Statistics v. Spirit - The Real World Series

Oct 20, 2011

As we round into October with the 2011 World Series on the horizon, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to discuss our favorite economics research topic at Edgeworth EconomicsDATA and STATISTICS, through a phenomenal example of its everyday use in baseball!  Somehow, the discussion seems more transcendent given the two topics merge into blissful screen action in the new movie Moneyball.

 As an economics consulting firm, we can tell you that statistics and data management are fundamental to baseball.  Few can argue with that.  The impending question seems to be whether statistics and data can tell the whole story.  That was the underlying tension in Moneyball and continues in the sport today.  Sabermetricians, baseball’s statistical experts, are at odds with the scouts and baseball’s conventional wisdoms.  Heck, when it comes to judging baseball players, it’s hard to argue with the likes of folks who’ve coined some of America’s best proverbs.

 The Edgeworth take on it – they are both right.

 The reason why is that statistics are more than averages.  They are deviations from the averages, variances, and outliers.  Statistics are the foundation, but exogenous behavior (i.e., people) lead to deviations from averages and outliers.  All of these things are still statistics AND they reflect the heart of the game, the romance, even the occasional silliness (were there really three Major League films?) of America’s pastime.

 We must remember that the economic analysis discipline of statistics is more than averages and can tell a complete picture.  It is the interpretation of the statistics, the range of analyses available to us as econometricians, and an understanding of their context that tell the whole baseball story.