Lies and statistics

July 24, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS

I keep coming back to books about baseball, but they’re just too valuable in terms of personnel management. A baseball manager (and his colleagues in the team office) function so much like an HR department. They have to pick the best roster and field the best lineup for the opponent each night. They have to fit payroll in a budget and make tough roster decisions. And, while their forebears in the past managed off instinct,shutterstock_34461571 modern baseball executives employ stats and other metrics to see which players are worth their salaries and their position in the lineup. That brings us to this installment’s book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will. Will, of course, is best known for his syndicated political columns but at heart he is a baseball fanatic. Men at Work devoted special attention to Tony LaRussa (a law school graduate in his own right), at that time the manager for the Oakland A’s. Twenty-five years ago, the A’s were an American League juggernaut that featured a marquee roster with the likes of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, and Dave Stewart. Will was, of course, impressed with the talent walking around LaRussa’s clubhouse, but he seemed most fascinated with the manager’s command of and use of statistics to arrange his fielders, select pitches, and basically guide most of his decisions. In that era, LaRussa kept enormous binders with pitch charts, statistics of players in particular situations, and any number of other possibilities. He consulted the information constantly throughout each game, and his staff updated the information regularly. The point here is that while most managers were making decisions based on feel or instinct, LaRussa was making them based on data and history. Did Carney Lansford tend to hit this pitcher mainly to left field? If so, then Tony Phillips probably needs to have a bigger lead at second to give him a better chance to score on a single. Does this pitcher stay wild on a 2-1 count? If so, maybe this isn’t the time to put on the hit-and-run. Personnel management can take a page from this book. While courts still do approve of subjective evaluations if employed in the right way, the best practice to defend claims is to be sure that cold, hard facts guide your decisions as much as possible. Has one of your salespeople complained that some unlawful reason led to their exclusion from a key sales pitch? If so, you’re in a much better position if you can show them that they’ve not been successful with this prospective client’s industry in the past. Numbers and data, used well, are your friends. So, ask yourself this question: are you hiring and fielding a team because you think they’re the best ones to compete in the market, or do you know? It’s never 100%; after all, LaRussa didn’t come out on top every year. But he did enter the Hall of Fame with three World Series rings.

Bookmark and Share Send to a Colleague

Currently there are no comments related to this article. You have a special honor to be the first commenter. Thanks!

Leave a Reply