acebauer (acebauer) wrote,

Proving, once again, that baseball is the U.S.'s national sport

- Ever hear of FiveThrityEight?

- That a kind of aperitif?

- No. A polling site for the presidential election.

- They conduct polls?

- They analyze them.

- Sounds boring.

- They're right most of the time.

- Really?

- You know why?

- A crystal ball.

- Nah. Smarts.

- Uh. That's what they said about those rich Wall Street cats who took down the economy.

- Listen. Nate Silver, the guy who runs the place, predicted that the Tampa Bay Rays would win 90 games this season.

- Well. . .

- In past seasons the Rays came in dead last -- or almost. Everyone thought they'd stay there. Yet now they're in the running for the league championship.

- Fine. So he's good at judging baseball players. That doesn't make him a political pundit.

- Exactly. He's not a pundit. He's a statistician.

- So?

- When studying the Rays he was analyzing their statistics. And by using historical data he predicted how they would do.

- Uh. . .

- He did that working for the Baseball Prospectus -- the bible of baseball statistics.

- You know, I'm not a baseball fan.

- You don't have to be. The point is, there isn't any sport quite as hung up about statistics as baseball. And a bunch of folks -- Nate Silver included -- figured that they could use all those statistics for predictive purposes. They aren't right all of the time, but enough to be impressive.

- So what does this have to do with the presidential election?

- It's all about the numbers.

- The numbers?

- Think about it. The election is about who wins how many voters in how many states.

- I guess.

- And there are almost daily polls trying to assess the way voters will vote.

- They're often wrong.

- True. But some are less wrong than others. And some use better polling methods than others. And we have a large bank of data of both old poll results and voter returns.

- So?

- Well Silver decided that if he could could create a statistical model to predict baseball outcomes, he could also do it for the presidential election.

- And he's been right?

- Most of the time.

- But why "Five Thirty Eight?"

- That's the total number of electoral college votes.

- I still think it sounds like an aperitif.

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