Clutch Hitters and Choke Hitters: Myth or Reality?
Math and economics major, Elan Fuld, C ’06, studied the phenomenon of clutch hitting in baseball, and his calculations provided statistical evidence that players such as Eddie Murray, Frank Duffy and Luis Gomez were clutch hitters.
A surprising finding in the study was that Bill Buckner, who has gone down in history as one of the game’s worst “choke artists” for his Game 6 World Series error, was statistically proven to be a clutch hitter.
In his study, Mr. Fuld defined a clutch hitter as a batter who hits better at more important points of the game. He modeled the at-bat outcomes of players using the importance of the game situation to find out if clutch or choke abilities helped to explain their performance.
“Once situational importance rose to around at least a certain level, the player would start to think this is very important and start doing something that makes him hit better, if he’s clutch, or panics and does something that makes him hit worse, if he’s a choke hitter,” Mr. Fuld said.
“I really like baseball and like statistics, and this struck me as interesting. Anytime you hear sports announcers, they’re always talking about who is a clutch hitter and who is a choke hitter. So I did a research project to determine whether there was statistical evidence for the existence of clutch hitters in Major League Baseball.”
Last summer, between his sophomore and junior years at Penn, Mr. Fuld studied playing statistics of 1,075 Major League players in the 1974-1992 seasons. He determined the situational importance of a player’s at-bat based on a team’s lead, which bases were occupied, how many outs there were in the game and which half-inning it was. He used six sets of assumptions that involved sacrifice flys and errors in different ways, allowing for only a 1% chance of a player showing up as a clutch or choke hitter if he was not.
“What I found was that, when I included sacrifice flys in the analysis, there was overwhelming evidence that there were clutch hitters,” said Mr. Fuld.
Methods of Advocating Breastfeeding
In a city where barely 20% of impoverished women breastfeed, changing attitudes toward breastfeeding has become a matter of course for students from the School of Nursing. Since 1995, ‘Nursing 361’ has required students to take part in a community advocacy program of their own design. In the May Journal of Human Lactation, the course’s instructor offers guidelines for others to conduct such projects, as well as a model to demonstrate how advocacy can change communities.
“Many problems women have with breastfeeding stem from a lack of knowledge and support in their environment,” said Dr. Diane Spatz, associate professor at the School of Nursing.
When Dr. Spatz created the course ten years ago, few nursing schools held in-depth breastfeeding classes. Indeed, surveys have shown that less than a quarter of the nation’s nursing students had, as part of their maternity rotation, a significant opportunity to teach or counsel new mothers about breastfeeding. Almost 200 students have taken the course since then and, through their efforts, have affected the breastfeeding experience of thousands of people.
In challenging students to create a breastfeeding advocacy, the course has made a lasting impact in Philadelphia. According to Dr. Spatz, there are five areas where breastfeeding advocacy has been particularly effective:
The role of fathers in the success of breastfeeding has been well documented. For example, a support group for fathers of breastfeeding infants, began at Pennsylvania Hospital by a Penn Nursing student, has continued for more than five years after the project began.
Many newcomers to the United States have adopted bottle-feeding as a more “American” practice. Student programs have been effective in reaching out to local immigrant groups. In one example, a Vietnamese student began a successful program at a local Vietnamese church, working with families and translating educational materials.
Some community hospitals do not routinely employ lactation consultants to help new mothers through problems in breastfeeding. A number of Penn students have helped community hospitals, such as Albert Einstein Medical Center, and clinics provide information to new mothers as well as help train staff members.
Many women are wary of breastfeeding in public due to both real and imagined stigmas attached to the practice. One Penn student came up with a novel solution by encouraging area restaurants to display a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” decal in their front windows.
Studies have shown women most often make their breastfeeding decisions well before they choose to bear children. According to Dr. Spatz, daycare centers offer an ideal place to begin educating men and women. In fact, one student created a life-size mother and child doll to appropriately demonstrate how babies can be breastfed.
Primary Graft Dysfunction & Lung Transplant Deaths
Among patients undergoing lung transplantation, primary graft dysfunction—a severe allograft ischemia-reperfusion injury syndrome occurring in the days after transplantation—contributes significantly to early and late mortality after lung transplantation, according to study findings.
This study shows that primary graft dysfunction is “very important to lung transplant outcomes,” Dr. Jason D. Christie from the School of Medicine noted in comments to Reuters Health. “Therefore efforts aimed at understanding the mechanisms and trying to prevent it should be intensified.”
Dr. Christie and colleagues analyzed data from 5,262 patients from the United Network for Organ Sharing/International Society of Heart and Lung Transplant Registry who were operated on between 1994 and 2000.
The overall incidence of primary graft dysfunction was 10.2% and the incidence did not vary by year of operation, reported in the first June issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Mortality at 30 days was 42.1% for patients with primary graft dysfunction versus 6.1% for those without primary graft dysfunction. Among patients who died within 30 days of the transplant, 43.6% had primary graft dysfunction.
“The intriguing finding of this study,” Dr. Christie noted, “was that among those patients who made it through the first year, those who had previously had primary graft dysfunction at the time of transplantation still had a higher risk of death over the ensuing years.” Adjustment for clinical variables including bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome did not alter this relationship.
“The increase in long-term mortality may be due to the lingering effects of a long ICU course, or alternately due to more immune rejection of the transplanted organ brought on by the acute lung injury in the early transplant period,” Dr. Christie said.
“The reasons for the observed difference in long-term mortality (such as rejection or frailty) need to be the focus of future research, so that we can appropriately intervene,” he added.
Solving Why Things Melt with Extra-large “Atoms”
Penn physicists have experimentally discovered a fundamental principal about how solid materials melt. Their studies have shown explicitly that melting begins at defects within the crystalline structure of solid matter, beginning along the cracks, grain boundaries and dislocations that are present in the otherwise orderly array of atoms. Their findings published in the recent edition of the journal Science, answer longstanding fundamental questions about melting and will likely influence research in physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering, as well as studies of biological importance.
In the Science paper, the Penn physicists show direct evidence for a leading theory of melting, the notion that the start of melting, premelting, occurs at imperfections in the orderly structure of solid crystals. Premelting occurs in areas where the alignment of atoms is not perfect, especially at the boundaries within crystals where the patterns of atoms shift much like imperfections in the grain of a piece of wood.
One problem with proving theories of how things melt is size; one simply cannot see the atoms in a solid structure as it melts. Not only are the atoms very small, but the solid matter tends to obscure what goes on inside. To get around these problems, Dr. Arjun Yodh, professor of physics and astronomy, and his colleagues made the atoms bigger.
“We created translucent three-dimensional crystals from thermally-responsive colloidal spheres. The spheres are like small beads visible in an optical microscope,” said Ahmed Alsayed, a doctoral student in the department of physics and astronomy and lead author of the study. “The spheres swell or collapse significantly with small changes in temperature, and they exhibit other useful properties that allow them to behave like enormous versions of atoms for the purpose of our experiment.”
As they raised the temperature of the colloidal particle crystal, the researchers could record changes within the crystal by following the motions of many individual spheres using a microscope and a video recorder.
The researchers believe these observations will lead to a better understanding of the melting process and enable more quantitative predictions of just how a substance might melt.
“The existence of premelting inside solid materials implies that liquids exist within crystals before their melting temperature is reached,” said Dr. Yodh. “Understanding this effect will provide insight for the design of strong materials that are more or less impervious to temperature changes and could also apply to our theories of how natural materials, such as water, evolve in our environment. Other Penn researchers involved in this study are Dr. Mohammad Islam, Jian Zhang, and Peter Collings.
Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 1, July 12, 2005