Saturday, November 10, 2012

Three Reasons Why Math Is The New Sexy

"Excuse me, ma'am? The, uh, card appears to be upside- oh never mind."

There is an eerie familiarity to the way recruiters are haunting junior high schools these days. Where once they were looking for a quarter-back, a defensive lineman, a .400 hitter or a quick-footed striker, they are now looking for a budding genius with probability curves and a killer algorithm. 

Math has been around for a while, but now there's a twist. Math is the new sexy.

Here’s why:

3. Moneyball
Bill James, a part-time statistician wrote a newsletter that figured out on-base percentages for future baseball players. He eventually sold it to the Boston Red Sox,who paid him a lot of money for his ideas. Two years later the Boston Redsox won back to back World Series, some of it based on James’ algorithms. 

This new science was also pioneered in 2002 by Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s. He had a different problem to solve. He needed James’ ideas to help the Oakland A’s transform from a have-not small market baseball club into a profitable small market club. 

This year, the Oakland A’s didn’t win the Series but they won the most games with the fewest dollars. Along the way the A's won their division and nearly won their conference championship. Read my earlier post on the A's Moneyball.

2. Soccernomics
The owners of the Boston Red Sox MLB club recently bought Liverpool of the English Premier League. Liverpool is expected to delve into the world of  Soccernomics, a ground-breaking book written by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. Billed the Moneyball of soccer the authors document scores of ways soccer can be improved by using an array of mathematics. 

Striker Luis Suarez leads Liverpool 
Soccernomics has hardly been embraced by Europe’s tradition-bound clubs. For starters, it has unmasked the mythology of the game through numbers. 

The first test case for soccernomics may be Liverpool, a team that is supposed to compete for prized players in the transfer market. However, soccernomics has proven with numbers that the transfer market is deeply flawed, expensive and clubs often derive little value for buying and selling teams alike.  

In a best-case scenario Liverpool could move up a notch or two in the table in coming years, while making a modest profit. At the very least Liverpool will no doubt avoid mistakes that can bury a club with debt for decades.(See my post on MU UTDSoccer fans in the future will be treated to a future where  mathematicians are courted more heavily than the latest Brazilian striker. 

1. Nate Silver
“This election was about pot, gay marriage and math.” -- Bill Maher commenting on the 2012 Presidential Election

A pre-election poster that proved correct.

Voters and pundits have watched the polls for the past six months leading up to the US presidential election night. The pundits were all wrong. The pollster were uniformly off the mark, except for one newcomer, a mathematician who was 99.9% correct when he predicted Barak Obama would win..  

Nate Silver is part of a new generation of economists and mathematicians who has joined the ranks of A-list celebrities. Formerly a reclusive no-name numbers guy, Silver will jump to the head of the line at the best parties. 

Most voters didn’t know his name until the day after the election. His numbers were widely criticized leading up to the final days of the election, especially by the GOP and their far-right allies. Now, Mr.Silver can claim the high moral ground by making high-priced pundits irrelevant. Most of whom will be looking for jobs as weather forecasters.

Just 12 years ago Silver was an economics student who wrote an abstract on baseball statistics of players of the future. He sold the algorithms then went to work in politics. Today, Mr. Silver is looking at million dollar book contracts from publishers who want him to tell all about his political math. He is directly in the spotlight in a game that has the most money of all -- politics

No comments:

Post a Comment