- Published on 07 February 2011
Individual success in competitive endeavors, such as sports or academia, is the result of many factors, some of which are time-dependent. In order to compare human achievements from different time periods, we need to normalize success metrics so as to avoid a time-dependent bias in the comparison of the statistical measures. A novel 'detrending' approach presented in EPJ B removes precisely this bias and allows for an objective comparison across time.
Using this approach the authors scrutinized the highly competitive (US) Major League Baseball and its rich history of over 130 years. The study accounts for factors such as performance-enhancing drugs, changes in the construction of bats and balls, sizes of ballparks, and the talent dilution of players as a result of expansion. The authors find that after applying their normalization method the distributions of career success do not change with time.
The study also addresses two relevant cultural questions: (i) how to quantitatively account for economic, technological, and social factors that influence the rate of success in competitive professions; and (ii) how to use career statistics in an unbiased fashion to help in the both the standard and retroactive induction of athletes into the Hall of Fame. This is a topical issue given the recent 'inflation' observed for home runs in Major League Baseball, a phenomena that is believed to be related to the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED).
To read the full paper "Methods for detrending success metrics to account for inflationary and deflationary factors" by A.M. Petersen, O. Penner, and H.E. Stanley, Eur. Phys. J. B 79, 67–78 (2011) click here.