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March 8, 2010

Baseball Therapy

Going Streaking

by Russell A. Carleton

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Flash forward to July, 2010, as Prince Fielder is being interviewed after a Brewers win. Fielder has just gone 4-for-5 with two home runs, and the announcers tell Fielder that he’s gone 9-for-his-last-12 over the past few days. Fielder says, "Yeah, I’ve been feeling great and seeing the ball really clearly the past few days. Some days, you just see the ball better than others."

The next day, Fielder is up in the first inning, and the announcers once again point out his recent hot streak and recap Fielder’s comments with a little bit of hope in their voices. As they do so, Fielder takes strike two, and then looks a little foolish chasing after strike three on a high fastball out of the zone. In the third, he hits a weak grounder to short, and in the sixth he hits a nondescript fly ball to center field. In the eighth inning, he caps off a frustrating day by watching a called third strike slip past him. What happened to Fielder’s streak? He said that he was seeing the ball better… how did it all just disappear like that?

Ever have one of those days? The sort of day where no matter what happens, you feel awful. No matter what, nothing goes your way. Ever have a couple of days like that? If you say you haven’t, you’re either lying or you’re Eric Seidman. It’s one of those universal human experiences to have a bad day or two. Thankfully, there are some days where you feel great for no particular reason, and everything seems to be going your way.

There’s actually a biological basis behind the phenomenon. The body is filled with hormones and other chemicals that regulate all sorts of things, including mood and energy level. These hormones, in general, run in cycles. The easiest cycle to see is the 24-hour cycle that your body keeps. You generally wake up at a certain time each day, have a small post-lunch crash, and get tired each night around the same time. If, for some reason, you have to wake up early one day, your body feels a little off. Well, there are dozens of cycles that work like that. Some of them are daily cycles. Some cycles happen several times a day (your hunger cycle), while others take several days (or weeks or months!) to complete. At some point, all of the good parts of the cycles might coincide over a day or two, and you get a day where you feel just fantastic. And when you’re in a better mood, you feel like you’re working so much better.

And yes, these cycles happen to baseball players too. They’re human beings. But does it make a difference in their performance?

The idea of the streaking player is a common one in mainstream baseball analysis. A player has a small run of time in which he hits exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly. While it’s a matter of fact that a player might have gone 6-for-8 over the last two games, streaks are usually cited by announcers as having some larger significance. In general, it’s understood that the player probably won’t keep this up forever. But like Mario after he catches one of those invincibility stars, he’s got a finite period of time in which everything he does will be amazing. Managers even move players around in the lineup based on their past few games, going with the "hot hand," or intentionally walk a player because "he’s been hot lately." Should they?

Several analyses prior to this one have found little evidence to support the claim that a player’s performance in the recent past is much of a predictor of his performance in the present. There have been well-founded mathematical arguments that streaks are simply random variation over a small sample size. There have been studies looking comparing the performance of groups of players who were recently on hot streaks vs. those on cold streaks. But what if we put the supposition to a very rigorous methodological test, one with a good amount of statistical power to detect even a small effect of streakiness?

As always, if you want to avert your eyes at this point, skip to "The Results."

Warning! Gory Methodological Details Ahead!

I took everything that happened in the last 10 years (2000-2009) and coded all plate appearances (except for intentional walks, which don’t really count), for whether they were on-base events or not. I then lined up each player’s plate appearances chronologically, within each year. I calculated what the player’s OBP was in the 10, 25, and 100 plate appearances immediately preceding this one. I also calculated the batter’s overall OBP for the season, as well as the OBP allowed by the pitcher he faced. Only plate appearances in which a batter who logged 250 or more PA in the season in question faced off against a pitcher who had logged more than 250 batters faced were considered.

I calculated the probability, given the batter/pitcher matchup, that this plate appearance would end up in an on-base event (a technique that I have used in earlier work). I converted all probabilities into odds ratio form, and then took the natural log of the odds ratio. I then constructed a binary logit regression, in which I predicted whether the plate appearance would end in an on-base event (1 = yes, 0 = no), with two predictors: the predicted probability based on batter/pitcher matchup, and the batter’s OBP over the last 10/25/100 PA. (I ran three different regressions.)

