Thursday, May 12, 2011

Immeasurable: Sabermetrics and Unquantifiable Assets

Lately I've heard more and more people talk about sabermetrics. I pretty much exclusively heard it in regards to fantasy baseball or just some stat nerds, like Tim Kurkjian. Apparently there are analysts who use this complex statistical analysis to somewhat "grade" players and give them dollar value. But what about things that simply can not be measured, or are skewed when looked at numerically??

In a recent radio segment on the John and Lance Morning Show, Lance Zeirlein discussed the differences in statistically analyzing different sports. He made the case that baseball stats are a much more accurate representation of the actual happenings of the game,  rather than a sport like football, where situation and other factors skew stats on a play-by-play basis.

This got me to thinking.

**A little background: I am into business and am (currently) studying accounting, so that's the origin of this comparison.**

When someone looks at the financial statements of a well-run company, or an extremely innovative company, how can those characteristics be captured and depicted to the retail investor without prior knowledge? There are a million potential line items and account titles a company can use to portray their operating activities the best they can (or as deceivingly as possible, which is not a seldom occurrence. People in Houston still accidentally call Minute Maid Park, Enron Field.).

One of the most fundamental concepts of financial reporting is anything you put on a statement is has to be measurable with a monetary value. How do you attach an actual dollar amount to the knowledge or leadership of a Steve Jobs? It is worth something, as clearly demonstrated by the company's rise since his return, and goldmine of a stock option.

A company can't quantify human resources or intellectual knowledge/property. These things NO DOUBT have major impacts on the bottom line. Yet, these precious assets are left off of income statements, balance sheets and such because they cannot be accurately quantified.

Now, the fact is, basketball and football are similar to this in that stats will misrepresent what a player or team was actually trying to accomplish that particular game (or as LZ argued, over the course of an entire season). Missed shots with the shot-clock running out in a blowout game still lower a players shooting percentage. A one yard TD run may score 6 points, but will most likely lower that player's yards per carry. A pass that bounces off of a wide receiver's hands, then into a cornerback's hands, still counts as an interception for the quarterback. A coach's style of play can completely dictate stats in certain situations. It's actually blowing by fucking dome off thinking about stats and sports and just how deep the shit goes.

The examples in both fields can go on and on like Houston's championship drought.

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