Malcolm Gladwell's latest exercise in reverse-engineering hypotheses to fit his cherry-picked data is all about David and Goliath, but there's a key point he missed.
Namely, no matter how inevitable he thinks it is that the little guy with the slingshot's going to take down the large target, he fails to point out that David can never, ever afford to give Goliath freebies. No matter how accurate David's sling stones were, no matter how much velocity he could get on a shot, no matter how inaccurate AD&D's 1d2/1d4 rating of the amount of damage a sling stone might do was, all of those are contingent on Goliath not getting a shot in. If David, motivated by some insane sense of fair play and/or repeated readings of Gladwell essays, had decided to play fair and let Goliath get a swing in first, our hero would have been pulped like an overripe mango.
And this, dear friends, is why Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are no longer in the playoffs. You can't keep giving Goliath shots at you. You can't keep throwing wild pitches (like the Rays). You can't keep getting doubled off through inattention or thrown out on bad decisions to steal (like the Pirates). You don't walk the guys who should be automatic outs and let the lineup turn over. You don't boot routine plays. You don't forget the stuff - the razor-edged efficiency - that got you into the playoffs in the first place.
The Rays did. So did the Pirates. Goliath, in the form of the Cardinals and the Red Sox, got their extra swings.
They didn't miss.