Golf and Baseball

February 19, 2018

I listened recently to an Econtalk episode interviewing Bill James - the guy behind sabermetrics and the statistical view of baseball. If you’ve ever seen Moneyball, you know what I’m talking about.

It reminded me of a distinction that I had heard awhile back between baseball and golf. I wish I could remember the source.

It said that most human endeavors could be considered as either golf or baseball. Golf is the kind of thing where every single shot counts, and you have to get each one right. Baseball is all about trends and averages. Nobody expects a hit on every at-bat; it doesn’t work like that.

The important part about this is knowing which is which. We end up assuming a lot of things are golf because it’s often so easy to see things in hindsight. When you look back at something someone did well, it’s easy to cast them as a hero who put every step exactly where it needed to be.

But that’s rarely true, and especially in creative ventures. These are always like baseball, where all the at-bats without a hit aren’t mistakes; they’re the expense you incur to be able to hit a home run.

When we’re not sure, we should err on the side of baseball.

4 days in a row of writing! Not sure this streak will continue, but I like the rhythm.

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