Cameron: On Nate Silver and imperfect modeling

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on November 7, 2012:

If you’re reading FanGraphs, you’re probably familiar with Nate Silver. He’s known nationally now for his political projections at Five Thirty Eight, but of course he made his name on the internet writing about baseball, creating the PECOTA projections, and penning some of the best articles about the economics of baseball written over the last decade.

Even if you’re not a political junkie, it was hard to get away from discussions about Nate Silver over the last few weeks. The final few weeks of the election saw a Nate vs Pundits fight that looked like something straight out of Moneyball. Last night, my Twitter feed probably had more references to Nate Silver than either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Needless to say, the performance of his model was a major storyline during last night’s election, especially if you were following the election through the eyes of people who write about baseball for a living.

If you haven’t already heard, Nate’s model did pretty darn well. As in, he got every projection right, going 49 for 49 in states that have projected winners and nailing the fact that Florida was basically a coin flip. But, I’m not writing this post to talk about how Nate Silver is a witch or to bleed political discussion over into yet another area of your life, but instead, I think that there’s an important takeaway from this that applies to baseball and what we do here at FanGraphs: the fact that imperfect models with questionable inputs can still be quite useful.

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Originally published: November 7, 2012. Last Updated: November 7, 2012.