Jay Kang in The New Yorker:
One of the stultifying but ultimately true maxims of the analytics movement in sports says that most narratives around player performance are lies. Each player has a “true talent level” based on their abilities, but the actual results are mostly up to variance and luck. If a player has, say, the true talent to hit thirty-one home runs in a season, the timing of those home runs is mostly random. If someone hits a third of those in April, that doesn’t really mean he’s a “hot starter” who is “building off a great spring”—it just means that if you take thirty-one home runs and toss them up in the air to land randomly on a time line, sometimes ten of them float over to April. What does matter, the analytics guys say, are plate appearances: you have to clock in enough opportunities to realize your true talent level.
For much of my career, I was the type of journalist who only published a handful of magazine pieces a year. These required a great deal of time, much of which was spent on minor improvements to the reporting, structure, and sentences. I believed that long-form journalism, much like fiction or poetry, possessed a near-mystical rhythm that could be accessed through months of intensive labor. Once unlocked, some spirit would sing through the piece and touch the readers in a universal, truthful way.