# Numbers Don’t Lie, but . . .

There’s a common saying ,”the numbers don’t lie,” but is that true? Well, kinda. If you’re tracking stats consistently you’ve got an objective dataset that in an of itself doesn’t lie. But what you do with that data or how you arrive at that data can be manipulated in a way to tell the narrative that you’re wanting to tell. You can tell a story from true data that doesn’t hold as true when you look at it in a broader context.

Let’s look at an example with the current Covd-19 Pandemic. Here’s a Tweet from Andy Slavitt on May 2:

A couple points first. I don’t have the exact data sources that Mr. Slavitt was using for his numbers, so the exact daily count that I refer to in a moment won’t match. My sources were Worldometer for USA and the New York State Department of Health Covid-19 Tracker for New York. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the Tweet and the data itself.

First, let’s talk about the truth of the data. In a 7-day period the number of new cases in the USA outside of New York did increase, per his data source, by 17%. And at that growth rate we would see over 50,000 new cases by Memorial Day. The math adds up in and of itself. But why choose those two days in isolation? What happens if we look at other 7 day changes right around that time? Let’s take a look at this table:

Again, my data source is probably a little different than Mr. Slavitt, so the exact numbers won’t match. But let’s jump forward a couple days to the 7-day period ending 5/3. If we use that date then the case numbers outside of New York actually grew by even more (19%) than the seven days he referenced. If we use that date and percentage growth than we’d have even more than 50,000 new cases by Memorial Day.

The problem with either of these two dates is that it’s not looking at those individual days in context. Using this same approach we could actually forecast the opposite effect. The seven days ending 4/30 saw a drop in cases outside NY by -6.2%. So using that number we’d project just over 20,000 new daily cases by Memorial Day. I used the exact same logic and a date only two day prior to produce a result that was 60% lower. That’s the danger of using such a small data point out of context to make proclamations. You really need to look at the context and a bigger range of days to get a better feel for how things are going.

I think a more useful thing to do is compare the seven day average between two days. That will do a better job normalizing the numbers. On 4/29 the average was 24,128 outside NY and it was 25,463 on 5/5. That’s a 5.5% growth in a week. So, again, using just that logic and a small dataset that projects new daily cases around 30,000 at Memorial Day.

But what does the trend actually look like? Here’s a chart to help show the numbers:

For the last three days the USA has seen daily cases outside NY at or below the seven day average. Part of the reason that the seven day trend is going up is the spike in cases on 5/1. That number will make the average grow, for sure. But a very small downward trend might be starting now. We will see soon.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Simply this. It’s nearly impossible to know what the future will bring with this virus. If you want to paint a rosy picture you can find the data to do that. If you can only see doom and gloom you can find the data to support that opinion.

My personal read on the data in a broader sense is that things will start to greatly improve between now and Memorial Day. I am generally an optimist, so this is my default position. But I also think the data is starting to point that direction. Most states are seeing an overall downward trend in most every key metric. Time will tell.

Stay smart and stay safe everyone. This too shall pass. Hopefully soon.

# Presidential Approval Ratings: Comparing Trump to Former Presidents

I’m a numbers nerd as I’ve mentioned before. I like to research obscure stats in sports and look for trends in pretty much any area of life. I’m not overly into politics, so this post might be a little out of character for me. But I’m not really talking politics. I’m looking at numbers in context.

The current political climate feels more charged than it’s ever been. Both sides of the political spectrum seems to be more volatile than I can remember in my lifetime. And, in particular, President Trump seems to be one of the least popular presidents ever if you read what’s being written in various online outlets and social media sites.

I saw a news story today that got my attention with the headline “Trump’s approval rating hits record high.” It was was at 44%, which seems low for a record high, but also seems quite higher than I expected based on the stuff written about him.

That led me to compare his approval rating to previous presidents at the same point of their term in office. It’s easy to look back and think more highly or lowly of former presidents, but what was the climate like at the same point in office?

Thankfully I didn’t have to look very far. The website FiveThirtyEight has a great resource showing both Trump’s approval rating and an easy comparison to former presidents as shown above.

As of this writing Trump is at day 899 in office and his approval rating is at 42.6%. At the same time in their terms Obama was at 46.2%, Clinton 47.4%, and Reagan was 46.8%. Each of the Bush presidents were much higher, but the country was in the midst of wars and their numbers were skewed higher.

So, what’s the takeaway? Context gives us an indication that the current administration is not all that different than one’s that have come before in terms of approval rating. Setting politics aside, Trump’s approval rating is only 5% less than Clinton’s when comparing to the same day in office. I was somewhat surprised at this, but also not shocked. We tend to get caught up in the moment and overly sensationalize how good or bad things are while we are going through them. Some people will love what a politician is doing and others will hate everything about that person. Doesn’t seem to matter which party is in office.

# MLB War Analysis at the 2019 Midway Point

I’m a geek and a sports nut. So, that makes baseball one of my favorite things. Ever since I was in Pony League I was tracking stats. I loved knowing what my batting average and slugging percentage were. This was before advanced analytics, Moneyball, and sabermetrics were commonplace. I would also spend hours every week reading the MLB player stats on the back of their Topps Baseball Cards and in the box scores in the Sports section of the newspaper.

