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Friday, September 28, 2012

Littlefield: MLB Triple Crown: No Complex Math Required

Hep up Ishirō Honda estate! I got dibs on “Octo-Crown vs. Godzilla”!

Aspiring Triple Crown winners do not have to lead their leagues in slugging percentage, or on-base-plus-slugging-percentage, or in total bases, or in adjusted batting wins, or in any other category requiring the use of calculus.

For homeruns and runs batted in, you only need be able to count. To determine batting average, you need division, but determining batting averages is how lots of us learned how to do division, so that’s okay.

The other stuff is fine for the sort of baseball fans who are real or frustrated accountants…the sort of baseball fans likely to miss a double play on the field because they’re tapping away on something electronic in order to determine the value of the potential double play to the pitcher’s win probability added coefficient on Sundays when the second baseman is hung over…just in case that double play does happen. Because where would you be at the next gathering of Sabermetricians if you didn’t have that figure at your fingertips?

Where you’d be…where you are, if you’re me…is in a simpler place. That’s why I’m happy that baseball’s triple crown hasn’t undergone a metamorphosis into the quintuple crown or the octo-crown or some other mutation of the bottom lines labeled batting average, runs batted in, and homeruns. Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but I won’t say I’m sorry for my bias, any more than I’ll apologize for ignoring the sushi bar at the ballpark on my way to buy peanuts and crackerjack.

Repoz Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:40 PM | 65 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, sabermetrics

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   1. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:12 PM (#4248411)
Aspiring Triple Crown winners do not have to lead their leagues in slugging percentage, or on-base-plus-slugging-percentage, or in total bases, or in adjusted batting wins, or in any other category requiring the use of calculus.


Take that, nerds!
   2. DKDC Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:22 PM (#4248419)
I, for one, did not have the math tools to calculate total bases until I took differential equations (or was it linear algebra?) in college.
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:31 PM (#4248425)
The other stuff is fine for the sort of baseball fans who are real or frustrated accountants…the sort of baseball fans likely to miss a double play on the field because they’re tapping away on something electronic in order to determine the value of the potential double play to the pitcher’s win probability added coefficient on Sundays when the second baseman is hung over…just in case that double play does happen. Because where would you be at the next gathering of Sabermetricians if you didn’t have that figure at your fingertips?


I cannot state how angry these type of comments make me. I absolutely guarantee beyond any doubt, that the "seam heads" are the ones watching the game more intently than the fans who don't bother to know this crap. (not to mention the fact that the trivial nonsense he is talking about, is just that trivial, and not something that anyone would ever bother looking up except the tv announcers, who's job it is to watch every pitch somewhat intently)
   4. NattyBoh Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:42 PM (#4248433)
I used to love guys like this in my Strat-O-Matic leagues, except that they almost always sucked and ended up quitting. Then I'd have to recruit new managers to take over a bad team.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:52 PM (#4248439)
This pretty much sums up America:

It's so simple, an idiot can understand it ... so it must be the right way!
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:55 PM (#4248442)
Where you’d be…where you are, if you’re me…is in a simpler place. That’s why I’m happy that baseball’s triple crown hasn’t undergone a metamorphosis into the quintuple crown or the octo-crown or some other mutation of the bottom lines labeled batting average, runs batted in, and homeruns. Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but I won’t say I’m sorry for my bias, any more than I’ll apologize for ignoring the sushi bar at the ballpark on my way to buy peanuts and crackerjack.



To be honest, there is the 'sabermetric' triple crown, although nobody has formally acknowledged the categories it takes to win. (I argue for total bases, obp and slugging....others might look at wpa, war, runs created etc..) so no one has really come up with a better or more accurate overall stat for a player.

The drawback with the triple crown is how much rbi/homeruns are connected. Generally speaking by default, if you lead the league in homeruns, you are going to be top 5 or 10 in rbi.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 06:58 PM (#4248446)
This pretty much sums up America:

It's so simple, an idiot can understand it ... so it must be the right way!


To me, I think what sums it up is "everything I need to know about a subject, I knew when I was five years old" mentality.

The number of people I know who still swear by things they learned while school aged, is hilarious. In every subject that I can think of, there is at least a debateable falsehood that is being clinged on because that is what they learned when they were younger(and it's not a knock against things you learn when you were younger, as they are by necessity presented in the simplest format and designed for you to later on in life learn more about it)
   8. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: September 28, 2012 at 07:25 PM (#4248472)
If Adam Dunn can win the home run title, he'll have the three true outcomes triple crown, which doesn't even involve division.
   9. depletion Posted: September 28, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4248474)
It's so simple, an idiot can understand it ... so it must be the right way!

