Wyers: Saying goodbye to Baseball Prospectus, saying hello to the Houston Astros

From SABR member Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus on November 1, 2013:

A lot of sabermetrics these days likes to focus on how well a model can predict things. Now, predictive models are great and good, partly because there’s a lot of utility in predicting things, and there’s a lot of intrinsic value in using prediction to validate a model. But there’s also a lot of value in how a model can explain something.

Part of that is because explanatory models are going to be better predictive models in the long run. We can talk about overfitting, and how models based on a limited amount of data (so pretty much every model ever—some models are less limited than others, but there’s always less data than there is life) can come to some pretty odd and incorrect conclusions that break down when applied to additional data. There are statistical tools that you can use to avoid such problems, but creating a model that has explanatory power in addition to predictive power is another way to avoid such problems.

But explanatory models aren’t just useful in prediction. They are also useful in, well, explaining things. Explanatory models are how we learn new things about baseball, and they’re how we can communicate what we’ve learned about baseball to a larger audience. Nobody would ever dream of creating an explanatory model without any thought for how well it predicts, but sadly the converse doesn’t seem to be true. The most powerful models do both.

I’m talking a lot about models because I have some news to share with y’all. I am excited and a little sad to tell you that I’ve been hired by the Houston Astros as a mathematical modeler in their Decision Sciences department. Now, I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and I’ll start with the most important one first: no, I will not be wearing a lab coat and goggles, as much as I might want to. I’m sorry to disappoint all of you.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, there are a few other questions I imagine you’re all asking, one of which is “What does this mean for Baseball Prospectus?” Another might be, “What does the continued brain drain mean for sabermetrics?” And another might be, “How might I get a job like that someday, if I work real hard and eat all my vegetables?” Let’s talk a while about those.

Read the full article here:

This page was last updated November 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm MST.

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