SOME EVIDENCE THAT DEFENDING AGAINST A HOT HAND CAN BE WORTHWHILE. Much of the focus of the studies and papers on whether there is “a hot hand” (and Edmund Andrews says there have been dozens of them) has been on whether the existence of a hot hand is a random event. But a separate question is: if there is an effect, how important is it? Is it, for example, simply a matter of making 76% of free throws rather than 75%?

The new findings suggest that the hot hand can make an important difference. Andrews summarizes some findings by Zwiebel and Green: “When a player is “hot,” the researchers calculated, his expected on-base percentage will be 25 to 30 points higher than it would be if he just has been “cold.” Similarly, a player on a hot streak will be 30% more likely to hit a home run than if he has been on a cold streak.” Nate Silver says: “We have some unpublished research that a colleague of mine is doing, but it looks like you can maybe predict batting average up or down, or on-base average 20 or 30 points from a baseline, which in baseball terms is pretty relevant.”

That is, the recent evidence suggests that baseball players and managers have good reason to pay attention to slumps and hot streaks. Silver concludes: “If you have a guy hitting a leadoff spot because he’s a 0.370 OBP hitter, and he’s really a 0.340 based on his current condition, then he should maybe be demoted down to the eighth spot in the lineup instead.”

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