Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random walking through baseball

Now that the new site format appears to be largely up and working, it's time to start digging into a backlog of math-in-sports topics I've wanted to briefly write about. That said, if anyone has a general solution for the seemingly infamous "Publishing your blog is taking longer than expected" problem occasionally afflicting those of us who ftp-publish to other servers, I would love to hear about it, please!

Today's links are all about baseball. No, not the recent Yankees 4-game sweeping of the Red Sox (just typing that hurts). Instead, consistent with the title of this site, today is all about random walker rankings applied to baseball players. Well, sort of. Specifically, some of my collaborators and I recently wrote a paper (submitted for publication) studying the network of baseball players defined by the collection of pitcher-batter matchups across 1954-2008. Our focus so far is the study of this large network, and one of the (many) ways to try to understand a network is to study some process occurring on that network: enter the biased random walkers that can be used to define a ranking. Of course, the result is a very crude ranking. If one wanted to turn this into a more serious ranking of baseball players, numerous effects could and indeed should be included.

Brandon Keim picked up the story about our work for Wired Science, nicely including some thoughts (both ours and his) about the limitations of using this as a ranking. From there it got some nice attention and further helpful comments, some of which we'll use to clarify and acknowledge in an eventual revision. My coauthor, Mason Porter, has already collected most of the resulting links, including an interview he did with 27pitches.com.

A big thanks to Brandon for writing such a nice story about our work.

Don't worry, we'll start discussing and adding links to less narcissistic topics soon. Maybe.

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