Baseball, Tulo and Hybrid Research

Baseball, Tulo and Hybrid Research

iModerate Author

Jun 02, 2011

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Information and statistics are woven into the fabric of both market research and baseball. Both disciplines rely on this intelligence heavily to assess, forecast and make decisions. Recently, ESPN Baseball analysts completed a “Who are baseball’s franchise players fantasylike draft. The basic premise is, if money wasn’t an issue, who should be drafted to help in the construction of a franchise?  The first pick? Denver’s own, Troy Tulowitzki (Tulo).

As Karl Ravech, baseball guru for ESPN put it, “the first overall selection really is a no-brainer. It’s pretty simple, considering Tulowitzki is 26, averages 28 home runs a year and 98 RBIs…”

Of course these are just stats for the layman. Other analysts follow with OBP, WAR, OPS, BABIP, and every other amalgamation of letters one can create. Now I’m a big proponent of measuring and analyzing data, but I ask myself – are these numbers  really who Tulo is? Is it those 98 RBIs that make him the #1 franchise player? What about his situation, his character and the chemistry he has with teammates? Shouldn’t those “immeasurable” aspects play into his story? For Karl Ravech, they did…

“…the guy plays in a hitter-friendly ballpark. He has a contract already signed, sealed and delivered, so he’s not going to be one of those guys who will get distracted by the contract conversations. And he plays on a team with another great player in Carlos Gonzalez and for an organization that is committed to winning, things that make Tulo even better.” Karl Ravech

As a baseball fan and fantasy baseball enthusiast, I pour over box scores looking at the stats created during the turn of the century (by a guy who simply altered the cricket scoring method). But what I truly enjoy is eschewing the box score for the game summaries. The summaries give nuance, color and the story of the game. They tell me how a hit in the box score was actually a game winning blooper just out of the reach of a diving 2nd baseman.

In our experience, market research clients want the box score but they love the game summary too. Therefore, researchers need to be wary of just relying on the statistics when there is opportunity for a story to be told. As we’ve said many times, there is a reason why hybrid research is all the rage. The addition of qualitative in tandem with quant (not as isolated pieces) gives us the best of both worlds. If choosing a hybrid research approach can turn a line item in a box score or a player’s stat line into a lasting, identifiable image or a comprehensive persona, isn’t it worth it?

iModerate Author

  • Brian

    Great example! As any sports fan can tell you in regards to any sport, momentum is one of the most important and virtually immeasurable aspects of a game. Players and analysts alike will always talk about how the “team gained momentum” or how the bats ‘heated up’ in the 8th. In many instances this is due to an individual who rallies the team. Perhaps even with some cliché locker room speech. “Wait, our starting quarterback with a ring on his finger is losing the game for us? Hold on, Shane Falco is back… Hooray! We won against all odds”. Okay, maybe that’s from The Replacements and Keanu Reeves could never play in the NFL, but let’s look at the 2004 Red Sox.

    Here is a team that defied the odds and became the only baseball team to crawl back from an 0-3 playoff deficit to win. 10 out of 10 computer forecast models would have given the Yankees the series. If you look at the stats it’s clear they all played well… you simply can’t win with most of your team batting a .190 average. However look at a guy like Kevin Millar. He brought to the team the motivation, humor, attitude and pine tar-ing anti-Yankee culture that many Bostonians will tell you made all the difference.

    Obviously the stat books will never reflect these kinds of important aspects in a team dynamic, but when you’re sitting at home watching another E60 about the greatest sports comebacks, ESPN journalists will have done plenty of qualitative legwork to give NAS, or whoever is narrating, an epic story-based script to read. Players on camera will probably not talk about each other’s averages but rather how tough Curt Shilling was to pitch with his ankle, or how a town that never stopped believing motivated them to stay with it. Perhaps even how Damon carried a .304 avg, looked like Jesus but still threw like Mary (something the stats won’t indicate very well either). There will always be a correlation between statistics and outcomes, but I like the idea of being able to understand all aspects of the game to complete the big picture and understand the whole story.

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Kristin Thomsen, Manager, Market Research, United Way Worldwide