Every first-year college student probably takes an English composition course, and part of that curriculum is learning about logical fallacies so one does not employ them in argumentative, persuasive writing(s). However, when it comes to sports, many “fans” and mediots routinely fall for these traps, as if they never learned them at all … especially when it comes to mathematics and sports.
A few years ago, we pointed this out in regards to the Arizona Diamondbacks and their foolish signing of baseball pitcher Madison Bumgarner: They gave the washed-up, age-29 southpaw a five-year deal for $85M. So far, three years and $48M into that deal, the D’backs have gotten a 15-29 record and a 4.98 ERA. The signs were there that this pitcher was done, but Arizona fell victim to two obvious fallacies:
- Hasty generalizations: Leaping logic from very few cases to a broad conclusion.
- Inadequate or biased sampling: Conclusions based on too few samples or a skewed/biased collection of samples. Connected to hasty generalizations, this happens when too few samples are used to project results over a much larger area. One example in a specific context cannot be used as representative of the whole.
The Arizona organization probably thought it was getting the October 2014 version of Mad-Bum, something else we’ve undressed repeatedly. Why? We have no idea, and now they’re paying for it. The Texas Rangers have just committed the same idiocy by signing Bruce Bochy to manage for three years: the same guy who posted a losing record in two MLB stops over 4,032 regular-season games.
Yet we hear the clamor of the “three World Series titles” thing … Bochy’s 53 postseason games with San Francisco over a 13-year span surely do not carry more weight than the 4,032 games he managed from April to September from 1995-2019, do they? Yes, they obviously do for those who have no understanding of the above fallacies we defined and noted above.
Think about it in gambling terms: 53 chances in 4,109 does not make for good odds, so why would anyone bank on that small sample size? Because they failed to learn their logical fallacies in college, and they fail to understand how mathematical sampling works. The argument that some games carry more “weight” is all biased, psychological guesswork that has no bearing on predicting future game outcomes.
Which manager will the Rangers get? The manager who won 36 of 53 postseason games in Octobers from 2010-2016 with the Giants? Or the manager who lost the majority of his regular-season games with both the San Diego Padres (1995-2006) and the Giants (2007-2019)? Remember, his October record with San Diego was terrible: 8-16. Must have been something in the McCovey Cove water, right?
At age 67, too, Bochy is at an age where mental faculties are in decline for the general population; he hasn’t posted a winning season since 2016, despite huge payrolls in San Francisco from 2017-2019. Why would anyone expect he would perform well now? We don’t know what the Texas organization is paying Bochy, but it is throwing its money away for the next three years in hope of some fluky results repeating.
Sidebar: We know Bochy is an infamous PED enabler, too, based on his track record with San Diego and Ken Caminiti, not to mention his 13 seasons in The House That Steroids Built, including the 2007 season with Barry Bonds. Even with those enablements, he couldn’t finish over .500 in either destination, and only once did he manage to get a team to October in consecutive seasons (SD, 2005-06).