Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An funny, bad statistic in SI

I was reading an article in Sports Illustrated when I came across a statistic that was so bad, I thought the author was kidding. But... he wasn't.

The article, on p. 38 of the 7/28 issue, presents a survey of baseball executives in which they were asked which player in baseball would they want to build a team around. Fair enough.

In summarizing the stats, the author writes that "the panel's preference for up-the-middle offensive players was evident: 42 of the 100 votes went to shortstops, second baseman, catchers, and centerfielders."

Let's see, if teams average 9.5 positions (half have designated hitters), then we would expect that if positions were drawn by random, then 4/9.5 would be up the middle. This works out to... 42%. Wow!

It reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon:


jeremy said...


Anonymous said...

But almost half of the players in baseball are pitchers, so only about 25% of the players are catchers, middle infielders, or center fielders. Or if you limit it to front-line players (no one is going to want to build their team around a middle reliever or pinch-hitter), teams would normally have 8 starting position players, 5 starting pitchers, and one closer, for a total of 14. So the up-the-middle players are 4 out of 14, or about 29%. On that interpretation, it's still kind of an unimpressive statistic, but not positively stupid.

Brad Wright said...

Dear anonymous,

Sadly I thought of this, which is why I framed it in terms of positions rather than players.

Here's my thinking: Every pitching staff has it's "ace", and presumably executives wouldn't go after the other pitchers. As such, it's not unreasonable to think of them as we would the backup position players who play occasionally.

So, if executives would only be interested in starting players/ ace pitcher, the "positively stupid" tag might still hold.