Wisdom Of The Crowd

Today, David announced the newest addition to the site, and one we’re all pretty excited about it – Fan Projections. We’ve hosted the forecasts of most of the various top projection systems over the last few years, and you’ve probably become accustomed to hearing various writers quote CHONE, ZiPS, or Marcel. With FanGraphs now offering the ability to aggregate projections from various sources, we’ll have a new set of projections to offer this winter – those of the crowd.

If you’ve read James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”, you’ll no doubt recognize the theory behind the endeavor. As Surowiecki suggests, there is evidence that certain groups of lay people can give better estimates than any single expert, due to the unique experiences we all have in life. By blending our understandings together, we can eliminate some of our individual biases and enhance the shared wisdom of the population.

Tom Tango has done some research on this as it pertains to projections in baseball, and Surowiecki’s theory holds up pretty well. In a four part series that matched up six projection systems against 165 fans, the aggregate projections of the fans was essentially the equal of the complex statistical models. Individual fans by themselves didn’t fare so well, but when all fans were combined into a single projection, they held their own.

This is, essentially, Surowiecki’s argument in a nutshell. We all have our limitations of understanding, but the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

So, in that spirit, we offer you the opportunity to make your voice heard. Use the Fan Projections to add your personal wisdom the crowd, based on your insights and experiences. Despite the fact that this is site is statistically inclined, we have a fairly broad base of readers, offering a wide variety of opinions and views – the kind of crowd where the wisdom of many can really shine through. Try projecting some players every day, putting real thought into what you expect from each player in 2010.

If we have the diverse, intelligent crowd that I think reads this site, don’t be too surprised if the Fan Projections end up hanging with the big boys. Let’s put the wisdom of the FanGraphs crowd to use and see what happens.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.