Welcome to a special weekend edition of the FCPA Compliance Blog to celebrate the Astros World Series game win. As the hometown heroes won last night’s Game Three in Houston 5-3; we are up and writing today. This was the first World Series home win in the history of the Astros franchise so that is reason enough to celebrate but it turns out there is a significant compliance lesson from last night’s game which is worth a weekend consideration. It is trusting your eyes to read and interpret the data in front of you.

For those who might not be following this series quite as closely as the Compliance Evangelist, the Astros dusted the previously untouchable Dodgers starter Yu Darvish for four runs in the second inning and then hung on as Los Angeles chipped back. However, that chipping ended when Houston Manager A. J. Hinch brought in Brad Peacock to replace ALCS Game 7 hero Lance McCullers who was not at his best Friday night.

As reported in Sports Illustrated online, “Peacock, who did strong work as a swingman for Houston during the regular season, particularly as a rotation patch when McCullers went down, took the Astros the rest of the way. He retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced, with a two-out walk in the seventh by Andre Ethier the exception. Considering that Houston’s bullpen had turned in a 4.91 ERA in the postseason to that point, it was a huge performance. Peacock’s 3 ⅔ innings save tied for the second longest in World Series history since the save became an official stat in 1969; Madison Bumgarner’s five-inning effort to close out the 2014 World Series is the longest, with Peacock equaling the Dodgers’ Steve Howe going 3 ⅔ to close out the 1981 World Series. Five other pitchers had saves of at least that length going all the way back to 1944.” All-in-all one impressive performance.

Astros star Carlos Correa was more direct when he said Peacock was “Light’s out tonight. It was really special to watch.” In a post-game interview, Peacock seemed stunned noting, “I didn’t expect to get the save opportunity.” He then added, “I knew they were taking some bad swings at my fastball and I kind of had the feeling he was going to leave me [Manager Hinch] in there and thankfully he did.” Peacock threw 54 pitches and 49 were fastballs. When you have one pitch working that well, you throw it until the other team figures it out, which the Dodgers never did. Peacock said in his post-game interview, he never shook off the sign from the catcher, Brian McCann.

After the game, one of the greatest panel of baseball talking heads I have ever seen continued their incredibly insightful commentary. It consists of Alex Rodriguez, Big Papi, Keith Hernandez and Frank Thomas. One thing they all agreed upon was the managerial strategy of Hinch. The metrics did not say that Peacock should have stayed in the game but as Rodriguez and Big Papi agreed, you need to “trust your eyes” when managing. By this they meant that Peacock’s fastball had such movement the Dodgers were basically powerless against him.

This insight to “trust your eyes” is something which is not noted enough in the compliance arena. There is much discussion about data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in compliance. Yet rarely do we talk about the human element in all of this. The point of data is to give you information from which you can make a better decision. It is not to slavishly follow the data. This is the key role of a compliance professional in the OODA feedback loop; which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. You should incorporate the data your compliance program generates back into your program for continuous improvement but if this information does not make your program more effective or more robust, you should not use it. Moreover, if your ‘eyes’ or experience shows it is not working, then do not use it. Finally, if your eyes or data tells you something else is working, use that technique.

Houston manager Hinch abandoned the metrics only playbook that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts followed to keep Peacock in the game. But this was not based on his gut or a hunch. It was based on the observable data of watching Peacock cut down Dodger after Dodger at the plate with his killer fastball last night.

Perhaps the final word on the human element of compliance comes from Gary Kasparov. He recognized this after his loss to IBM’s Big Blue in a chess match. In a review of his recent book Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins, it noted that Kasparov “recognized that computers do well what humans do badly and vice versa, suggesting a useful complementarity.” Moreover, “he argues that humans are often fallible, finding patterns in randomness and correlations where none exist. Computers can help us be more objective and amplify our intelligence. Technological progress can never be stopped even if it should be better managed.” Kasparov even formulated his own theorem, which he calls “Kasparov’s Law” and it reads, “Weak human + machine + better process is superior to strong human + machine + inferior process.” This means a compliance professional will always do better when they can work with the data in front of them.

The greatest computer is still the human mind. If you use it like Houston manager Hinch did last night by observing the situation, deriving the data and testing it against the standard; you might win a World Series game in Houston for the first time.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017