“Bullshit has tremendous advantages over knowledge. Bullshit can be created as needed, on demand, without limit. Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened.

There was a Kansas football game a year ago; some Texas-based football team, much better than Kansas, came to Lawrence and struggled through the first quarter — KU with, like, a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. The rest of the game, KU lost, like, 37-0, or something. The announcer had an immediate explanation for it: The Texas team flew in the day before, they spent the night sleeping in a strange hotel; it takes them a while to get their feet on the ground.

It’s pure bullshit, of course, but he was paid to say that … if it had happened the other way, and KU had lost the first quarter, 24-0, and then ‘won’ the rest of the game 17-14 (thus losing 38-17) … if that had happened, we both know that the announcer would have had an immediate explanation for why THAT had happened. … Bullshit is without limit.

As I saw it, baseball had two distinct mountains of material. One the one hand, there was a mountain of traditional wisdom, things that people said over and over again. On the other hand, there was a mountain of statistics. My work was to build a bridge between those two mountains. A statistician is concerned what baseball statistics ARE. I had no concern with what they are. I didn’t care, and I don’t care, whether Mike Schmidt hit .306 or .296 against left-handed pitching. I was concerned with what the statistics MEAN.

“Sportswriters, in my opinion, almost never use baseball statistics to try to understand baseball. They use statistics to decorate their articles. They use statistics as a club in the battle for what they believe intuitively to be correct.

– Bill James

When James began writing his annual Baseball Abstracts, people all across the game crowed that pitching was 75 percent of baseball. They usually said this after a dominant pitching performance, like the one Madison Bumgarner had against Kansas City in Game 5 of the World Series. In those days, saying “pitching is 75 percent of baseball” served as philosophy, and as good old-fashioned common sense.

To Bill James, it sounded like garbage trucks colliding. Seventy-five percent? What? Who did that math? He wrote a 2,000-word essay tearing apart the nonsense, not because he wanted to but because he HAD to, because that was such unadulterated bullshit that it had to be stamped out for the good of mankind.

“It’s just a number,” he wrote, “picked out of mid-air and plunked down in the middle of a bunch of words in a way that seemed to make sense, provided you don’t think too hard about it – quite a bit like saying that ‘Philosophy is 75% God,” or ‘Movies are 75% acting’ or ‘Sex is 75% mental, 25% physical.’”

There are many parallels here and in the shooting world. Consider the many “truths” espoused by gun owners and how many of them are based on nothing more than people continuing to repeat the same nonsense endlessly.


Baseball and other popular ball sports are carefully controlled and overflowing with carefully-gathered statistics and people still succumb to tribal “wisdom” and superstition.

Vanguard after the Revolution

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