Good profile on Bill James here. James is a baseball writer – without him in the 70s there’d be no moneyball in the 00s, etc. I have his self-published annuals from the late 70s, and his properly published annuals from the 80s, and cherish them greatly.
Anyway, the key quote:
“When I write something, I start with a question. … The answer tends to be in terms of math, which was just an accident. Take the most obscure question: Do different first base umpires have an impact on stolen base rates because of the way they call balks? I would print columns and columns of math, perhaps unwisely. So people perceive it as math, but it never was.”It was an answer.”
Without wishing to compare CCN to Bill James, which would be preposterous, that’s sort of what I’m on about here when we go off the beaten track a bit. It’s not stats I love, but trying to find answers. We never really find them but I keep trying because it feels like it ought to be possible, and anyway, sometimes you find something. Whether anyone’s reading at that point is another matter, but it makes me feel like some effort’s gone in.