Sports

Henry Aaron and the Lucas Critique

by on April 12, 2014 at 6:57 am in Economics, Sports | Permalink

No, not the Henry Aaron at the Brookings Institution.  I mean what the ten year old Tyler Cowen would have called “the real Henry Aaron.”  Nate Silver writes:

What if Aaron had never hit a home run? What if those 755 round-trippers had fallen for base hits instead? (If we’re trying to isolate the effect of his power, that seems like the fairer way to do it, instead of turning them into popups or something.) Would he still be a Hall of Famer?

If all of his homers had been singles, Aaron would still have his 3,771 hits. Instead of being the second-best home-run hitter of all time, he’d be the third-best singles hitter of all time, after Ty Cobb and Pete Rose. His RBI total would have gone way down; based on the number of runs that Aaron knocked in on home runs and singles throughout his career, I estimate that he’d have 1,232 of them rather than 2,297. But 1,232 isn’t a shabby total; it would rank Aaron 141st all time, in the general vicinity of Derek Jeter, Edgar Martinez and George Sisler. He’d still be a lifetime .305 hitter and have a .374 on-base average.

OK, here is where Lucas comes in.  If Hank Aaron did not carry significant home run potential to the plate, he would have seen a lot more blazing fastballs, pitchers’ “best stuff,” and so on.  Why not challenge the hitter and try to blow it by him if all you are risking is a single up the middle?  As it was, pitchers often threw Aaron a variety of slower curves and off-speed junk, stuff he might grab a piece of with the bat but would have a harder time drilling straight over the fence.

And thus a homer-less version of Aaron probably would have had a harder time making contact at all.  And he certainly would have had many fewer walks.  But yet, with the amazing wrists he had…pitchers were afraid of him.

It is funny how the Lucas critique went from one of the most underrated ideas in economics (pre-Lucas), to one of the most overrated ideas (1980s-early 1990s), and now it is back as one of the most underrated ideas again.  If we vary one policy or one element of a calculation or algorithm, other individuals will respond strategically.

Addendum: Scott Sumner adds comment.

Alabama Texas fact of the day

by on April 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm in Education, Sports | Permalink

 ”Revenues derived from college athletics is greater than the aggregate revenues of the NBA and the NHL,” said Marc Edelman, an associate professor at City University of New York who specializes in sports and antitrust law. He also noted that Alabama’s athletic revenues last year, which totaled $143 million, exceeded those of all 30 NHL teams and 25 of the 30 NBA teams.

Texas is the largest athletic department, earning more than $165 million last year in revenue — with $109 million coming from football, according to Education Department data. The university netted $27 million after expenses.

Other major programs such as Florida ($129 million), Ohio State ($123 million), Michigan ($122 million), Southern California ($97 million) and Oregon ($81 million) also are grossing massive dollars.

Those numbers of course are not counting the fundraising value of collegiate athletics.  There is more here, via Michael Makowsky.

Here is our previous post on higher education and athletics.

From 2004 to 2011, community colleges’ inflation-adjusted educational spending — on instruction, public service and academic support — declined, while their athletic spending increased 35 percent per athlete, the report said. Overall spending per student grew 2.6 percent.

Inflation-adjusted athletic spending also increased, by 24.8 percent, at public four-year colleges in all divisions in those years, while spending on instruction and academic support remained nearly flat, and public service and research expenditures declined, the report said. Their overall spending per student grew 1.6 percent.

The fastest growth in athletic spending was at Division III schools without football programs, where median inflation-adjusted spending for each student-athlete more than doubled from 2004 to 2012.

There is more here, by Tamar Lewin, interesting throughout.

