Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I Do What I Do

Three completely disparate facts:
1. With his start on Tuesday night, Lance Lynn appeared in his 19th postseason game
2. Alshon Jeffery had 218 receiving yards in the game against Saints
3. Jay Cutler is 27-2 (.931) in games in which he has a passer rating of 100 or greater

So what? That's the kind of stuff that makes a person sitting next to you at a bar turn around and talk to the person on the other side (the person that doesn't exist). Those are three numbers that by themselves are just that--numbers. What makes them special?
1. Lynn made those appearances with only 3 years in the majors, only the second pitcher (after John Rocker) to rack up that many postseason appearances with so few years. If he appears in another game, he'll have that record to himself.
2. Jeffery was the first Bear to have a 200-yard receiving game since Johnny Morris had 201 yards on November 11th...1962 (when I was 20 days old). 130 players have 200+ receiving yard games in that almost-50-year period.
3. Since Cutler entered the league in 2006, quarterbacks who have games with passer ratings of 100+ have a winning percent of .773--Cutler has bettered that by almost 20 points, a pretty significant margin.

I tell stories, I just happen to use numbers to flesh them out, add context or illustrate magnitude. A number by itself is simply that--a number, indicative of nothing. Until that number is compared to something else or placed in the proper context, it will confuse more than illuminate. Consider this table, which shows winning percent from 2000-2012 in the NFL depending on if the team had more passing yards, rushing yards or won the turnover battle:
Without explanation, this can be an easily-misunderstood table, since cause and effect can be misconstrued. Teams don't win because they run, THEY RUN BECAUSE THEYRE WINNING. Someday I'll delve into the play-by-play data to show the difference in rushing yards by half, and even THAT won't be definitive since I suspect it might get easier to run in the second half when the defense gets gassed. Separating cause from effect is tricky and very rarely does one individual number explain that difference.

But I try--I tell stories, and I try my hardest to use facts and not supposition to support my narrative. I debated in high school and college and I wasn't very good, because I placed far more emphasis on the FACTS of my argument instead of the argument itself. In life, however, facts matter, which is the main reason I write--I hear or read things and say to myself "Is that true? By how much is that person better/worse than average" and so on. I go into this a bit more in my bio, so if you're reading this because you can't fall asleep, try that.

This is where I could use some help--I started this blog in 2012 but couldn't generate any readership, so I bailed. I tried it again at the beginning of the 2013 baseball season with the intention of marshaling my then-army of around 35 Twitter followers and started re-posting my own stuff at, in a very express violation of their rules. It worked--I went from around 20-30 readers a day to anywhere from 200-2,000 readers a day, depending on if my content was good or if some bigfoot saw what I wrote and exposed it to a larger audience. However, someone at reddit got mad (and rightly so--like I said, what I did was in violation of their rules) so I stopped posting my stuff there and pulled down everything I had posted, and now my readership is back in the double digits. I ask a very simple question:
I wrote a post at FanGraphs a couple of days ago that literally took me longer to get the charts right than to write, so apparently there's an audience for my stuff, I just need to figure out how to reach them. If there's sites out there that will link to my stuff without those pesky "Don't post your own stuff" rules, I'd love to hear about them, since I'm as vain as the next guy and prefer a larger audience to a smaller one. Any worthwhile suggestions and you'll get a credit in a future post. Even better, if you're FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, SB Nation, Tom Tango or someone else similar, I'd REALLY love to write for/with your organization--I think I have some interesting stories to tell.

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