The Sons of Sam Horn recently posted a very interesting interview with Bill James. You should definitely read the whole thing. The interviewer, James T., asked James about the influence of his undergraduate economics major on his sabermetrics research.
My economics training was very useful, yes. It had tremendous impact on me, but I have difficulty explaining how. Economics is fundamentally concerned with value…. And my work is fundamentally concerned with value…. So the ways of thinking about problems are often very much the same.
He then elaborates on the contribution of his college education to his problem-solving skills.
Of those other 100 ways to think about the problem, maybe 20 were shown to me by statistics or math professors, and maybe 15 were shown to me by psychologists, and maybe 15 were shown to me by historians, but probably 50 were explained to me by economists. So. . .yes, my way of thinking about the problems was very, very different after I finished school than before I started it, point a, and, point b, the economics classes had a great deal to do with that.
I was kind of surprised to see James give so much credit to economics. Certainly, I am a strong believer in the power of economic thinking, and I am delighted that James agrees somewhat. Although, I have to say that James’s own intellect and inquisitive nature are far more responsible for his success than any economics course. There have been millions of students who’ve taken college courses in economics, but we only have one Bill James.