Saturday, August 04, 2012

Damned Statistics

Matthew Berry, "The Talented Mr. Roto," has an essay on fantasy football that has more general applicability.  Even if you don't like FF, i think you will appreciate his explanation that all facts presented to you, even if they are black-and-white, neutral items, are also opinions, because they have been carefully chosen by the author to illustrate his hypothesis.  Berry describes, for example, two running backs - one you would clear ly want to draft and another you would wish to avoid.  They are both Darren McFadden.  It depends on what you want to look at.

Bill James' Baseball Abstracts used to entertain me every year not because I was the least interested in the fortunes of the Milwaukee Brewers for the coming season, but because he would ask questions and try to answer them from the numbers.  Are there hitting streaks or slumps significantly greater than what one would get simply rolling the dice for a thousand players every years? (Answer:  Slumps yes, usually related to injuries.  Streaks - maybe.  But not a lot.)  Do some catchers reduce staff ERA's significantly? (Answer: Yes, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not one of them.)

Statistics don't really lie, but sometimes you have to grab them by the throat, shove them against the wall, and ask them where they have been and who their friends are before you get the truth out of them.

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