Jeff Sullivan: Miami Marlins: Lousy Scientists

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Earlier this past year, Showtime and the Miami Marlins asked us a question. Perhaps more accurately, Showtime and the Miami Marlins asked themselves a question. 

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As is generally the case when someone asks a question that’s unusually deep, the Marlins started giving their own answer. What does make a championship franchise? According to the Marlins:

Fire,

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Intensity,

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Electricity,

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Velocity,

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Power,

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Finesse,

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Energy,

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Dominance,

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Control,

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Command.

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Apply heat,

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Pressure,

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Force,

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And let chemistry do the work.

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That was the Marlins’ proposed formula for putting together a champion. It was brave of them to make the formula so readily public. However, some issues:

(1) The elements presented are not elements. They certainly do not correspond to their given atomic numbers. Some of the “proposed” elements have three-letter symbols while others have two-letter symbols. Capitalization appears to be arbitrary.

 (2) It seems redundant to add energy and electricity, as well as fire and intensity. Power and finesse will likely cancel one another out. The equation is needlessly complex and could be easily simplified.

(3) Relative amounts are not presented, leaving this an inadequate experimental description. This method could not be followed by an outside investigator; it skimps over necessary details. How much velocity goes into a championship franchise? How much control goes into a championship franchise? A list of ingredients is not a recipe.

(4) David Samson has control of not one thing, not even his own mouth. Did the Marlins even add what they thought they were adding?

(5) It is entirely redundant to apply both pressure and force. If you are applying pressure, you are applying force. 

(6) How much pressure, or force, was applied?

(7) Why was heat applied when the formula already called for fire?

(8) How much heat was applied?

(9) The periodic table shown is not the periodic table. The actual periodic table doesn’t include Randy Choate. Certain parts of the shown periodic table were not included earlier in the proposed formula.

(10) Generally, it’s not recommended to publish a hypothesis and an experimental procedure addressing said hypothesis before the results of the experiment are known and understood.

The Marlins attempted to build a championship franchise according to an unknown and unknowable protocol. At best, the Marlins took careful notes, and didn’t make available to the public the details. At worst, the Marlins were sloppy, haphazard, and didn’t pay careful attention to what they were mixing. In any case, the Marlins’ proposed protocol cannot be replicated. One cannot easily identify where the Marlins might have gone wrong. Alternately, one cannot be sure he isn’t replicating the Marlins’ protocol exactly, ultimately leading to disastrous results. What’s known is that the Marlins failed to build a championship baseball team as intended. What isn’t known is almost everything else. As presented, the Marlins’ experiment would be accepted by no journal.

The Marlins might consider instead explaining how they built a championship franchise in 1997, and again in 2003. That is, unless in those instances they were similarly sloppy and haphazard, and didn’t pay careful attention to what they were mixing. What the evidence overwhelmingly suggests is that the Marlins keep an inadequate organizational scientific notebook. 

Jeff Sullivan writes at FanGraphs, and Lookout Landing, and also here, twice. He has written at the other places way more.

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  1. thediamondismyhome reblogged this from oldtimefamilybaseball and added:
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