Friday, November 17, 2006

Rock Paper Murtha

I can't find the link, but there was an article in the New York Times within the last couple months that provided a statistical analysis of what actually is the most important pitch during an at bat in baseball. Broadcast announcers like to say it's the first pitch-- get that first strike! -- but those quoted in the NY Times piece said that it is actually the 2-1 pitch.

That is, if the pitcher gets a strike and the counts goes to 2-2, the odds increase substantially that what happens after that point will be an out. And if the pitcher throws a ball and the counts goes to 3-1, the odds increase substantially that the batter will prevail in one way or another. This is less true for other counts. It's the 2-1 that matters.

So that's the question around Nancy Pelosi's failure -- if, indeed, it was a wholehearted effort that can be deemed a failure -- to get Jack Murtha as her Number Two Man. Was this a key moment in a larger strategy with much contingent on it? Or was in just a one-off moment, complete in itself and not the first carom in a nine-cushion shot?

I don't know, but it is lovely to see the pundits earn their bread by assuming it's square one in a long skein of feints, ducks and counterpunches that will determine Pelosi's success. The pundits rush to fill the vacuum even if they are the vacuum.

But maybe Murtha's shortfall was just rock, paper, scissors, complete in itself and just about as serious. It's over. Nothing else to see. Turn the page. Move along. No "domino theory" need apply.

Postscript: On the other hand, apparently there's strategy in RPS.

The Master's Guide to Rock, Paper & Scissors defines the term gambit as:

"A series of three successive moves made with strategic intention."

The use of Gambits in competitive RPS has been one of the greatest and most enduring breakthroughs in RPS strategy. Selecting throws in advance helps prevent unconscious patterns from forming and can sometimes reduce the subconscious signals that give away the next throw, often called “tells”. Gambits are the focal point of beginner strategy and form the basis of many advanced strategies.

Who knew?

1 comment:

B. Wieder said...

The inside baseball analogy is apt but perhaps not exactly as you pose it. She and Murtha are old and close personal friends, a major factor in House politics, and he was her de facto campaign manager when she ran for Minority Leader. She owed him and now she has paid up, and can move on without that debt lurking about. The voting outcome--no contest at all--could not have surprised or truly disappointed anyone. That's really about all there is to it.