28 April 2012

A (massive) Failure in Bourgeois Society

Hypothetically speaking (not that I encountered this on the way home from work...hmm...),  And I am prepared to be ripped to shreds for this post.), is it a personal, educational or societal failure to ask; (when having $2.35 on my food stamps card, and $3.00 in cash, and attempting to buy 2 gallons of milk, and  6 Boston cream donuts)  "How many packs of cigarettes can I get with the change?" 

Needless to say, the poor economist behind you in line just wanted a lo-calorie Gatorade and is now forced to stand in line for 15 minutes in the early hours of morning. 

I would argue that such a question being asked does a few things.  It precludes that tobacco should be illegal (it certainly hasn't helped me in any way), it suggests that our society needs to seriously reexamine benefit programs (and massively expand them, into many areas, including education), and most importantly, it suggests that a society devoid of bourgeois desires would never experience such a question in the first place because a young mother wouldn't need to buy donuts for her child at 3 am. 

Socialism, Utopian (if not Scientific)?  In many ways yes!  I don't even know where to direct my anger without it. 

27 April 2012

Saber Metrics and Baseball Being Late to Modernism

In a case to being late to the party FanGraphs (a leading baseball statistics company) published "Power Rankings" this week in which they listed the Kansas City Royals as the 4th best team in Major League Baseball.

The Royals are currently 5 / 14 on the season, and I don't see them getting a hell of a lot better any time soon.  Do I know how the Royals will preform moving forward?  Of course not.
The FanGraphs analysis was based upon the WAR (wins above replacement) statistic and nothing else.  Basically the case can be made that if you add up how many wins each player on the roster will add (or lose) compared to what that player would be replaced with if they get hurt, retire, etc. the Royals come up with the 4th highest number. 

This analysis completely misses the point that baseball is essentially a sequence of independent statistical events, in which the sample size (even over an entire season) often is too small to regress to the mean.  On top of this, there is enough variation in the random noise to mess up even a large sample.

I won't make the case for returning to just "watching the game".  Statistical analysis has a place in the modern baseball.  The thing is, that many "sciences" including the dismal one that I study for a living, have to some degree accepted the limits of statistical analysis and moved onto dialectical modeling and epistemology.  Baseball is 30+ years late to this party (which is no great surprise).

In that vein, the overdetermination of any specific independent event is something that can never be captured.  Everything from relationships with domestic partners, to fan noise, to seasonal allergies, to direction of the wind, impact individual player performance in any given event.  Not to mention the dialectical relationship of prior events in the same game, season, career, impacting the present, and future events. Causality is complex and omnidirectional in baseball and otherwise.  Previous statistical performance is just an, arguably small, part of the story of any given event. 

Essentially statistics can provide a jumping off point for baseball analysis that provides a more "scientific" way for teams to spend money and manage players, but statistics can never capture the complexity of the game and all its variation.  A reason to keep watching I suppose?  But the Royals are NOT the 4th best team in baseball and any claim to the contrary is based upon analysis so flawed that it does nothing useful other than to motivate people such as myself to write.