The Week in Confirmation Bias, 6/24-6/30

Mike McGinnis

A weekly reminder that the things our brain tells us seems true are sometimes super true. You probably know where this is going.

Confirmation bias - "a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way." (Wikipedia)

Last week Manny Parra dominated the Pirates, Matt Dominguez hit the Brewers like he's hit no one else, and thanks to null's diverted attention, Wily Peralta had a quality start.

This week I stray from the typical format and focus on one particular inning which satisfied several confirmation bias statements all by itself.

Game & Scenario: Wednesday vs. the Chicago Cubs, Brewers trailing 3-5 in bottom of the 9th.

We've been used to seeing Carlos Marmol in the closer role for the Cubs, so typically this situation wouldn't appear as dire as the 10.5% win expectancy would indicate. However, with Marmol cast off from the closer's role and designated for assignment, the Brewers were forced to score two or more runs off of Kevin Gregg to keep their hopes of winning alive.

A couple years ago the end of that last paragraph would feel very different. But Marmol's gone off the deep end and Gregg is having a resurgent season, posting a career-low xFIP (3.17) and a K/9 (9.24) higher than it's been since 2009, when he last pitched for the Cubs.

A win wasn't looking very likely. However, Juan Francisco started a rally with a leadoff homerun into the Cubs' bullpen.

I wasn't yet on the edge of my seat, but my eyes unglazed. I remember diverting my attention away from the book I was half-reading while pretending to not be interested in the meaningless baseball game in my periphery. I returned to my book, though, as I remembered an important Brewers maxim:

The Brewers always tease us with false hope in late innings.

As Rickie Weeks lashed a double into the right center-field gap a few pitches later, I was forced to put down my book. Not only because of the implications of the at bat, an instance which raised their win expectancy by nearly 25% (Francisco's HR raised it by ~12%, FYI), but because there was a blinding flash of light and a wicked crack of thunder as it occurred.

Anyway, as soon as I became optimistic my instincts kicked in, and I recalled yet another Brewers maxim:

The Brewers never score with a runner on 2nd and nobody out.

But rules were meant to be broken, right? There's always hope. If there's anything I learned from Lord of the Rings, it's that there's always hope. When it comes to abstract, metaphysical musing, I consult the elves.

Logan Schafer was at the plate with Yuniesky Betancourt on deck. Rickie Weeks, who has decent speed, was on second base. The Brewers needed one to tie and two to win. A 2013 major league baseball team is expected to score just over a run (1.0622) in this situation. However, Ron Roenicke decided to go for zero runs instead by having Logan Schafer give himself up with a bunt to give Yuniesky Betancourt a crack at driving Weeks home from third. After this frustrating decision I consulted my master list, and voila:

Bunting is always a wasted out.

CheeseandCorn noted in the game thread that coming into this at bat, 10 of the last 13 balls Betancourt's put into play have been grounders to the left side of the infield.

As Betancourt stepped into the box the maxims began to overwhelm me.

Trusting Yuniesky Betancourt's baseball ability is never a good idea.

Yuni always swings at the first pitch. - aaronetc

Of course, with a runner on third and less than two outs and Roenicke in the dugout, there was the threat of a squeeze play. Dale Sveum visited with his infield at the mound supposedly discussing strategy, and Rock contributed this gem of a comment:

This is more a defensive chat out there on the mound as opposed to a philosophical discussion about Betancourt as a hitter.

Because he definitely can't bunt. And he can't hit. Seriously, what's there to discuss? I bet it was like that first guy who won Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? who used his phone-a-friend lifeline on the million dollar question to call his father to tell him he already knew the answer. Let's face it - Roenicke basically handed Sveum a million metaphorical bucks by putting the game in Yuni's hands.

Naturally - on the first pitch - Yuni chases a breaking pitch out of the zone, rolling over on it and grounding one in the reach of the third basemen. You know what happened:

Yunicontact_medium

And our increasingly popular maxim rears its ugly head once again.

The contact play never works.

Two pitches later Scooter Gennett stepped to the plate with a chance to redeem his maligned teammate and manager:

Scootertease_medium

Thanks for the tease, Scooter. Had to be done.

Verdict: ALL BIAS VALIDATED

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If you have any more maxims in mind, post in the comments and I'll add them to the master list. So I can selectively choose them when they become relevant - for further virtuous analysis.

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