The Ball Or The Outfielder?

Watching baseball can teach us about watching our marketing analytics

by Jason Falls |

Have you ever been watching a baseball game, seen the batter drive a ball deep and hear the announcer or some fan near you declare that it’s a home run long before the ball ever clears the fence? It seems like some sort of sixth sense or intuitiveness that you can’t quite figure out. How did they know?

Here’s the secret: You’re watching the ball. They’re watching the outfielders.

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 09: Outfielder Andrew ...
Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

It’s impossible for the human eye to judge how far a ball is going to go, what trajectory it’s going to take and where it’s going to land from any part of the ballpark. While you could argue some exceptions if you’re sitting at a perpendicular angle to the trajectory of the ball (i.e. sitting in the left field corner watching a ball travel from home to the right field corner and vice-versa), I’ve personally seen dozens of people in those areas scream, “That ball’s outta here!” only to watch the outfielder saunter over and make the catch at the wall.

Watching the ball doesn’t give you the proper indicators as to how far the ball is going.

However, if you watch the outfielders, who spend hours each day watching and judging fly balls off the bats of opponents and teammates (in batting practice) and are far more experienced at knowing where the ball will go, you’ll see a clear indicator when a ball is going to be a home run. They stop running toward the wall to make the play when they know there won’t be one.

On a well-hit home run, they won’t even move.

Now think about your web analytics, sales numbers or success metrics. Frustrated with not being able to see or predict certain shifts or trends?

Think about it a bit then ask yourself: Am I watching the ball or the outfielder?

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).