Respect the Streak

By Lloyd Graff

Baseball fans love statistics because they tend to make the daily events seem more rational and orderly. We humans crave order and predictability, even when things aren’t orderly and predictable.

Last season the Cubs won the World Series and were at or near the top all season in driving in “runners in scoring position.” Driving in runs is how you win games. It is a lot like the process of closing a deal in business or winning a case if you are a lawyer.

This year, as the Cubs struggle to stay above .500 game after game, they are in last place in scoring runs with runners in scoring position. They score runs by hitting home runs, but cannot get the big hit to bring in runners from second and third base. This seems odd because the young Cubs players are almost identical to the ones who led the Majors in scoring and led the National League in scoring by a wide margin in 2016.

This inconsistency is driving me nuts, not just because I’m a Cubs fan, but because this kind of unpredictability makes me crazy in my business life of trying to make deals. I am coming off two crappy years in the machine tool business. So far this year it has flipped and my machinery company is doing well. Is it luck? Is it adjusting to the mean? Is it because of an improvement in business conditions? Is it the “Trump Bump?” Then there’s my big question; the one that haunts me. Is business just random? Do we give ourselves too much credit when things go well and do we become overly self-critical when things stink?

Superstitious “Nuke” LaLush in the film “Bull Durham”

Going back to baseball. Crash Davis in Bull Durham said it well, “You have to respect the streak.” The streak gives us energy – both positive and negative. When you are slumping everything is a struggle and you make lousy decisions out of fear. The negativity dictates caution. You don’t feel like going to work and you fear making mistakes because you doubt yourself. Depression leads to deeper depression.

But when your luck charges, all things appear to be possible and you start making decisions with confidence rather than running away from them. In the baseball vernacular, you hit it to the opposite field when they pitch you outside because you don’t have to go for a home run every time up. If you don’t get a hit this time up there will still be other opportunities and your teammates will pick you up. Confidence is the difference maker in sports and in life.

I suppose I’m too old to believe in superstitions, but I do because I “respect the streak.” If wearing my underwear backwards is working for me, I’ll do it. Pink pants, drinking apple cider vinegar, listening to the same music each morning, if it abets a hot streak, I’m into it. Luck begets luck. Positive energy must be cherished and enhanced, because it eventually drifts away.

I believe in talent and hard work, for sure, but without good luck and the positive vibe that usually goes with it, it is difficult to sustain confidence. Confidence drives in the runs.

Question: What superstitions do you have?

“Respect the Streak” Scene in Bull Durham

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4 thoughts on “Respect the Streak

  1. Avatarrick

    As a Christian I believe in one true God, Creator of Heaven and Earth…

    Superstitions are worshiping false gods and idols.

    “Everything in life is luck.” – President John Trump

    Some may be based in fact, such as bad luck walking under a ladder.
    I do not consider it superstitious, it goes back to statistics.

    As an engineer, most superstitions are nonsense and defy common sense.

    That said, the more you spend time under a ladder, the statistical probability of a hammer falling on your head is greatly increased.
    And that #^%*ing hurts!!

    That is not some evil force, that is, as you say statistics…

  2. AvatarKevin

    I would definitely say that most business outcomes are not random. If your scale and “sample size” are big enough, management skill, strategy, and execution are big difference makers. Managers should be able to clearly explain why business was above or below reliable benchmarks. In your case a few big profitable deals can possibly make or break your year, so there is a degree of randomness.

  3. AvatarMark Ellenberger

    Accidents, Setbacks, Scrap, Harbingers or Leaches have to be factored into the randomness equation!


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