Stats are Ruining Baseball, Says Curmudgeon

Fire up the time machine! Scott DeSmit is partying it up with Joe Morgan and Murray Chass 2003 style--in 2014. It's gonna be sweet!

Oh, Scott DeSmit.  You’ve found Doc Brown, stolen his DeLorean, revved it up to 88 MILES PER HOUR (!!!), and driven the time machine back to 2003–to where, you presumably wrote this article.  The stats/traditionalist war never gets old because it’s so damn funny.  This guy is still fighting the Cabrera-Trout War of 2012.   Check it out.  This is hilarious.

Computers have ruined baseball and “Sports Illustrated.”

Damn you, machines! I bet it was that T-1000 from Terminator 2 that destroyed baseball and Sports Illustrated. He and that Jay Jaffe who uses stats and inconvenient facts to explain Hall of Fame cases that are rational and logical. Sons of bitches!

Mike Trout

Mike Trout gives you those counting stats you want AND has the highest WAR over the last two seasons. Chew on that one, DeSmit.

Are you sure you can read a box score? You’re dragging your knuckles pretty hard as you walk.

Pretty simple. Derek Jeter went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs and scored once. He’s now batting .280.

Is it really that simple? Batting average, despite it’s simple premise is actually pretty complex when you factor in what counts as a hit and what counts as an at bat. Walks, for instance, don’t even count as an at bat. Fielder’s choices are considered outs, even though the hitter got on base.

And don’t even get me started on the unbelievably subjective nature of errors. Balls that are misplayed by fielders, but not bobbled (or followed up with an errant throw) are considered hits, despite the fact most fielders should have converted a play into an out. Then you have the bobbles that aren’t considered errors because “they were tough plays”. Who decides what’s truly an error? A single score keeper makes the decision. Is he right? Maybe. Maybe not. In many cases, we’ll all have an opinion on the error/hit call that will eventually be forgotten, and not tracked for batting average purposes.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Pitching wins/losses, RBIs, and ERA are even more convoluted that Mr. DeSmit’s beloved “simple” batting average.

When I read “Sports Illustrated” I want insight into the game, great stories about the game and its players. Not this: “A .296/.373/.489 hitting in the minors … and he was one of the top five prospects as rated by gWAR, a proprietary measure of a player value similar to Wins Above Replacement.” The pitcher was one of the best, “according to gERA or defense-adjusted ERA.”

First of all, if you don’t want to read that kind of analysis, don’t read it. There are hundreds of thousands of options to where you can get your baseball coverage, so it’s not like you’re limited to just SI. Go to ESPN. Go to Murray Chass’s blog…err…internet column site. Go to Baseball for Dummies. I don’t care. I don’t like reading the Drudge Report, so I go somewhere else like Huffington Post or Salon. You have options, so don’t act like the baseball math bullies are oppressing you.

Secondly, there’s a gWAR? I’ve heard of fWAR and rWAR (also known as bWAR to some), but never gWAR. If there really is a gWAR, I’m infinitely happy because I’ll assume it’s an ode to the satirical metal band named Gwar. If you see this as anything but a good thing, then we can’t be friends.

They actually have a yearly conference, a SABR Analytics Conference.

They have CONFERENCES? You mean they get away from the spreadsheets their working on in their mother’s basement for a few days, expose themselves to sunlight, and interact with other people? You sir, are clearly lying. Be gone!

Scouts are no longer gruff men with beer guts and a cigar dangling from their mouth but computer geeks who wouldn’t know a good baseball prospect if one came up and slapped them in the face with a Louisville Slugger.

Do you actually know anything about baseball, Mr. DeSmit? You do write for the New York Daily News sports section, so it’s a legitimate question. Fat, cigar smoking scouts still exist–en masse on all 30 clubs. So do statisticians. Believe it or not, scouts and statisticians can live together in peaceful harmony. If Milo and Otis can do it, so can they.

It’s one thing to have these statisticians, it’s another to write about them. They know exactly where every pitch ever thrown has been placed. “27 percent of his sliders hit the inside corner of the plate, providing the temperature is above 63 degrees and the wind is out of the south at less than 9 mph.”

