Asymmetrical Motivation & The .299 Hitter

There is a fun mathematical discussion in the NYT Sports section today worth looking at.

It turns out that major league hitters on the verge of a 3 handle batting average — .300 — hit an astounding .463 on their last at bat of the season:

“Two economists at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, while investigating how round numbers influence goals, examined the behavior of major league hitters from 1975 to 2008 who entered what became their final plate appearance of the season with a batting average of .299 or .300 (in at least 200 at-bats).

They found that the 127 hitters at .299 or .300 batted a whopping .463 in that final at-bat, demonstrating a motivation to succeed well beyond normal (and in what was usually an otherwise meaningless game).

Most deliciously, not one of the 61 hitters who entered at .299 drew a walk — which would have fired those ugly 9s into permanence because batting average considers bases on balls neither hit nor at-bat.”

Its fascinating, but certainly not surprising. The psychological motivations of the pitcher-batter confrontation are the major factor. The batter is extremely motivated, for reasons that are both professional (compensation) and personal (i.e, pride). The pitcher, on the other hand, just wants to get thought the end of season games (especially the ones that don’t matter) without incident, injury etc.

Hence the term, “Asymmetrical Motivation.”

Fun with Statistical Analysis: The .299 versus .300 Hitter:

Chart courtesy of NYT


Fun stuff . . .


See also:
Grunting and Tennis: It’s All Good
Paul Kedrosky
Infectious Greed, October 1, 2010

Sniffing .300, Hitters Hunker Down on Last Chances
NYT, October 2, 2010

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