It turns out that things have actually been worse than you thought they were, after they were apparently slightly better than you remember at an earlier time. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (but her friends call her Bea) released revised economic figures, revealing that the recession wasn’t slightly worse than previously thought, nor was it just flat-out worse. It was more than twice as worse. The 0.8 percent drop in GDP between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the last three months of 2008 is now a 1.9 percent drop.
A jump from 0.8 percent to perhaps 1 percent would make sense. After all, certain factors may have been left out, and hindsight allows for a greater gathering and calculation of data. But a 1.9 percent contraction? Why bother sending out economic data so quickly if the figures are going to be completely wrong? The report also reveals that the 2001 recession was a bit better than previously thought, with growth between Q4 of 2000 and Q3 of 2001 clocking in at 0.1 percent, as opposed to the previously standing 0.2 percent drop.
Statistics are always easy to nurse. Let’s take baseball (c’mon, you knew the comparisson was coming) for example. Taking only batting average into account, the five best batters in history are…
1. Ty Cobb
2. Rogers Hornsby
3. Shoeless Joe Jackson
4. Ed Delahanty (who?)
5. Ted Williams.
Now let’s drain some statistics through some colanders, shall we? Taking into account the rigors of old age on bringing down a player’s batting average, let’s limit the figures to only the first 8,000 at-bats. Then, let’s adjust the numbers based upon the relative skill level of the players in comparison to their respective leagues and divisions, along with the quality of their competition (aka, comparing the figures to the yearly total averages of the league and readjusting as such). Then, let’s take into account the changing nature of the game and the role of the hitter (this is done via a study of deviations and other such statistical flotsam that goes a bit over my head). Finally, let’s adjust the rankings based on the ballparks these players batted in, because I’m pretty sure that on a good day, I could hit a ball into the outfield at Coors Field.
With all of that taken into consideration, the top five hitters of all time are…
1. Tony Gwynn
2. Rod Carew
3. Stan Musial
4. Ted Williams
5. Rogers Hornsby
(Many thanks to Paul Zweifel for the mathematical know-how on this)
Oh, would you look at that? Everything changed completely with a bit of statistical massaging. The long-coming point is that…nothing anyone says from a statistical standpoint matters. Polls fluctuate wildly from week to week, economic figures jump from loss to growth and careful evaluations of a man’s standing among his peers can be turned upside down and shaken about for their lunch money. If you see it, believe it. The recession isn’t over because Newsweek says it is, Obama isn’t unpopular because of a new poll that has his support fleeing, it’s because folks can’t get a job and people don’t agree with his policies. Don’t believe a guy has the flu because he’s absent from work, believe he’s ill because he’s coughing, sneezing and tells you, with a puffy face and beleaguered eyes, “I’ve got the flu, boss.”