Yes, it’s a terrible thing. I agree. Actually knowing hard information about the game, and extrapolating logical conclusions from the data; then, sharing it with your readers? FOR SHAME! HOW DARE THEY?!!! It’s so much better to spew made up baseless bullshit and vitriol, and pass it off as fact like your commrade Mike Lupica.

It has infiltrated every aspect of the game. Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012. And there was a debate as to who deserved the MVP. Why?Sabermetrics, whatever that means. Just 16 players have ever won the Triple Crown. Cabrera bats .330, hits 44 home runs and drives in 139, you bet he deserves MVP.It wasn’t even a unanimous vote, thanks to Sabermetrics.

Thanks, Sabermetrics! You and Obama ruin everything.

A few things. First of all, a single sentence does not a paragraph make. (Note: Each sentence in the article was a broken out paragraph. I had to combine it into a single paragraph because of some weird formatting issue.) For someone who is paid to write professionally for a major publication, you should know better. I feel like a newspaper would feel like–I don’t know–an degree in English or Journalism/Mass Communication would be advantageous.

Secondly, it is factually correct that Miguel Cabrera won the triple crown. It was a very cool achievement. Sadly, offense is not the only part of the game that exists. Mike Trout was his near equal offensively, and likely would have posted similar rib-eye numbers had he batted third in the order rather than leadoff in front of on-base juggernauts like Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo.

Trout played a premium position at a Gold Glove level, while Cabrera played third base at a level that was barely even watchable. Trout ran the bases both aggressively and intelligently. Cabrera, on the other hand, plodded station-to-station.

The only reason Cabrera won the award is because old-timey baseball writers can’t move past the 1960s. Still, I’m fine that Cabrera won. He had a great season. I disagree with the result, but I’m not going to cry over something that happened in 2012.

Mike Trout deserved the MVP because of Pythagorean expectations, speed scores, ultimate zone ratings, VORP, wOBA and PECOTA, or Player Empiracal Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.

VORP? Why do anti-saber writers always go to VORP? No one–and I mean no one–reputable in the stats community has used VORP for anything other than to make a joke since 2005. Please find another, more current stat to use.

As for the rest of the group, wOBA and UZR are the only stats that might have been considered in the 2012 MVP ballotting–which is a war, for some reason we’re still battling. The rest are just things he decided to add because he’s offensively ignorant to what he’s railing against.

Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com

Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com

Think baseball was boring before? Grrrrr. Yes, baseball has always been stat-driven. That’s why I love reading box scores. But it’s also driven by gut instinct.

Some of it is gut instinct. Isn’t it better to at least consult the facts before going with your gut? The stock market is part gut instinct, too, but I usually like to do my research before dropping a couple grand on a stock just because the Nasdaq code is GWAR…

Taking David Ortiz out of the World Series lineup based on Sabermetrics? Because the bench player had a better OPS/WAR against the pitcher on odd-numbered days and when the defensive lineup consisted of 38 percent Hispanic players with DRSes of .678 or above? Blah blah blah.

Again, dismissively ignorant. Stats guys don’t rely on small sample sizes. In fact, we can’t stand it when traditionalists like you claim there’s some predictive nature in claiming a hitter owns a pitcher based on 21 plate appearances. Splits are only interesting over very long periods of time. Otherwise, they’re more gee-whiz. But it’s funny that you’re ironically and unknowingly making fun of yourself and your like minded buddies.

You can have your computer-generated scouting reports. Give me that kid who dives into second base headfirst stretching a single or smashes into the outfield wall leaping for a fly ball or hits 450-feet home runs or bats .320 and steals 50 bases and give me that pitcher who waves off his manager when he reaches 100 in the pitch count.

Who doesn’t love those guys. We all love Dustin Pedroia and David Eckstein. The problem is that some of those guys have a ton of talent (Pedroia), and others get by for ten years because of two or three good seasons (Eckstein).

And I’ll take a Triple Crown winner over anyone. I don’t care if it’s a cloudy day or not.

That’s your prerogative. But eventually, your triple crown winner is going to be 35 and on the downward slope of his career. Mike Trout will be 25, and could be looking like the second coming of Willie Mays.

Categories: Boston Red Sox

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

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