For every complex problem there is a solution which is straightforward, simple, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken

I wish the writer would take note that calculus is not used in any baseball analysis. Has anyone here ever encountered calculus in a baseball paper? Statistics usually implies the use of empirically derived probabilities, not probabilities based on integration and differentiation.
If I'm wrong, please direct me to the calculus paper, as I'd like to read it.
   10. haven Posted: September 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM (#4248478)
Based on his tenure in Pittsburgh I thought that article was going to be by David Littlefield.
   11. Greg K Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:23 PM (#4248521)
The number of people I know who still swear by things they learned while school aged, is hilarious. In every subject that I can think of, there is at least a debateable falsehood that is being clinged on because that is what they learned when they were younger(and it's not a knock against things you learn when you were younger, as they are by necessity presented in the simplest format and designed for you to later on in life learn more about it)

Speaking purely from a history perspective this is how I see the term "revisionist history", which in popular parlance is a bad thing, but is pretty much what every historian does. If you're not revising current understandings of history then why are you writing? The idea that we already know what happened in the past, so any challenge to that interpretation is by definition faulty seems similar to what you're describing.

Apologies for the tangent, but whenever anyone uses the phrase "that's revisionist history" I get a bit of a bee in my bonnet, so I thought best to have a mini rant here rather than when that happens so as not to single an individual out.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:37 PM (#4248530)
Speaking purely from a history perspective this is how I see the term "revisionist history", which in popular parlance is a bad thing, but is pretty much what every historian does. If you're not revising current understandings of history then why are you writing? The idea that we already know what happened in the past, so any challenge to that interpretation is by definition faulty seems similar to what you're describing.


Definitely one of the points I'm including (The perception of Edison as taught in school vs what you learn later on, or the perception of Grant and the many re-interpretations his legacy has faced etc. )
   13. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:49 PM (#4248544)
Has anyone here ever encountered calculus in a baseball paper?


The physics of baseball uses calculus. I remember in a math modeling competition a few years ago, one of the choices was to find the sweet spot on a bat. I imagine calculus would be involved in that.

In terms of baseball statistics, projections, ect., though, which is the topic on hand, no. Calculus is not involved. Statistics are based on discrete events: at bats, pitches, plays in the field. Calculus has no place in baseball statistics.
   14. Booey Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:50 PM (#4248545)
If Adam Dunn can win the home run title, he'll have the three true outcomes triple crown, which doesn't even involve division.


That's actually a pretty rare feat and a pretty impressive list. Several of the guys I would've suspected to have done it - Foxx, Killebrew, McGwire, Thome - never did. Since the start of the lively ball era:

1985 - Dale Murphy
1983 - Mike Schmidt
1958 - Mickey Mantle
1930 - Hack Wilson
1928 - Babe Ruth
1927 - Babe Ruth
1924 - Babe Ruth
1923 - Babe Ruth
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:57 PM (#4248549)
That's actually a pretty rare feat and a pretty impressive list. Several of the guys I would've suspected to have done it - Foxx, Killebrew, McGwire, Thome - never did. Since the start of the lively ball era:

1985 - Dale Murphy
1983 - Mike Schmidt
1958 - Mickey Mantle
1930 - Hack Wilson
1928 - Babe Ruth
1927 - Babe Ruth
1924 - Babe Ruth
1923 - Babe Ruth


Impressive company, it's one of those lists that make you say "this guy must be pretty good" then you realize that it's also a list that ultimately doesn't necessarily mean how good a player really is.
   16. AT-AT at bat@AT&T Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM (#4248552)
above all the raw statistics, there should be a jokester crown !
for the players who keep the game fun and motivate the teammates, who are, in most cases, very depressive, because baseball is just about money and not geeting caught doing PED´s !

let´s hear it for the non-robots, the anti-kemps and anti-cabreras !
swisher, you are worth your weight in gold, or a world series ring... or just wear that helmet with the bells !

swisher for world series MVP ! -i predict-
   17. Booey Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:04 PM (#4248553)
Impressive company, it's one of those lists that make you say "this guy must be pretty good" then you realize that it's also a list that ultimately doesn't necessarily mean how good a player really is.


Exactly. It obviously doesn't really say much about how great the players season was (especially if Dunn ends up getting there). I just thought it was interesting how uncommon it's been and how great all the players were at the time they did it. MVP candidates, all.
   18. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:16 PM (#4248562)
Calculus has no place in baseball statistics.


