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Stats camp bolsters baseball story

Editor's note: Rich Exner of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer attended IRE's Advanced Statistics Boot Camp at Arizona State University Feb. 6-8. Here's his take on the practical application of the training:

I learned after attending IRE's Mapping Boot Camp a couple of years ago that the best way to retain the new techniques crammed into a few days of classes is to use them right away. So on the plane back from the Statistics Boot Camp in Arizona, I started to look a different way at data I already had collected covering baseball payrolls back to the early 1990s. Not having SPSS yet, I managed to use Excel to do a number of the new things we learned (Regression, R Square, ANOVA regression, scatter plots - things I previously had no clue about).

Then, based on this, I came up with a way to grade baseball teams on how well they did, given the amount of money that each spent annually on players. Little of this research actually showed up in the print version of the story (though some graphics with this info were used). But it helped make us more comfortable with the direction we had chosen. And, for the baseball geeks out there, we gave a more detailed explanation of our analysis online.

The less-detailed version in the newspaper ran with some graphics from the online version. Some low-payroll teams such as San Diego proved to be doing a great job. A high-payroll team like Detroit was not. The biggest spender and must successful club, the New York Yankees, merely accomplished what would be expected for what they were spending.

And, as an aside, our new copy of SPSS arrived just as we went to print with this first story. We'll be putting it to use.

Rich Exner, CAR editor, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer Check out IRE's training calendar often to see other advanced training that we offer. If you'd like to suggest training or bring IRE to your newsroom or campus, please contact Doug Haddix ( or Jaimi Dowdell (

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