If performance is more affected by a batter’s "hotness" or "coldness," then that coefficient should jump out and be very significant. If it’s more due to a batter’s overall talent level (and the talent level of the pitcher whom he’s facing), then that coefficient should predominate.

The Results

It was an over-whelming victory for "overall performance." And it was the type of overwhelming that would come from the question: Whom do you want pitching Game Seven for you, Roy Halladay or Will Carroll? Statistically, there was no contest in any of the three regressions.

Still, something interesting did happen. While "overall performance" was the far superior predictor of events, OBP in the recent past was still a statistically significant predictor (in all three denominations of PA.) So while overall performance might be the better predictor, there’s still some effect for streakiness. How much?

I assumed that the batter and pitcher were both league average (OBP and OBP allowed of .333). I looked at what the model would predict for a batter who had a recent run of 10 PA where he had a .100 OBP and a .700 OBP. The difference… was measurable at the fifth decimal place. We would expect our hot hitter to get an extra hit every few thousand plate appearances over our cold hitter. So, strictly speaking, the effect for streakiness on a hitter’s performance is not zero, but it’s not important either. (The results were similar for the 25 and 100 PA samples.)

Why Does the "Hot Hand" Theory Persist?

There are several reasons wny the "hot hand" theory persists despite such evidence. The usual caveats that people infer far too much from a small sample size apply. Another is that believing in the predictive power of streaks means that you can give yourself the illusion of knowing the future with only a small amount of data, and that’s a very comforting thought. But there’s something more. Why are people so certain that a hot hand will continue to be hot, and why does the hot player himself say things that suggest that his ability to see and hit the ball has actually gotten better over the last few days?

For one, a hitter usually says these things in the post-game interview, after the fact. People often report that they "knew it was gonna happen" after an event, which makes them look smart… because the event that they were sure about just happened. When people are asked how sure they are of something happening beforehand, they rate themselves as less sure. It isn’t rocket science as to why.

Another factor is that people are very bad at what’s called introspection, which is the ability to monitor what’s going on inside themselves and are easily influenced in their perceptions by outside forces. In general, humans over-estimate their ability to understand their behaviors. As an example, there was an experiment in which people were given word pairs to learn. For some of the people, one of the word-pairs was moon-ocean. Another group had that one replaced with some other non-descript word pair. When asked what their favorite detergent was, 90 percent of the group that had moon-ocean picked (you guessed it!) Tide. It’s fairly clear why it happened, but when asked to explain it, the people in the group reported that they didn’t know why they picked it.

Finally, things that happen recently, particularly things that are emotionally charged, like a great performance which wins a game, are very much in people’s minds when reckoning the probabilities in a situation. Going back over the totality of a player’s career (or at least the past year or so) isn’t going to be as relevant because that sort of thing is boring. But it’s the better predictor.

There is psychology at work here, but it’s not powering actual meaningful changes in performance. Instead, it’s powering the brain wanting to believe in the hot hand and then going back and reconstructing events so that they fit with the desired theory. It’s backward logic, and backward logic is dangerous.

The Implication

Let’s go to a real game situation. Bottom of the ninth, tie game, runner at third with no outs. A manager will sometimes call for an intentional walk here because the walk means very little in the grand scheme of things. Indeed, the only runner that matters is on third. (Some managers will issue two free passes to set up the force at any base. Let’s discount that for the moment.)

The decision of whether or not to issue the walk comes down to a choice between which of two hitters he’d rather face: the guy at the plate, or the guy on deck. Suppose that the choice is between a hitter who is clearly inferior overall, but has been hot lately, or a better hitter who has been cold. I’d argue that every time, the manager should pitch to the inferior hitter. There’s no evidence that Mr. Hot Hand is any more dangerous than he’s ever been, and if he’s the inferior hitter, that’s who you want at bat. But managers will sometimes betray how much they believe in the hot hand theory by walking the streaky hitter. This is a behavior that has to stop. Not that I’m holding my breath. It’s OK to walk Alex Rodriguez when he’s on a hot streak, but only because he’s A-Rod, not because of the streak.

