Old Man Yells At Cloud*

old-man-cloud*I’ve sprinkled several Simpsons references throughout. See if you can find each one! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Most of the baseball-writing media are past stat-nerd bashing, and are at least aware that they will receive some pushback. Those who cannot deal with the new reality are often either on the staffs of dying newspapers or on First Take where you have to actually bother to transcribe something if you want to rip it. I think Fire Joe Morgan was a big part of that and Twitter’s instant feedback drove it home, but every once in a while you still run into a writer who has apparently never heard of either of these things. This one is interesting because Scott DeSmit, of TheDailyNewsOnline which seems to serve an area around Buffalo New York not only watches The Simpsons, but also knows enough about Sabermetrics to put a fake qualifier letter in front of his fake WAR.  He calls it gWAR. I assume this is a tribute to GWAR, a high concept rock band who recently suffered the loss of their frontman Dave Brockie, who died unexpectedly at the age of 50.  Or maybe it’s because g is the letter after f. Let’s find out! He’s in bold. I am not.

“You made me love baseball. Not as a collection of numbers, but as an unpredictable, passionate game, beaten in excitement only by every other sport.”

-Lisa Simpson.

“I made baseball as much fun as doing your taxes.”

-Bill James, scientific analyzer of baseball who coined the term “sabermetrics.”

 

No one who likes the Simpson could be evil.

Computers have ruined baseball and “Sports Illustrated.”

Oh.

In fairness, we should mention that computers have ruined basically every magazine.

This is what I need to know and what I want to know: What’s the guy’s batting average, how many dingers has he hit and how many runs he batted in.

(Awkward sentence containing a list of statistics)

I want to know a pitcher’s ERA and his won-loss record. Maybe, if he’s Nolan Ryan, how many strikeouts he has had.

Ugh. “Has had.” Look, I make at least 3 spelling/grammar mistakes every time I write something as I’m afflicted by a disease which prevents me from effective proofreading before I hit the “post” button. It’s awful. And I’m generally pretty forgiving about such things, but reading that sentence hurt. The only thing worse than a win-loss record is a won-loss record.

I can read a box score.

I was genuinely surprised after the previous sentence to find that this didn’t read “I can haz read box score.”

AB R H RBI BB SO Avg.*

Wait, so now you do want to know about strikeouts? Or are those only the strikeouts that Nolan Ryan has had?

*Not the Contra code. 

Pretty simple. Derek Jeter went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs and scored once.

He’s now batting .280.

It’s so simple it tells you almost nothing! It doesn’t tell you is Jeter hit a double or a home run, it doesn’t tell you how the players scored, how he scored, and his batting average after the fact is almost meaningless. I like watching baseball and seeing how things happen.

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.”

Much is made of the Stats v. Scouts debate that no one is actually having. Baseball Prospectus, one of the first and most well-known advanced baseball stats sites is now as much about scouting as about numbers. WAR is never used to evaluate minor leaguers, especially to declare someone a top prospect in list form. To write parody actually requires an understanding of the subject. This reads like a 4th grader who didn’t do the reading cranking out an essay five minutes before class started.*

*Ivanhoe is the story of a man and his tool…

The pitcher was one of the best, “according to gERA or defense-adjusted ERA.”

God forbid we take a stat like ERA, which measures how many runs the team as a whole allowed (after making some asinine concession to the official scorer) and attempt to isolate what the pitcher himself was responsible for.

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

They all get together and rent out the basement of a GIANT convention center and play advanced dungeons and dragons and have LAN parties and they all get special pocket protectors and argue over whether Captain Kirk is better than Captain Picard while they talk about “analyzing” baseball.

I will now return to writing this article in which I try to uhm…analyze baseball.

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.*

1. I’m quite sure some of them still are.

2. None of that stuff would qualify you to be a scout in the first place.

3. Scouts certainly use more numbers than before and it is probably a career-killer not to be familiar with technology, but by and large scouts are still out there trying to figure out how a guy will grow into his body, what his tools are, etc.

4. What Sabermetrics has changed more than anything is our valuation of certain baseball skills. Scouts might focus more carefully on different things now, but scouting is still done mostly by people. (For now).

