NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - In 2014, Ben Reiter, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, went to Houston to write an article about what was then the worst baseball team in 50 years. A few weeks later, his story was on the cover of Sports Illustrated predicting that this ludicrously bad team would be the 2017 World Series Champions.
It sounds totally nuts, but Ben was spot on.
He spent a few days embedded with the Astros and came back thinking they had a very interesting plan. The Astros didn't want to use numbers instead of humans, instead, they were synthesizing both of them to get the best out of both man and machine.
Ben's World Series prediction came true last year and that turnaround story is now the subject of his first book, Astroball: The New Way to Win It All.
Ben says Astroball is really about nine of the key decisions the Astros made along the way to the World Series. Each of those decisions, he says, was the result of that combination of human gut instinct and analytics. And clearly, they worked out well.
But the book isn't just about baseball. Right now, Ben says, all industries are really struggling with the battle between analytics and human instinct, man vs. machine. How much weight do you put into each of them?
Just look at the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton's campaign claimed to have the most advanced data analytics in political history. Those numbers assured her she was going to win Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states.
But she didn't.
Ben says that perhaps if a human had made the final call, saying "You know what? I know what the numbers say, but you should still probably go there," the outcome might have been different.
Ben hasn't given up on predictions. In fact, right after Houston won last year, he said they'd repeat in 2018.
Ben says the Astros are even better than they were last year, so he is going to stick with that prediction, but they're certainly going to have a challenge from both the Yankees and the Red Sox.