Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The way we always do it isn't necessarily the way to do it
In last night's game against the Cleveland Indians, with men on first and second and one out, the Minnesota Twins did what they're supposed to do: move the runners along. And so, they had their catcher, Joe Mauer, lay down a sacrifice bunt, which he did successfully, moving the runners to second and third, so that both were now in scoring position. And what did the next batter do? He made the third out.
Perhaps the Twins' manager should have read Michael Lewis' Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Lewis pointed out how the Oakland As went against "baseball wisdom" and managed to do quite well. And one of the things they avoided: taking the bat out of a good hitter, like Mauer. It turns out that more often than not, the sacrifice bunt strategy fails. But why do we do it? Because that's what you're supposed to do!. But who says?
The same problem arises in many other aspects of life, where someone (who knows who) decided that there's a certain way to behave. And in performance measurement we see it all the time, perhaps most noticeably in the overuse of time-weighting. Too often we go along with the crowd because it makes us safe. If the Twins manager last night had Mauer hit, and he hit into a double play, many would have said "well, he screwed up: didn't he know he was supposed to move the runners along?" But since Mauer is a .300 hitter, allowing him to hit would have been the right move, just as money-weighting is more often than not the right move.