Nowadays it’s much easier to track player stats. Thanks to the free website from Baseball-Reference.com anyone can find just about any stat that they can dream of. Many of the stats provide useful insights while others are just fun to dig into. On top of that, visualization tools like Power BI allows anyone to more easily see data in ways that the numbers alone can’t really do justice to. Let’s take a look at one example: Wins Against Replacement (WAR).

WAR is a relatively new stat that tries to give more insight into how valuable a player truly is to his team. It looks past batting average and tries to determine the full impact a player has had in his team’s wins. The Texas Rangers just played their 81st game of the 2019 season and they have far exceeded my and just about everyone else’s expectations. One player in particular has had a breakthrough season: Joey Gallo.

Gallo hit 40+ HRs in each of his two previous seasons, so you might wonder why this season could possibly be considered a breakthrough season. Well, his highest batting average in any previous season was .209 and he struck out nearly 200 times both of full seasons in 2017 and 2018. This year, however, he’s hitting .279 and has only struck out 80 times, although he has missed about 25 games due to injury.

Gallo’s injuries are quite interesting when you look at the league leaders in WAR. At the midway point only 16 players have a WAR of at least 3.0, and Gallo is one of them. Take a look at the following chart:

Gallo is one of the outliers. He’s WAAAAYYYYY down at the bottom left. There are no other players in the league that have a WAR of 3.0+ who have played in less than 72 games, but Gallo has accomplished this in only 52 games with a 3.1 WAR. The average number of games played for the players with 3.0+ WAR is 76. If Gallo had played that many games in 2019 his WAR would likely be around 4.5, which would put him behind only Cody Bellinger (6.6) and Mike Trout (5.2). (Note: this article was written before Baseball-Reference had updated their data to include June 27th’s games in which he hit two home runs, so his WAR will likely be higher when the data is updated).

Taking a look at the leaders’ current WAR Per Game and extrapolating that over a full 162 games would make the leaders look like this:

So, where does all this data lead us? First, it’s a little disappointing that Gallo was not voted as a starter in the 2019 All-Star Game. Understandable for sure, as there are still a few Rangers fans who dislike Gallo because he doesn’t bunt to get on base against the shift. But most importantly this data shows that Gallo is a rising star. Looking at his impact on the Rangers season thus far it’s undeniable that he’s the most impactful player on the team’s roster. This doesn’t guarantee that that second half of the season will be as good as the first half. But it sure has been a fun ride so far.

If you’d like to take a look at the interactive report I made in Power BI you can check out it using this link.

# Compass vs Map

“Godin calls himself a teacher. He’d rather give his students a compass than a map. ‘I’m trying to say to people, just for a minute: Put on a set of glasses and see the world as I imagine it,’ he says. ‘Does it work for you? Does it feel right? Does it make sense? And, if it does, don’t do what I just said to do–that’s a cookie cutter. Invent your own next chapter.'” –Seth Godin in Entrepreneur Magazine, Feb 2013

Most people like to have a specific plan of action to follow. What’s the fastest way to get from point A to point B? So, we fire up Google Maps, type in our destination, then hit get directions.

This is fine much of the time. But life isn’t meant to be lived this way. We might know where we are, but we have no clue where we will end up later in life. And we often might be heading toward what we believe is the right destination, but one day we find out the place we are going to isn’t where we should be. Or, worse, that destination might not have ever existed in the first place.

A better approach to life is to live life by the compass. You know where you are. You have a good sense for the direction you should be heading. But you’re only desire is to move that direction. Figuring out the “right” or “best” path to get there isn’t important. It doesn’t matter.

Life is a journey. And it’s a short one. It’s better to enjoy the ride while you’re on it than to let life pass you by while you’re too worried about getting it right.

# Hundred Chart Frog

Recently my wife and I made the decision to home school our children. We’re going to give it our best shot for the foreseeable future. I have full confidence in Brea’s teaching ability (she taught first grade full-time at a public school for five years).

# How Important Is the Church?

“Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers.” –Paul, Ephesians 3:10

# Incompetence vs Overconfidence

“Incompetence irritates me, but overconfidence scares me. Incompetent people rarely have the opportunities to make mistakes that greatly affect things. But overconfident leaders and experts have the dangerous ability to create disaster.” Malcolm Gladwell as quoted by Jon Acuff

# Conventional Wisdom

“If you challenge the conventional wisdom, you will find ways to do things much better than they are currently done.” –Bill James, as quoted in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

# How Not to Sell a Roofing Repair

I admire the persistence of roofing companies, but they annoy me at the same time. Here’s a rundown of what just happened at my house.

—–

Doorbell.

Random roofing sales dude: “Hi, sir, I’m so-and-so with random roofing company. We’re in the neighborhood today offering free roof inspections. Have you had your roof inspected since the hail storms this Spring?”

Me: “No, but we can’t really do that right now.”

Sales dude: “Well, why not?”

Me: “Because we have a newborn baby sleeping.”

Sales dude: “We could come back tomorrow.”

Me: “No thanks.”

—–

I mean, seriously. Do you really think I want someone climbing around on my roof right after we had a baby? Maybe I’m just cranky from lack of sleep, but I think it’s important to really pay attention to other people’s needs and desires when you’re trying to sell something. This guy didn’t really get that concept. He just wanted to make a sale.

[image via MJM]