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Stats for Dark Days - A Twins Blog

Axel Kohagen



Twins Video

Confession time. I’m not a stat-head.

I need to be clear. I THOUGHT I was a stat-head for many years. I love stat-heads. I love the way the game can be broken down into useful pieces of information. There’s something mind-boggling and magical about watching a game and knowing that, just below the surface, hundreds of calculations and adjustments are being considered and implemented. It feels so tidy to me. Every bit of baseball goodness is squeezed out of every player.  Gut instinct is a fine place to start, but after it kicks in you’d better be digging for more data.

I used to think I just needed more time to learn the numbers. I know the basics. I can read a slash line and fake my way through conversations that start talking about advanced statistics. Mostly, I’ve just learned to nod when I think someone said something that was probably correct. Conversely, I’ve learned to stay quiet when I think someone’s incorrect. I like talking about baseball, and sometimes I have to fake it a bit to keep the conversation going. It’s the same way you fake your way through speaking a foreign language.

It’s been several years, though, and I haven’t taken the time to up my statistical knowledge. Personally, I’m more interested in the story of the game. The way loving baseball makes me feel. I love the characters that play the game and I love all of their idiosyncrasies. I love raw talent and rare occurrences. I love the long history of the game. I love the narratives fans create about their favorite teams and players, even if those narratives are sometimes statistically inaccurate. To flip an old saying, when you’re choosing between the truth and the legend, choose the truth but please, never stop sharing the legend!

At least, not when the legend is good.

Lately, the stories outside of the baseball diamond haven’t been so good. We’re stuck with some terrible narratives. We’re not given many choices, and when we are given choices, it seems like we fight over them instead of finding some sort of solution. People suffer.

Baseball changed when the stat-heads figured out how to find the truth hidden inside the data. They changed the narrative. They changed the entire game. Now, we need that kind of scientific curiosity outside of the sport, because it’s clearly not working anymore. The game has to be fixed. There’s too much sadness in the stories we have to tell. There HAS to be a way we can get more out of life. More dignity. More humanity. More quality of life. Where are the stat-heads who will find answers to today’s problems? Are we ready to listen to them?


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The key is to be able to define the problem. Then you can set analytics on it to see if it can be broken down to smaller sub problems, or whatever. Bill James did that to a degree not seen in baseball before.

But he chose the easy problems - what is a single worth versus a double or a walk?  What you are talking about seems an order of magnitude harder.

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