From Bill James' 2005 SABR article, "Underestimating the Fog":
Most baseball fans believe that players get “hot” and “cold.” Many analysts believe (and a popular web site is devoted to proving) that this is nonsense, that hot streaks and cold streaks are just random clusters.
Everyone agrees that a hot streak is a transient phenomenon. Therefore, why doesn’t everyone agree that it is a non-real phenomenon—a random sequence?
Because people believe that there is some persistence to the transient phenomenon—in other words, that the persistence is not zero.
My opinion is that, at this point, no one has made a compelling argument either in favor of or against the hot-hand phenomenon. The methods that are used to prove that a hot hitter is not really hot, in my opinion, would reach this conclusion whether hot hitters in fact existed or whether they did not.
Stated another way, the hot-hand opponents are arguing—or seem to me to be arguing—that the absence of proof is proof. The absence of clear proof that hot hands exist is proof that they don’t. I am arguing that it is not. The argument against hot streaks is based on the assumption that this analysis would detect hot streaks if they existed, rather than on the proven fact. Whether hot streaks exist or do not I do not know—but I think the assumption is false.
Tags: Bill James, baseball, Moneyball