Overdetermination vs. Randomness
By David Henderson
Here are the opening sentences from an article by San Jose Mercury News sports reporter Tim Kawakami:
All the melodramatic twists, tweaks and breaks should’ve made the Giants virtually unbeatable on Saturday.
They had their ace, Matt Cain, on the mound, and the Reds lost their ace, Johnny Cueto, after eight pitches.
The Giants were at AT&T Park, their beloved and spacious home, and the scene of so many 2010 playoff raves.
Game 1 of this NLDS was all set up for the Giants, yes it was.
Until Cain got hit, the Giants’ bats and home crowd stayed mostly silent, they lost 5-2, and suddenly the plot got flipped on them.
Now the Giants are the team in a scramble for answers to questions that they thought they might never be asked in this best-of-five series.
Why do I quote them? They’re similar to many lines that sports reporters write, right? Exactly.
And that’s why I quote them. This is the kind of report you read all the time and it’s presumably by someone who should be expert at following game he’s writing about.
But he’s not. Why? Because he doesn’t get randomness. For Kawakami, a few advantages the San Francisco Giants had against Cincinnati should have been enough to make the Giants “virtually unbeatable.” Now, if this had been a 10-year old writing, someone who had never really paid attention to baseball, I could understand it. But this is someone who has followed the game for years. Has he ever seen a playoff game won by the visiting team? Of course he has. Has he ever seen a high-quality pitcher come in and pitch less than a high-quality game? Sure.
But there’s no learning.