And now we know why you're bitter.
   19. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:26 PM (#4248570)
Impressive company, it's one of those lists that make you say "this guy must be pretty good" then you realize that it's also a list that ultimately doesn't necessarily mean how good a player really is.


If you lead the league in HR and BB, it's hard to not be pretty good. Dunn is trying his best to violate this, but even he is pretty good.
   20. Squash Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4248577)
I don't think we can get away from the American lean toward anti-intellectualism though - not exactly a recent phenomenon (though it's gotten worse). I speculate it's because intellectualism in a way runs counter to the American Dream - we see smarts as god-given and allow opportunities that are unattainable if you don't just got 'em, which runs counter to the idea that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become anything if they durn well want to. Advanced stats seem complicated and involve math most people haven't taken. What if they try to figure advanced stats out but can't? I think a lot of people see that as a barrier, that they're being priced out intellectually by something that is supposed to be very universally American and conceptually simple (hit the ball, run). That's unacceptable - therefore the stats must be bad. Of course, you don't have to know how the stats work under the hood to enjoy them - I don't know how WAR or BRAR are calculated, but I can still enjoy their finished forms.

You also get the Joe Morgan phenomenon where he's supposed to be an expert, dammit, he waited a long time to be considered an expert and now that he is one you're going to tell him he isn't actually an expert after all? Screw you! (Morgan is an expert of course, just not about statistical matters.) Throw in a good dash of "when I was a boy" and you get the repeated articles like this with all the same silly accusations and purported pride at not knowing things.
   21. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:41 PM (#4248581)
(Morgan is an expert of course, just not about statistical matters.)


Which is so freaking weird considering he drew roughly a jillion walks, stole bases with great success, won Gold Gloves, etc.
   22. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4248590)
What irritates me is that idiotic tripe like this actually makes part of me root for Cabrera *not* to win the triple crown, when I have nothing actually against Cabrera and I otherwise consider the triple crown to be a fun and interesting feat.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4248591)
Speaking purely from a history perspective this is how I see the term "revisionist history", which in popular parlance is a bad thing, but is pretty much what every historian does. If you're not revising current understandings of history then why are you writing?


But there should be a phrase for the type of thing where a guy tries to turn current understanding completely on its head, as differentiated from the guy that is just fleshing out an old story with new evidence, or identifying new trends, or whatever.
   24. bunyon Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:50 PM (#4248592)
Anti-intellectualism isn't American, it's human. Go visit some of these other countries we like to laud. They're just as many idiots there as there are here, often more.


With that said, articles like this do piss me off. I think it would be awesome if Cabrera wins the triple crown. It's awesome, that is all that need be said. It doesn't mean much and certainly doesn't make him better than Trout or more valuable than he'd be if some other guy had 1 more RBI. This seems to be an entirely ginned up war.
   25. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4248595)
Advanced stats seem complicated and involve math most people haven't taken.


But OBP and SLG involve exactly the same kind of math as batting average.

I think a lot of people see that as a barrier, that they're being priced out intellectually by something that is supposed to be very universally American and conceptually simple (hit the ball, run).


Of course, if you have any shred of intellectual curiosity at all, it stopped being that conceptually simple the first time you heard somebody yell "a walk's as good as a hit" at a little league game.

I understand some of the anti-sabrmetric backlash on a certain level, but I've never understood people who claim to like baseball but act like they don't like to think about what wins baseball games.
   26. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4248596)
To be honest, there is the 'sabermetric' triple crown, although nobody has formally acknowledged the categories it takes to win. (I argue for total bases, obp and slugging....others might look at wpa, war, runs created etc..)


Clearly, the first two legs of the Sabermetric Triple Crown are BBref.com WAR and Fangraphs WAR.
   27. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4248597)
Go visit some of these other countries we like to laud. They're just as many idiots there as there are here, often more.


The difference is that those foreign idiots aren't celebrated for their idiocy.
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:58 PM (#4248603)
With that said, articles like this do piss me off. I think it would be awesome if Cabrera wins the triple crown. It's awesome, that is all that need be said. It doesn't mean much and certainly doesn't make him better than Trout or more valuable than he'd be if some other guy had 1 more RBI. This seems to be an entirely ginned up war.


Agreed 100%.

Go visit some of these other countries we like to laud. They're just as many idiots there as there are here, often more.


