The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is the principal Federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy.
“There’s no crying in baseball”—but there is a lot
Nicholas A. Schaffer
On September 29, 2004, the Montreal Expos Major League Baseball team played its final home game. The next
season, the franchise would relocate to Washington, DC, for economic reasons. Sports franchises continually use
economics, but can the study of economics benefit from sports? In their article, “Ask not what economics can do
for sports—ask what sports can do for economics” (Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, December
2020), Michael Bar-Eli, Alex Krumer, and Elia Morgulev illustrate how sports data can support economic research.
The authors cite instances in which sports data have supported fundamental economic theories or revealed market
failures and biases in decision making, before concluding that the abundance and quality of sports data have
resulted in their growing popularity in the study of economic behavior.
The authors cite several research articles in which data from sports is used to evaluate fundamental economic
theories. A recent article used the event of pulling a pitcher, an important moment in any baseball game, to
evaluate Bayesian decision making among coaches. Two articles observed professional soccer players: one
tested signaling theories in the labor market and the other showed that players’ actions during a penalty kick were
according to a minimax theory. Another article showed that tennis players served the ball in a mixed strategy
equilibrium. A separate article showed that when a tennis player challenged an umpire, their actions were true to
optimal decision making.
Bar-Eli and colleagues also discussed several articles that tested behavioral deviations from optimal performance.
Sports data have been used to reveal biases in decision making that lead to suboptimal results. For example,
sports data are used in one article to reveal discrimination and favoritism by presenting compelling evidence of
discrimination against Black players in English soccer. A different article fou