1. ## Decision Making

After the disaster with Milton last night, I got to thinking some about decision making. Just some random thoughts.

Stats are fantastic tools. I'm growing to appreciate them more and love that Redszone has opened my eyes to numbers beyond the standard BA, RBI, ATM, Etc. However, some have argued that the only "good" decision is the one that is the good percentage for success. Even if it doesn't work out it's good because it was the "right decision". I have to dissagree. This isn't an anti-stats rant as you'll see below.

My objection to the "high probability for success = good descion making" argement is twofold. First is the notion that if you make the "right decision" but it doesn't work it was still a good decision. We'll, in a logic class at universtity that would be true, in the world of baseball however, if it results in a W that is all that matters. You can agrue about having more W by making the "right" decisions on another thread. Success is baseball is measured by wins. If you have more wins than the other guys it's largely irrelvant how you got them.

My other objection is this. In life, if you only make the "percentage plays" then we'd be like General Meade...sitting in camp waiting to build the perfect army before heading out. We'd never of landed at Normandy. We would have never landed at Inchon. Grant would have never taken Vicksburg. Man would have never gone to the moon. Many medicines would have never been invented. All because comon logic at the time said, "the percentage bet is...". I'm drawn to people who take risks and know they can acomplish more that what some stack of numbers says.

I know these examples probably don't apply perfectly to baseball. I'm just explaining where I'm comming from. Frankly, I'm not even sure why. I guess I'm thinking out loud here.

A manager has to use his gut sometimes. But this assumes that the manager's gut is a good one. Not all managers are Sparky's or Derochures or Berra's just as not all people are Bradleys, McArthur, Grants, Kennedys, or Pastures. Because of this, they have to augment their gut instincts with data. That's where stats come in. They have to have objective data to be able to make the right choice more often then not because there are too many factors for lessor managers to consider.

I hope Narron does a far better job in the 2nd half of knowing when to use his gut and when to use numbers. You can't be succesfull using one exlusivley.

Like I said, this is mostly thinking out loud. Take it for what it's worth.

3. ## Re: Decision Making

Originally Posted by Ltlabner
I'm drawn to people who take calculated risks and know they can acomplish more that what some stack of numbers says.

You know what a calculated risk is, right?
A chance taken after careful estimation of the probable outcome.

4. ## Re: Decision Making

You know what a calculated risk is, right?
Ok, how bout this? I am drawn to people who have to cajonies to do things that other people haven't be able to do, or to scared to do. People who can look at a stack of numbers and say, "I know I can do better".

5. ## Re: Decision Making

Originally Posted by Ltlabner
Ok, how bout this? I am drawn to people who have to cajonies to do things that other people haven't be able to do, or to scared to do. People who can look at a stack of numbers and say, "I know I can do better".
depends entirely what's in the numbers.

6. ## Re: Decision Making

Originally Posted by Ltlabner
Ok, how bout this? I am drawn to people who have to cajonies to do things that other people haven't be able to do, or to scared to do. People who can look at a stack of numbers and say, "I know I can do better".
Hypothetically, if we're talking about a guy who uses that line of thinking to justify leaving a pitcher in a game deep into the seventh inning when the numbers say that pitcher allows opponents to hit .367 off him the third time through the order and who has thrown over 100 pitches and who just gave up two hits and a walk to fill the bases, yet still goes with his gut, and leaves the old horse out there rather than going with one of the two fresh arms that are ready in the pen, then I'd say there's a reason why nobody else has done what this guy is planning to do.

Hypothetically.

7. ## Re: Decision Making

Hypothetically, if we're talking about a guy who uses that line of thinking to justify leaving a pitcher in a game deep into the seventh inning when the numbers say that pitcher allows opponents to hit .367 off him the third time through the order and who has thrown over 100 pitches and who just gave up two hits and a walk to fill the bases, yet still goes with his gut, and leaves the old horse out there rather than going with one of the two fresh arms that are ready in the pen, then I'd say there's a reason why nobody else has done what this guy is planning to do.
My post has nothing to do with Narrons decision with Milton last night. That was a horrible decision. One that sucked and was one of some other horrible decisions he's made thoughout the year.

