Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why baseball causes arguments

I have always been a baseball fan, dreaming of playing center field for the Giants, but lacking speed, size and hand eye coordination, I learned to love the game and its history. Many summers were spent playing baseball on a near by cul-de-sac then playing hundreds of games of Sports Illustrated All Time baseball late into the night. This was a dice baseball game with 16 teams of all time greats with players stats encrypted behind charts that revealed results with each throw of the the three die. Along comes Bill James' Baseball Abstract, and I spent time analyzing the statistics of every player by disecting every player's chart and applying the probability statistics to the dice and determine every player's OBA, slugging and run created value. By the time I got to college, where we would form leagues and play to celebrate the opening of the baseball season, the more games I played the more I won as I used my statistical probability against my opponents emotionally selected teams.

As I went on to design business software, many of those with similar reverence for baseball, statistics and history went on to make careers out of analyzing baseball statistics with many now holding jobs for teams helping GMs with which players to keep, let go, or sign (I should have gotten that mathematics degree). There are now many web sites promoting their analysis, but one of the best is Hardball Times. They take some of the simplest questions and apply their statistical background to prove or disprove their hypothesis. But as I review their analysis (or as much as I understand), I find myself happy when there conclusion agrees with my belief and upset when it doesn't. Instead of changing my mind on a topic, I find myself trying to shoot holes through their entire analysis. If I bring up even one of their conclusions with other baseball fans, the discussion turns to alot of I told you sos or disdain for the conclusion and emotional responses are generated on both sides of the argument. But that is the beauty of baseball as small insignificant analysis can result in passionate debates. In case you want to stimulate a baseball conversation in your community, I have added the Hardball Times to my side bar.
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