The Nub

How ‘Data’ and ‘Facts’ Are Viewed in Both Fields

The other day on MLB Now, buy host Brian Kenny scoffed at the significance of pitchers’ won-lost records: “They don’t mean anything, ” he said, pointing out that run support, record-wise, can transform a mediocre pitcher into an ace. Kenny is a vigorous supporter of analytics, the monitoring of ballplayer performance through data collection. It’s easy for baseball traditionalists to become impatient with the trend – the belief that scientific measurement of player effectiveness has greater value than the evidence of eyeballs and conventional hit-pitch-and-error stats.

In a rookie effort to learn more about the new approach, we can report this sabermetric fact: Seattle’s Robinson Cano leads both leagues with 12 HRs, but Houston’s Jose Altuve, who has nine homers, is the analytic hero; why? because he has contrived to score 12 more runs (34-22) than Cano. And runs – scored separately or at the end of an HR – are the coin of the analytics realm. It’s for the runs-related reason that batting averages also get short shrift from sabermetricians. Since runs win ballgames – goes the analytics reasoning – a player’s worth is directly linked to his generating more runs for his team than that of opponents..

We describe the data, cited above, as “fact” because they’ve been confirmed before thousands of onlookers in attendance or watching broadcasts at home. Parallel data-collection on the political field has spawned a different kind of game, one in which the sameness of “data” and “fact” is seldom acknowledged. Indeed, there’s a widespread refusal to accept the measurement of what’s happening on the field linked to the man at the game’s center, Donald Trump. Possibly our next Skipper, Trump inspires both avid support from fans, and profound fear from skeptics. Both sides have developed ever- stronger adversarial views stemming from what WashPost’s Chris Cilizza calls a ‘‘post-fact world’’:

Trump and his supporters are simply not interested in the facts. Their distrust of the ‘mainstream’ media is such that anything the media calls a ’fact’ is assumed to be a lie…The blame for our post-fact political world…lies in lots of places. The fragmentation of the media over the past decade has spawned dozens of ideologically driven news sites, radio stations and cable TV outlets. That leads to a silo-ing effect in which a conservative only consumes information that affirms their point of view. Ditto a liberal. You can go through each day as a well(-ish)-informed person without ever hearing a sliver of news that contradicts what you already believe…

“(If you are troubled by) a lack of changed minds…that (represents) not a failure of fact checking. It is the death of belief in fact.”

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Fast Start: White Sox ace Chris Sale, now 8-0 after beating the Yankees last night, is winning without wasting time. On YES, Yanks broadcaster Michael Kay noted that the time Sale delivers pitches averages 17 seconds. The overall AL average is 22 seconds.

Slow Start: Diamondback fans can hardly be blamed for impatience with their $206 million ace Zack Greinke so far. Greinke, so dominant with the Dodgers – 51-15 over three years – has been slightly above mediocre with his new team. After losing to the Giants, 4-2, Thursday night, Greinke was 3-3, with a 5.26 ERA. Shelby Miller, the team’s other prize off-season addition, is 1-4, 6.94, after losing last night.

Enduring Bond: “I make sure(Yadier)knows I’m pulling for him and pulling for the Cardinals. Just because I’m playing out here (with the Angels), all those guys I played with, you have great memories with. You wish them the best, except when we [play each other].” – Albert Pujols, on his friendship with Yadier Molina, and his attitude toward his ex-team in St.Louis. (quoted in the Post-Dispatch)

Streakers: Orioles + 6, Twins – 8


(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)


About Richard Starkey

Dick Starkey handled media for former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and many other office-holders and candidates. He was sports editor of the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Perfect Pitch partner Robert Sullivan was the first to adapt focus groups to politics and has been called by Cuomo and others one of the "best" pollsters in the country.