Spring always means baseball. But lately baseball doesn’t always mean Spring.
At least not the usual spontaneity of another springtime, as much as the unusual statisticality of the new Sabermetrics. Brad Pitt’s movie “Moneyball” was a study in how Sabermetrics helped turn around the fate of the Oakland A’s in 2002. Ever since, sports’ most statistical-minded game has become even more so.
Hesitantly ordering some Cubs tickets, I had the feeling that this may only be the athletic tip of a generational iceberg. These days everyone is turning to statistics [see Algorithms] in order to better their odds. Including everything from locking up a mayoral election, to launching a product introduction, to evaluating our students, to calculating the next campaign against ISIL.
To put this another way, everyone wants to play-it-smart. Today, apparently that means computer-crunching the numbers. Interestingly, however, the harder they crunch, the less room there is left for old-fashioned intuition. Inspiration. Hunch. Or just going-by-the-seat-of-your pants. So when I take my seat at Wrigley, I’ll be thinking about this sizzling new role of stats in our century. But at the same time I’ll be wondering if history’s best cities and fleets, plays and films, families and communities, lions and leaders became best by crunching numbers; or by following their inspiration and hunches.
Sure, the answer is both.
And yet, as I watch that next squeeze play bring in a score, I’ll be looking into the dugout and wondering if this was a statistically calculated call from the manager, or a gutsy hunch by the runner. What’s more, I’ll be wondering if a world of sophisticated computer-crunching is really the best way to prevail in such an unsophisticatedly raw century like ours.
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