Baseball Economics

Trying to explain America without baseball is like trying to explain France without all that "surrendering." Considering that Baseball is America's Pastime, it should not be surprising that it contains lots of "data" that can be "weighed, measured, and analyzed" by evil republican's such as myself.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that there is a whole website devoted towards sifting through the data and explaining why all those GM's and owners are dopes. If you are really interested in baseball statistics, www.baseballprospectus.com is an invaluable resource.

One particular page on this site that I highly recommend is this page http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/standings.html, which readjusts the standing utilizing various statistical mechanisms.

There are two divisions that really do not make much sense. Prospectus projects the Boston Red Sox to be leading the AL East by at least 3 or 4 games over the New York Yankees. In reality, the Yankees hold a 10 1/2 game lead and are posed to win their 8 division title since 1996. The Red Sox are doing -8.3 games worse than they should be while the Yankees are doing 6.6 games better than they should be.

The statistics here may be skewed, as the Yankees pitching is not as bad as the statistics are saying it is (this is because injuries have plagued the Yankees staff. For a good month and a half, the Yankees had to put 3 or 4 bums out on the mound.) The past week has seen stellar performances by Kevin Brown (2), Javier Vazguez (1) and Orlando Hernandez (3). If Mike Mussina comes back healthy, the Yankees staff is actually a bit above average on paper. Regardless, I cannot think of one reason why the Yankees should be this far out ahead of the Red Sox at this juncture.

The second division that makes the least sense is the AL East, where the New York Mets are projected to be in second place (albiet, all teams should be within a few games of eachother). The Mets have 2 of the highest rated pitchers in the league (Tom Glavine and Al Leiter) and a third ranked as above average (Trachsel). So why are the Mets so bad?

Well, understanding why the Red Sox and the Mets consistently underperform is an extra-statistical (perhaps even metaphysical question).


Newsday's pathetic Economics

As everyone who lives on Long Island knows, Newsday is one of the worst written partisan shrills in existence. Their analysis is pathetic and poorly argued. Nevertheless, I am a Long Islander and I do occasionally suffer through the paper in order to get some news. Today was such a day and I wrote the following letter infuriated at their "reporting" the new economic statistics:

Dear Editor:

If Newsday insists on being a propaganda machine for the Kerry Campaign, they should drop their phony pretense to objective news coverage. As a graduate Economics student, I was appalled with Newsday’s coverage of the recent spat of economic statistics (“Good and Bad News on Jobs”). Newsday asserts that “The recent run of federal statistics have painted an uneven picture with modest growth in car sales, slumping consumer spending, rising inflation and oil prices, slumping stock prices, and a mounting federal deficit.” One would think from these numbers that this “uneven picture” meant the world was collapsing.

Of course, none of this is remotely true. The underlying numbers support a continuing robust economy. The index of manufacturing activity rose for the fourteenth consecutive month. Consumer confidence is high. The retail market is strong and the housing market continues to grow. Nor is Newsday’s coverage of the employment figures and budget deficit fair. Unemployment is at 5.5%, down from 6.3% at the end of the last recession. In fact, unemployment is exactly where it was when Bill Clinton was running for his second term. The budget deficit is projected to fall to $331 billion next year and then to $229 billion by 2009, bringing it to a manageable level. For a country that experienced a recession, a massive terrorist attack, two wars, and corporate scandals it is remarkable that our economy has held up so strong. It is unfortunate that Newsday fails to mention any of this.

Matt Festa
Mineola, NY


Jobs numbers

The data is in and last months job creation number is below expectations. Non-farm payroll jobs increased by only 32,000 this month, which is way below expectations. On the flip side, the unemployment rate dropped from 5.6% to 5.5%. Surely the liberal media is going to give the Kerry campaign lots to play with here, but the reality of the situation is that our employment numbers are fine.

The media and the Kerry campaign will decry the mere 32,000 jobs created and 5.5% rate of unemployment as sure sign that the Bush campaign is a malignent cancer, probably put in place by the Saudi Royal Family, that must be thrown out in order to go back to the days of "low unemployment."

But, as Steve Antler points out, strong evidence exists that without the tech boom the lowest rate of unemployment during the 1990's boom would have been 5.5%


This supports my contention, and the contention of most economists, that America's natural rate of unemployment is somewhere around 5.5%, which is what our current rate currently is. This means that economy is back at full employment and growing at its natural rate.

If this is the case, it is impossible to get the unemployment rate back to its low of 4.0% without experiencing sustained and harmful inflation, which is worse than the supposed cure.

No matter, though the real economic data supports the evidence for a robust recovery, the Kerry campaign and their allies in the media will get nice news clips out of this.