Cherry picking years for random sports statements

Jan 9, 2014

When you watch sports, it can sometimes feel like the stat guy pulls random numbers for the talking heads to ponder, and you can’t help but wonder who significant the numbers actually are. Benjamin Schmidt shows all the possibilities for a common statement during baseball games, and it turns out there are a lot of statements to pick from.

Statements of the form “Jack Morris won more games in the 1980s than anyone else” are fascinating. Although they’re true, they rest on cherry-picked years that may or may not illustrate a deeper truth in context. (And we see them all the time: see my college degrees cherry-picker for another area.) For baseball, there are thousands of statements just like the ones here that you can make about any single cumulative stat over the game’s history–10,296, to be exact. Printed out, all the statements you could make with the data here would take about 15,000 pages: this visualization lets you hone in on the patches of interest.

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