When Statistics Are Not Helpful

Dave · July 25, 2011 at 5:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Here on USSM, we talk a lot about probability and likely outcomes. When making a decision, we think it’s generally wise to understand historical precedent, and to learn from history rather than repeat it.

But, there are times in life that you’re not making a decision, and knowledge of the probability of outcomes just doesn’t help at all. You are just rooting for one specific result, even if you don’t have any control over whether it occurs or not.

I’m now in one of those situations. Last week, I was informed that I have Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a particularly nasty member of the cancer family. History has given my doctors all kinds of data about cure rates and life expectancy, and statistical analysis is helping them decide just what kind of chemotherapy I’ll be taking in a few hours, which I’m really thankful for.

But really, those numbers do nothing for me. I’m not going to be making very many decisions over the next few months. I’m just going to be rooting like crazy for the drugs to work. I need reasons for hope, and I won’t find much of that in the harshness of raw data.

Data isn’t always what is needed. If you’re a Pirates fan right now, does it help you at all to know that your team probably won’t keep this up? You’re not going to be making any decisions that will change the outcome anyway, so why not root for the outcome you want, even if it isn’t statistically probable?

Thats what I’m going to spend the next few months (and years, in reality) doing. Save the odds for the doctors; I’m planning on living a long time. I’m planning on beating this thing. I’m planning on watching the Mariners win a game, and at this rate, that might take years. I want to be around to see it, though, and I just don’t care what the odds say is likely.

For the rest of 2011, I’m unsure of what my involvement here will be. You probably noticed that Derek has returned – I asked him to come help when I found out I had leukemia. The hospital has wi-fi, so if I feel good, I might write ten posts a day. If the chemo sucks, you might not hear from me for a few weeks. At this point, I just don’t know what is going to happen, but I know the outcome I want, and the fact that the data suggests it may not happen is irrelevant to me.

Statistics can be powerful, useful tools, and at times, they can be critical to understanding what to do. Other times, though, they’re useless, and so, for this situation, I say screw the data; I choose hope instead.

I know many of you are going to want to know how you can help. For now, I’ll just ask that you strongly consider donating both blood and platelets to the Red Cross – they have a critically low supply of both at the moment. Thankfully, my wife is an oncology PA; we have great health insurance and are in the trusted care of her friends and coworkers, so financial assistance isn’t needed at this time. If that changes, I’ll let everyone know, but for now, send prayers in lieu of cash.

See you all when I can. Don’t get too used to not having me around.


254 Responses to “When Statistics Are Not Helpful”

  1. stuafoo on July 25th, 2011 6:49 pm

    So I rarely post, but have been a daily reader for many years. Yes, this is terrible news, but news isn’t the same thing as prophecy. Dave, you are a strong, passionate, and dedicated person, and you will take this fight to whatever limits you need to. You’ve become a part of the Mariner family, and if you need anything there will be people climbing over each other to give it to you. I wish you the best of luck, and look forward to hearing more from you for many years to come.

  2. maimster on July 25th, 2011 7:02 pm

    I’ve never once posted on this blog. And since I moved out of Seattle, I don’t often read it. In fact, I didn’t even have a user name until now. However, I had to register just to tell Dave he has one more well wisher who has learned a lot about baseball, the Mariners, and open thinking through his writing. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Chris Miller on July 25th, 2011 7:22 pm

    Get well soon Dave. Love your writings.

  4. Bryce on July 25th, 2011 7:25 pm

    I remember hearing stories about how Hiroshi Yamauchi would only come to Seattle once the team got to the World Series. I used to think about how awesome it would be for him to see it after all that he did for the team.

    Now I just want it to happen for Dave. Fight on, man. You need to see them get to the World Series.

  5. saketumi on July 25th, 2011 7:42 pm

    davey, since i heard about your illness over the weekend, i’ve written and deleted numerous postings because i don’t know what to say. i hadn’t created an account here until yesterday, but since your aunt and uncle directly me to this website a few years ago, i’ve been a frequent visitor. it’s amazing how attached one can be to someone he’s never met. i believe this is a small bump in a long and happy life. you have numerous supporter such as the faceless blogsphere (like me), baseball broadcasters, family, and amy. see you soon…

  6. nodiggity on July 25th, 2011 7:57 pm

    Dave. Best wishes. We are all rooting for you.

