University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Super Crunchers Chapter Summaries
* What really got him in trouble is crunching numbers to assess the quality of Bordeaux wines. He found that low levels of harvest rain/high avg. summer temps produce the greatest wines Reduced his wine theory to a formula; he can predict the general quality of any vintage by plugging weather statistics for a given year into formula.
NOT well received by traditional wine critics BUT, unlike the traditional critics who have to wait months to taste the wines, Orley could compute his predictions right away (he published them in a newsletter called Liquid Assets) 1990 New York Times Article on his prediction machine greatly intensified traditional critic’s animosity towards Orley-not only did his ’86 prediction contradict the critic’s (Parker), but he predicted ‘89’s wine to be “wine of the century”.
990’s wine was predicted to be even better than ’89-both predictions proved accurate Critics argued his system was flawed- it produced inexact future price predictions (either under/over actual); signaled his unbiased estimate (unlike Parker) Many traditional experts now too consider weather data, resulting in predictions much more closely aligned w/ Orleys; still, others see him as a threat to their informational monopoly of the world of wine * The Orley Ashenfelter of Baseball What Orley did for wine, writer Bill James did for baseball
James’ thesis: data-based analysis in baseball was superior to obvervational expertise…”the difference b/w a good & avg. hitter is not visible-it’s a matter of record” Created a formula to measure a hitter’s contribution to runs created; it put more emphasis on a player’s on base % The Oakland A’s 2002 drafting of scout-hated Jeremy Brown was based solely on hard numbers; Brown progressed faster than anyone else drafted to the A’s that year, proving the scouts wrong
* Parallels b/w Orley/James n both contexts, ppl are trying to predict the MV of untested/immature products; the central dispute of both is whether to rely on observational expertise or quantitative data Both placed ads for their respective newsletters; Orley was locked out of Wine Spectator and James received the cold shoulder from the Elias Sports Bureau Both have forever left their marks upon their industries and given rise to number crunching groups-SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) & the Association of Wine Economics In Vino Veritas
Historically significant: experiential expertise is losing out time and time again to number crunching Hedge funds brought about a new breed of number crunchers-Super Crunchers: they use statistical analysis to make predictions (a combo of size, speed, & scale-all of which are huge) that impact real-world decisions; they look for a better way to do things Traditional experts in all fields are at war w/ super crunchers Number crunchers are changing both the decision making process and decisions themselves; sometimes crunching confirms traditional wisdom The super crunching revolution can be both helpful and hurtful to consumers