Statistics and Narratives

Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

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3 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Game theory says that the value of a player is variable, and that the value of a team pursuing an “alternative” strategy might be enough to make a marginally poorer strategy pay off (consider: if you’re taking all the unbalanced players because everyone else is taking balanced players, you can get better players. Even if unbalanced is a slightly worse strategy, you might make out)Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    This was a great (and fun) read.

    I grew up on baseball, but basketball has become my go-to sport of choice as an adult. The MVP debate in basketball is always far murkier. Baseball’s statistics just objectively mean more than basketball’s. In baseball, if you are hitting .380 you’re hitting .380. End of story. (Mostly.) But stats in basketball lie all the time.

    If you score 20 a night, what does that mean? Are you on a bad team that other teams use to “take the night off” because they can play at half speed and still beat you? Are you scoring 20 a night because you’re a semi-decent 3 point shot, and you have a dominant center that takes your defender away? Are you on a team that has terrible shooters, and so you only score 20 because you’re always triple teamed? Or are you a ball hog that jacks up shots instead of passing, and your scoring 20 is actually costing your team wins?

    People take stats on any player and craft interpretations of them to make or break a MVP case that mirrors their like or dislike of that player (or that player’s team).

    With baseball, everything is just so much more transparent. Which makes the MLB MVP discussion easier for me to wrap my head around that NBA MVP discussions.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    Great post, Conor. But I disagree a bit that baseball functions just like politics as described. You are right that “value” must be defined before it can be measured, but in baseball, there is a more clearly defined goal than there is in politics: win baseball games. Baseball games are won by scoring more runs than you allow. So, what a player contributes to his team’s ability to score runs and/or his team’s ability to prevent the opponent from scoring runs is a more objection goal against which to measure “value” than anything you might find in politics. Now, we are still far from a perfect tool for measuring such contributions, but advanced stats are getting us closer. If only the same could be said for politics…Report