I was intrigued by the new paper by Adam Leive, called “Dying to Win? Olympic Gold Medals and Longevity.”  The main results are these:

This paper investigates how status affects health by comparing mortality between Gold medalists in Olympic Track and Field and other finalists. Due to the nature of Olympic competition, analyzing performance on a single day provides a way to cut through potential endogeneity between status and health. I first document that an athlete’s longevity is affected by whether he wins or loses and then detail mechanisms driving the results. Winning on a team confers a survival advantage, with evidence that higher mortality among losers may be due to poor performance relative to one’s teammates. However, winning an individual event is associated with an earlier death. By analyzing the best performances of each athlete before the Olympics, I demonstrate that an athlete’s performance relative to his expectations partly explains the earlier death of winners in individual events: on average, Olympic Gold medalists expected to win, but losers exceeded their expectations. Conversely, athletes considered “favorites” but who fail to win die earlier than other athletes who also lost. My results are robust to estimating a range of parametric and semi-parametric survival models that make different assumptions about unobserved heterogeneity. My central estimates imply lifespan differentials of a year or more between winners and losers. The findings point to the importance of expectations, relative performance, surprise, and disappointment in affecting health, which are not highlighted by standard models of health capital, but are consistent with reference-dependent utility. I also discuss potential implications for employment contracts in terms of a trade-off between ex post health and ex ante incentives for productivity.

The paper is here, and for the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The bottom line seems to be this:

By using cutting-edge motion-capture technology, we have been able to precisely break down and analyse specific motion patterns in male dancing that seem to influence women’s perceptions of dance quality. We find that the variability and amplitude of movements in the central body regions (head, neck and trunk) and speed of the right knee movements are especially important in signalling dance quality. A ‘good’ dancer thus displays larger and more variable movements in relation to bending and twisting movements of their head/neck and torso, and faster bending and twisting movements of their right knee. As 80 per cent of individuals are right-footed, greater movements of the right knee in comparison with the left are perhaps to be expected. In comparative research, there is extensive literature on the signalling capacities of movement…Researchers have suggested that females prefer vigorous and skilled males; such cues are derived from male motor performance that provides a signal of his physical condition.
The paper is here (pdf), via Samir Varma.

The ski holiday company that is offering to pay parents’ fines for taking children out of school to go skiing has received tremendous support from parents since the promotion went viral.

Lee Quince, the owner of Bedford-based MountainBase, which sells holidays to Morzine in the French Alps, said: “90 per cent of the people who have got in touch have been supportive of what we’re doing.”

It was a fortnight ago an advert called ‘Are Schools in the UK taking the PISTE?’ ran, claiming that the company would pay any local authority fines parents received for taking their children out of school if they booked a holiday in March or April. But it wasn’t until last week the advert was picked up by the national press, reigniting a long running debate about the cost of holidays out of term time.

Mr Quince has admitted his company’s deal encourages parents to break the law, but said he has received a lot of support for the advert.

The company claims it has no choice but to put its prices up by almost 50 per cent during the peak season, which it claims is unfair on customers.

There is more here.

You will find it here.

Here is a piece on economic data.  What it says is fine, but it won’t interest me.  I wished this piece on hockey goalies had been longer and more analytic.  The same is true for this piece on corporations hoarding cash, which also could use more context.  Maybe it is I rather than they who is misjudging the market, but to me these are “tweener” pieces, too superficial for smart and informed readers, yet on topics which are too abstruse for the more casual readers.  I want something more like the very good Bill Simmons analytic pieces on Grantland, with jokes too, and densely packed narrative, yet applied to a much broader range of topics.  Barring that, I am happy to read one very good sentence or two on a topic.

Here is a piece on whether guessing makes sense on the new SAT.  It is fine but presents material already covered in places such as NYT.

Here is Silver’s introductory essay as to what they are about.  It is too sprawling and evinces a greater affiliation to rigor with data analysis than to rigor with philosophy of science or for that matter rigor with rhetoric.

I have long been a fan of Nate Silver, but so far I don’t think this is working.

At the Olympics if you want to protest a decision, you must have cash:

The reason that Mathieu — and many other coaches across most Olympic sports — make certain they always have a specific amount of cash on hand is that if they want to protest an official decision during competition, they need more than just a strong opinion and an angry yell.

They also need money.

