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Sunk Costs and Base Running

Summary:
A friend and I went to see the San Francisco Giants play the Milwaukee Brewers in San Francisco last Thursday. Great news: the Giants won with an exciting bottom of the 8th inning. (Not so great for my friend, who grew up in Wisconsin and is a Brewers fan.) One of the key plays happened late in the game when a fairly heavy set Brewer, Daniel Vogelbach, hit what looked like a double to the right field. He ran through first and on the way to second. But halfway to second, he turned and looked to see whether the right fielder had thrown the ball yet. That was a key error. That little turn slowed him down slightly–he wasn’t a really fast runner–and he was thrown out in a close call at second base. Vogelbach ignored the irrelevance of sunk costs. Once he had made the

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Sunk Costs and Base Running

A friend and I went to see the San Francisco Giants play the Milwaukee Brewers in San Francisco last Thursday. Great news: the Giants won with an exciting bottom of the 8th inning. (Not so great for my friend, who grew up in Wisconsin and is a Brewers fan.)

One of the key plays happened late in the game when a fairly heavy set Brewer, Daniel Vogelbach, hit what looked like a double to the right field. He ran through first and on the way to second. But halfway to second, he turned and looked to see whether the right fielder had thrown the ball yet.

That was a key error. That little turn slowed him down slightly–he wasn’t a really fast runner–and he was thrown out in a close call at second base.

Vogelbach ignored the irrelevance of sunk costs.

Once he had made the decision to run through first base and get halfway to second base, he would have had too much momentum if he had decided to turn back to first base. He should have just run to second as fast as he could without looking. Whether or not it was a good decision to go for two bases, by the time he was halfway between first and second, that decision was in the past and irrelevant.

If he wanted to look anywhere, it should have been to the third-base Brewers coach. That would not have slowed him as much and the third-base coach could have signaled whether he needed to slide or take second base standing.

Note: The picture above is of Vogelbach when he was with the Seattle Mariners.

David Henderson
David R. Henderson (born November 21, 1950) is a Canadian-born American economist and author who moved to the United States in 1972 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986, serving on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984.[1] A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution[2] since 1990, he took a teaching position with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1984, and is now a full professor of economics.[3]

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