Quit making a big deal out of anomalies. Most of what happens is meaningless.


This comes from an article that is more about the JFK assassination and attendant conspiracy theories than anything else, and no, there isn’t anything about sports in it at all. But it’s still really, really useful for sports fans because it reminds us of something really important: weird things happen sometimes, but they don’t usually mean anything.

The author, Steven Novella, is talking about anomalies, which is a more scientific term for “weird things,” but you know what I mean. And the point he makes, via examples like the dude with the umbrella at Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was shot and people who win the lottery twice, is that it’s a bad idea to try to assign meaning to stuff that is probably just random and ultimately meaningless, statistical noise.

He boils it down to a pithy quote that I am considering putting on a motivational poster, perhaps featuring a breaching whale or a guy climbing a rock in Yosemite or something:

The assumption that anomalies must be significant rather than random is an error in the understanding of statistics, a form of innumeracy.

This relates to baseball quite a bit, especially during the playoffs.

We have this habit — among some it’s practically a need — to assign significance to random or anomalous events. Ned Yost has a few ill-advised bunts work out for him? SMALL BALL IS THE NEW HOTNESS! Dominant players like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout struggle in the space of 2-3 games? THEY DON’T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN IN OCTOBER! A scrappy middle infielder hits an improbable home run? EVERYONE UNDERESTIMATES SCRAPPY McSCRAPPERSTEIN, and HOW DARE YOU DISMISS HIM! We’ve seen this stuff time and time again.

Which isn’t to say that the anomalies aren’t worth talking about. Man, they are! They’re fun! When Ryan Vogelsong turns into Orel Hershiser in the playoffs or when Scrapy McScrapperstein turns into a one man wrecking crew it’s exciting. We should talk about that a lot because it shows you how amazing and cool sports can be and that no matter how much you read and consume, you’re never really going to be able to predict what happens. At least not everything.

But what we shouldn’t do is assign some deeper meaning to these anomalies. To not be content to say that the squeeze play was exciting, but that everyone who ever criticized such strategies is wrong. To not just marvel at how cool Scrappy McScrapperstein’s surprising homer was, but to claim it evidence that he’s way, way better than eight years worth of performance suggests. To not just shake our heads when a beast like Clayton Kershaw gets lit up, but to suggest that it’s some defect in his guts or character than led to it.

That kind of thing is baloney. That’s a function of that innumeracy Novella is talking about. Of our brains trying to find meaning when there really isn’t any. Sometimes — most of the time, I’d argue — the meaningless of it all is what makes baseball so great.

AP Source: Minor leaguers reach five-year labor deal with MLB

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
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NEW YORK – Minor league players reached a historic initial collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball on Wednesday that will more than double player salaries, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details were not announced.

As part of the five-year deal, MLB agreed during the contract not to reduce minor league affiliates from the current 120.

The sides reached the deal two days before the start of the minor league season and hours after a federal judge gave final approval to a $185 million settlement reached with MLB last May of a lawsuit filed in 2014 alleging violations of federal minimum wage laws.

Union staff recommended approval and about 5,500 minor leaguers were expected to vote on Thursday. MLB teams must also vote to approve and are expected to do so over the next week.

Minimum salaries will rise from $4,800 to $19,800 at rookie ball, $11,000 to $26,200 at Low Class A, $11,000 to $27,300 at High Class A, $13,800 to $27,300 at Double A and $17,500 to $45,800 at Triple-A. Players will be paid in the offseason for the first time.

Most players will be guaranteed housing, and players at Double-A and Triple-A will be given a single room. Players below Double-A will have the option of exchanging club housing for a stipend. The domestic violence and drug policies will be covered by the union agreement. Players who sign for the first time at 19 or older can become minor league free agents after six seasons instead of seven.

Major leaguers have been covered by a labor contract since 1968 and the average salary has soared from $17,000 in 1967 to an average of $4.22 million last season. Full-season minor leaguers earned as little as $10,400 last year.

The Major League Baseball Players Association took over as the bargaining representative of the roughly 5,500 players with minor league contracts last September after a lightning 17-day organization drive.

Minor leaguers players will receive four weeks of retroactive spring training pay for this year. They will get $625 weekly for spring training and offseason training camp and $250 weekly for offseason workouts at home.

Beginning in 2024, teams can have a maximum of 165 players under contract during the season and 175 during the offseason, down from the current 190 and 180.

The union will take over group licensing rights for players.

Negotiating for players was led by Tony Clark, Bruce Meyer, Harry Marino, Ian Penny and Matt Nussbaum. MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem headed management’s bargainers.