Ben and Sam answer emails about an auction for playing time, Mike Trout's plate approach, a contract that could kill baseball, and more.

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I wonder why Dan asks his question. Only because I assume he has to know the answer. I'd love to hear what you think, Dan.

Unlikely events are likely to happen but it's just difficult to peg exactly what that event may be. It goes for life and it goes for baseball. At the beginning of the day, what were the chances that I would stumble upon Michael Doleac's Wikipedia page? Pretty low. Yet, everyday we all find ourselves doing things that would have seemed unfathomable at another point in time.

Baseball works the same way but with tighter results due to the possibilities of a ball game being smaller than the possibilities of a 24-hour day. Like Sam and Ben said, the chances that Chris Davis hits 74 homers this year is pretty low. That being said, surely something as obscure will happen this season. Computer projections work with big data - they cater toward the larger middle and ignore the tails. To be 100 percent successful you need to account for random fluctuation - something based on luck alone. It's not efficient.

A scout isn't a computer and focuses more on nailing a single projection. Scouts don't have to deal with the massive sample sizes of simulations. He's (or she) is projecting a single player's career. And the nature of this prediction is more rash when one considers both the human element and the tighter confidence interval around a player's career versus an individual season.

Ultimately, the answer to the question is analysis of big data vs. analysis of not big data.

These podcasts are just about the only thought-provoking baseball material I can get my hands on these days. As always, keep it up.
Oh, I never have the answers to the questions I ask on EW. I just email when something random comes to mind. =)

I just find projections of batting titles or exceptional power or whatever else interesting, because the truth is that even our best projection systems, which integrate a ton of information, don't really project those things. The reason they don't project those things isn't because they aren't going to happen, but because they're unlikely to happen to any one player. [In fact, PECOTA sort of generates confidence intervals, which I'd love to see represented better on the site.]

I think Sam understood the question slightly better, when he rephrased it to "How much should scouts regress?" If we took what they do at face value - which is see a player a few times and perhaps do some other digging via other sources - the answer should probably be A TON.

On the other hand, Ben's answer was also good, in that scouts often are reporting physical traits that will not regress in the same way a highly random event like "hits" will. For example, if a guy has an 8 speed, he's probably got an 8 speed tomorrow and the next day and probably doesn't really have a 5 speed. You probably didn't just catch him on an "8 speed" day.

Anyway, glad the question was interesting. I never have the answers. =)