  7. okinawadave on July 25th, 2011 7:59 pm

    See you all when I can. Don’t get too used to not having me around.

    This is the best ending you could’ve written.

    I’ve been following this blog for four years and it’s completely changed the way I view baseball. Almost all due to you, Dave. Thank you and let us know if there is anything we can do to help you.

  8. number19 on July 25th, 2011 8:16 pm

    Dear Dave,
    I’ve been reading your blog for 5 years and I created an account just so I could post a comment here. Since I moved across the country, you are the only way I keep track of a Mariner team I never get to see and which gets no news coverage. You have completely changed how I watch and appreciate the game. Thank you for that. You’ve got the right attitude and I’d wish you luck, but I’ve been wishing the Mariners luck for years, so I don’t think that’ll do any good. Kick this thing’s ass and come back to us soon.

  9. OlSalty on July 25th, 2011 8:24 pm

    I’m sorry this happened to you Dave, it feels like such a hollow attempt to co-opt pain to say that and I don’t really know how you feel but I felt pretty bad when I heard about it. You basically changed the way I look at baseball and I would strongly prefer that you get better. I wish you the best of luck, and for whatever it’s worth I’m pulling for ya.

  10. jared_kopp on July 25th, 2011 8:31 pm

    My girlfriend who works for an organization that specializes in funding the research and treatment of leukemia suggested I pass on these words to you from one of the great athletes of our generation (steroids or not):

    “Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight…If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.” – Lance Armstrong

    Sounds a lot like the approach you’re taking. Don’t lose sight of it. In the mean time, study every move made by the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants – if that mess can win a World Series, then absolutely anything is possible.

    Get better, Dave. You have much left to do in this lifetime.

    Best Wishes. There is always hope.

  11. The Nickster on July 25th, 2011 8:48 pm

    Oh jeez. Here I came to the site looking to commiserate about the incredibly awful Mariners, and I’m blindsided by this news.

    I’m a big believer that the love of sports brings people together and produces something greater than just a game, and that is what this blog has done. We are all your friends and fans, Dave, and though I have never met you, I feel that I know you. And I am pulling very, very hard for you in this fight. From the sound of things, cancer’s got a tough fight on its hands. Keep battling, man, keep fouling off those pitches til you find one you can “square up” on, and knock it outta here. You can do it.

  12. SonOfZavaras on July 25th, 2011 9:06 pm

    Oh yes. Forgot to mention, Dave. If they answer pagan-esque sort of prayers up there, I’m sending them off on your behalf.

  13. nickwest1976 on July 25th, 2011 9:21 pm

    Dave, I am so sorry to hear this. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife as you battle through this.

  14. abun24 on July 25th, 2011 9:44 pm

    Here’s to acute myeloid leukemia’s regression to the mean. Fight like hell Dave, we need you back as soon you can be ready.

  15. Sinking Away on July 25th, 2011 9:45 pm

    I hope I speak for all of the lurkers to this site that we are very sorry you received this diagnosis. We are so grateful to you for giving us your wonderful analysis on a daily basis. You give us you. If you need anything, please let us know. We offer our prayers (pagan-esque and otherwise) for your speedy recovery.

  16. Adam S on July 25th, 2011 10:20 pm

    I was so saddened to read your tweet this morning.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. Best of luck in beating this.

  17. georgmi on July 25th, 2011 10:32 pm

    Adding my voice to the chorus. Refuse to Lose, indeed.

  18. fwbrodie on July 25th, 2011 10:33 pm

    Fight hard man. You can do it.

  19. spkofficespace on July 25th, 2011 11:03 pm

    First time, long time here: I want to send along my condolencses, support, and gratitude. Over the years, your blog is what I leaned on for all things Mariner and made me a smarter fan. The fact that you write so well only added to the twice-daily experience of checking this site. Please know that so many you have never met ( or who have never before commented) are pulling for you and are eager to support you.

  20. UKDJ on July 25th, 2011 11:08 pm

    Just watched a documentary on nutrition therapy and cancer that could be worth watching/considering. http://www.foodmatters.tv/_webapp/The_Gerson_Miracle

  21. gaylordperrysplitter on July 25th, 2011 11:21 pm

    While working as a journalist, going back to grad school, etc., I have always found time for USSM before all other reading… I feel like this is happening to a close friend.