I'll take my ignorant old U.S.A. over any of those countries, not sure why anyone would want to laud other countries except for a specific feature that they might be out performing the U.S.A. in, overall, I'll go with the U.S.(sorry Canada, wanted to include you in it, but your French requirement is about as silly as what Republicans are proposing, that and the fact that the Queen could actually figure into your politics.)
   29. PreservedFish Posted: September 28, 2012 at 10:11 PM (#4248615)
Do nerds get beat up in schools in other countries? I have no idea. But I have a feeling that intellectual achievement and curiosity is not valued equally everywhere.
   30. Squash Posted: September 28, 2012 at 10:12 PM (#4248617)
I'll take our ignorant USA over any of those other countries as well, but no one ever said any other country was better than ours. I like it here and I ain't moving even if Nate Silver's 20% scenario comes through.
   31. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 10:19 PM (#4248624)
Anti-intellectualism isn't American, it's human

and old as hell

"put down that abacus and papyrus and watch a game sometime"
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4248630)
Do nerds get beat up in schools in other countries? I have no idea. But I have a feeling that intellectual achievement and curiosity is not valued equally everywhere.


I imagine other countries are really restrictive on individualism and it's hard to pick out the nerds. Factor in that many schools are probably run like a police state, and the opportunity to beat up the nerds isn't as easy. Mind you if some people have their way, the U.S. public schools will all be the same way, and some of that pride of individuality will be lost.
   33. rlc Posted: September 28, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4248636)

If Adam Dunn can win the home run title, he'll have the three true outcomes triple crown, which doesn't even involve division.


That's actually a pretty rare feat and a pretty impressive list. Several of the guys I would've suspected to have done it - Foxx, Killebrew, McGwire, Thome - never did. Since the start of the lively ball era:

1985 - Dale Murphy
1983 - Mike Schmidt
1958 - Mickey Mantle
1930 - Hack Wilson
1928 - Babe Ruth
1927 - Babe Ruth
1924 - Babe Ruth
1923 - Babe Ruth


Rarer than you say - Dunn has sewn up the MLB titles in two of the three outcomes, and barring a late surge by Ryan Braun, leading the AL in HRs would also make him the MLB leader. Only Ruth ('23, '24, '27) won the MLB TTO Triple Crown.
   34. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: September 28, 2012 at 11:41 PM (#4248690)
All these guys that want Cabrera to get the MVP need to get their head out of the stats and watch a game! Once they get out of their mother's basement they might realize that things like baserunning and defense help win baseball games! But they are too busy with their RBI spreadsheets to actually watch a ballgame.
   35. Ryan Lind Posted: September 29, 2012 at 12:01 AM (#4248703)
IT is a real sad state of affairs that a writer would consider basic arithmetic as foreign to the common man as calculus.

sorry Canada, wanted to include you in it, but your French requirement is about as silly as what Republicans are proposing, that and the fact that the Queen could actually figure into your politics.


Red herrings, the both.
   36. Cooper Nielson Posted: September 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM (#4248704)
To determine batting average, you need division, but determining batting averages is how lots of us learned how to do division, so that’s okay.

If you're given hits and at-bats, this is true. However, as Joe Posnanski pointed out in a column a while back, the "counting" of hits and at-bats is far from simple. You have to consider walks and HBP, sacrifice flies and bunts, reached on error (requires scorer's discretion), etc.

So batting average is actually a more difficult number to generate and explain than OBP. The only problems with OBP as a pure "percentage of times he reached base" stat, I think, are that it doesn't consider sacrifice bunts to be plate appearances and it doesn't consider ROE as a time on base. Otherwise you could simply sit at the game and "count," which obviously would make you a better fan than those of us who can do math beyond division.
   37. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: September 29, 2012 at 04:08 AM (#4248753)
Calculus is useful for at least one sabermetric type of thing... determining the relative value of OBP and SLG in context. That is, if you have a team of .270/.330/.400 hitters, how much is 1 point of OBP versus 1 point of SLG worth in that context? Taking this derivative in different run environments is informative, although I don't remember the information and am not sure I've seen a paper here. (You could also apply it in a similar fashion to pitcher quality translating into ERA or pitcher ERA translating into wins... diminishing marginal returns from not allowing runs and all that.)

This is a dumb article. The reason it's dumb is that you really don't need numbers at all to see that Trout has Cabrera covered. In fact, the triple crown numbers just obscure the situation, which is:

-- Trout is almost as good a hitter as Cabrera.
-- Trout obviously has massive, massive advantages in baserunning and defense.

