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“For professional baseball players, faster hand-eye coordination linked to batting performance”

Kevin Lewis sends along this press release reporting what may be the least surprising laboratory finding since the classic “Participants reported being hungrier when they walked into the café (mean = 7.38, SD = 2.20) than when they walked out [mean = 1.53, SD = 2.70, F(1, 75) = 107.68, P < 0.001]."

10 Comments

  1. Dale Lehman says:

    How about a new journal, “The Tautological Review?” (credit goes to my wife)

  2. Bryan says:

    The key takeaway here is that the hand eye coordination test probably works.

    • Andrew says:

      Bryan:

      Perhaps they could design a new hand-eye coordination in which subjects stand holding a wooden rod and watch a projectile go by and have to judge whether the projectile passes through a hypothetical vertically-oriented rectangle.

      Such an experimental apparatus would be expensive to construct, but on the plus side, on off hours the university could rent it out to local kids.

  3. darf ferrara says:

    This is almost the opposite of the garden of forking paths. I propose to call it “The Desert of spooning frontiers”.

  4. Chuck Fury says:

    I’m going to take the opposite stance here and say that it’s at least somewhat surprising and certainly valuable that a simple test predicts differences in performance at the top level. It’s easy to find differences between a top player and your grandma, but not so easy to find differences between two players in the 99th percentile. Basically this is Moneyball 2.0

  5. This is a gloss on Chuck Fury’s comment.

    Yeah, it seems obvious. But. . . .

    Someone did a study of the players on the Cubs a while ago to see if there was a correlation between batting and visual acuity. The test involved a point of light flashing at increasing speeds. Players were measured on the speed at which the light appeared as a steady stream rather than as discrete flashes.

    This is a rough equivalent to how well a hitter can see a fast ball. So of course the players who could still see the intermittent flashes at the highest speeds had higher batting averages than did the players who saw a blur at that speed. Right? Wrong. There was no correlation.

    I’m vague about the details, and I may have some of this wrong. Howard Wainer, I think, knows the full story. The punch line is that before the researchers discarded their hypothesis about hitting ability and seeing the flashes, they tried the test on a sample of ordinary folks. These regular Chicagoans all came out several standard deviations below all the Cubs players.

  6. Allan C says:

    In general, I am not a fan of being so cavalier about pigeonholing particular papers and/or entire lines of research as not worth pursuing (which is the impression I took away from the OP and subsequent comments) unless information is provided about why this is the case; joking about fake journal names this particular paper should be in doesn’t quite fit the bill. It’s especially striking when Andrew does this because he often criticizes studies, which purport to have surprising results, as noisy/rubbish (otherwise not worth pursuing) but also applies the same punch line to this study (not worth pursuing) when it provides an unsurprising/confirmatory result.

    I am more then aware that much money is wasted every year on poor and unnecessary research and that we would probably be better off if that money was put into a more productive research program. Hence why highlighting lines of research that are not worth pursuing can be in the interest of the greater good. However, by the title and conclusion alone I don’t think it’s possible to conclude that this belongs in the unnecessary bin. What if faster hand-eye coordination was previously believed to matter but only to certain threshold? (e.g. once you had x level of ability, it didn’t really matter for hitting) What if the conclusion was believed to be true but the test for faster hand-eye coordination was in doubt? (so, this correlation provides some evidence they are testing it correctly)

    It’s not that I believe these things to be the case it’s that off the top of my head I can think of a few reasons that may make this study worth performing (for a certain cost). To be fair the items I just mentioned aren’t highlighted in the press release, so there is that, but there are some interesting thoughts such as: “Faster EH-VRMT values were also associated with more years playing in the major leagues. Further analysis suggested that the differences in plate discipline were related to hand-eye coordination, rather than major league experience.” That seems kind of cool.

    That said, it’s Andrew’s blog and if he doesn’t deem it necessary to always delve into the details about why he believes one thing or the other then that’s okay as well. But when it comes to publicly criticizing people’s work I think a little more discussion would be beneficial.

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