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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Is the key to your business the stats on the back of a baseball card?

In baseball, data took over the game.

It was a perfect marriage.

Baseball has been obsessively collecting data for over a century. The game is essentially a living math. I’ve always seen it that way and have had lifelong obsession scoring games and watching the numbers of a game unfold.

I’ve even felt a predictive quality to the data. Sometimes it becomes clear the likelyhood of hit, or a succession of hits, is imminent.

Since the late 70s a new way of tracking and building tactics slowly took over the game. Managers who understood these data shifts became the new tacticians. A binder of stats accompanied every decision.

There was only one problem.

The resultant data-driven game was boring.

The games became slow. The hits dropped. The defensive tactics were unimpeachable, but the game became unwatchable. Ratings and attendance plummeted.

This season they revitalized the game by changing the rules and taking certain data-driven decision making back out of the game. The teams are still using data, but random elements have been re-introduced. Managers with a ‘feel’ for things are having more success.

I understand my sense of a predictive quality to numbers on my scoring sheet has a quality of voodoo, especially set against the cool spread sheets of refined statistics that animate modern business.

But I’ve also seen my voodoo work.

Some combination of data and instinct, let’s call it experience, that allows me to go beyond data to form a vision of the next moments in the game.

So it’s a data driven world and ‘feelings’ have nothing to do with science. I’m left with hunches. But hunches based on the freshly minted and growing set of numbers in front of me.

In a baseball game it’s a combination of probability and time. The time frame puts a limit on the numbers and squeezes the probability into a foreseeable result.

When I sit above the field of a baseball game I see a shifting architecture of numbers.

Business is like that.

The data you are looking at is most likely out of date, because your data is a living thing. It’s growing. It’s shifting. The game is understanding both the probability and the timeframe in front of you, and basing your predictions on that understanding.

The numbers prepare you to swing, but when it comes to swinging, let your instincts kick in.

Play ball.



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