Quite frankly, that's all you need. You can make an argument for Cabrera if you reallllly emphasize playing time and seniority = leadership or something, but the argument for Trout over Cabrera is just fine as a baseball argument, without referring to any of these evil numbers.
   38. AJMcCringleberry Posted: September 29, 2012 at 07:51 AM (#4248761)
If total bases is too complicated for you I don't really care about your opinion.

All these guys that want Cabrera to get the MVP need to get their head out of the stats and watch a game! Once they get out of their mother's basement they might realize that things like baserunning and defense help win baseball games! But they are too busy with their RBI spreadsheets to actually watch a ballgame.

Yeah. One of the idiots on MLB Network said Cabrera is his choice because he has more RBI + RS and that baseball is all about runs. If only there was a way to use defense to stop runs!
   39. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: September 29, 2012 at 08:11 AM (#4248763)
I don't think we can get away from the American lean toward anti-intellectualism though - not exactly a recent phenomenon (though it's gotten worse).

Bullpucky. 21st-century America is easily the smartest nation in the history of the planet, and the fact that some of us occasionally pursue hobbies you don't like or vote for politicians you don't like doesn't change that.

(sorry Canada, wanted to include you in it, but your French requirement is about as silly as what Republicans are proposing,

There's nothing that can't be blamed on Republicans!

that and the fact that the Queen could actually figure into your politics.)

Ahem.
   40. Greg K Posted: September 29, 2012 at 08:16 AM (#4248765)
But there should be a phrase for the type of thing where a guy tries to turn current understanding completely on its head, as differentiated from the guy that is just fleshing out an old story with new evidence, or identifying new trends, or whatever.

EDIT: Totally didn't read your post properly!

I do agree. In some sense every historian is "revising" previous work (otherwise he/she's not really a historian, just summarizing a bunch of stuff...ie. Good Will Hunting dude). But obviously there are the different degrees you mention. In my particular field (1620s politics) there is a school of historians specifically called "The Revisionists" who challenged traditional perceptions in the 1980s. Their findings have since been revised by later groups of historians who argue that they perhaps over-stated some things in their otherwise necessary revisions.

So while all historians are in some sense revisionist, you correctly point out that the term "Revisionist History" can have meaning as a particular kind of, or degree of, re-assessment.

As a broadly negative term that people use when they mean "poor history" it's a bit misleading I think.
   41. Greg K Posted: September 29, 2012 at 08:40 AM (#4248771)
that and the fact that the Queen could actually figure into your politics.)

Ahem.

It's been a while so I'm fuzzy on the details (if I ever knew them at all), but didn't the Governor General, as Queen's representative, play a pretty important role in the 2008-2009 shenanigans?
   42. BDC Posted: September 29, 2012 at 09:13 AM (#4248773)
21st-century America is easily the smartest nation in the history of the planet

If that's true (and why not, standing on the shoulders of giants and all that), it's in very large part because of globalization and a worldwide information economy. Huge numbers of American scientists and engineers and academics are immigrants, and participate more and more in sharing knowledge across borders (instantly, via electronic media).

I have lived with Europeans my whole adult life. If there's one thing that distinguishes schools in Europe from those in America, on a huge-generalization level, it would be that US high schools are primarily social and community institutions. (Sports is a gigantic and, to Europeans, incomprehensible part of that phenomenon.) European secondary schools are places you go to study things. They have a much smaller role in the community, and their students specialize earlier in academic subjects, where their results are taken seriously and have strong professional consequences. I actually don't know which system is better. I work with lots of college students who aren't majoring in my field (unheard-of in Europe), and lots of them are thoughtful, well-rounded (if sometimes erratically informed) individuals. I don't get a sense that America is anti-intellectual as a whole. I think our anti-intellectuals are loud, and that Americans bend over backwards to adopt the "everyone's entitled to their opinion" and "everything's just a theory" way of thinking, which just encourages the loud idiots.

We are also prone to enormous, unsubstantiated, and firmly-held generalizations, like this post :)
   43. bunyon Posted: September 29, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4248781)
Douglas Adams was right; 42 is the answer.
   44. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: September 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4248789)
I'll take my ignorant old U.S.A. over any of those countries, not sure why anyone would want to laud other countries except for a specific feature that they might be out performing the U.S.A. in, overall, I'll go with the U.S.(sorry Canada, wanted to include you in it, but your French requirement is about as silly as what Republicans are proposing, that and the fact that the Queen could actually figure into your politics.)


