May 6, 2015
Steve Sailer: Moneyball for Medicine, Anyone?
Steve Sailer writes:
Like many nerdy white guys of my generation, I’ve found the life story of Bill James inspiring ever since I began reading his Baseball Abstracts thirty years ago this month. A night watchman at a pork and beans cannery, James began writing up statistical analyses of baseball questions (for example: Q. When does the average player peak in performance? A. Age 27, well before peak fame) with an unprecedented level of insight and judgment. He began self-publishing his books in 1977, which nurtured a far-flung but lively community of “sabermetricians” who shared his commitment to databased argument rather than appeals to authority.
James’ perceptions and intuitions weren’t always right, but explaining his arguments in clear prose to other baseball stats obsessives encouraged him to refine and elaborate his views. Today, James’ followers hold many of the top front office jobs in baseball. His methods have been carried on to other sports, especially basketball.
He changed the world. (…)
Heck, even with Bill James, drugs seemed to corrupt him: the word “steroids” barely crossed his lips until about a decade-and-a-half into the era of steroids distorting statistics, when in 2009 he published a risible piece in Slate claiming that Barry Bonds’ late-career surge might have had more to do with the type of wood in his bat than with PEDs.
But that’s a sin for which I’ll forgive him, especially if he becomes a role model for analysts outside of sports.
I’m kind of shocked that the normally cold-blooded Sailer would be so nonchalant there.
Wouldn’t (another) Steve Sailer ask:
If James was wrong about that, what else was he wrong about?
What if the answer is “almost everything,” but James had fashioned a such a cozy closed universe that nobody wanted to leave?
I’m temperamentally a libertarian, even a Randian, but I can’t help myself:
I always ask Ayn Rand nuts why their hero didn’t factor in the huge role the mob played in the construction of those skyscrapers they love so much.