Last month I attended a Red Sox/Yankees matchup at Fenway Park. By the seventh inning, the Sox had already cycled through seven pitchers. Fans were starting to lose patience and one guy even jumped on the field for entertainment. While others were losing interest, I stayed engaged in the game—not because of the action that was (not) unfolding, but because of the game statistics.
Statistics have been at the heart of baseball for as long as the sport’s been around. Few other sports track individual and team stats with such precision and detail (I suggest reading Michael Lewis’ Moneyball if you haven’t already). As a spectator, you know exactly what’s happening at all times, and this is one of my favorite things about baseball. As much as I enjoy watching the hits, runs, steals, strikes, etc., unfold on the field, it’s equally fun to watch those plays translate into statistics—witnessing the rise and fall of individual players and teams.
Traditionally batting average (# of hits divided by number of at bats) and earned run average (# of earned runs allowed by a pitcher per nine innings) have dominated the statistical world of baseball, but there are SO many others recorded. There’s RBI (runs batted in), OPS (on-base plus slugging), ISO (isolated power: raw power of a hitter by counting only extra-base hits and type of hit), FIP (fielding independent pitching: similar to ERA but focuses solely on pitching, and removes results on balls hit into field of play), and even xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching; or in layman’s term: how a pitcher performs independent of how his teammates perform once the ball is in play, but also accounting for home runs given up vs. home run average in league). And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
With all this data, sabermetrics can yield some unwieldy metrics that have little applicability or predictive power. And sometimes we see this happen in market research. There are times when we are asked to collect hard-to-justify variables in our studies. While it seems sensible to gather as much information as possible, there’s such a thing as “too much” where it starts to dilute the goal and clarity of the project.
So, I’ll take off my baseball cap and put on my researcher’s hat for this: as you develop your questionnaire, evaluate whether a metric is a “nice to have” or a “need to have.” Here are some things to keep in mind as you evaluate your metrics:
- Determine the overall business objective: What is the business question I am looking to answer based on this research? Keep reminding yourself of this objective.
- Identify the hypothesis (or hypotheses) that make up the objective: What are the preconceived notions that will lead to an informed business decision?
- Establish the pieces of information to prove or disprove the hypothesis: What data do I need to verify the assumption, or invalidate it?
- Assess if your metrics align to the information necessary to prove or disprove one or more of your identified hypotheses.
If your metric doesn’t have a home (plate) in one of the hypotheses, then discard it or turn it into one that does. Following this list can make the difference in accumulating a lot of data that produces no actionable results, or one that meets your initial business goal.
Combing through unnecessary data points is cumbersome and costly, so be judicious with your red pen in striking out useless questions. Don’t get bogged down with information if it isn’t directly helping achieve your business goal. Here at CMB, we partner with clients to minimize this effect and help meet study objectives starting well before the data collection stage.
Youme Yai is a Project Manager at CMB who believes a summer evening at the ballpark is second to none.