Monday, January 24, 2011

Round Numbers and Baseball

Saw this over the weekend, from the Jan 22, 2011 WSJ, "The Power of Round Numbers":

A study shows that round numbers pack a psychological punch, motivating both pro baseball players and takers of the SAT.

The researchers examined the batting averages if Major League Baseball hitters from 1975 to 2008, looking for evidence that crossing that crossing the .300 mark inspired unusual effort in a season's final games (including sitting out a game, or an at-bat). If it didn't, the distribution of averages from .298 to .301 would be more or less random. The researchers, however, found that the proportion of players who hit exactly .300 was nearly four times greater than the population who hit .299 (1.4% versus 0.38%).

On that note, I never understood why Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green didn't just sack up during their monster years, and hit a clean 50 home runs.

21 comments:

Steve Sax said...

It also seems that, with only two data points, it's a stretch to make this conclusion of round numbers' power.

Eric Karros said...

The round number that always stuck in my head was Clemente's 3,000 hits.

And Bernie Mac's.

Steve Sax said...

Willie Mays' 660 seemed round enough to me, too.

Eric Karros said...

The human mind is wired to add unjustified importance to round numbers and judge things accordingly. Case in point: We never played One hundred-and-twenty-nine Splendid Sons.

(FYI my earlier comment was a Mr 3000 reference, not an untimely death reference.)

Fred's Brim said...

I have always loved that 100mph is the threshold for a fast fastball. It just wouldn't mean as much if we were waiting to see Stephen Strasburg top 160Kmh or 40 rods to the hogshead

Fred's Brim said...

There was also this article in the NY Times today about the loss of image of the LA Times.

Mr. Customer said...

I have no complaint with good old base 10. Think how much less fun the 100ss would have been if we used binary.

MR. F said...

I got a round number on my SAT...

Mr. Customer said...

Check out the (implied) big brain on Mr. F!

I got pretty close to a round number, but not the one you're thinking of.

Eric Karros said...

Are "Ma" and "Pa" considered round words?

Dusty Baker said...

It goes beyond just the round number thing. It also involves the perception that a certain number is the benchmark for a feat without really demonstrating a justification for why that particular number should be the benchmark. Take batting .300 for example. Why is it .300 not .333 that batters and fans establish as a benchmark? Why 100 RBI in a season? Just because we have some psychological attachment to the number 100? Why not 125 or 138? Why not take the 10-year moving average for RBI in a season and make that our benchmark for success? Our minds just cling to the easiest number to process, I guess, which is many times the least informative.

[To fend off stat lickers: I'm not making an argument that batting average or RBI are necessarily the best measures for offensive prowess; just using these statistics as examples.]

Fernie V said...

1,000 yard rushing was a good year for a running back

Steve Sax said...

@FB 8:28a: wow, that NYT article on the LAT was odd. Although I agree with the sentiment that the LAT has become a rag not worthy of its storied history, and the chronicling of the paper's history and founders is good reporting, I certainly wouldn't have led this piece off with two "man on the street" interviews as evidence of the paper's decline.

For what it's worth, Edie Frere's Larchmont stationery store has become a poor-man's Papyrus of late. I mean, really: thermographic embossing? Don't waste my time.

Fernie V said...

Mr 3,000 we got it EK

Eric Karros said...

Fernie: DVD or Blu-ray?

Orel said...

That NYT article was pretty condescending toward L.A. Which isn't uncommon with NYC-based publications (e.g., the New Yorker). Hmmm, worth a post?

Fred's Brim said...

@Sax
choosing Larchmont to do your "man on the street" interviews for this article is pretty shitty.
Folks over there are probably more likely to read the NY Times anyway

Fernie V said...

EK DVD kinda busy still in stone age over here

Dusty Baker said...

Dodgers' scout will attend the SOTU tomorrow night as guest of the POTUS:

WASHINGTON (AP) — An intern who cared for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head and the family of a 9-year-old girl who was the youngest of six people killed in the same shooting will sit with first lady Michelle Obama for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, however, was not expected to join them.
Kelly was invited to attend but will remain in Houston, where he is based and where Giffords is now receiving medical care, her office said Monday. She was transferred to a facility there last Friday to begin rehabilitation after being hospitalized in Tucson since the Jan. 8 shootings.
"He wants to stay in Houston to be near his wife," said Mark Kimble, Giffords' spokesman in Tucson.
Giffords and 18 others were shot at a meet-and-greet the congresswoman was holding for constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. A federal judge, a Giffords aide and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green were killed. Thirteen others were wounded.
The accused gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges of attempting to kill Giffords and two of her aides.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Hernandez and Green's family would attend Tuesday night's speech.
Intern Daniel Hernandez was hailed as a hero after the shooting. The 20-year-old University of Arizona student rushed to her side and applied pressure to her wounds until medical personnel arrived.
When he spoke Jan. 12 at a national televised memorial service in Tucson, Hernandez pointedly shunned the hero label. But Obama, who followed him to the microphone, politely disagreed and assured Hernandez that he was, in fact, a hero.
"Daniel, I'm sorry, you may deny it, but we've decided you are a hero because you ran through the chaos to minister to your boss, and tended to her wounds and helped keep her alive," Obama said as the audience applauded.
Hernandez sat next to Obama during the service. Kelly also attended the memorial and sat beside Mrs. Obama.
On Tuesday night, Hernandez, the Greens and Mrs. Obama's other guests will sit in her box overlooking the floor of the House.
Giffords' Arizona medical team — trauma surgeons Peter Rhee and Randall Friese, neurosurgeon Michael Lemole and nurse Tracy Culbert — also planned to attend the president's annual address, the congresswoman's office said.
___
Associated Press writer Mark Carlson in Phoenix and Associated Press Broadcast Correspondent Gerald Bodlander in Washington contributed to this report.

Spank said...

We use punctuation in this blog,Ferns.

Josh S. said...

The comments in this thread were sitting at a nice round 20 for too long, so I had to do something about that.