I was really trying to touch on something deeper but if your more comfortable keeping it shallow that's cool. Narron trusts his gut too much I guess that was part of the point of that post. He's not Sparky, Grant or Kennedy. Because he doesn't have that magic touch he has to use the numbers to agument his decision making.

I was really touching on decision making more in general. The disaster with Milton last night just got me thinking about it today.

8. ## Re: Decision Making

The problem with judging decisions based only on the outcome is that, eventually, it undermines the decision making process. In the mind of the manager, he is making a decision that he thinks has the greatest chance of success. If you have a mananger who is openly making decisions that he doesn't think have the greatest possibility of success, you have a big problem. Thus, his is not where the disupte lies. The dispute lies in how to determine the odds of success.

For some people, they tend to go with the stats. For other people, you tend to go with your gut. Both people are trying to maximize the odds of the favorable outcome. However, neither stats, nor "guts" account for every variable in existence. To solely rely on one or the other in any given situation would be pure arrogance, and likely folly. What is important is the decision maker weights both the quantitative and qualitative information available to him at the time the decision is made.

I agree that at the end of the day, you have to judge on outcome. But there is something to be said for the difference between the right decision and the right outcome. For example, if Juan Castro is up in the 9th inning with a guy on 1st base, you're down a run, and you have a healthy Junior on the bench, you pinch hit him (assume Jr. is happy to hit and that it's a stastically favorable matchup). Then Junior goes up and strikes out. Are you honestly going to tell me that you blame the manager for the outcome?

And then let's take the flip side of that coin. If you leave Castro in and he hits a game winning homer, that's great, the Reds won. However, would you want the manager to do the same thing next time? Does the manager think that leaving Juan Castro in to hit is more likely to lead to a good outcome?

Now I know you can't turn everything in to stats. You simply cannot account for even minute detail. But guess what? You can account for the VAST majority of things with stats. You can't predict the outcome of a single event, but you can predict the likely distribution of event outcomes. If you could put Griffey and Castro in that situation 1000 times, Junior WILL be more productive. If Junior is not healthy, well, then you start to move in to the gray area where the manager has to decide the "new" odds and make a decision. May be he honestly feels that Castro is the best choice. However, I want a manager that can at least justify his decisions with more than a simple "gut" call.

While I understand the limitations of statistics and the vast amount of qualitative considerations in decision making, I would rather put my "money" behind a rational argument, be it based in numbers or other considerations, than in an aribtrary feel for something, even if the "gut" call happened to work out last time. Now if you've been in the game 30 years and your "gut" has proven to be right more often than the statistically correct move, then I'll start believe that that person is simply doing some mental calculus that he is unable to verbalize. I'll place faith in the idea that he is able to crunch all the variables and make the right decision. However, it takes a significant pile of successful gut calls before I start believing it's more than just luck. I'll celebrate the successful gut call with everybody else. But when the next decision has to be made, I still want a logical reason for the choice. And really, that's what this is all about -- predictability. I'd want confidence that my manager is maximizing my team's chance to win. If he can defend the choices he makes on those terms, I'd want a new manager.

9. ## Re: Decision Making

For some people, they tend to go with the stats. For other people, you tend to go with your gut. Both people are trying to maximize the odds of the favorable outcome. However, neither stats, nor "guts" account for every variable in existence. To solely rely on one or the other in any given situation would be pure arrogance, and likely folly. What is important is the decision maker weights both the quantitative and qualitative information available to him at the time the decision is made.
Yea, thats sorta what I was getting at as I chewed on this today.

Now I know you can't turn everything in to stats. You simply cannot account for even minute detail. But guess what? You can account for the VAST majority of things with stats. You can't predict the outcome of a single event, but you can predict the likely distribution of event outcomes. If you could put Griffey and Castro in that situation 1000 times, Junior WILL be more productive. If Junior is not healthy, well, then you start to move in to the gray area where the manager has to decide the "new" odds and make a decision. May be he honestly feels that Castro is the best choice. However, I want a manager that can at least justify his decisions with more than a simple "gut" call.
To me, this is where it all gets interesting for discussion. First, I don't mind a manager who bases everything on his gut, but it all depends on who's gut it is. Most managers don't have the skills to do everything by feel and be sucessfull over the long haul. There are very, very few great managers who just "know" the game.