Why won’t this type of behavior stop? The hot hand theory is more than just bad statistical literacy. It’s emotionally seductive to believe in the hot hand. Managers are human beings and are overly swayed by emotions. I look forward to the manager who can recognize those emotional responses and overcome them. Maybe he’s already out there. But I’m also looking forward to the time when commentators, announcers, and other folks who make their living talking about baseball will stop engaging in the folk psychology of "Well, this happens to me, this must be what’s happening to the players." There’s a lot of psychology that is present in the game. Just please use the real stuff.

Russell A. Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Russell's other articles. You can contact Russell by clicking here

48 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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buffum
(458)

I think another factor is that most sports fans who have played a sport have "felt hot." I can't recall meeting anyone in a bowling league or a pickup basketball game or a bar with a dartboard who didn't have at least one experience in which they just felt like they "couldn't miss." I know that my 279 felt very much the result of disengaging my conscious muscle control in favor of a nearly-subconscious kinesthetically-repeatable motion.

(Not to mention a couple of lucky bounces off the wall to finish off ten pins.)

Anyway, if you've ever felt "hot," you are probably more likely to nod knowingly and say, "He's just locked in, man." The counter-argument, of course, is that Jhonny Peralta has never, to outward appearances, engaged his conscious brain while hitting, yet his results vary significantly.

Mar 08, 2010 09:51 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I've had those times too. Of course, when I'm bowling it means I might break 100.

An interesting counter-example. 2008 ALCS, Red Sox-Rays. Boston comes back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series at 3, much like they had done the year before to my beloved Indians... and I heard something or other about them doing that to the Yankees one year... It was assumed that it was a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox would win Game 7, because they were locked in.

Mar 08, 2010 13:21 PM
 
A's Fan 38 Yrs

I'm surprised a cold streak doesn't show up as being more significant. If a good hitter is 1-for-18, it may just be statistical bad luck. But it may also be a hallmark of a minor injury, whether physical or psychological, which decreases performance slightly.

There may not be a super-human ability to suddenly "see the ball better" than normal for a week, but isn't there is the ordinary-human nagging tweak that lingers for days; not enough to remove him from the lineup, but enough to rob him of a hit or three? So if A-Rod is on a cold streak, maybe you should be more willing than usual to pitch to him?

Mar 08, 2010 10:16 AM
rating: 1
 
edwardarthur

I appreciate that people tend to see significance in small sample size data that really isn't there.

However, A's Fan's comment is an important one. Let's say Player X injures his wrist on July 1 and decides to play through the pain, which subsides on July 31 after a cortisone shot. It's not a leap of faith to believe that serious wrist pain could affect one's hitting significantly. Therefore, shouldn't we expect some meaningful correlation between X's at bats in July that is not explained by his overall performance? If the methodology doesn't pick that up, does it say something about the methodology that should concern us?

Obviously, "hot streaks" and "seeing the ball well" are much more ephemeral, but if the results don't prove that having a wrist injury doesn't affect hitting (and I'm sure that's not Russell's claim), then do they prove that a hitter's subjective sense that he's hot is not meaningdul either?

Mar 08, 2010 11:25 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I can't control for injuries, and yes that is a confound. It's the major weakness of this methodology. I wish I had a way around it.

Mar 08, 2010 13:24 PM
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Another (admittedly minor) factor at work here is probably quality of competition. It's relatively easier to have a 7-for-12 streak going during a series against the Nationals, only to have the "hot hand" cool off because the Giants came into town and Lincecum-Cain-Sanchez are the scheduled starters. Can't for the life of me figure out why a 2-for-13 followed the hot streak.

Mar 08, 2010 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

Pitchers performance were factored in to this analysis using their OBP of hitters faced.

