baseball, poetry, and kim chi

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Underestimating the Fog

I was just e-mailed this piece. My foundations are rocked. Why isn’t this on the front page of the New York Times? Below is an excerpt of the article written by Bill James:

We ran astray because we have been assuming that random data is proof of nothingness, when in reality random data proves nothing. In essence, starting with Dick Cramer’s article, Cramer argued, “I did an analysis which should have identified clutch hitters, if clutch hitting exists. I got random data; therefore, clutch hitters don’t exist.”

Cramer was using random data as proof of nothingness—and I did the same, many times, and many other people also have done the same. But I’m saying now that’s not right; random data proves nothing—and it cannot be used as proof of nothingness.

Why? Because whenever you do a study, if your study completely fails, you will get random data. Therefore, when you get random data, all you may conclude is that your study has failed. Cramer’s study may have failed to identify clutch hitters because clutch hitters don’t exist—as he concluded—or it may have failed to identify clutch hitters because the method doesn’t work—as I now believe. We don’t know. All we can say is that the study has failed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Full Article of "Underestimating the Fog" by Bill James is available for free at

11:51 AM

Blogger JWG said...

Thanks for the tip. It is also available at the link on this page. If you click on the title (green titles are links) of the article you will be whisked over to another site where you can read it.

4:45 PM


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