’s bloc is not placated on this issue, Speaker Paul Ryan will have a very narrow margin on which to pass the tax bill through the House.

3. They left Obamacare out of the bill

The last budget resolution passed by Republicans, in January, explicitly laid out a path for health care legislation to be passed using reconciliation. That’s how they were going to repeal Obamacare.

This budget does not lay out such a path. That does not mean Obamacare is safe by any means. The budget adopted by both chambers calls for reductions in Medicaid spending, a big part of Obamacare. And, of course, Republicans can weaken Obamacare in other ways, from the Trump administration not really trying to enroll people in the law’s marketplaces (as it appears to be doing) to Republicans on Capitol Hill blocking a bipartisan bill (Murray-Alexander) to give insurers money to make up for certain cost-sharing subsidies that they provide for consumers. And Republicans could adopt another budget bill that explicitly called for an Obamacare repeal through the reconciliation process.

But at least for right now, Republicans do not have a clear path to repeal Obamacare with 50 GOP senators (plus Vice-President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote). This budget bill is in some ways a formal concession that the party can’t find the votes to get rid of Obamacare. And Republicans don’t have that much time to make good on their promise to do so, as they could lose control of the House, Senate or both after next November elections.

This all sets up a dicey path on moving forward with tax reform. Republicans are saying they will roll out the formal tax bill as soon as next week. That will set up three big intra-party debates as members of Congress, lobbying groups and the public examine this legislation and potentially push for changes.

  • Is this bill going to spike the deficit?
  • If not, how? Will Republicans propose smaller tax cuts? Or, alternatively, will they propose raising some taxes?This is where proposals like limiting how much Americans can put in their 401(k) plans, which GOP officials have floated, or the state and local tax deductions move come into play. Republicans are also talking about keeping in place the highest income tax rate, which is 39 percent, instead of lowering it to 35, as was in the original draft of the tax proposal.


  • Are Republicans committed to the general tax structure that they laid out last month, which showed huge reductions in taxes for the wealthy and either modest cuts or even increases for middle-income Americans, or are they open to changing the distribution of the cuts?

Passing the budget resolution was the easy part for Republicans, just as it was with Obamacare. Now comes the hard part: Writing a bill that will get the votes of 218 House members and 50 senators.

How Do I Get My Best Friend To Stop Micromanaging My Breakup?

Welcome to Survey Says, FiveThirtyEight’s advice column. In each installment, our two advice-givers will take a reader question, debate what he or she should do and then survey a panel of people about what the best course of action is. Need our advice? Send us your quandary!

I recently had a short, four-month relationship end with someone because they had to move away. It was a tough decision, because I got along really well with this person and saw us being together for a long time. We broke up over a month ago and both agreed it would be best to see other people but keep in touch. I am actually happy with everything going on with this part of my life, and I am moving on in my own way even if we text every day. The problem is with my best friend, who won’t quit asking me about it. He was initially sad for me when we broke up and asked how things were going, which I appreciated. However, he thought our plan to stay in touch was a bad idea and that I should “cut her loose.” I told him that both her and I are fine keeping in touch and don’t want to stop. Ever since then he wouldn’t stop asking how things were going and insists it’s a bad idea to text each other. Now I’ve started to lie about it to get him to stop. I don’t know how to tell my closest friend that I don’t want him to ask for updates anymore. Ethan

Walt: This person just wants to gossip, and it’s way too close to home for Ethan.

Morgan: I don’t understand why this friend would be so obsessed with Ethan’s dating life unless he has experienced and been hurt by a similar situation. Then again, often times there are people who want to “save” others. They have paternal/maternal tendencies, and they think they know what’s best for their friends.

Walt: I get the vibe that Ethan doesn’t date much. That’s not a bad thing at all! It strikes me that the friend came into this with the best intentions though, given that “Ethan in a relationship” was a new thing, and now the friend does not really know what to ask next.

Morgan: Right. I think the friend’s intentions are good and he really cares for Ethan. But sometimes people have to learn when to dial it back and let others learn and mature in their own way.

Walt: I haven’t encountered a case of someone caring so much about a four-month relationship since Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock broke it off.

Morgan: LOL! A four-month relationships can be significant. I’ve dated men for three months and felt very intensely. This usually happens for people who don’t date much, and that may have been the case for Ethan.

Walt: What if Ethan’s friend is stirring up drama for its own sake though? He’s second-guessing Ethan’s decision to keep in touch. He’s goading him over the following weeks until he’s so exasperated, Ethan’s lying just to get him to stop. That, or Ethan’s friend is asking on someone else’s behalf? I don’t know.

Morgan: But drama for what reason? Because he’s so bored with his own life? I’m also wondering if Ethan’s friend may be asking on someone else’s behalf. If he’s not romantically interested in Ethan, then why does it seem like he has such an investment in all of this?

Walt: Some people just like to gossip.

Maybe Ethan’s ex is back-channeling through Ethan’s friend?

Does Ethan’s friend feel threatened by Ethan’s relationship with his ex? As Ethan later added, “I literally text and call this girl every week and am perfectly happy with how it has gone so far.”

Morgan: Wait … I think that’s exactly it. He feels threatened.

Walt: Ethan needs to ask his buddy what the real problem is — because there’s some other level to this we (including Ethan) are not picking up.

Morgan: Right. Or he can continue to lie to his friend about the relationship status.

Walt: Lying. Brilliant. Always my favorite answer.

FiveThirtyEight commissioned a SurveyMonkey Audience poll that ran Aug. 9-12 and received 1,009 responses. We presented respondents with Ethan’s question and asked them what the best advice is, given the situation. They were allowed to choose only one option.