Mar 08, 2010 11:15 AM
rating: 0
 
kantsipr

I'd wonder, though, whether that is adequate. OBP of hitters faced is an imperfect measure of the pitcher's "true" capability. Given the fact that the measured difference was so small, I'd ask whether we have confidence in the precision of the methodology at that level. I suspect that it's small compared to the systematic errors, whatever they might be.

Mar 08, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

He used OBP as a measure of either an on-base event or not, as part of his binary regression.

At a minimum, based on 48,600 perfect games over 10 years for 30 teams, there would be just over 1.31M ABs in this data set. With Beuhrle's perfecto the only one in this time frame, I would guess the number of at bats are both significantly higher and significant enough to analyze.

Mar 08, 2010 12:41 PM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

Sorry, I forgot about Randy Johnson in 2004.

Mar 08, 2010 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
kantsipr

First, I should have said OBP allowed of pitchers faced, of course. Oops.

Second, I'm not sure what the perfect game reference was for. All I'm arguing was that, to conclude that the result is significant, we have to be sure that the metrics and methodology are precise to that level of significance.

Mar 08, 2010 13:24 PM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

I used a perfect game to get a baseline of the # of ABs that would have been used in this analysis. Of course I had to assume that after each side was retired in order all 9 innings the game is over.

Mar 08, 2010 13:30 PM
rating: 0
 
evo34

Why not use SLG or TAv instead of OBP? OBP for small samples is going to be driven largely by BABIP, which is already known to be highly volatile.

Mar 08, 2010 11:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

For the reasons that OBP is really easy to calculate (work smart, not hard!) and that I needed a dichotomous variable for my outcome. BABIP is a big deal in pitcher's OBP against, although in a giant sample of 10 years, that can wash out a bit. If it helps you to know, the combined batter/pitcher OBP factor was the one that was unbelieveably significant.

Mar 08, 2010 13:27 PM
 
SC

This raises an interesting question:

Is BABIP correlated to recent BABIP and/or recent TAv?

Mar 08, 2010 16:03 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

It would need a slightly different methodology, but no reason that the study couldn't be done... hmmm.... *begins scribbling equations furiously*

Mar 08, 2010 16:11 PM
 
wonkothesane1

I think there is something else that may affect the manager's decision in the intentional walk scenario. A lot of the members of the media aren't going to know that the "hot hand" theory is bunk. They are going to crucify any manager who lets the guy with the hot hand beat him. Most managers will not want to appear foolish even if they weren't being foolish.

Mar 08, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I should post that above my desk as a mission statement.

Mar 08, 2010 13:28 PM
 
Travis Leleu

He doesn't say what the sample size is, but it's 10 years worth of data, so it's probably several thousand batter seasons. Yes, the injury effect does affect players, but this suggests 2 things
1) it probably doesn't affect them as much as is thought
2) there aren't too many injury/cold-streak occurrences to significant shift the results

Either way, I would be interested to see the sub-population of this study analyzed based on players who had a DL stint within a week or two of their cold streak. And then this same analysis run with the non-injured population. There's sure to be some confounding going on, but my guess is that it's negligible.

Mar 08, 2010 11:55 AM
rating: 1
 
ryanlazenby

I wonder if the use of OBP here doesn't have some effect of "washing out" the injuries. The vast majority of injury cases don't effect a players ability to read balls and strikes, or their patience. Add in the fact that a player playing through pain is probably a player with some decent amount of talent in the first place and the fact that his walk rate stays static would mitigate the fact that he's making less effecient contact. I also know of some anecdotal statements that when a hitter is hurt he might be more likely to take fringe pitches as well.

Mar 08, 2010 12:34 PM
rating: 1
 
kantsipr

Makes some sense, although one could argue that there may be visual variations that would be captured as much by OBP as by BA or some other metric.

It might also be be interesting to frame this analysis in terms of the autocorrelation function for players rather than arbitrarily selecting bin sizes.

