Data-driven Dukie

“The No-Stats All-Star” is an entertaining, fascinating, and — warning — extremely long article by Michael Lewis in the New York Times Magazine on Shane Battier, a National Basketball Association player and Duke alumni whose intellectual and data-driven play fits perfectly into the Houston Rockets’s new emphasis on statistical modeling.

For Battier, every action is a numbers game, an attempt to maximize the probability of a good outcome. Any single outcome, good or bad, cannot be judged in isolation, as much as human nature desires it. Actions and outcomes have to be evaluated in aggregate.

Michael Lewis is a fantastic writer. Battier is an impressive player and an impressive person. Houston is not the first and certainly not the last sports team to turn to data as the arbiter of truth. This approach is destined to spread throughout industry and life, mostly because it’s right. (Yes, even for choosing shades of blue.)