FanPost

Questions, corsis and the laughter of the gods

There's plenty of people that will apply for this writing contest with some incredible analysis and insight.  I'm not going to take that path.  The other entries you see will be better than I could do it and there's something that's more important to me than the numbers.



More and more hockey blog debates include a mention of confirmation bias.  That's merited.  Confirmation bias affects us all in dramatic ways and it's helpful for us to remember the way it disturbs our judgments.  The thing that's odd, though, is that it's almost always argued one way: from the guys that know stats towards the guys that don't.  We know more about the game, so we tell them so.  Of course, it's for the best reasons: our stats are better, not using advanced stats is foolish, your eyes have confirmation bias, etc.  Along the path, as good-intentioned as it may be, we've forgotten what makes the advanced stats great.

People started using stats because they wanted to more closely track things that they couldn't observe.  People like Roger Nielson started using advanced statistics to more closely track things they couldn't track before.  The stats came out of inquisitive minds, out of someone thinking about whether coaches protected players that were bad defensively, to name one.  The better our stats, the more uncertainty in the game we could explain.

Once you start exploring your own questions about the beautiful game, the possibilities are nearly endless.  Without question, those who come after us will find stats that track things we don't and improve on stats we have have.  Anyone that's making anything new only breaks something else.  We're part of that proud history and we'll be part of the proudly broken part.

This is where we should use a healthy dose of humility.  Sure, we may have the best answers now and we may be right…but that doesn't mean we don't suffer from confirmation bias just the same (maybe an advanced form!).  Yet we demonstrate this more and more with our arrogance towards those that were as we once were. 

Kevin Pelton, a Basketball Prospectus writer, put it this way (source: http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1525):  "Telling people how foolish they are for ignoring the numbers is a poor way to change their minds. Instead, adding a healthy dose of humility and acknowledging both the weaknesses and the strengths of a statistical approach tends, over time, to have more success."

Einstien once remarked that whoever "sets himself up as an ultimate judge of truth subjects himself to the laughter of the gods."  That holds for us who hold up our Corsis as the ultimate judge of value too.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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