Mar 08, 2010 13:27 PM
rating: 0
 
MGL

I would guess that Russell's data and analysis would show slightly more predictive value for cold streaks, for the reason mentioned (injuries and the like). But, the noise is so great (small samples of 10 PA, 25,and 10 PA) that the signal (a few players who are playing injured) to noise ratio is going to be very, very, small.

In fact, the very small predictive value that he did find for hot and cold streaks could easily be explained by parks and weather, as well as injuries...

Mar 08, 2010 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

If I am understanding the method correctly... I think one problem with this model is that it assumes that a player is either hot or cold (that, either the previous 10 at bats are always a predictor of success or they are never a predictor of success). I think it would be better to look at only ABs where the hitter has hit safely in 6(?) of the past 10 at bats, and seeing if his previous success affects the probability of current success. Similarly, this can be done for "cold players"... I would think you may be able to pick up injuries in this case.

Just out of curiosity, how do you account for the correlation between the batter's info?

Mar 08, 2010 15:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

You're a little off on your methodology. The dependent variable is "got on base in this at bat." It's either yes or no. The predictor variables are his OBP over the last 10/25/100 PA, as well as the control variable of pitcher/batter quality. So, I'm looking at his recent performance as a continuous variable.

It's an interesting suggestion to break it down a little bit and look at the hot players (say, recent OBP below .200) vs. the hot players (recent OBP over .500). I might.

Mar 08, 2010 18:28 PM
 
ostrowj1

Maybe I wasn't very clear in my original post. From my understanding, you are showing that recent at bats are not statistically significant predictors of current at bat success. That, in my mind, is not the same thing as "there is no such thing as hot". Some days I feel like I can take on the world, some days I don't think I can get out of bed. Most days, though, are normal. It is possible that there are days where a player feels "hot", and that has an impact on his performance. If "hot" occurs in 1 in 20 plate appearances, leading to a large increase in expected success, it is very possible that, by looking at EVERY plate appearances, that "hot" may just look like noise.

I wonder if a better approach would be to look at the top n many "hot stretches" in each season (controlled for batter / pitcher skill), and see if the number of "hot stretches" are greater than expected if one assumed "hot" didn't exist.

Mar 08, 2010 19:28 PM
rating: 0
 
uoduckfan33

This type of methodology has been used for shooters in basketball as well, and the same results prevailed: that career/long-term past results are the better indicator of the "next" shot's result. But I've also thought about your question, ostrowj1, about "hot" possibly getting lost in noise. If you assume that hot doesn't exist, and then see how many "streaks" of successful on base attempts there are in any given season, is there a discrepancy there? For instance, in a series of 200 coin flips, it is highly likely to see a streak of 6, 7, or even 8 heads at some point. Are we likely to see more of these streaks, and longer streaks, in sports where this particular methodology wouldn't pick it up because a hot streak is immediately followed by a cold streak that "cancels" it out? I think it's a valid question, and very possible to look into, given the right statistical resources and time.

Mar 09, 2010 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
YankeesSuck0213

What exactly were those correlation coefficients?

Mar 08, 2010 15:54 PM
rating: 1
 
JayhawkBill

An excellent question, and one that becomes more significant when the author chooses to ignore it.

What is the entire regression equation, and what are the associated statistics?

Mar 10, 2010 18:21 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

The reason that I ignored it was that I couldn't quite figure out which correlation coefficient was being referred to... If you mean the stats on the regression itself, "combined talent" had a Wald value (how you measure factors in binary logit) in the 2000's. Recent OBP had one around 25. Both are signficant, but talent is much much much better, and when you look at the actual effect for recent OBP, the effect was seen at the fifth decimal place.

Mar 11, 2010 20:22 PM
 
JayhawkBill

Well, that's a gauge. The Wald stat is, IIRC, a squared ratio, but the square root of 2,000 is still significantly larger than the square root of 25.

Thanks!

