Friday, July 24, 2015

Statistics and Fatigue

In the late 19th Century, a former cricket player, English-born Henry Chadwick of Brooklyn, New York, was responsible for the “development of the box score, tabular standings, the annual baseball guide, the batting average, and most of the common statistics and tables used to describe baseball.” The statistical record is so central to the game’s historical essence that Chadwick came to be known as “Father Baseball.” As a result of the public’s interest in statistics, in the 1920s, American newspapers began devoting more and more attention to baseball statistics, initiating what journalist and historian Alan Schwarz describes as a tectonic shift in sports, as intrigue that once focused mostly on teams began to go to individual players and their statistics lines.  A major question here is – Do you know your personal fatigue error statistic line? 

The game of baseball places the individual player under intense scrutiny and pressure. Outcomes in baseball, unlike any other sport are totally dependent on the individual actions of each player. Scholar Michael Mandelbaum describes it this way, “It is impossible to isolate and objectively assess the contributions of each football team member makes to the outcome of the play... Every basketball player is interacting with all of his teammates all the time. In baseball by contrast, every player is more or less on his own! Baseball is therefore the realm of complete transparency and total responsibility. A baseball player lives in a glass house, and in a stark moral universe... Everything that a player does is accounted for and everything accounted for is either good or bad, right or wrong.” The accounting that Mandelbaum is discussing involves the keeping of statistics of the errors the individual makes.

In baseball statistics, an error is the act, in the judgment of the official scorer, of a fielder misplaying a ball in a manner that allows a batter or base runner to advance one or more bases, when such an advance would have been prevented given ordinary effort by the fielder. This facination with statistics in baseball produces a paradox for many in the field of error management and fatigue risk management. The paradox is this: Why do we have so much interest in baseball player statistics, yet frequently leave unexamined the personal safety statistics of operators in high risk industries, where human lives are often on the line?

Looking at the way in which the individual is held accountable in baseball may offer us some insight into how we should approach self- improvement and fatigue error reduction, or at a minimum, offer us some insight into what was going on that led to the error. Like any great athletic endeavor, each encounter with error or the error producing condition fatigue should be recorded and analyzed. Capturing what was happening, what you did or failed to do (or what someone else did or failed to do), and what happened as a result leads to an understanding of your error patterns and provides the path to the future and avoiding similar actions or conditions. The keeping of statistics on personal fatigue caused errors and analyzing them is a must if we are to improve performance and have an effect on personal and work safety.  Since there are systems in place and technology for monitoring available, there is essentially no excuse for not tracking our statistics when the error is attributed to fatigue. The only question here would be – Is your system and technology up to the task?

Note: Bob Novotney works as an Independent Consultant working with KOSTechnology, Inc. a producer of real-time fatigue monitoring systems. To learn more about KOSTechnology, please visit .

1. Mendelbaum, M. The Meaning of Sports. Why the Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do. New York, Public Affairs Books, 2004.
2. Kern, Tony. Blue Threat: Why to Err is Inhuman. Wage and Win the Battle Within. Woodland Park, Colorado, Pygmy Books, 2009.

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