Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Statistics and Baseball

Machado Coming Home after Walk Off Home Run
It should be no huge surprise that I attended an Orioles baseball game last evening. What may be a surprise is that I departed the game before it was complete in an effort to ensure I received enough rest to make it through today. I left the game at the end of the 10th inning with the score tied 6-6. I arrived home during the bottom of the 12th inning just in time to enjoy Manny Machado's walk off home run to win the game for the Orioles. The time was about 11:10 PM when he slugged the game winner--or 4 hours and 5 minutes after the game began.

I have begun to take an increased interest in the statistics of baseball lately. Baseball is rich in statistics and numbers and trends all of which would seem to be important, but it is important to remember that the game is still played by people and every at bat is a new event. For instance--When Machado came to the plate in the bottom of the 12 inning last evening, he was batting .268, or hitting about once for every four trips to the plate. He had never faced  the pitcher before, and so there were no statistics, but he had never hit a walk off home run in his career. It was Machado's 6th at bat for the night, and he already had 1 hit, so he was batting .200 for the game, which is close to his average. 

Based upon the statistics, I believe the probability of Machado hitting a walk off home run was near zero. And yet it happened.

In baseball, while statistics are valuable for explaining what happened in the past and which batter or pitcher is doing well or not; they are not definitive predictors of the future. Every at bat is a new event.

That is why the game is played on the field and not by a computer.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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