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Posts from the ‘Just the Facts’ Category

When your Bullet Points don’t Match your Data

April 19, 2012


We’ve all been guilty of it before – making a boastful statement about something we are passionate about with complete disregard to facts backing up our argument.  Politicians tend to do this on a routine basis and hope that we aren’t paying attention.  In business, we too can get lulled into to listening to someone’s words and completely forget to check to see if the data on a chart or in an analysis is matching the message of the speaker.  The speaker may be saying one thing – but the data is saying another.  Huh?  When you don’t use actual data to back up your argument or message, you can lose your audience, fool your audience or if your audience is paying attention become the fool!

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the Eternal hope of Spring.  How we can get caught up in the change of seasons from Winter to Spring, and become overly hopeful of future events based on feelings.  This is especially true for baseball teams and fans and is in fact part of the fun of being a fan.  When the new season starts all teams are equal and our team has as good a chance to win as the next.  This is not necessarily true however, if we examine baseball teams closely and accurately based on data – either historic or projected.  Some teams just have a clear advantage over others.

Keeping you Posted

Gil Elvgren, Keeping Posted 1947

Here is an example which occurred today where the “bullet points don’t match the data”.  The Cleveland Steamers in our Yahoo! Boys of Summer fantasy baseball league became a little boastful about their team and their chances for winning the season.  Being new to our league I listened to him give me the reasons why he feels so good about his team.  He is currently tied for tenth place in our league of fourteen teams and is presently 40 points off the lead by the way.

He walked me through each of his players and rational for how “when this guy starts hitting”, and “when this guy come of the DL” and so on, he would easily do well – well enough to win.  I agreed with him that he does have a very good pitching staff – with his San Francisco Giants Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner leading the staff with Kyle Lohse, Jeremey Hellickson, Johan Santana, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello backing them up.  Yes, its a long list and probably longer than what he needs and will keep.

He has added Ross Detwiler, Carlos Marmol, Alfredo Aceves, Hector Santiago and Santiago Casilla to the mix as well.  I am betting he get’s the H. Santiago and Santaigo S. confused at least a time or two before the season ends!  So there you have it.  The strength of his team:  12 fine pitchers whom are all on “try outs” as he fine tunes his line-up he mentioned to me.

Part 1:  The Boast

The Cleveland Steamers skipper then sent on to say that his batters were clearly better than my team, and that I would easily want to swap by entire team for his.  One thing about fantasy baseball skippers, they can get a little narrow-minded, and while they may know a thing or two about their own team, they often don’t have a clue about any of the other teams in the league.

Fantasy skippers are sort of like coaches in the coaches poll for college football.  They often make a statement with complete disregard to actual data.  They used to call it the UPI Coaches poll, now it may be affiliated with a newspaper or media outlet and their accuracy still has not improved.

And you still see bias in many of the coaches poll results, and in fantasy team managers opinions.  No problem – we are all fans and can have some fun.  And that’s okay so long as we all understand that we may be leaving out important data from consideration.

Part 2:  Early Examination of Data

I have to admit, I had not really looked at the Cleveland Steamers team and line-up closely.  I had no idea for example that he had Albert Pujols on his team.  For some, just mentioning that you have Albert on your team triggers ooooosss and ahhhsss.  “Wow!  You must have a great team if you have Pujols on your team” someone might say immediately.

I had a chance to select Albert one year with the first overall pick.  I passed and regretted it all year.  That was 3-4 years ago before he won a World Series with the Cardinals last year, signed a huge contract in the off-season and moved from the National League to the Anaheim Angles in the American League.  Not taking anything away from Albert, but for the Cleveland Steamers he presents just one player on the roster.

I like my team – in particular my hitters.  It was easy for me to see my catcher for example is clearly a much more desired catcher than the one on the Cleveland Steamers team.  I have Carlos Santana and the Steamers have Chris Iannetta.  I like Santana and hope to hear some tunes by Santana as he racks up the home runs this year.  But I do have some players who though currently playing well, do have a high risk for injury.  Among these as pointed out by the Steamers skipper are  Carlos Beltran, Ian Kinsler and Jason Heyward.

Part 3:  Closer Examination of Facts

Being curious, I compared my team’s offensive statistics with those from Albert and the Steamers.  I compared just the hitters, and I first based my data on projected stats for the total 2012 season.  This is where the bullet points of the Cleveland skipper and the data begin to diverge.  There is a big disparity in our two teams offensive stats – much larger than I expected.

Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet - "Just the Facts Ma'am"

It really is not even that close.  The Los Malos Muchachos have better projected offensive stats than the Cleveland Steamers in almost every category except steals.  The gap would be larger if Carl Crawford was excluded (we counted him in for a full year).

I mentioned the big disparity of the two teams to the Cleveland skipper – still thinking that he does have a good team.  He said – “I don’t count projections”.  I asked him if he took into account last year’s data.  He said not in particular.  “Oh, I see, than do you recognize data from say the past 2-3 years” I asked him.  “No – not really” was his reply.

It was an “ah ha” moment for me.  Like on of those moments when you are in a meeting and someone’s talking points or bullet points on a chart clearly don’t match the data you are seeing.  Or like Sergeant Joe Friday in the television show Dragnet – when Jack Webb would confront a person with facts he had collected on the case.

Like Sr. Joe Friday tried to do, you will likely first seek clarification of the data.  “I’m I seeing this correctly?  Are you seeing the same thing I am based on the facts and data we have in this analysis?”  And once the data is clarified you will get your answer – similar to Dragnet.  The other person is either using a “coaches poll” approach, or as Joe Friday might say, they are “pretty high and far out”!

Part 4: Closing Statements – Data Points from our Readers

Please send us your comments on the two teams.  Let’s get some comments and feedback from readers on the Cleveland Steamers and the Los Malos Muchachos.  Either in a Sr. Joe Friday manner and comments presented with data, or in a Coaches Poll manner and opinions provided without data.

Here are the offensive stats which matter in our 5×5 league:  Runs, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases and Batting Average.

Here are the two teams to compare:

Cleveland Steamers:  C Chris Iannetta, 1B Albert Pujols, 2B Neil Walker, 3B David Wright, SS Hanley Ramirez, OF Denard Span, Ichiro Suzuki and Chris Young.  Utility is Kevin Youkilis and on the bench is Carl Crawford.

Los Malos Muchchos:  C Carlos Santana, 1B Paul Konerko, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B David Freese, SS Erick Aybar, OF Carlos Beltran, Jason Heyward, Andrew McCutchen.  Utility is Ian Kinsler and on the bench is Michael Morse.

You can count including and excluding the bench players.  Carl is doing better and may return soon.  Michael Morse is likely out for an extended period of time.

Sergeant Joe Friday poll (version with data):  Present your comments and feedback with actual data – like a comparison of Albert Puljols to Paul Konerko – to be treated in the Sr. Joe Friday poll category.  You can use for example either 2012 projected or historical statistics.

Anchorman Ron Burgundy poll (version with opinions only and potential data bias):  Previously referred to as the USA Today Coaches poll, to be counted in this category, just provide comments similar to the Cleveland Steamers – just send comments and feedback without any regard to data.

Please drop us an email, or leave us a comment.  Who in your opinion has the better offensive team?  The Cleveland Steamers or the Los Malos Muchachos?

We will share the results of the poll with you here in a follow-up post – and will keep you posted on the results as they come in.