Amen, CFB.....
   45. PreservedFish Posted: September 29, 2012 at 10:11 AM (#4248792)
As a broadly negative term that people use when they mean "poor history" it's a bit misleading I think.


I think that when that phrase is used today, it almost always carries an implied accusation of bias.
   46. Swedish Chef Posted: September 29, 2012 at 10:32 AM (#4248798)
I have lived with Europeans my whole adult life. If there's one thing that distinguishes schools in Europe from those in America, on a huge-generalization level, it would be that US high schools are primarily social and community institutions. (Sports is a gigantic and, to Europeans, incomprehensible part of that phenomenon.) European secondary schools are places you go to study things. They have a much smaller role in the community, and their students specialize earlier in academic subjects, where their results are taken seriously and have strong professional consequences. I actually don't know which system is better.

True as far as that goes, though the educational systems in Europe are little alike (though the Swedish is heavily influenced by the German). Let me just note that for many, secondary school isn't where you go to study, but where you go to learn a vocation, with just a couple of hours of basic academic subjects a week.

Also, strangely enough given that they're nonexistent at universities, sports are part of secondary schools in Sweden (and I bet other places), there are plenty of programs for athletes in various sports to choose from. so they get study credit for training, bet you aren't that jock-friendly even in the US.
   47. Tippecanoe Posted: September 29, 2012 at 10:51 AM (#4248807)
21st-century America is easily the smartest nation in the history of the planet


Depends on your definition of "smartest", so I would take exception to the term "easily". We don't have the highest literacy and a typical American has a lesser level of education than, say, the average Israeli, most of whom seem to have a PhD. Are we really "smarter", right now, than Japan or Sweden, Korea or Australia? And what 42 said.

If you want to look at it in terms of the overall advancement of human thought we'll be hard-pressed to match the good ol' Greeks of the 4th and 5th century BC. I'm also often struck by the breadth of intellectual achievement of the German-speaking world of the late 19th and early 20th century, when Berlin/Vienna led the world in music and philosophy while completely re-making physics, parts of mathematics (e.g. set theory),chemistry,engineering, and psychology.
   48. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 29, 2012 at 11:08 AM (#4248814)
...they get study credit for training, bet you aren't that jock-friendly even in the US.


Not until our jocks get to college.
   49. Swedish Chef Posted: September 29, 2012 at 11:15 AM (#4248817)
We don't have the highest literacy and a typical American has a lesser level of education than, say, the average Israeli, most of whom seem to have a PhD. Are we really "smarter", right now, than Japan or Sweden, Korea or Australia?

Yes, because the cream of the crop of Swedish PhDs leave for American universities where they get paid and where they don't have to slog for decades to get recognized with anything more than short-term contracts. Same story for engineers.

And Australia, really?
   50. Swedish Chef Posted: September 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4248818)
when Berlin/Vienna led the world in music and philosophy while completely re-making physics, parts of mathematics (e.g. set theory),chemistry,engineering, and psychology.

They get -100 points for Freud.
   51. bunyon Posted: September 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM (#4248822)
I'd just like to say that I wasn't trying to say, in my first post above, that the US is smarter than everywhere else - as described, there are lots of great countries with smart folks. I was just trying to say that anti-intellectualism isn't some birthright of Americans.

I've worked with nerds/geeks from all over the world. Each has reported being picked on for it, to varying degrees, as they grew up. Nations certainly have their personalities, but I would argue that being human trumps all that. People are people for good and bad. Of course, one thing people all think is that they and their situation, good and bad, is unique.
   52. Tippecanoe Posted: September 29, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4248857)
Yes, because the cream of the crop of Swedish PhDs leave for American universities where they get paid and where they don't have to slog for decades to get recognized with anything more than short-term contracts. Same story for engineers


OK, so would you define the 21st century USA as "the smartest country in the history of the planet" because its a place where smart people from who were educated elsewhere are able to make a living?

   53. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: September 29, 2012 at 02:48 PM (#4248918)
All these guys that want Cabrera to get the MVP need to get their head out of the stats and watch a game! Once they get out of their mother's basement they might realize that things like baserunning and defense help win baseball games! But they are too busy with their RBI spreadsheets to actually watch a ballgame.


Unless the guy with the narrative is the baserunning and defense guy, like Ichio vs Giambi in 2001, then it's the statheads with the hard on for the sluggardly slugger who don't appreciate the finer points of the game.
   54. CrosbyBird Posted: September 29, 2012 at 03:16 PM (#4248923)
OK, so would you define the 21st century USA as "the smartest country in the history of the planet" because its a place where smart people from who were educated elsewhere are able to make a living?