…Depending on the sport, the fee varies: for luge, it is 50 euros (about $67). Cross-country skiing, like snowboard and Alpine skiing, demands 100 Swiss francs (about $112) but stipulates that all protests must be submitted in English. Bobsled and skeleton are among the most expensive: they require a deposit of 100 euros before any protest will even be considered. If multiple countries want to make a similar protest, sharing the tab is allowed.

Hat tip to the excellent PriorProbability who also points out that if your protest is successful you get your money back so these payments are also protest bets.

That’s hard to say, but a number of different models would predict that effect over time, as opportunities spread to a greater number of potential players.  Here is a good article from Scott Cacciola:

For a growing number of fathers and sons, the N.B.A. is a family business. This season, 19 second-generation players have appeared in games — a total that represents 4.2 percent of the league, and is nearly twice as many players as a decade ago.

Consider that three second-generation players were selected to participate in Sunday night’s All-Star Game here: Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Bryant, voted in by the fans, will not play because of a knee injury.)

Even more progeny are on the way. Two of this country’s top college players — Andrew Wiggins, a freshman at Kansas, and Jabari Parker, a freshman at Duke — are sons of former N.B.A. players. Both are expected to be lottery picks whenever they decide to make themselves eligible for the draft.

Players and coaches cite several factors in the rise of second-generation players, who tend to benefit from genetics (it helps to be tall) and from early access to top-notch instruction. Steve Kerr, a former guard and front-office executive, likened the setting to being immersed in a “basketball think tank” from childhood.

From a 2012 report:

The Satellite TV Providers industry is in the midst of a revolution, supplying popular family shows, news, movies, sports, documentaries and other products to a growing swarm of eager subscribers willing to pay for in-home entertainment. For example, the introduction of high-definition (HD) TV vastly improved the quality of shows and attracted subscribers even as disposable income dropped during the Great Recession. “In addition to a dramatically improved reputation for quality, new networks, channel offerings and bonus features are strengthening the industry’s appeal to consumers,” says IBISWorld industry analyst Doug Kelly. Higher spending on industry services is anticipated to result in 5.6% annualized revenue growth to $41.4 billion in the five years to 2012. This climb includes an expected 3.8% increase in 2012 as more consumers continue subscribing to satellite TV…

Over the next five years, the industry will face escalating competition from other media.

Have I mentioned Hulu TV and YouTube and Netflix, especially the non-broadband requiring discs?  How about reading the internet?  How about using your iPad to watch downloaded movies and TV shows?  New social media for sharing?  “Let them download somewhere else”?  There is a reason why “cable” and “cord cutting” appear so frequently in the same sentence.

There is no big deal with Comcast acquiring Time Warner, also because the two companies serve separate districts.  If anything the new consolidated entity will have stronger monopsony power over programs and can bid their prices down.  (Isn’t ESPN with its sports contracts a monopoly of sorts, just as the sports leagues are?)  We all know that monopolists facing lower marginal costs tend to lower price (contrary to Tim Wu), even if not by as much as we might like.  Krugman worries that “This would, in turn, make it even harder for potential competitors to enter markets served by ComcastTimeWarner, strengthening its monopoly position.”  A better sentence would have been “No five year period has so increased the contestability of the cable sector than the last five years in the United States.”

One might also add that if ComcastTimeWarner can bid down prices on programs, this need not keep out other competitors.  Those programs are non-rivalrous in consumption, and the sellers can extend whatever price discounts they might wish to new competitors, to increase the demand for their products.  The final equilibria here are complex, but in general the ability of a strong firm, in this setting, to bid down input prices is not a bad thing.

Addendum: If you wish to worry about something, it is how to get more competition within a single market, as you might for instance do through municipal wi-fi, the successor to 4G, and so on.  Worrying about the horizontal spread of trading in one monopoly for another is beside the point.  What I am seeing in various comments on Twitter is people with objections to cable monopolies, some of them valid objections, then objecting to possible changes in the market out of basic mood.

