So I was reading in Sports Illustrated this morning about a pitcher from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ross Ohlendorf. He is not your typical big league pitcher. This guy was one question away from scoring perfect on the SAT math portion. He went to Princeton University and spent the off-season working as an intern on Capital Hill for the Department of The Agriculture. He did cost analysis of regulatory programs that identify and trace diseased animals and plants. Yeah, somehow I can’t see Jeter or Pujols doing this.

His senior thesis at Princeton was apparently so interesting that it got him an invitation to join prestigious Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society. The title of Ohlendorf’s thesis was Investing in Prospects: A Look at the Financial Successes of Major League Baseball Rule IV Drafts from 1989 to 1993.

If you’re like me you most likely are wondering what exactly is the Baseball Rule IV Draft? Well it’s essentially the early round where teams are allowed to sign players and offer singing bonuses. And if you have ever wondered if these big money bonuses to rookie players ever pay off for the team, well then Ohlendorf’s thesis explains it all in detail.

Spoiler Alert!

The answer is yes.

“The Cliffs Notes version”, according to Sports Illustrated’s Mark Bechtel is this, “while bonuses have escalated in recent years, players on average still produce an effective return for their teams of twice their bonuses”.

I love hearing or discovering statistical realities such as this. Come on admit it, if you are a sports fan, chances are you probably had tired of hearing about these big signing bonuses for rookies who had no big league experience. As it turns out, I was wrong; apparently they can be well worth the investment. Only a serious check of the numbers proved it. Just another reason to always back up your data or opinions with hard numbers and proof.

When Ohlendorf’s career is over, he will prove to have been well worth the $280,000 he signed, now that he is the ace for the Pirates. And if it eventually doesn’t work out for him, he’ll make a great marketing guru.

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