I would say that if the smartest people in the world tend to gravitate toward a particular country, then it would certainly be a factor in that country's relative smartness.

It seems likely that the 21st century US contains the largest number of ultra-smart people assembled in one country in the history of the world considering the combination of population size, number and prestige of universities, freedom of information, wealth, investment-friendly economy, and government (especially our huge military) spending in science and technology.

I might also make an argument that English, as the world's most robust and expansive language, allows for greater expression of intellect than any other language, but that's more speculative than the other factors. (Even if English isn't as good for learning basic math as some of the Asian languages.)

I'm not sure if that makes the US the smartest country in the world so much as the most intelligence-rich country in the world, which seems like a different thing. I'm not even sure what criteria you'd use for measuring how smart a country is. Of course, the idea of what exactly constitutes intelligence and whether/how it is measured will present their own difficulties in answering the former question.
   55. bjhanke Posted: September 29, 2012 at 11:57 PM (#4249121)
Well, let's see. The old, original, basic Runs Created formula, with its A, B and C parts, converts using algebra to OBP x SLG x AB. So, why not make those the sabermetric Triple Crown, OBP, SLG, AB? Get on base. Move baserunners along. Stay healthy and in the lineup. It's obviously not comprehensive, but at least this triple crown does combine to make something reasonably useful. The Triple Coronet (lesser things than the Crown components) would be GDP (lower is better), HBP, and Range Factor. Range Factor requires division, but so do OBP and SLG.

IMO, anti-intellectualism is a function of how much knowledge is available compared to how much anyone can learn in a lifetime. I took grad school Shakespeare from a tremendous professor, Lawrence J. Ross at Washington U. I remember one day, I went to visit him at home, and he was really down. I asked what had happened. He said that he had just realized that he did not have enough time to keep up with the scholarly material published about Shakespeare any more. There was just too much material going to press. About one author, granted that the author in question probably gets more words written about him than any other. It was kind of scary to think about, but a field that generates a lot of interest generates a lot of interpretations. I've read communist criticism of Shakespeare, and it works. You can, in fact, usefully analyze Shakespeare's plays using a framework of communist social class warfare. Obviously, Shakespeare was not a communist, but that's not my point. My point is that if you can do that with communism, think of all the other viewpoints you can take that will work. Even a dedicated top professor, who specialized in Shakespeare alone, just could not keep up any more. This was in the 1970s.

Well, it hasn't gotten any better over time, because we opposable-thumb primates are cursed with the ability to write, and then read what was written years and years ago. And it's scary, and it makes people hunger for simple solutions.

As for national intelligence, I read several years ago a study done on IQ tests. These things have flaws (like cultural biases), but they also have their uses. And it seems that the average IQ in American has been slowly creeping up over time. When I read the article, the claim was that the average was then 103. When IQ tests were first devised, the idea was for 100 to be average. I don't now what it is now. And it makes sense. My grandfather put himself through high school teaching grade school, and then put himself though college teaching high school (he also pitched town ball for money in the summers; apparently the pitchers got paid). You can't do that any more, but you could in the early 20th century. There wasn't nearly as much information to absorb before you could teach. My father told me that when he went to high school in the 1920s, they didn't use equations to do what we regard as simple algebra. They used ratios, which are much more limited, but which will do the simple high school algebra job.

Also, it's been a long time since I went to high school, but when I did that, Physical Education was mandatory. One class hour each and every day. You got academic credit for this. You didn't graduate if you didn't go to gym. Vanderbilt University required four semesters of Phys Ed for graduation, too. I don't know if this is still true. - Brock Hanke
   56. Greg K Posted: September 30, 2012 at 03:50 AM (#4249172)
Also, it's been a long time since I went to high school, but when I did that, Physical Education was mandatory. One class hour each and every day. You got academic credit for this. You didn't graduate if you didn't go to gym. Vanderbilt University required four semesters of Phys Ed for graduation, too. I don't know if this is still true. - Brock Hanke

Was true for me in high school (late 90s, early 00s), but not university.
   57. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: September 30, 2012 at 08:53 AM (#4249192)
I would say that if the smartest people in the world tend to gravitate toward a particular country, then it would certainly be a factor in that country's relative smartness.

