Ridiculous “Science”

An article on the Newsweek website highlights a new psychological study (and I use that word lightly) that supposedly proves that players with the letter “K” in their initials are more likely to strikeout than other players. I was pretty skeptical of that conclusion, so I decided to run the numbers myself.

I used a somewhat different dataset than the authors, looking at all players between 1954-2006, but the results should be about the same. Indeed I found that players with the letter “K” in their initials struck out a little more often than average, 15.5% of the time versus a 15% average for all players. Due to the sample size (about 465,000 plate appearances), the result was quite significant, about 8.5 standard deviations away.

But what happens if we look at other letters? Suddenly, “K” doesn’t look so special. In fact, there are 8 other initials with higher strikeout rates; most impressively, “J,” which happens to be 27.5 standard deviations away from what we would expect. Due to huge sample sizes, only a few initials are insignificantly different from the overall average. Why is that? I have a few theories, but frankly, I don’t care enough to type them out. This whole idea is ridiculous, and I don’t want to give it any more time than I already have. If anyone is interested, here is the data for all 26 letters:

Letter	PA	SO	SO/PA	SD
A	562486	83689	0.149	-3.26
B	1469882	216353	0.147	-10.67
C	1032493	155140	0.150	-0.22
D	1031912	162318	0.157	19.79
E	335659	50852	0.151	1.89
F	403298	56323	0.140	-18.98
G	825656	121436	0.147	-8.28
H	621357	92994	0.150	-1.48
I	50991	7904	0.155	2.95
J	1260983	200621	0.159	27.53
K	464664	71920	0.155	8.47
L	624412	91771	0.147	-7.44
M	1286492	193153	0.150	-0.62
N	156653	25547	0.163	14.11
O	261779	33667	0.129	-31.10
P	551803	85030	0.154	7.81
Q	16914	2635	0.156	1.98
R	1101643	160904	0.146	-12.56
S	873970	136209	0.156	14.43
T	750565	111151	0.148	-5.44
U	27699	3861	0.139	-5.10
V	201911	29294	0.145	-6.60
W	576619	86152	0.149	-1.97
X	1400	259	0.185	3.63
Y	66924	8995	0.134	-11.53
Z	33737	5510	0.163	6.67
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