Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
The facts speak for themselves. The Cubs have won two of their last three contests (Nice game, Greg!) If they keep this pace up for the remainder of the season, their final record will be 100 wins, 62 losses.
Let the dancing on Rush St. begin.
What? You donít believe me? OK, then, it is equally true that the Cubs have lost eight out of their last ten. If they were to maintain that pace for the remainder of their schedule, their final record is something like 40-122. Yikes!
Now, neither scenario is very likely but it sparks an interesting debate on the use of statistics. Numbers are the lifeblood of many within the CBA. I use them, most everyone crunches the numbers at one time or another.
An axiom that I learned many years ago states that figures donít lie, but liars figure. We can make the numbers say anything we want them to say. Now. I started off with obvious overreaching. Most of the time statistics abuse is more subtle.
The world of politics does it all the time. During the presidential campaign one party ran on increased spending for education. The other party swore that the spending was actually a cut.
Could both be right? Depends on the figures, or rather more precisely, how one uses the figures.
Why do we do this? A plethora of possibilities. One, we lack true interpretive expertise so as amateurs we think we are making intelligent analysis when in fact weíre merely speculating. Honest mistake.
A more sinister reason is that we want to promote a certain agenda. Some thrive on misery so they will spin the numbers toward the negative. Others are disciples of Norman Vincent Peale so the silver lining will outshine any other consideration.
Letís say we are a member of the Michael Barrett Fan Club. What will we write about? Well, his May numbers of course. Michael sports a very impressive .958 OPS so far this month.
And for those who wish Joe Girardi was still the Cubsí backstop? They will look at the entire season thus far and cite Barrettís rather pedestrian production of .253 batting average, only seven runs scored and .272 on base pct.
So what is a blogger or a reader of the same to do? Keep one eye open to a wide array of possibilities as far as the numbers are concerned. Watch for individual bias and maybe leave the speculating to the professionals.
(I reserve the right to ignore my own advice.)
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