People Want a Number

Most of my friends and family know that more than any other sport, I’m a pretty big baseball fan. My two favorite teams are the Kansas City Royals and whoever is beating up on the Yankees. Debbie and I will attend Spring Training, plan a game at the “K” during most homestands and even try to work in an away game or two each season. I have a pretty good working knowledge of the players and coaches on the team, including some in the minor league pipeline and to top it all off, I have suitable baseball attire for three seasons of weather. I have come to realize that modern baseball has become a game of a massive amount of statistics so it should come as no surprise that a copy of Keith Law’s Smart Baseball would catch my eye at the local library. BA, RBIs and ERA just won’t cut it any more. Imagine my surprise though when Chapter 10 started this way:

“People want a number. They don’t want lots of numbers. They want one number that answers the question. That’s a mixed bag. because one number destroys all nuance. It doesn’t show your work; it just gives the answer, without context. You could apply this to many spheres of life, and it’s no less true in baseball as anywhere else. Fans and writers want to point to one number that sums the whole player up. He’s a 20-game winner. He’s a 300 hitter. Incomplete picture be damned, let’s just slap a number on that fella and call it a day!”

It was like deja vu all over again! Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me what the secret formula is for valuing a practice. Just like the baseball fan, they don’t want the facts, they just want a number. I recently had an article published in the Missouri Dental Association’s Focus Magazine regarding practice appraisals and valuation and had this to say about “a number”;

NEVER trust a report that relies on some standardized multiple or “Rule of Thumb” as there is none. That rationale relies on at least two bogus assumptions. First is that the rule is applied to practices of all shapes and sizes when in fact practices with different revenue levels have historically sold for variable percentages of gross collections. Secondly, it assumes that two practices with identical revenues, one being a rural Medicaid-based practice and the other a high tech suburban office will sell for the same price. I can assure you that is not the case.
I think I’m sticking with that. Now if I can just get my head around WAR.*

Steve Wolff – UMKC Class of 1977

*Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic.