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Thread: Explaining Bradman - Baseball, Biology, Darwin, and Dinosaurs.

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    Cricketer Of The Year watson's Avatar
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    Explaining Bradman - Baseball, Biology, Darwin, and Dinosaurs.

    I know the topic of Bradman's greatness has been done to death before, but the following video is too interesting to ignore.

    In 9 minutes the Evolutionary Biologist Stephen Jay Gould explains why Bradman is unlikely to be better than Sobers, Richards, Lara and Tendulkar. Or if he is better, then only marginally.

    Gould is American of course and therefore his theory centres around great batters in baseball, but it is still applicable to great batsman in cricket.

    I won't claim to an expert in statistics so would welcome some comments (good, bad, or indifferent) from those who are.

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    The artist formerly known as Monk Red Hill's Avatar
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    I found it interesting when he said the average batting average in baseball has stayed the same over the years (260?) while 400 is seen as some kind of peak, but 400 hasn't happened for a while, however people have come close.

    I'm definitely no mathematician/statistician, but I'm not sure this
    Quote Originally Posted by Watson
    Stephen Jay Gould explains why Bradman is unlikely to be better than Sobers, Richards, Lara and Tendulkar
    is actually what's happening. I'd be interested to know if the average batting average in cricket has changed over the years (my gut instinct says that from Hobbs time to present the average average of batsmen (top 6) would have been about the same). Someone will be able to work this out I'm sure. However, Bradman is still at least double and a bit more than the average.
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    Cricketer Of The Year watson's Avatar
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    This is how I understand the ideas outlined in the video, and I am happy to be wrong.......

    There is an absolute limit as to how good a batsman can be due to the constraints of human biomechanics, reflexes, eye sight, and depth of concentration. The greatest batsman from each era (for the sake of argument the 1920s onwards) are all very close to that absolute limit of excellence.

    The reason that it is no longer possible to achieve an average that is twice as good as everyone else is because everyone else on the cricket field is better at playing cricket. Better batsman, better bowlers and better fielders. In other words, because everyone is closer to the absolute limit of cricketing excellence it makes it far more difficult for the likes of Sobers or Tendulkar to stand-out, to be a true statistical outlier.

    The fallacy that Bradman is about twice as good as every other great batsman is a fallacy because it makes the false assumption that there is no absolute peak that batting can reach. Or if there is, then that peak can some how be moved. It cannot.

    In real terms, Bradman, Sobers, Lara, and Tendulkar have all pushed the skill and art of batting to its absolute limits, and therefore to say that one is significantly better than the other doesn't make sense. To say that one great batsman is about twice as good as another great batsman appears rather silly.
    Last edited by watson; 28-04-2016 at 06:23 PM.

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    International 12th Man BackFootPunch's Avatar
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    The issue with using the baseball comparison is that even when a Ted Williams or a Ty Cobb hit over .400, they weren't as far ahead of their peers as Bradman was. In 1941 when Ted Williams hit .406, he wasn't even the leader in hits for the year - 5 other guys had more hits than him. Hitting .400, while pretty much impossible now, isn't the equivalent of someone averaging 99.94 in cricket. Hitting .400 is like averaging 65-70. Damn near impossible over a long period of time, but doable if you have a short career (just like someone can have a great year in baseball to hit .400).

    Everything we've seen in cricket indicates the absolute peak that you speak of is around an average of 70. Some guys are near there, the next group aren't too far behind. Yet Bradman was absolutely miles above it.

    So the entire theory about there being an absolute peak and a closing up of the range of ability, which looks really good and correct, is blown out of the water by Bradman.
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    Cricketer Of The Year watson's Avatar
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    You have misunderstood the concept BFP. Averages are not absolute but instead are relative to the combined batting, bowling, and fielding skill levels of the era.
    Last edited by watson; 28-04-2016 at 07:06 PM.

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    Seems similar to the logic I usually present in these arguments, Bradman is sort of the exception to the rule though. His domination is so far ahead of his peers that there is every chance he would still be a better batsman than the greatest of today (Kane Williamson FTR).

    Guptill > Hobbs though.
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    Haven't watched the video, but I am naturally inclined to be skeptical about evolutionary theory etc. being applied to sports. Just seems too much of a stretch.

    Bradman also kept up his numbers over a huge sample size in FC, did any of his peers emulate (or come close) to his 90+ FC average?
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    International Debutant the big bambino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Hill View Post
    I'd be interested to know if the average batting average in cricket has changed over the years (my gut instinct says that from Hobbs time to present the average average of batsmen (top 6) would have been about the same). Someone will be able to work this out I'm sure. However, Bradman is still at least double and a bit more than the average.
    statsguru has the averages by decade (or any period you want to set). The averages are consistent from one decade to the next from the 1920s. It suggests standards in bowling and batting are reasonably matched even as they improve. So while averages aren't absolute there is enough data to support the contention they settle around the low to middle 30s for teams and great batsmen are those who average in the 50s. Bradman's average was achieved against a benchmark that has been common throughout cricket. There isn't any reason to believe someone wont be able to achieve its like again. Though the exception will be countered in odds so long there is more likelihood the game will be cease to be played before that happens.

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    International Regular TheJediBrah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by watson View Post
    This is how I understand the ideas outlined in the video, and I am happy to be wrong.......

    There is an absolute limit as to how good a batsman can be due to the constraints of human biomechanics, reflexes, eye sight, and depth of concentration. The greatest batsman from each era (for the sake of argument the 1920s onwards) are all very close to that absolute limit of excellence.

    The reason that it is no longer possible to achieve an average that is twice as good as everyone else is because everyone else on the cricket field is better at playing cricket. Better batsman, better bowlers and better fielders. In other words, because everyone is closer to the absolute limit of cricketing excellence it makes it far more difficult for the likes of Sobers or Tendulkar to stand-out, to be a true statistical outlier.

    The fallacy that Bradman is about twice as good as every other great batsman is a fallacy because it makes the false assumption that there is no absolute peak that batting can reach. Or if there is, then that peak can some how be moved. It cannot.

    In real terms, Bradman, Sobers, Lara, and Tendulkar have all pushed the skill and art of batting to its absolute limits, and therefore to say that one is significantly better than the other doesn't make sense. To say that one great batsman is about twice as good as another great batsman appears rather silly.
    Seems like a lot of theoretical and very little practical, especially when being applied to cricket. The biggest fallacy going on here is the application of any of these principles to Bradman and assuming it is somehow accurate to any extent IMO.

    very interesting research done though and I applaud the effort, however suffice it to say I disagree almost entirely with your conclusion
    Last edited by TheJediBrah; 28-04-2016 at 08:39 PM.

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    International 12th Man BackFootPunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by watson View Post
    You have misunderstood the concept BFP. Averages are not absolute but instead are relative to the combined batting, bowling, and fielding skill levels of the era.
    No, I completely understand the concept. I think it's a perfectly valid theory and would be a fantastic way of explaining statistics in both cricket and baseball over time. Except, y'know, Bradman. He was so far ahead of everyone else in the era that he doesn't fit the concept.

    Wally Hammond, of Bradman's era, is a guy hitting .400. He's one who was clearly above the vast majority of other players. Bradman is a guy hitting .600. He doesn't fit the model because he was an absolute freak. So saying he wasn't any better than Sobers, Richards, Tendulkar or Lara is doing him a massive disservice.
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Burgey's Avatar
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    Some things are beyond explanation. Bradman is probably one of them.
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    Cricketer Of The Year watson's Avatar
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    Yeah, all excellent points.

    But I think that if you are going to construct an argument against the 1930s Bradman being a significantly better batsman than the 1960s Sobers, or the 1990s Lara then the 'Stephen Jay Gould Theory' (as I call it) seems like the best one available.

    After all, we are not just looking at a simple mathmatical comparison between Bradman V McCabe or Hassett. Rather we are looking at Lara V Tendulkar, Kallis etc within the context of facing McGrath, Warne, Donald, Wasim, Waqar etc on varied continents and pitches.

    So ultimately the question becomes - is Bradman's skill level so superior that it is very likely that he would average nearly 20-50 runs more an innings more than Lara if he were in 'Lara's shoes'. Conversely, is Lara's skill level so inferior that he would not come close to averaging 100 if he were in 'Bradman's shoes'?

    It's a vexed question, but a facinating one.
    Last edited by watson; 28-04-2016 at 10:54 PM.
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    International Debutant the big bambino's Avatar
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    Bradman was once described as being so effective that if you had a hero of a book do the things he did a publisher would return it to the author as too fanciful. That will always be his problem. People are so sceptical now they'll look for reasons explaining his success. The bowling wasn't as good they'll say yet the bowling average (of the 30s at least) is comparable to any other era. Anyone else could do it so its claimed yet the batting averages of the next best in his era are comparable to the greats of all other eras. You can't tell me he's twice as good as Richards some sceptics claim. Well not quite. Not twice as talented and Richards at his best made scores nearly as large as Bradman's best. But he was twice as consistent and that is reflected in his average and century to innings played ratio. Look if you want an analogous comparison with a WI champion try Headley. He is a great of the game. Now could he have been that much worse than Lara or Viv? I think not. Yet he was some distance behind Bradman.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member chasingthedon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by watson View Post
    This is how I understand the ideas outlined in the video, and I am happy to be wrong.......

    There is an absolute limit as to how good a batsman can be due to the constraints of human biomechanics, reflexes, eye sight, and depth of concentration. The greatest batsman from each era (for the sake of argument the 1920s onwards) are all very close to that absolute limit of excellence.

    The reason that it is no longer possible to achieve an average that is twice as good as everyone else is because everyone else on the cricket field is better at playing cricket. Better batsman, better bowlers and better fielders. In other words, because everyone is closer to the absolute limit of cricketing excellence it makes it far more difficult for the likes of Sobers or Tendulkar to stand-out, to be a true statistical outlier.

    The fallacy that Bradman is about twice as good as every other great batsman is a fallacy because it makes the false assumption that there is no absolute peak that batting can reach. Or if there is, then that peak can some how be moved. It cannot.

    In real terms, Bradman, Sobers, Lara, and Tendulkar have all pushed the skill and art of batting to its absolute limits, and therefore to say that one is significantly better than the other doesn't make sense. To say that one great batsman is about twice as good as another great batsman appears rather silly.
    I looked at the ICC ratings along these lines in this piece:-

    A Measure of Greatness | Cricket Web

    Through Test cricket history only Bradman and Hutton rated higher than Hobbs, while in Hobbs time the 5th player rates the same as the 20th player now (or at least at the time of the article).

    Actually I mentioned this theory of Gould's in the feature.

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    U19 Vice-Captain Camo999's Avatar
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    From what I understand, Bradman was a real perfectionist. How do we know he was absolutely at the limit of his own ability when he had to work a full time job and didn't have the advantage of modern training, equipment and time to dedicate himself to the game? Geez if Voges can emulate Bradman's numbers, it would be interesting to see what Bradman could have done in this era where batting has surely never been easier.

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