Then again, because Jr was sucessfull in the past, and is likely to be sucessfull again statistically, is he the right choice? Maybe he's got personal issues going on and he's distracted? Maybe the pitcher has eaten Jr's lunch in the past? Maybe Jr has a cold? Maybe the manager thinks Jr is injured and isn't telling anybody? Maybe he's in the midst of a slump right now (so while he's likely to be succesfull in the long run, he's less likely to be sucessfull tonight)?

Those are the areas where "gut" comes into play and stats fall to the backseat. And that's where decision making gets interesting to me. How the manager makes those "gray area" decisions and avoids getting burned.

10. ## Re: Decision Making

Originally Posted by Ltlabner
Yea, thats sorta what I was getting at as I chewed on this today.

To me, this is where it all gets interesting for discussion. First, I don't mind a manager who bases everything on his gut, but it all depends on who's gut it is. Most managers don't have the skills to do everything by feel and be sucessfull over the long haul. There are very, very few great managers who just "know" the game.

Then again, because Jr was sucessfull in the past, and is likely to be sucessfull again statistically, is he the right choice? Maybe he's got personal issues going on and he's distracted? Maybe the pitcher has eaten Jr's lunch in the past? Maybe Jr has a cold? Maybe the manager thinks Jr is injured and isn't telling anybody? Maybe he's in the midst of a slump right now (so while he's likely to be succesfull in the long run, he's less likely to be sucessfull tonight)?

Those are the areas where "gut" comes into play and stats fall to the backseat. And that's where decision making gets interesting to me. How the manager makes those "gray area" decisions and avoids getting burned.
Perhaps I'm making a distinction you're not. For me, the word "gut" implies that the manager can't really defend it with a fact based explanation. I'd be fine with him choosing Castro because Junior is depressed, midly hurt, in a bad mood, etc. There's a logic to that decision which supports the notion that Junior is as likely to succeed as his stats would suggest. However, I think sometimes managers simply have a "gut" feeling and make decisions this way. That scares me. Of course, other times I imagine that they use the word "gut" becaues they don't want to get in to the specifics, be it for privacy or competetive reasons. The manager may not want to make Junior look bad by saying "I didn't hit him because he had a tummy ache" or because "he was preoccupied thinking about his son's new girlfriend", even if that was the real reason. I think this kind of thing happens a lot more than we, as uninformed, realize.

We like to think of players as machines with certain reliable qualities (X player is a .285 hitter). As you point out, there's a whole lot more going on. The real problem for fans is knowing when your manager is really an idiot, and when he's simply not sharing all the facts. Hopefully, time (and outcome) bears out which is which. I believe that we often hold the outcomes against managers too often, and credit them too often as well. Did Joe Torre really deserve to be fired from the Cardinals? Is he a significantly better decision maker now than he was 12 years ago? How about Larry Brown?

In any event, it's a great topic. Kudos for bringing it up!

11. ## Re: Decision Making

Perhaps I'm making a distinction you're not. For me, the word "gut" implies that the manager can't really defend it with a fact based explanation. I'd be fine with him choosing Castro because Junior is depressed, midly hurt, in a bad mood, etc. There's a logic to that decision which supports the notion that Junior is as likely to succeed as his stats would suggest. However, I think sometimes managers simply have a "gut" feeling and make decisions this way. That scares me. Of course, other times I imagine that they use the word "gut" becaues they don't want to get in to the specifics, be it for privacy or competetive reasons. The manager may not want to make Junior look bad by saying "I didn't hit him because he had a tummy ache" or because "he was preoccupied thinking about his son's new girlfriend", even if that was the real reason. I think this kind of thing happens a lot more than we, as uninformed, realize.
Thats why I posted my ramblings...you are helping me sort some things out I've been thinking about today. You are dead on. There's a difference between factoring in "non-tangiables" and some sort of manager voodoo tea-leaf reading. Great insight.

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