    Hang in there, Dave, you better stick around.

    Dammit, this sucks.

  22. rsrobinson on July 26th, 2011 12:44 am

    Wow. I don’t know what to say Dave except may God be with you in beating this. Hang in there.

  23. Techno_Viking- on July 26th, 2011 1:19 am

    Dave you were one of the first writers that brought me to an enlightened state of baseball knowledge. I continue to read your fantastic writing all the time and I want to thank you for what you do for us fans. I can’t wait till you are fully recovered and healthy and I have no doubt that will happen. I will be praying for you so get better soon. We love you Dave.

  24. Techno_Viking- on July 26th, 2011 1:56 am

    I want to add that I hope some day I will be able to say I met Dave Cameron: One of my favorite and most influential writers and a strong man that went against leukemia won. Again I can’t wait for that day, and go beat it.

  25. Greeff on July 26th, 2011 3:11 am

    Like many others i credit USSM and especially you, Dave, for teaching me about the deeper meaning of baseball statistics.

    I hope you get well soon, many prayers from the Netherlands!

  26. Jar on July 26th, 2011 5:19 am

    DAve, you are in my prayers man, Rooting for you all the way.

  27. stuehler on July 26th, 2011 6:10 am


    Good luck, brother, and much love. I’m rooting for you, and looking forward to reading you for a LONG, LONG time.

    Get well soon.

  28. currcoug on July 26th, 2011 8:21 am

    Unfortunately, I lost my sister to breast/brain cancer several years ago, and the drummer of my band just died of a rare form of leukemia. However, I have many friends and relatives who beat the odds.

    Be brave and stand in there Dave…we are with you.

  29. BigB on July 26th, 2011 9:07 am


    We are all pulling for you. Just like ’95, we believe. Keep your head up and get well soon.


  30. John W. on July 26th, 2011 9:56 am


    Your blog renewed my love for the Mariners. Because of your writing ability, I feel as though I really know you. (even if it’s just through baseball) I’ll donate blood and I’ll pray, but I wish I could do more.

    I thank you, Derek, and everyone else for everything you guys have done, and will continue to do. You have my thoughts and prayers for as long as they are needed.


  31. dingla on July 26th, 2011 10:37 am

    Sending positive thoughts your way. Get well.

  32. GarForever on July 26th, 2011 11:45 am

    I’m a little late to all of this, but best wishes, Dave. I’ve learned so much thanks to this site, and having this community has made the ups and downs of Mariners baseball these last several years much easier. I, for one, am looking forward to many more years of your keen insight and analysis.

    Sending all the positive energy I can muster from Virginia — get well soon!

    All the best,

  33. mcfly on July 26th, 2011 11:53 am

    As a two-time cancer survivor to a future one-time cancer survivor, keep up the attitude where you know you’ll kick it’s rear to the curb. I’ve been a reader here for since 04, and will continue to keep it on my daily schedule for years to come. And I fully expect you to be writing the best dang commentary for the team we both love.

    I will add you to my prayer list, and the prayer list to a few churches in the area. May God bless and comfort you Dave, your wife, family and friends during the next few years.

  34. Edgar4Hall on July 26th, 2011 12:33 pm

    Dave I just want to first say thanks for all the knowledge that you impart to us and the genuine passion that you show about baseball. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to say two days ago that I will be praying for you and your family and that I now that you will recover. Get better and do to cancer what everyone seems to like to do to the Mariner’s: Beat it handily 🙂 Get well soon and if you need anything, you can count on us.

  35. just a fan on July 26th, 2011 1:09 pm

    Dave, I really appreciate all the work you’ve done and I’ve become a smarter fan because of what you do on USSMariner and FanGraphs. I hope the treatment goes better than expected and I’ll miss the times when you will be unavailable to add content.

    Get well, so that one day you can watch ol’ Carlos Peguero in the MLB All-Star game.

  36. msfanmike on July 26th, 2011 1:54 pm

    Wow … I was a day late in reading this post. I am very sorry to hear the bad news, Dave. Keep the faith and god-speed!

  37. mlathrop3 on July 26th, 2011 2:27 pm

    Dave –

    Also a day late in catching up to the blog, which is rare and a testiment to the legacy you have built here. But, you have much more legacy to build. We’re not through with you yet! Get well soon.

