Chat with Nate Silver
Silver worked for Baseball Prospectus from 2003-08.
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, author, blogger, leading statistical analyst and self proclaimed "sports/politics/food geek" Nate Silver stops by to chat about nearly anything on your mind.
Silver, @fivethirtyeight, correctly predicted 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election, and nailed all 50 in 2012. He also developed the PECOTA system that helps predict future performance of baseball players.
Send your questions now and join Silver Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:24 PM)
Nate will be here in a few minutes to take your questions!
Nate Silver (3:38 PM)
I'm here in beautiful Bristol, CT and ready to chat -- appreciate all your questions.
Do you feel like there is still a war against statistics going on, or are you noticing more of a gradual acceptance of their value?
Nate Silver (3:42 PM)
In baseball, the war has been over for a few years. Pretty much every team is using analytics in some respect. Basketball is increasingly getting that way as well, and maybe less so in football. But the use of statistics in sports in general is still way ahead of where it is in many other walks of life. Moneyball was a great story, but it was more the exception than the norm in some respects.
Nate, a lot is being made about basic stats (ERA, wins, HRs, etc) vs. more advanced stats (WAR, PER, etc.), with some saying the basic stats don't present any value. However, aren't some of the more advanced stats based on analyzing those basic stats? Therefore, isn't there actually great value in those basic stats?
Nate Silver (3:46 PM)
I think maybe we need to make a distinction between stats that are purely descriptive and those that are more used for analysis. You can hit a HR, but you can't hit a WAR, so that's a descriptive stat. However, if you're doing analysis, WAR gives you a more complete picture and its value is in how it weighs the different components of the game together in a sensible way.
Do people more recognize you more for your work in politics or in sports?
Nate Silver (3:49 PM)
At this point, probably the political stuff.But I wrote about sports (baseball) before I ever wrote about politics. When I first started writing about politics, sometimes I'd get responses like "Nate may know a thing or two about baseball, but he doesn't know anything about politics." Now it's kind of come full circle where I'll write about (say) Cabrera vs. Trout and you'll get a few comments like "Nate may know a thing or two about politics, but he doesn't know anything about baseball."
Clon (Paris, France)
WIth the progress of statistics and metrics do you believe at some point in time we'll be able to anticipate sports results 70% of the time or more? Or are the intangibles still beting the odds?
Nate Silver (3:53 PM)
Well, some sports are just more predictable than others. Even the best baseball teams only win about 67 percent of their games. Whereas the best tennis players -- Federer, Djokovic, etc. -- might win 95 percent of their matches. I'm not sure this means there are more intangibles in baseball so much as that the games are structured in different ways that affect the balance betewen skill and luck. There is an upper bound on how predictable any sport is going to be.
Mike (San Diego)
How much does it bother you that so often, especially in politics, narrative trumps evidence?
Nate Silver (3:55 PM)
On one level it bothers me, but on another level it creates a business opportunity for me, so I guess I can't complain too much.
Gotta ask about the Hall of Fame -- thoughts?
Nate Silver (3:58 PM)
The ballot is certainly going to be a mess next year. Without getting into the whole PED debate, I was most surprised by the low vote total for Schilling. Writers talk so much about the importance of post-season play, and here's a guy with one of the best post-season pitching lines ever (and who is also plenty qualified based on his regular season numbers) and who doesn't seem to get rewarded for it.
Nate Silver (3:59 PM)
Unfortunately, ESPN have me on a very tight schedule -- so I've got to go. Thank you for all the questions.