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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Election's Must-Read Numbers Cruncher

Posted By on 09.09.08 at 12:35 PM

As the word genius is tossed around way too casually, I will simply say that Nate Silver is the smart young fellow behind Baseball Prospectus and the inventor of a system for calling pennant races that led him to predict the White Sox would finish at 72-90 in 2007. That was the year the Sox finished 72-90. Silver's PECOTA system ran into more trouble with the Cubs. PECOTA said 86-76 and actuality decreed 85-77. I let PECOTA -- that's Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm -- into this spring's BAT competition and it kicked butt.

With too much time on his hands, Silver has branched out into political projections, and his fivethirtyeight.com (for the number of electors in the Electoral College) is now the go-to Web site for political geeks who want to know how Obama and McCain really stand, all sentiment aside. It's the political handicapper's bible -- even if you think, or hope, it's fallible, it's still the bible. And as you'll see when you visit, it's giving Obama a much more comfortable electoral college lead than mere pundits and headline writers would dare suggest. (Here's more background on the site.)

Anyway, I'm adding a permanent link to fivethirtyeight.com to this blog. (Look for it in the far-right column.) When you go there you won't be alone -- both parties' strategists visit so often they might as well rent rooms.

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