JSM 2005 - Toronto

Abstract #302735

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Legend: = Applied Session, = Theme Session, = Presenter
Activity Number: 247
Type: Invited
Date/Time: Tuesday, August 9, 2005 : 10:30 AM to 12:20 PM
Sponsor: Section on Statistics in Sports
Abstract - #302735
Title: Baseball's Highest Honor: Teaching Statistical Thinking Using the Baseball Hall of Fame
Author(s): Steve C. Wang*+
Companies: Swarthmore College
Address: Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, Swarthmore, PA, 19081, United States
Keywords: sports ; pedagogy ; education ; sabermetrics ; baseball ; teaching

I discuss my experiences in teaching a one-month winter session course on the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball in general, and the Hall of Fame specifically, is an ideal topic for generating discussion on the uses and abuses of statistics. In baseball, "statistics" is too often used as a rhetorical bludgeon to end arguments and prove points, rather than as a means of discovering knowledge. Baseball fans are all too familiar with this approach (e.g., "Babe Herman belongs in the Hall because he hit .324 lifetime."). They instinctively learn to distrust such arguments, too often concluding all statistical analysis is unreliable and dishonest. But, of course there are better ways to use statistics, and comparing and contrasting these approaches is an effective way of illustrating how proper scientific methodology works. As baseball is one of the most visible contexts in which statistics is applied, recognizing the strengths of a statistical approach in baseball can go a long way toward demonstrating the value of statistics in a variety of fields.

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Revised March 2005