Mar 19, 2010 19:31 PM
rating: 0
 
jocampbell
(148)

Is the psychological emotional seductiveness of the "hot hand" balanced by the psychological emotional seductiveness of the "he's due for one"? People who like to bet often seem to fall prey to whichever is most convenient--if you're on a winning streak, you should bet because you're hot; if you're on a losing streak, you should bet because you're due. Either way you've always got a reason to have another bet.

Mar 08, 2010 17:00 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I had originally slotted a paragraph in here for that very thought, but then cut it for space. I often hear both on the radio/TV. I think that the hot streak is a little more seductive, based on the fact that it's recent and is likely to have won a team a game (and we like to single people out as "having won the game.")

Mar 08, 2010 18:47 PM
 
hyprvypr

How much does 'confidence' play into all of this? I know when I play sports, softball is my bread and butter, I ride 'streaks' as well. While I think most streaks are simply normal mathematical occurances at random, but occasionally I would be 'red hot' or 'very bad'. I think streaks themselves can perpetuate continued performance on the same track. When I am 'on fire', I go to the plant in a positive mood, confident, feeling menacing, looking at the pitching and thinking about how well I am going to perform. This confidence or level of focus thus enhances my ability, if only temporarily.

Mar 08, 2010 17:14 PM
rating: 0
 
mpbc416

I think what we can infer from the numbers is that for every time confidence allows someone to handle an at-bat well and create a positive outcome there is also another at-bat somewhere where a player hacked at bad pitches because he was "hot".

Also, how many times have we seen a guy who is "locked in" hit a line shot right at someone, or a "cold" player get lucky with a blooper. I think the point is that while players clearly do have streaks, the fact that they are in the midst of one in no way suggests it will continue. There is too much luck, and/or ways to screw it up.

Mar 08, 2010 18:01 PM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

It's always a line-drive in the box score, as my Dad says.

Mar 09, 2010 09:04 AM
rating: 1
 
mpbc416

All of the points about the injuries causing "cold streaks" are fair points, and I agree they probably wash out statistically. However, just as MLB teams have found that a balance of scouting AND statistics is a good way to evaluate talent, managers should account for injuries in their decision making. If I have a "Hot" Derek Jeter at the plate and I know that A-Rod is on deck and has been struggling because of some nagging injury that I think my pitcher can exploit, then MAYBE I walk Jeter to get to A-Rod. In this case A-Rod is not "cold", he's hurt. It makes sense to avoid a good hitter like Jeter, hot or otherwise, to pitch to an injured player who I feel that my pitcher can exploit. Of course if somehow a "hot" Brett Gardner is up before an injured A-Rod all I have to do is think about Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases in 1988 and I am pitching to Gardner!

Mar 08, 2010 17:49 PM
rating: 0
 
AutomatedTeller

Clearly, the predictive power of "being hot" is pretty low, which has been born out since Bill James and has been shown to not really exist in other sports, either.

I think that this is a terribly important thing for people to understand - ARod is a better hitter than Marco Scutaro and so is more dangerous whether Scutaro is 8-12 and ARod is 2-12 or it's the other way around.

But I also think we do ourselves a disservice to dismiss variations as mathematical or statistical noise or call them randomness. We don't know what causes BABIP (for instance0 to fluctuate, for instance, we just know that it does. All we know is that we can't measure what it is that causes it to fluctuate and we (currently) cannot predict a year to year fluctuation.

I believe there is very little about the game that is random - no one throws dice in the air and says "oooh - Papi hit a HR"

Mar 08, 2010 20:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

It's probably worth pointing out that 'random', in modern technical discussion, just means 'unpredictable'. It doesn't say anything about *why* it's unpredictable, and it doesn't necessarily imply God playing dice with reality.

Laplace, who first codified the mathematical foundations of probability, was himself a Mechanist -- he believed that the universe was a giant machine running according to Newton's laws, and that there was no such thing as 'randomness' in the sense of "uncaused events". He thought of probability statements as assertions of lack of information -- the first "hidden variables" theory, if you will.