Bingo. America's isn't the "best" or "smartest" country because Americans are inherently better/smarter people than everybody else (although you could make that argument); it's because the world's best and brightest come here to live better lives. Europeans, Asians, Africans and South Americans have been voting with their feet for two centuries: they want to live in a rich, powerful liberal democracy where they can pursue their dreams and make some money. Beats the hell out of some backwater run by a bunch of theocratic buttheads.

They say a good way to measure a man is by his enemies. Who are the people who claim to "hate" America? Thugs, dictators, and the ill-educated rabble imprisoned by them. And all of them -- from Hitler to Brezhnev to Gaddafi -- make the same mistake: they see our freedoms and assume we are decadent and weak, and thus easy pickings. Wrong.

Well, it hasn't gotten any better over time, because we opposable-thumb primates are cursed with the ability to write, and then read what was written years and years ago.

Tell me about it. I recently downloaded the (near-)entire runs of The Sporting News and Billboard Magazine, even though I know I'll never live long enough to read more than a small percentage of them (or listen to the tens of thousands of hours of old-time radio shows I have, as well). I wish I could push a button and just absorb all the knowledge through my pores or something.
   58. McCoy Posted: September 30, 2012 at 09:05 AM (#4249194)
Well, you could graduate without having enough PE credits. People who graduate early do it all the time.
   59. BDC Posted: September 30, 2012 at 09:41 AM (#4249206)
I might also make an argument that English, as the world's most robust and expansive language, allows for greater expression of intellect than any other language, but that's more speculative than the other factors

I'm enough of a linguistic universalist to make the obligatory case that there's nothing inherent to English that makes it a greater intellectual vehicle than any other language, even (let's say) Kusunda. But you point to important historical factors. English has borrowed vast numbers of words from other languages, and since the Second World War has lent on balance even more. It's the world's second language of choice, and dominates lots of global industries. As a result you really can say more things in English, and get access to more information, than you can in any world language since, perhaps, medieval Latin or Hellenistic Greek (when the world was smaller, and in any case you have to ignore half of it to make that claim). That's a very important dynamic.
   60. BDC Posted: September 30, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4249209)
for many, secondary school isn't where you go to study, but where you go to learn a vocation

That's a very important elaboration of my point, Chef. In the systems I know best (as an outsider), Britain and Germany, there's a well-developed two-track system of academic schools vs. technical schools (the latter often called "colleges," which of course doesn't mean "universities" as it would in the US).

And my impression is that the technical schools (I have nephews in Germany who attend them) are as focussed as the academic schools. You don't go to either to have the most wonderful years of your life in football, or band, or cheerleading. There are bunches of other institutions for teenage social life. As a result, there isn't this comprehensive American experience where everyone is bundled together until 16 (or, mostly) 18, and the academic side of high school is a small clique with its own geeky arrogance and its potential to humiliate outsiders who dangle a participle or can't compute a cosine. It's the latter scenario that breeds our anti-intellectualism, to a large extent, I think (and somewhat counter-intuitively).

Much vocational training in America has been shunted into community colleges, which are serious and focussed and often excellent at what they do, and on a whole lack the social superstructure that carries over to university for most Americans. People who come out of such schools (Penn College in Williamsport, PA is the one I know best) are smart, skilled, and often very intellectually curious; they get good basic academic courses in English and history and the like, and tend to be no longer anti-intellectual, if they started out being so.
   61. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: September 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4249232)
What? Secondary school was where I went to get drunk and get laid. I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in that. And we haven't even talked about college yet...
   62. BDC Posted: September 30, 2012 at 11:00 AM (#4249235)
Well, as to that, life is where most people go to get drunk and get laid. I'm not talking about immutable human nature here, just about school :)
   63. Davo Dozier Posted: September 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4249251)
To be honest, there is the 'sabermetric' triple crown, although nobody has formally acknowledged the categories it takes to win. (I argue for total bases, obp and slugging....others might look at wpa, war, runs created etc..)


I would say Offensive WAR and Defensive WAR have to be two of the legs, for sure.

Looking at the leaderboards, it looks like there have been only 3: Cal Ripken did that in 1991, Snuffy Strinweiss in 1945, and George Davis in 1905
   64. PreservedFish Posted: September 30, 2012 at 01:08 PM (#4249298)
OK, what is the single smartest city or other small area on earth? Off the top of my head, Boston/Cambridge and Silicon Valley would have decent claims.
   65. BDC Posted: September 30, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4249306)
what is the single smartest city

Wherever Tony LaRussa is currently living.

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