Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 by the numbers . . . the good, the bad and the just plain weird

First confession of the goyishe New Year: I am not much of a numbers person . . . not in politics, not in sports, not in parking tickets, not when it comes to balancing my checkbook or keeping up with ATM withdrawals and deposits . . . not in much of anything. Odds and numbers can be quite deceiving. Pitching around a batter who is hitting .300 could mean that a manager does not trust his pitcher enough to get that person out, even though the batter only has a 3 in 10 chance of getting a hit. Or, it could mean that you are "playing the averages," taking note that this .300 hitter hasn't had a base hit in 12 consecutive at-bats and is "about due." But even a statistical incompetent such as myself can figure out that going 0-12 has no bearing on the next at-bat. No major league baseball player --with or without steroids -- has ever hit in more than 56 consecutive games, which means that no player has ever hit in all 162 games in a season. A .300 hitter can go 2-12, then 4-4, then 3-8, then 0-5, and then 1-1 over the course of five games to average 3 hits in 10 at-bats. But nothing predicts when those hits will come, or when they won't. That is why most major league managers, even with all the statistical tools currently available to them, still make decisions based on instinct and feel.

The same confusion dominates public opinion polling, especially in politics. Saying, for example, that Obama "only" had a 4% lead with three weeks to go didn't tell us how many of those voters were committed, or how many voters would have to move in order for some statistical alteration to take place. The 2008 presidential campaign was notable for how badly the race reported, from the "neck and neck" contest between Hillary and Obama (it was over the first week of March) to the general election, which was over in early September).

Anyway . . .

But . . . a .300 hitter is still a .300 hitter, regardless of how and when he gets those hits. So numbers can tell us some interesting things. Here is my 2008 by the numbers (with some occasional commentary):

386 my posts to PoliScope
31,191 visitors to PoliScope
8,559 unique visitors to PoliScope
59 countries visiting PoliScope
51 states and territories in the US visiting PoliScope
5,538 most popular viewing region (Washington, D.C.) (number of visits)
5 least popular viewing regions (West Virginia, South Dakota, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming) (number of visits)

Note: most frequent visitors outside the US came from Canada, the UK and Belgium (go figure!)

112 blogs citing PoliScope
30 old friends with whom I reconnected through blog, Internet, Facebook, etc.
2 visits with friends I hadn't seen in 25 years
For the first time since I was 25, I saw or spoke with my five oldest and best friends in the same year.

Most popular posts to PoliScope:

1. My life in 37.2 megabytes
2. Mis-speaking
3. Anonymous critics
4. OMG, like the semester has SO fucking started!
5. Strom Thurmond redux
6. Table top hockey for grown-ups
7. Out of it
8. The abortion conundrum
9. Summer camp
10. Dear Secretary Paulson

8638 tunes on my iPod
471 artists on my iPod
173 tunes purchased on iTunes or Amazon mp3 downloads
81 CDs/Music DVDs purchased
92 live gigs I played
8 requests by audience members for my bass player's phone number
0 requests for my phone number
1 requests for my autograph (a 6 year-old girl; but it still counts)
4 times I was mistaken for a black drummer
20 drumsticks I gave away to little kids attending gigs
20 times little kids thanked me for giving them sticks
73 recommendations I wrote for students
14 thank-you notes I received from those students
154 class sessions scheduled for 2007 spring, summer and fall semesters
3 missed due to illness or professional conflicts
171 students I taught in 2007
4 nasty evaluations alleging severe IQ deficiency, sexual confusion, personality defects, etc.
230 office hours held
17 students who came to my office hours
1 students who came to my office hours before botching an assignment
4 tenure cases reviewed
8 department meetings attended (8/8)
0 university meetings attended (pointless)
1 former students whose weddings I attended
7 former students who had children
2 former students who (finally) got engaged
19 annual birthday phone calls from David Luber, who I taught in WS Fall 1989
5 pairs of shoes purchased for me
1 snare drums purchased for me
2 outrageously expensive drum-sets purchased for me
3 new cymbals purchased for me
741 dollars recouped on Ebay selling worthless stuff
18 replacement drum heads purchased for me
20 pairs of shoes purchased for my almost 10-year-old teenage daughter
6.2 average number of outfits worn per day by daughter
7 average number of outfits worn per week by 14 year-old son (he's starting to care now)
1 pair of ice skates purchased for my son
2 hockey sticks purchased for my son
6 pairs of shoes purchased for my son
7,213 times I ruined my daughter's life
342 times I ruined my son's life
70 number of youth hockey games and practices I coached
32 number of youth baseball games and practices I coached
0 number of youth soccer games I "reffed"
4 number of youth soccer games I did "tear down"
5 dance recitals attended
81 number of adult hockey games (league and pick-up) I played
16 penalty minutes (including first 10 minute misconduct ever)
1 E.R. visits due to sports related injuries
0 run-ins with crazy sports parents (a first!)
1 car stickers displaying my children's sports or academic accomplishments, academic pedigree or allegiances to political causes (Obama-Biden; yes, it was that important)
6 high schools visited to speak to students thinking about college
6 concerts attended
3 autographs obtained by famous people (John Scofield, Antonio Sanchez and Christian McBride)
24 NHL games attended
0 MLB games attended (second year in a row)
0 football games watched, college or professional (25 years and counting!)
15 approximate times I locked myself out of my office
215 approximate times I thought I lost my keys only to find them
0 articles read in professional political science journals from start to finish
5 approximate hours devoted to yard work
40 hours devoted to regrading my lawn (with the help of a friend)
15,000 approximate hours devoted to laundry
156 times cleaned bathrooms in my house (3x1 time per week)
24 failed efforts to smother my father-in-law
10 explaining Lowell to my normal friends
3 TV shows I watch(ed) on a regular basis (Mad Men, 30 Rock, The Office)
0 political roundtable shows I watched
0 inches gained in waist
90 books read
9 magazine subscriptions
infinity burritos and tacos eaten at California Tortilla
11,115 miles driven
1,215 miles biked
everyday frequency of admiring my wife's beauty
0 hours spent watching Democratic or Republican presidential debates
too many hours spent watching YouTube
231,847 complaints by old people overheard at the JCC gym and steam room
0 complaints by old people overheard at the YMCA or AU gym
3 average number of trips to the gym per week
6.5 average sleep per night
0 hours in the day I wish I was doing something else other than living my own life


Nathan said...

I really hate to point this out, but your batter is hitting .267 after going 0-12, 4-4, 3-8, 0-5, and 1-1. Think the Caps will take the Flyers tonight?

Carlos said...

10 Minute misconduct penalty...What did you do? (I've just started to get in to Hockey).

Rob Kimball said...

I hate even more to point this out, but the batter went 2-12 to start his streak, making the math work.

The real disaster with this analogy is the at-bat counts. Am I to imagine that this mystery batter came to the plate 12 times in one night? The record for most at bats in a game is 11, held by Carlton Fisk (among others). Now, since the manager kept Mystery Player in the game despite his abysmal performance during this record-setting marathon leads me to believe he is a first-string starter - no one else gets that kind of loyalty from the dugout. So why, pray tell, does he only get 1 at bat in his fifth game? Are we to believe that he's used as a pinch hitter? Or does he just draw 4 (or 11) walks?

Professor, your audience is an exacting bunch, especially when it comes to baseball metaphors. Straighten up and fly right. Consider this your warning.

Jeremy said...

Hey, it still works. Walks don't count as at bats.