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Numbers Out Of Time

November 20, 2015
  • 3.00
  • 99.95%
  • 4.00

The above numbers provide important insight into how well people are doing. But, the numbers can be deceiving. 

Baseball

ERA, or Earned Run Average is one of the ways to judge the effectiveness of a major league baseball pitcher. ERA measures how many runs a pitcher allows over a 9-inning game. A 3.00 ERA is considered very good. In fact, last season, only one team, the St Louis Cardinals, had a team ERA below 3.00.

  • Cardinals – 2.94
  • Pirates – 3.21
  • Cubs – 3.36
  • Mets – 3.43
  • Dodgers – 3.44
  • Astros – 3.57
  • Blue Jays – 3.80
  • World Champion Kansas City Royals – 3.73

Compare those ERA’s from playoff teams with some of the teams who didn’t make the playoffs

  • Seattle Mariners – 4.16
  • Red Sox – 4.31
  • Braves – 4.41
  • Phillies – 4.69
  • Rockies – 5.04 (Coors Field in Denver: Where pitchers go to die)

ERA is not a perfect indicator of whether a team will make the playoffs or not. The Yankees with their team ERA of 4.08 made it, as did the Rangers who carried a horrible 4.24 ERA into the post season. But, as a rule, ERA is a good indicator of how your team and even how an individual pitcher is doing. 

So, if you saw a pitcher with an ERA of 9.00 what would you think? Good pitcher or bad pitcher? 

I wouldn’t be asking the question if the answer were obvious. A pitcher with an ERA of 9.00 might be the best pitcher in the league. 

System Availability

My job has a couple of metrics that I get judged on. the most important one is system availability. As the Technical Account Manager, my team looks to me to keep the computers up and running. If they go down, we start a clock ticking. Every minute of down time counts against my percentage. If I keep the availability above 99.95% my team stays out of the red. If Availability drops below that number, we pay a penalty. The more it drops, the higher the penalty. In a 24 hour day there are 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds. A 0.05% down time is 43 seconds. That means I have 43 seconds per day that my systems can be off line before I pay a penalty. 

I watch the system availability numbers very closely. 

Currently the system availability number for one of my sites is 99.79%. That’s bad, right? 

I’m not worried.

It has to do with time. 

Today is the 20th of November. My penalty is calculated at the end of the month. Six days ago, when my service interruption happened, my percentage was 99.59%. But, after 6 days of no outages, I’ve brought it up by .2%. If we have a typical month, I’ll be back into the 99.95% safety zone by the end of the month.

And that’s the danger of taking numbers without considering time. Simply picking a number, even a number you jnderstand like ERA or system availability can be misleading if you pick it at the wrong time. 

Grades

I have four sophmores, a freshman, an eight grader and two seventh graders at my house. They understand this concept of numbers and time. . .and they try to utilize it to their advantage. 

Hey, what’s this F in History?

Well, sure, it’s an F now, but I’ve got plenty of time to bring it up by end of term.

When does the term end?

Friday.

We can get lulled into a false sense of security knowing that while our metrics right this instant might be poor, they can improve over time. 

For example, my goal every month is 100% availability. As soon as I take my first minute of down time, I can never again recapture 100%. Similarly with grades, recovery only gets you so far. Perfection requires you be diligent from the very beginning. That can work for things like grades and computer systems. Sometimes, like with baseball, you know a pitcher is going to give up some runs. It’s important to remember that it’s a long season. 

That pitcher that I mentioned earlier with the 9.00 ERA? In his first game of the season he gave up three runs in three innings. By the end of the season he might have an ERA in he 2.00 range. 

Remember to keep numbers in perspective. Don’t take them out of time. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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