The key takeaway is that Russell has shown that any hot hand effect that might really exist is either so small as to be irrelevant or so infrequent as to be irrelevant, or both.

Mar 09, 2010 09:57 AM
rating: 3
 
Pat Folz

I'd been thinking off-and-on about how to this exact study. Thanks!

Out of curiosity, did you check if there's any predictive significance to hot streaks within a single game? For instance, does a guy who's 3 for 3 get a fourth hit more often than his career averages would predict? I'd guess the teensy sample size would lead to nothing significant, but I could plausibly see "feeling hot" (or more pragmatically, having the pitcher figured out) being more effective on that time scale.

Mar 08, 2010 22:37 PM
rating: 0
 
krissbeth

You might add to the modern list of causes techniques of positive visualization, in which the athlete imagines their upcoming contest and what they have to do to have success. When they do have success, odds are that they did "see" it coming. Of course, these practices are as much about gaining a feeling of control over the uncontrollable than anything else.

Mar 09, 2010 04:38 AM
rating: 0
 
kjohnson

Russell, have you or anyone else you know studied at what point changes in past performance *do* become predictive of future performance?

It's easy for me to buy the conclusion the last few days' results are not predictive of tomorrow's performance. It gets harder to believe changes in past results are not predictive when looking at results over a period of weeks or especially months. Where is the point that changes in past results do become predictive of future performance?

I find myself wondering about this when teams set their playoff rosters and lineups.

Mar 09, 2010 07:00 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I have done quite a bit of this research. It really depends on the stat in question. Some stats stablize after 50 PA. Some never do over the course of a season.

Mar 09, 2010 13:24 PM
 
nateetan

Another possible check would be line drive rate. Usually when a player is "hot" you see him smoking the ball, not hitting Texas Leaguers. Find all the samples of 10,25,and 100 consecutive PAs with the highest LD rates and see what the LD rate is following that.

Mar 09, 2010 08:23 AM
rating: 0
 
David J Marsh

not specific to this article but has an announcment been made about when the PECOTA cards will be updated on this site? I have the new book but it's easier to use the site.

Mar 09, 2010 08:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Aaron W

I dunno - a large part of me hesitates to shake the finger at my fellow humans for finding patterns everywhere. It's sort of what we do.

I guess the real question is, at what point does this information add to my enjoyment of the game as a fan? It's clear that is does for some here, but I suspect that it may not for many fans.

Mar 09, 2010 10:21 AM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

This is an interesting point. Baseball is entertainment.

A lot of people (it seems) would find it less entertaining if they were prevented from interpreting the timing of events as illustrating moral courage, fortitude, iron will, mental dominance, focus, choking, distraction, lack of commitment, flakiness, etc. If it were just strategy, tactics, odds, and luck, it would no longer be entertaining.

I think this may be where people are coming from when they accuse statheads of not actually watching games. They can't imagine that there would be any POINT in watching games if you really don't think that the outcomes reflect microcauses and the triumph of the superior will to win.

Mar 09, 2010 10:48 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I suppose that enjoyment is in the eye of the beholder. Here, I'm much more concerned with winning the game rather than enjoying the game. It's not the way that everyone wants to experience a game, and I can respect that. But that's the goal here. Take it as you will.

Mar 09, 2010 13:28 PM
 
Dr. Dave

One reason that "hot hand" models (and clutch/choke models) are so intuitively plausible is that they may very well be true in ordinary life -- but not in Major League Baseball.

I remember reading some studies in the late 80's or early 90's about the influece of higher arousal (in the technical affect sense) on sports performance. They found that it tended to have a stronger influence on performance in activities where the athlete initiates action at will (e.g. golf, bowling, darts, tennis serve, penalty kicks) and less influence in reactive sitations (batting, return of serve, goalkeeping).

It might be worthwhile doing the converse study, and looking for signs of streakiness in pitching. If the arousal/affect theory is correct, pitching should be more prone to clutch effects than hitting, and might be more prone to hot hand effects as well.

Mar 09, 2010 10:40 AM
rating: 2
 
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