Calling Out Will Carroll


raygu points out a Will Carroll chat yesterday (and quotes from it), in which Will ranks David Price and Steven Strasburg ahead of Clayton Kershaw. Obviously, what matters most is why you’re ranking them (and that isn’t clear from the excerpt, at least), but it also goes to the role of the expert and our belief in what experts say. 

Those experts who play in the media pool have to come with new stuff all the time, because bold declarative sentences are what work best on radio and television (and in print, too, really). So they always have to be coming up with newest thing, rather than carefully tracking the long arc of the real thing as it’s happening. I’m not sure it matters whether Will has seen Strasburg play, because what we know about him is exciting (he throws harder than anyone ever, except for Sidd Finch and Paul Bunyan)  and makes for a much better story than Clayton Kershaw’s right now (young pitcher is growing into his ability, showing he belongs in the big leagues, but is not dominant and maybe he won’t be, though we wouldn’t be surprised if someday he was). 

Nick Kristoff takes a look at the efficacy of experts in the New York Times today. It’s well worth reading, especially when culling the preseason picks of us so-called experts. It isn’t that Will or Jim Callis or any other baseball expert you care to pillory doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. The problem is that whatever ability we have to forecast what will happen in the future is slight, on any subject, and so (to my mind) the discussion should be a fox-like series of explanations and equivocations. What’s possible, why, and why that might not happen. 

But the world wants answers, because the entertaining bloviating of the hedgehog is seen as much more assured and credible–even though the studies Kristoff cites show they are more often wrong. Even, shockingly, the fox doesn’t know the subject and the hedgehog does.

[Ps. I don’t think Will is by nature a hedgehog. He tries to add nuance to much of what he says. One of the reason he’s been so successful, I think, is because he tells what he knows, and is usually pretty clear about what is conjecture. But in a chat or on TV or the radio, it works best to make the big statement, rather than a bunch of little nuanced ones.)