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Student Interviews Dowling Alumnus and Author, John G. Cottone

Dowling College Alumnus: John G. Cottone, Ph.D.

Written by Alison King

John G. Cottone, Ph.D. earned his Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dowling College in 1997, and he is very proud to bring his most recently published book to the school, Z-Score: How a Statistic in Psychology Will Revolutionize Baseball.

Dr. Cottone earned his Master’s degree from Stony Brook University, his doctorate from St. John’s University, and has published many works, including the book Who Are You? Essential Questions for Hitchhikers on the Road of Truth, vocational contributions to the New York Times, and various peer-reviewed research publications in the field of psychology. As a full-time clinical psychologist, he is thrilled to share his “most fun to write” publication, which analyzes baseball statistics using a method in psychology known as the z-score. This form of analysis “provides an assessment of a player’s performance relative to the performance of other players in the same group,” Dr. Cottone said.

This publication combines Dr. Cottone’s two passions in life: baseball and psychology. As an undergraduate student at Dowling, Dr. Cottone played on the baseball team while also studying psychology with one of his most beloved professors, the formerly deceased Dr. Robert Youth.

“I dedicated this book to my mentor at Dowling College…Dr. Robert Youth. He stood for the validity of the data you collect. That’s what really prepared me later in life to collect data and publish other research findings. In so many ways, my perspective on life, my perspective on science, everything that this book is about, came from the lessons that Dr. Youth taught me here at Dowling,” he said.

In both his personal life and his professional life as a psychologist and writer, Dr. Cottone believes in the importance of context and relevance.

In his Z-Score book, co-written by Jason Wirchin and including a foreword by Newsday’s Mets’ beat writer David Lennon, Dr. Cottone took statistics from Major League Baseball, plugged them into the z-score formula, and discovered results that would be impossible to retrieve from raw data alone.

“My hope is that the book will show people a different way to evaluate performance. This would come into play when evaluating players for the hall of fame, particularly players of the Steroid Era,” he said.

One of the findings of the book reveals that the best home run total, according to the z-scores, belongs to Babe Ruth. Although Barry Bonds holds the single-season home run record of hitting 73 home runs in 2001, Ruth’s home run total of 29 in 1919 was nearly ten times the league average at the time while Bonds’ 73 home runs was about 3 times the league average in 2001.

“The thing that ties together almost everything that I write is the importance of context,” Dr. Cottone said. Relevance and context are important in both understanding life and analyzing data, which he has experienced with his patients and in his statistical research as a psychologist.

When he graduated from Dowling in 1997, he held a 3.9 GPA, but he gives credit not only to his hard work but also to Dowling’s supportive environment. “I always found the support that I needed whether it was academic or personal…While I was here, I had great experiences with the counselors. It was one of the things that fortified my experience in pursuing psychology,” he said.

Dr. Cottone’s book is available for purchase on Amazon.com, and copies will be available to read in the Dowling College library.

To future Dowling graduates hoping to combine their passions with their careers, Dr. Cottone said, “When you’re passionate about something, you will work tirelessly until you achieve your goal. There’s an idiom that I use to guide my life: Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Very often, we believe that those who achieve great things are just naturally gifted, and I think my experience in life has told me that achieving great things has more to do with hard work than natural brilliance.”

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