Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Paul Oyer's "An Economist Goes to the Game"

Paul Oyer is the Mary and Rankine Van Anda Entrepreneurial Professor, professor of economics, and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Labor Economics.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, An Economist Goes to the Game: How to Throw Away $580 Million and Other Surprising Insights from the Economics of Sports, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book gets into the fine detail of pitch selection in baseball, focusing on who should “call pitches” during a baseball game. For those who are not baseball experts, good pitchers will throw several pitches and part of their success is keeping hitters off balance by changing the speed, placement, and curvature of pitches. A successful pitcher will keep batters off balance so they are more likely to miss when swinging (or to watch a pitch go by altogether). The text leading up to page 99 lays that out, noting that the choice of pitch can get very complicated. In page 99, I address whether a pitcher or someone with more expertise (the catcher, the manager, or an analyst watching from elsewhere) should call pitches because, in order to maximize unpredictability (and batter discomfort), it’s critical to properly select the pitch.

I would argue that page 99 is not representative because it is very “in the weeds”. In general, I tried to keep the book light and focus on concepts like “Why do Korean women dominate professional golf?” and “Should you invest in your child’s sports career?” Page 99 gets into specifics related to the broader concept of the strategy and game theory of pitch selection. I think it fits nicely into the analysis of the book but I hope you will read it in its place after enjoying the broader conceptual material in the 98 pages that lead up to it. And, for the record, the basic economics of pitch selection just require remembering two things: how often to throw each pitch and randomizing so the batter cannot detect any pattern.
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--Marshal Zeringue