  1. Stop talking with the friend about keeping in touch with the ex.


  2. Ask the friend if he feels threatened by the ex.


  3. Tell the friend to stop creating drama.


  4. Continue lying to the friend about keeping in touch with the ex.


  5. None of the above is good advice.


Walt: No decisive answer here! Wow!

Morgan: This one was a bit complex, though. I’m not surprised that confronting the friend or declining to talk about it are the two most popular responses.

Walt: Right. However, this is somewhat surprising:

Stop talking with the friend about the ex 44% 33%
Ask if the friend feels threatened 22 28
Tell the friend to stop creating drama 13 18
Continue lying about the friendship 2 3
None of the above is good advice 19 19

Morgan: I’m trying not to be gender essentialist here, but I’m surprised that fewer men than women thought it was a good idea to decline chatting about the friendship.

Walt: I too was not trying to be a gender essentialist but came to a similar “huh?” Men? Turning down an opportunity to avoid a conversation? This is madness.

Morgan: Yeah, OK, that’s surprising to me. When stuff is going down in our relationships, we usually talk.

18-29 30-44 45-59 60+
Stop talking with the friend about the ex 27% 40% 43% 44%
Ask if the friend feels threatened 28 24 23 23
Tell the friend to stop creating drama 17 17 14 13
Continue lying about the friendship 5 3 1 0
None of the above is good advice 23 16 19 19

Walt: The older someone was, the more likely they were to just shut it down.

By a lot.

Morgan: Would you say that the older you get, the less bullshit you put up with?

Walt: I would say so, yep. I am super not shocked on that front!

Morgan: Neither am I, friend.

Walt: So anyway: Talk it out, guys! There’s no need to feel threatened. Unless you’re over the age of 60, in which case never speak about your feelings ever again.

More of our advice:

  • My Roommate Keeps His Bodily Fluids In Our Fridge. What The Hell?
  • I Got Promoted, And My Work Buddy Didn’t. Now Things Are Weird.
  • My Neighbor Uses Me As A Free Baby Sitter — How Do I Deal With This Mooch?

Emergency Politics Podcast: Flake Is Out



The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast team gathers to discuss the news that Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona will not seek reelection, as well as what his departure means for the GOP Senate primary in 2018, the general election and the Republican Party as a whole.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Politics Podcast: Could A Democrat Actually Win In Alabama?



The highest-profile 2017 elections are not far off. The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast team takes stock of the candidates, polling and strategies in the Virginia governor’s race and the Alabama special Senate election.

In Virginia, Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is a modest favorite over Republican Ed Gillespie. In Alabama, controversial former judge Roy Moore, a Republican, is leading Democrat Doug Jones, but the race looks surprisingly competitive given that President Trump won Alabama by 28 percentage points.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Beside The Points For Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017

Things That Caught My Eye

Vegas gets another team

The San Antonio Stars will move to Las Vegas under its new management of MGM Resorts International. This makes them the second professional team to open up in the gambling town with the Oakland Raiders soon to follow. With the No. 1 pick in the draft next year, this is an exciting time for the WNBA team. [ESPN]

Browns allegedly superior to other teams

The Browns’ crew of quarterbacks — a squad of personnel I am unfortunately well-acquainted with — is not the worst in history. We’ve had the statistic Total QBR since 2006, and in the period of time since them there have been three teams — the 2010 Panthers, 2008 Raiders and 2007 49ers — who have a total QBR less than the 21.9 Cleveland currently sports. [ESPN]

Clemson and Washington are not totally screwed

Last week the Clemson Tigers and Washington Huskies suffered upset losses that made them fall out of the AP Top 5. Clemson is down from a 55 percent chance of making the playoff to a 29 percent chance, and Washington fell from a 43 percent chance to a 24 percent chance. Realistically, the best way to make the playoff is to win out: doing so would give them a 97 percent and 87 percent chance, respectively, of making the playoff. Clemson’s Week 10 game against N.C. State will be the decisive game, while Washington’s test will be in Week 11 at Stanford. [FiveThirtyEight]

Happy Sports Equinox!

Thursday, Oct. 19 is the Sports Equinox, the day when all four major U.S. sports leagues play at least one game. There have only been 17 in history. Should the Cubs force a game 7 in the NCLS, Sunday will be a second one of 2017. Fair warning, with 14 different games, it’s going to get weird tonight in even the most amply-screened sports bars. [FiveThirtyEight]

Yes, let’s keep saying nice things about the Eagles

Oh wow the Eagles are real good this year! No reason at all to mitigate expectations, Eagles fans: You guys are going to win the Super Bowl for sure this time. Believe it! I’m in no way attempting to pump up expectation thus making the eventual and inevitable playoff catastrophe all the more panful for you to bear, not at all, we here in New York love you, Philly. Realistically though, the Eagles are solid, and have a somewhat easy route to the playoffs from here on out: Their next 10 adversaries have an average Elo rating of 1484, which is below the league average 1500. [FiveThirtyEight]

Balto got high

For the first time ever, several Iditarod sled dogs from one team tested positive for a prohibited substance. The race began testing for doped-up doggies back in 1994. It’s been described by a race board member as an isolated incident. [ESPN]

Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!

Big Number

-10 wins

Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia five minutes into the first game of the NBA season. For Hayward, this means a difficult recovery over the course of the season. For the Celtics, it means their anticipated 47-win season drops to 37 wins, all of which is way below Vegas’ expected 53.5 wins. [FiveThirtyEight]

Leaks from Slack:


@heynawl-enten FYI, Yankees are likeable now. So keep that in mind.


Just tweeted it

WTF is this?


this is provably false

the yankees are the yankees

the yankees are not likable



Curious what it would take for a hated team to become a likable team. A goliath to an underdog if you will. Possible?


Oh, and don’t forget
The robots fought and it really really sucked.