Baseball Prospectus Writer Calls Election Numbers Perfectly

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By Paul M. Banks

If there is another 30 year old economics and baseball-obessessed intellectual guy in Chicago with more juice right now than Nate Silver, I don’t know who that would be. The Colbert Report, New York Magazine, MSNBC, the University of Chicago graduate is everywhere right now. I’m working on getting him on as a Sports Bank and/or Washington Times interview guest. I checked his political website fivethirtyeight.com religiously everyday heading into the election. His pre-election forecast ended up being, well go the site and check it against the final numbers. This dude is almost never wrong.
Silver joined the Baseball Prospectus (BP) staff in 2004 after selling the PECOTA projection system to BP. Since then, he has maintained and further developed PECOTA as well as written a weekly column for the company’s website under the heading “Lies, Damned Lies”.

In this column he applies sabermetric techniques to a broad range of topics in baseball research — including forecasting the performance of individual players, the economics of baseball, metrics for the valuation of players, developing an Elo rating system for Major League baseball and many other topics.

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PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) is a statistical system that projects the future performance of hitters and pitchers. It is designed primarily for two uses: fans interested in fantasy baseball, and professionals in the baseball business interested in predicting the performance and valuation of major league players. Unlike most other such projection systems, PECOTA relies on matching a given current player to a set of “comparable” players whose past performance can serve as a guide to how the given current player is likely to perform in the future. Unlike most other such systems, PECOTA also calculates a range of probable performance levels rather than a single predicted value on a given measure such as earned run average or batting average.

In his blog, The Burrito Bracket, he applies a one-and-done approach to assessing the quality of the taquerias in his Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago

On June 1, Silver published a two-page Op-Ed article in the New York Post outlining the rationale underlying his focus on the statistical aspects of politics.

“My fulltime occupation has been as a writer and analyst for a sports media company called Baseball Prospectus. In baseball, statistics are meaningless without context; hitting 30 home runs in the 1930s is a lot different than hitting 30 today. There is a whole industry in baseball dedicated to the proper understanding and interpretation of statistics. In polling and politics, there is nearly as much data as there is for first basemen. In this year’s Democratic primaries, there were statistics for every gender, race, age, occupation and geography – reasons why Clinton won older women, or Obama took college students. But the understanding has lagged behind. Polls are cherry-picked based on their brand name or shock value rather than their track record of accuracy. Demographic variables are misrepresented or misunderstood. (Barack Obama, for instance, is reputed to have problems with white working-class voters, when in fact these issues appear to be more dictated by geography – he has major problems among these voters in Kentucky and West Virginia, but did just fine with them in Wisconsin and Oregon).”
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Comments

  1. Shows there is so much in common between baseball (sports in general) and politics

  2. I’ve met Nate a couple times through Baseball Prospectus, and I can attest to the fact that not only is he a smart guy, but he also lacks any type of arrogance or pretentiousness that is often the downfall of those on the fast track to becoming experts. While he’s clearly brilliant; he’s willing to look at all points, and often performs the common-sense check. He doesn’t fit the mold of a saber-geek who crunches numbers and gets away from reality; rather he has one hand in the scouting bucket and the other hand in the stats bucket.

    It’s interesting – he could go be a senior consultant to either a baseball team or an upcoming campaign. From the little I’ve heard from my friends in those two worlds, it’s clear that folks in both industries know and respect his work.

  3. He sounds like a cool guy, I’d like to meet him. Thats aweseom how you know him. btw they just called NC for Obama, which would affect his counts

  4. EIU Cheerleader/SICA Chick says

    Sabermetrician geeks are hot!

  5. His site helped me survive the looong campaign.

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