  38. bitt3 on July 26th, 2011 2:31 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear about this. I will send prayers and positive thoughts. Thank you so much for the amazing work you do, and I look forward to reading it for years to come. Get well Dave!

  39. Paul on July 26th, 2011 2:59 pm

    USSM has deepened my appreciation of baseball, something I have enjoyed my entire life. Maybe it is a cruel twist of fate that now, when it matters most, stats and probabilities pale in relation to will to win, belief and positive thinking.

    Looking forward to reading about your biggest win ever! I’ll be rooting for you all the way.

  40. Brent on July 26th, 2011 4:36 pm

    As someone who’s exchanged dialogue back to the early days of asbs-m with you (and truthseeker, idiot Mike, and Jimbo Jones), I too will pray for your full recovery. Good luck!

  41. dmcnic on July 26th, 2011 6:05 pm

    Best of luck, David. You are an inspiration at your ability to write often. Thanks for powering through this. We all are here for you and hope you continue to keep us informed.

  42. littlesongs on July 26th, 2011 6:09 pm

    If ever there was a moment in Mariners history for some love from the deities of horsehide and hickory, this is it. To hell with the losing streak. The Baseball Gods have unquantifiable powers to change outcomes and yours is high on their agenda. I look forward to the day when you can smile about miracles like Bobby Thomson, Kirk Gibson, and so many others.

    Thank you from the heart for all you have shared about the game we love. My thoughts and prayers are with you now and in the future.

  43. DLCheeZ on July 26th, 2011 6:59 pm


    At your request, and on your behalf, there is now one more pint of blood in circulation. I hope you won’t mind that it went to the Puget Sound Blood Center instead of the Red Cross. The lemon snickerdoodle that I ate afterward, again on your behalf, was delicious. Thanks!

    Get well soon.

  44. 68GTCS on July 26th, 2011 8:35 pm

    Dave, there are just no words. I wish you and your wife strength and courage and optimism as you go through this together. And I wish you all the very best for a quick recovery.


  45. wabbles on July 26th, 2011 9:39 pm

    Hey Dave,

    Two things.

    First, I just spent June 28-July 21 in the hospital for an appendectomy and complications arising therefrom. For most of those three-plus weeks, I had a nasal-gastric tube up my nose and down into my stomach. So I could only “eat” ice chips in addition to my high-sugar IV fluids. I got jabbed for blood sugar readings and then poked for insulin injections to combat the elevated blood sugar from the high-sugar IV fluids. Then the (necessary) diarrhea started. I’m out now but on a restricted diet for two weeks and lifting restrictions for four weeks. Thanks for stealing my thunder dude. 🙂
    Second, I contracted bacterial meningitis (You survive viral meningitis. You die from bacterial meningitis.) in March 1967 at nine months old. I was given a 50% chance of living and a 100% chance of ending up as a “vegetable.” I ended up with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and Teflon tubing that snakes from my brain into my abdomen, keeping me alive. But I’m here. I’m alive when everything else says I shouldn’t be.
    Just keep focused on getting your life back, back to what you were doing before this derailed things.

  46. namzo on July 26th, 2011 9:45 pm

    I hope the chemo is going well, and that you will overcome the difficulty. I am praying for you from Japan.

  47. Phightin Phils on July 26th, 2011 10:09 pm

    Have faith in your strength, and swing for the fences!

  48. mwb on July 26th, 2011 10:11 pm

    Get well; our thoughts are with you and yours.

  49. wh33ls on July 26th, 2011 10:14 pm

    Dave: I wish you the best. Stay positive — that will help more than anything else. If you believe you’ll beat leukemia, you will.

  50. waitin_4_series on July 27th, 2011 12:16 am

    Dave, I agree statistics are not helpful, if you went back 15 years ago, what would be the probability that you could be in the situation you are now; with a national following, regular radio appearances, multiple journalist publicly showing their support for you and hundreds of other supporters responding to your blog?

    What was the likelihood that your open letter to Rafael Chaves would have made it to Felix Hernandez and result in a 2 hit effort and a national news story?

    Grand things happen to you and for you. You are special, and your future is still ahead of you. Keep up the faith and we will keep up the prayers.

    – The Postman.

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