Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, November 29, 2004

They Call This Good Baseball Coaching???

An article in the NYTimes magazine profiles several sports academies for young athletes. Most of the article highlights the phenomenally high cost of such programmes. The high costs seem quite consistent with tournament theory in economics: if you hold out a very big prize for the winners (in this case, making it to the big leagues in any major sport), people will be more likely to put forth an extra effort (and pay extra money) to win that prize. It should not be surprising that people respond to incentives.

I wonder how successful at least one of these academies is going to be, though. Its coaches are teaching their young baseball students not only that it is good to make outs, but also how to do it!

Out at the ball field, I watched a four-hour practice devoted to ''situations.'' ''Runner on third base, one out, infield drawn in -- what do you do?'' Bolek asked. Tommy was the first to answer. ''You hit a fly ball.'' ''Right,'' the coach said. For the next 30 minutes, hitters stood in against pitching from an assistant coach and practiced taking the kind of swing that would produce an outfield fly ball. When the infielders moved back, they practiced hitting ground balls to score the runner. They worked on sacrifice bunts and on hitting ground balls to the right side of second base to move runners from second base to third base. .... The coaching at IMG is also, undeniably, first rate.

Any general manager who has an inkling of the content of Moneyball will not want to sign kids who think it is good to make outs. Young players should be taught to get hits and take walks and avoid making outs! Sabremetrics has a long way to go, I guess, before it affects many of the people still doing the training and coaching. Too bad.
(thanks to John H. for the pointer)
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