1 Total Update since July 14, 2011
almost 2 years ago Update 7 comments
Friends, I have taken a dive into the ocean of numbers, and in these numbers I have found the face of God.
On Thursday morning, I asked you to take a 31-item quiz in which you were given nothing but a minor-league player's name, and asked to guess whether that player was a pitcher or a position player. It's a binary test, so one would think that random guessing -- in other words, deciding your answers with coin flips -- would eventually shake out to an average of 15 or 16 correct answers per test, right?
I accepted the scores of 93 people. In reality, more than 93 people took the test, but I didn't want to rely on the data accumulated by Sporcle.com's system, since it would count the inevitable dawdler who was either completely screwing around or didn't put much thought into his or her answers. I wanted the scores of people who gave the quiz enough thought to tweet me their answers.
One might say, "well, of course you didn't get as many reports of low scores. People were too ashamed, or not proud enough, to send in their scores!" That doesn't appear to be the case. Below is a screenshot of the Sporcle data, which, while not as detailed, is more or less reflective.
In total, 58.06% of the questions answered were correct (in other words, like a coin coming up heads 58.06% of the time). That may not seem like much of a statistical deviation... unless it's 2,883 coin flips we're talking about. Indeed, 93 completed quizzes times 31 answers equals 2,883 total answers.
Now, it is possible that some quiz-takers were expertly familiar with the Rockies' minor league system (where these players play), but I received a few scores from folks who said, "I knew a couple of these names already." I was forced to discard these scores, and I sincerely thank these folks for being honest. That, for the most part, takes care of the "familiar names" issue to my satisfaction.
Well, enough of that. What have we learned here? What is the significance of these numbers? My sense is that if 73.2% of us are better-than-average guessers, and if we can guess correctly 58% of the time within a huge sample size if we're thoughtful bout it, there is something here. There is, to some extent, a "pitcher name."
Why? What does it mean? How could this possibly be? How could a baseball player's birth name have anything to do with whether he becomes a pitcher?
We aren't done with this. I feel as though we have just started. Thanks to you, we have found something genuinely confusing and wonderful.
almost 2 years ago Update 53 comments
It's quite possible that merely supposing what I am about to suppose qualifies me as a delusional moron, but if I will sin, I will sin boldly: I believe there are "pitcher names." This is the easiest way I can think of to explain what I'm talking about:
These are the names of four random minor leaguers who are currently playing A-ball, so you probably haven't heard of any of them. Three of them are position players. One is a pitcher. Which one?
I'll bury the answer, to allow you a second to think it over. I swear to God that I've observed the phenomenon, though. A guy named Bruce is usually, though not definitely, a pitcher, right? Same with guys named Chris, right? And once you get into Kris territory, well, all five major leaguers named Kris are pitchers. Anyway, of the four names above, the pitcher is Mr. Rogers, and if that was your hunch, perhaps you know what I'm talking about.
It's a phenomenon I have explored with our own Jeff Sullivan before, and I feel it's high time we attempt to examine it in an official capacity. Since I'm always begging for your help, you probably already guessed that I would attempt to enlist your services again, and you were right.
I have created a Sporcle quiz featuring the names of 31 players. Each one is a double-A player whose name you probably won't recognize. You are to guess whether each player is a batter or pitcher. You will have no information other than the player's name.
To guess that a player is a pitcher, type "pitcher." To guess that he's a position player, type "batter." When you're finished, please tell me your score. You can do so by commenting on this article or by tweeting me at @jon_bois; please do not do both (to avoid risk of a miscount or fire hazard).
Remember, this is in pursuit of science. If your score is high, tell me. If it's low, tell me. If it's in between, tell me.
Once I've received a healthy amount of data, I'll sort through it and try to figure out whether I'm an intrepid journalist who is on to something, or a stupid sack of crap with horrible ideas, at which point I'll update this StoryStream and share what I've learned.
Let's get to work, friends. These are the feats men build statues about.