Outthinking ourselves

One of the miracles of the Internet is that so much is preserved for posterity that otherwise would just get washed away. Here’s an oldie but goodie from Ron Shandler, talking about the way he adjusts his projections:

As an example, let’s look at Pujols. After hitting 37, 34, 43, and 46 HRs, his baseline projection called for 42, which represented a normal regression to the mean. However, our flags pointed out consistent upward trends in contact rate, fly ball ratio, batting eye and a second half surge in his power index. Add in his alleged age (25) and a reliability rating of 94, and all signs pointed north for his power trend to continue. Our projection now calls for 50 HRs.

Why 50? I believe it is reasonable to expect Pujols to maintain his second half PX level for a full six months, given the trends in his skills. For some people, it might take a moment to accept 50, but the more you look at it, the more it passes the eyeball test. This is a player with no true comparables in history. All we have is our eyeballs and a general idea of what makes sense. Fifty makes sense to me.

That’s all well and good, except Albert Pujols hit 41 home runs that year. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Regression To The Mean 1, Shandler 0.

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  1. ribman said...

    Ok besides taking a random write up from Shandler, and then taking a swipe at him regarding a “wrong” projection can you offer a little more? What about his analysis do you disagree with (besides the results). If you know anything about Shandler you know what he thinks about projections in general and he’ll be the first to say so called experts don’t know half of what they claim and he emphasizes the process. He took the path that was not the easy road and attempted to explain why he thought Pujols was a candidate to go against the predictable trend.

    What’s wrong with that? Give me a guy who asks me to think vs just regurgitate the common average of the 3 year trend anytime. I see no point to your article.

  2. Colin Wyers said...

    What about the Shandler write-up do I disagree with? Other than the basic premise?

    Shandler asks us to trust that he can make better predictions than what his automated projections can spit out, by looking at things like “second half PX level” and age (which his projection system should already account for, shouldn’t it?)

    It’s great that Shandler tries to “ask you to think,” but does he then actually give you anything to think about here? Shandler’s forecasts simply don’t appear to be better than anyone else’s, and actually seem to be worse.

    Shandler of course rejects these sorts of accuracy tests, instead simply asserting that his customers win (of course the people who are invested enough in fantasy baseball to buy Shandler’s products win more often than the average player!) and that should be enough. And it seems to work for his bottom line, so bully for him.

    But ask yourself this – is Shandler a better analyst, or just a better salesman, than the rest of us?

    My point isn’t specifically Shandler, it’s a point about all of us that practice projection or prognostication about baseball. We’re all accountable, and at some point we have to show that our methods produce useful results.

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