Is soccer good for you?

by on February 9, 2014 at 11:10 am in Economics, Medicine, Sports | Permalink

Doerrenberg and Siegloch say maybe so, especially if you are unemployed:

We examine the effect of salient international soccer tournaments on the motivation of unemployed individuals to search for employment using the German Socio Economic Panel 1984–2010. Exploiting the random scheduling of survey interviews, we find significant effects on motivational variables such as the intention to work or the reservation wage. Furthermore, the sporting events increase perceived health as well as worries about the general economic situation.

An ungated version is here, and the pointer is via Kevin Lewis.

*The Sabermetric Revolution*

by on February 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm in Books, Sports | Permalink

That is the new book by Benjamin Baumer and Andrew Zimbalist and the subtitle is Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball.  It is an excellent and well-written look at where sabermetric knowledge stands today, here is one excerpt:

…once the ball has been put into play, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much whether it was put into play against Roger Clemens or Roger Craig.

And:

…an extra win will bring more revenue to a team in New York City than in Kansas City.

This is a very useful book on its chosen topic.

Mars

The link is here, and for the pointer I thank Gordon.  At least it’s not a watch.

Tennis quant betting

by on January 18, 2014 at 7:25 am in Games, Sports | Permalink

For someone who says he bets millions of dollars on tennis a year, sports gambler Elihu Feustel doesn’t watch many matches.

“Which one is Granollers?” Feustel says, referring to Marcel Granollers, a Spaniard ranked 35th in the world. “Is he the one that’s good on clay courts?”

Feustel, from South Bend, Indiana, says he doesn’t need to pay attention to who the players on the men’s ATP World Tour are to double his money. He relies on an algorithm he created using data from 260,000 matches to make about 30 bets a day on Grand Slams such as the Australian Open, which started Jan. 13.

Gamblers and investment funds are increasingly vying for profits from tennis by using computer models to win money from more casual bettors, according to Scott Ferguson, a former Betfair Group Plc (BET) education officer. Such quantitative analysts, or so-called quants, are focusing on tennis in the same way their counterparts are employed by hedge funds to predict moves for stocks, bonds and other assets.

Betfair, a London-based company that enables bettors to wager against each other online, matched almost 50 million pounds ($82 million) of bets on the 2012 final in which Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is an 8-11 favorite to win a fourth straight title in Melbourne with U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc, meaning a successful $11 wager would return $8 plus the original stake.

Granollers prefers clay courts, according to his men’s tour profile, and lost his first-round match with Marin Cilic of Croatia in five sets on the second day of play on the hard courts of this year’s Australian Open.

…Tennis is an “attractive” sport to create an algorithm for because there are only two players in a singles match and statistics are freely available, according to William Knottenbelt, an associate professor of computing at London’s Imperial College. He co-wrote a tennis algorithm that he says would have made a 3.8 percent return on bets on 2,173 ATP matches in 2011.

Feustel, who says he puts in a 60-hour week checking and improving his model, works with a computer programmer and trader. The programmer trawls the Internet for data such as serve speed and break-point conversions. That’s plugged into the model which comes up with “fair” betting prices for scheduled games.

If those odds diverge from market prices, Feustel says, his trader — who lives outside the U.S. — will gamble as much as the market will allow at bookmakers including Pinnacle Sports, based on the Caribbean island of Curacao. That can be about $30,000 on a match result in later tournament rounds.

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Hugo Lindgren, who is joining Hollywood Reporter as acting editor.

The first part is this:

Thousands of disgruntled horse and pony riders rode through the French capital to complain about tax increases they say will put many of them out of business and send 80,000 animals to the abattoir.

The “cavaliers” blocked roads from the symbolic Paris squares, Place d’Italie, Place de la Bastille and Place de la Nation, in protest at government plans to almost treble VAT on equestrian centres.

The response of the government is this:

France has about 700,000 horse-riding instructors and 2.3 million people who ride, 82% of them women. It is the third most popular sport in France.

The government has promised subsidies to prevent riding schools from going under…

The article is here, and I thank Phil Steinmeyer for the pointer.  Here is a previous example of a multiply stupid policy, strange how they both involve horses…