A very good profile on Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver at the University of Chicago Magazine. It delves into the usual's such as his background, how he got started, etc. But more interestingly, it explains the importance of statistics to baseball. In short, no statistics, no baseball:
From baseball’s earliest days, fans have sought to understand the sport by examining its statistics. More than a decade before the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, emerged in 1869, newspapers printed box scores—tables listing players’ names, how many runs each player scored, and the number of hands lost, or outs, each player caused. “It was not particularly sophisticated,” says Alan Schwarz, a New York Times sports writer and author of The Numbers Game: Baseball’s Lifelong Fascination with Statistics (Thomas Dunne Books, 2004), “but it was the first attempt to say what happened in the game.” By the turn of the 20th century the sport evolved into some semblance of modern-day Major League Baseball—team owners formed the National League; pitchers began throwing overhand standing 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate; batters walked after four balls and struck out after three strikes; and fielders wore gloves. Statistics also evolved, and newspapers started tracking pitchers’ innings pitched, hits, earned runs, walks, and strikeouts; and hitters’ batting averages, hits, and runs scored. In 1920, when Major League Baseball began requiring umpires to replace balls at the first sign of wear, fans and reporters reveled in the flurry of history-making records that stemmed from higher-scoring games.
The fascination with stats kept growing. In 1952 the Bowman Gum company and Topps Chewing Gum printed their first baseball cards, featuring players’ data on the flip side—info kids promptly memorized. As Schwarz wrote in The Numbers Game, “Topps baseball cards joined box scores as the major pipelines that fed statistics into young boys’ brains.” In 1961, when Bucknell University mathematics student Hal Richman compiled statistics into Strat-O-Matic, a tabletop game where players make strategic and personnel decisions, he spurred a generation of children and adults to think critically and scientifically about baseball.
The Wisdom of Crowds has been touted as panacea for the prediction markets. The criticisms, though, of late are coming fast and furious. WSJ gets on the wagon:
The problem with these markets, Mr. Plott says, isn't that they are thinly traded, a common complaint, but that they are often plagued by bad information. That leads to bubbles, head-fakes and manipulation -- just like in the stock markets.
The people who bought Rudy Giuliani presidential futures had no better insight than the people who bought Yahoo at $100 a share.
I happen to agree. I think the bulk of these markets, just like any market, are driven by misinformed and under-informed traders that parse the same information from the same news sources. So, you have people trading on information from the media that has been proven wrong time and again.