I don’t know what it is exactly, but Opening Day for Major League Baseball is special. Perhaps it is the realization that when the boys of summer come out to play, the chilled grasp of Old Man Winter is all but gone and the prospect of warm sunny days is finally at our doorstep. Or, maybe its nostalgic. After all, it was this game that made famous the original trading cards. With their image on the front and stats on the back of card stock rectangles, players were immortalized in every child’s mind and carried around as sacred trophies.
Whatever the reason, whether it is the physiological sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark or the subconscious hopes that Spring has official sprung, Opening Day is medicine to the human condition. It was the poet Walt Whitman who said “…we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base’, a certain game of ball…Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms…the game of ball is glorious.” I couldn’t agree more.
From a data perspective, the game of ‘base’ has no equal. It’s a game where every movement is recorded. Every pitch, every swing – all motion is measured by percentages, averages and time. It is a game so majestic that its measurements transcend time limitations; a game so holy that a tied score would be a sacrilege. Over the years, the statistical analysis has increased and new measures are garnering attention by scouts, managers and the front office in making decisions on personnel contracts. For me, I am a huge fan of the statistic applied to pitchers called WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched). It measures the pitcher’s effectiveness at keeping runners from reaching base, their ultimate goal. ERA (Earned Run Average) is a solid metric for sure. However, if a pitcher walks a batter with two outs and the next batter hits a deep fly ball followed by the center fielder making an error, the runner scores. That run is considered “unearned” and is not reflected in the pitcher’s ERA. The way I see it, if a pitcher has a low WHIP, he removes scoring risk, regardless of “fault.”
WHIP is combination of three measures (walks, hits, innings) that provide tremendous insight. Just looking at the number of walks issued, hits given up or innings pitched as silo metrics certainly has some value, but the combination of the three is infinitely more telling about the pitcher’s effectiveness and probability of winning. My gut tells me that in your company you have all sorts of “walks, hits and innings” metrics floating around the office, some in spreadsheets and some in your CRM or financial system. Those metrics probably get dusted off once a quarter for a meeting or two then go relatively unnoticed for months at a time. Why is that? I think that while they aren’t all that interesting by themselves, combining relevant data points to provide context and possibly new measures transforms those old, stand-by metrics into game changers. So, on a day when we celebrate that glorious game, I challenge you to find your business “WHIP” and see how it changes the way you run your business.