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Tuesday 4 November 2014

Sabremetrics, A.K.A. applied metagaming.

In baseball, sabremetrics started a push for batters to hold off for more and better pitches. By 2011 or 2012, strikeout rates were higher than they were in a century, probably in part of the reduced hitting but also due to pitchers throwing more pitches, knowing they would be swung at less often. How long until batters adapt and capitalize on the higher quality pitches they are receiving to increase hit rates and home runs instead of waiting for many pitches?

This is an example of perfect imbalance, as explained in this video by Extra Credits.  Players of strategic games that involve a lot of pre game decisions often refer to these decisions and the information leading to them as "the meta game". In MOBA games like League of Legends or fighting games like Smash Bros. or Soul Caliber this amounts to selecting one's avatar character and the bonuses they will bring into the start of a match. In collectible and living card games like Magic: The Gathering and Android: Netrunner the meta game is one's deck building process and the popular types of decks among one's opponents.

The pre game decisions, the meta game, in sports include who to hire and how to train. In sports where game-to-game fatigue is a factor, such as hockey with goalies or baseball with pitchers, the meta also involves choosing who will start the game, and how well that matches against the opposing goalie or pitcher.

The general idea of metagaming is to make choices that counter the likely choices of opponents. Against a learning opponent, this requires constant adaptation.

Consider fashion, where to win is to receive  attention, admiration as a consumer and sales as a designer. Fashion is played by wearing/creating an outfit that stands out from that of the existing crowd.

Consider the red queen hypothesis, a biological principle whereby a species succeeds by apadting to its prey predators and competitors. Specifically, the red queen hypothesis is that since all species are doing this, the best a species can hope for is to keep up in evolution, never get ahead.

Sabremetrics got so big as a statistical toolset not simply because it was interesting or novel, but because it was actionable. It provided information that could be converted in decisions, instead of just being elegant or produce a pretty graph.

If hitting in baseball is due for a comeback, might it make sense to load up your farm team with sluggers and curveball pitchers now? Do you reduce your emphasis on stolen bases in anticipation of fewer pitches per at bat?

Would a change from walks and strikeouts to hitting favour franchises that traditionally rely on high scores like Texas, or ones that rely on many small hits like Kansas City?

As always, comments welcome, including those stating I'm wrong about everything.

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