5.19.2015

Cereal and Statistics

I tend to spend my mornings with four things: a bowl of cereal, a cup of tea at hand, my MLB At Bat app and a folded over copy of The Economist magazine.


As I gorge on both carbs and information, I'm happy to know that the Twins have room to grow and that seemingly every night someone out does themselves (even if someone else does worse). But I'm also happy to balance the Twins in one corner of my mind and world events (like Greek debt defaults and Indian corruption trials) are squarely in another.

So it's a little startling when those two worlds actually do collide.

At the start of this month The Economist published an article entitled "Every step they take" about the ease with which advanced statistics have permeated the sports world, in particular the plethora of statistics that the MLB Network can show on an average broadcast. From pitch speed and curvature to fielder reactions, speed and routes.

None of what they covered will be terribly groundbreaking to the most hardcore of Twins fans. The folks who analyze the team and read amateur blogs know about such statistics already, there's little that I (or a bunch of International foreign affairs nerds) can add to it.


Not the cover of this article,
but appropriate.
But what I can say is that when the world of statistical analysis collides with the world of my breakfast table, we've crossed a threshold. This isn't references to Moneyball or "advanced statistics" that make oblique allusions to the wider world of baseball knowledge. This is detail. This is substance. This is specific and detailed analysis smack dab in the middle of mainstream media.

The Twins may be using more advanced metrics under Paul Molitor, they may not. Terry Ryan may have turned a corner in his evaluation systems, he may not. But when statistical analysis is offered openly to students in Sri Lanka and professors in Peru and bureaucrats in Burundi and shopkeepers in Slovakia, then you are past the "wait and see" stage. You're past the "consider all aspects" phase. Statistical analysis isn't advanced knowledge, it's mainstream, and if evaluations and judgement aren't made on those metrics...well...

Put it this way,  I'd like the front office of my favorite baseball team to be as well informed about recent advances in baseball statistics as people half-way around the world who've never seen a game, but who love to read.

I hope they are, I hope Ryan and Molitor talk about such topics, I hope I'm underestimating them. And if not...they can always come over to my house for breakfast.

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