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Let’s Appreciate Baseball’s Inherent Variability

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Many people, even fans who proclaim to love the game, fundamentally misunderstand baseball.

That is, they fail to grasp the concept of variability inherent in the game. Humans naturally want to believe in a level of consistency that simply does not exist. It baffles us how one day a team can score 11 runs effortlessly, only to be shut out the next.

How can a closer have untouchable stuff one night and then blow a save against a seemingly weaker team the very next outing?

“What’s wrong with this guy?!”

The answer lies in the nature of baseball itself. You see, baseball doesn’t care about past performances or try to predict future outcomes, even if that’s all fans of the game can seem to do. Baseball exists solely in the moment. The game at play under the current conditions and factors, is all that matters to baseball. This immediacy is what makes the game so profoundly beautiful.

To appreciate the beauty of baseball more deeply, you need to deeply understand these three fundamental insights:

1) Baseball is a game of high variance: The range of possible outcomes in a single baseball game can be vast. This variance isn’t just about randomness in general; it’s also about the myriad factors that influence each and every pitch/play, weather to pitcher-hitter matchups, field conditions, stadium dimensions, game strategy, team dynamics, player fatigue, crowd influence, technology and equipment, umpiring decisions, and the overall context of the game….you get the point.

2) Variance manifests one of two forms; favorable and unfavorable: A pitcher can execute the exact pre and in-game rituals, grip the ball the exact same way, and deliver it in the exact same manner and still see a variable outcome. That’s because even with the most stringent attention to detail, there is still a level of variability that he just cannot account for. He just has to prepare the best he can, and hope it goes in his favor. This duality is what keeps the game exciting and ultimately unpredictable.

3) There’s no controlling which form of variance you’ll experience: Attempting to control or predict the unpredictable elements of baseball is wildly irrational. Players and teams (and fans) can prepare, strategize, and optimize all they want, but ultimately, each game will unfold in its own unique way. Raging on about how “unacceptable” it is on Twitter only proves your disconnection from reality, not how smart you are about baseball.

The only thing I can predict is this: the very variability that frustrates you today will be the same variability you’ll celebrate tomorrow when it swings in your favor. Instead of fighting the inherent uncertainty of baseball, understand it, and then you can embrace it.

Be more like baseball. Live in the moment.

While it may not always be pretty, if you know what you’re looking at, it will always be beautiful.

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