5. So this section is just wrong.

*Oh, Kent, I’d be lying if I said my men weren’t committing crimes.

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.

Isn’t it cool? You can see Felix’s brilliance in more detail or see how a guy missed and allowed a game-winning home run…

“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.”

Allow me to set this straw man on fire. It is perhaps possible to actually come up with this kind of information using PitchFX, but no one ever does, and no one would want to. It’s not interesting. This reminds me of this Colin Cowherd quote from the FJM classic “12 Minutes of Hell, with Colin Cowherd:

“The problem with the Hall of Fame – it’s become Nerd World. [ridiculous “nerd” voice] “Hey, if you look at his OPB — yes you know me — his OPS, if you multiply it using a sliding chart and you put some marmalade on your toes, he appears to be a 14th ballot Hall of Famer.” The Hall of Fame has become “Nerd World in Orlando.”

A sliding chart is not a thing, a 14th-ballot Hall of Famer is not a thing anyone cares about, and the way in which information is gathered and used by sabermetricians is not anything as strange as this idiocy.

PitchFX has been used to pick out pitchers in decline, it is the most important part of the revolutionary pitch framing research we’ve all been reading about, and it can pick out good umpires and bad umpires. Those are all useful things. Interesting things. It’s easy to make up your own boring garbage, just don’t go blaming other people when you have to move your town 5 miles over.

It has infiltrated every aspect of the game.

One of the reasons for this is because looking at data actually works, whereas relying on folk-wisdom leads to outbreaks of the mumps at Ohio State. Giant companies are attempting to win and make money, they can’t afford to rely on gut feeling.

Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012.

The Triple Crown is a series of horse races composed of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.  We sometimes apply this nomenclature to an arbitrary group of three somewhat terrible baseball statistics and say that a baseball player “won” it. While home runs are cool, we have learned over time that batting average is pretty terrible, and that RBIs tell you more about the guys hitting in front of you than anything else. But hey, it has a neat name! It’s sacred! It’s rare! It must be good.

And there was a debate as to who deserved the MVP.

Uhm, I mean, kind of. People argued about it. Mike Trout was pretty significantly better, but I suppose if we’re being generous…

Why?

I hate this new tradition of baseball people having spirited debates about things.

Sabermetrics, whatever that means.

You clearly read the wikipedia article since you mentioned that Bill James “coined” the term. So you totally know. Or, you at least know as much as Wikipedia tells you.

Just 16 players have ever won the Triple Crown.

Only Fernando Tatis has ever won the coveted “Biathalon” given to a player who hits two Grand Slams in the same inning. He’s the only one ever to do it! Yet he was somehow denied the MVP award that year. Shameful.

Cabrera bats .330, hits 44 home runs and drives in 139, you bet he deserves MVP.

I wonder if any other players played baseball that year, and if so, if any of them had similar, or even better batting numbers!

It wasn’t even a unanimous vote, thanks to Sabermetrics.

How dare not everyone haz agreed with my flawless logic.

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.

I can’t believe we’re still doing this, but the case for Mike Trout was anything but complicated. The only thing that a baseball layperson might even have a slight issue with is park adjustment. Angel Stadium is typically very pitcher-friendly while Comerica is fairly neutral, and Trout gets a bump for that, but most of the case for Trout over Cabrera can be summed up as follows using no numbers at all.

1. Mike Trout was almost as good a hitter as Cabrera.

2. Mike Trout stole a ton of bases while rarely getting caught and was an excellent baserunner in general, while Miggy is slow, and a terrible baserunner.

3. Mike Trout plays a difficult defensive position well while Cabrera plays an easier position terribly.

That’s it. Trout does a lot of the stuff that old baseball men tend to love. He takes an extra base! He steals! he’s sound defensively. Funny how some anti-analytics people now sound like the Moneyball-era Athletics.

Think baseball was boring before?

No, I love baseball and want to learn more about it.

Grrrrr.

Spellcheck probably should have caught that.

Yes, baseball has always been stat-driven. That’s why I love reading box scores.

NEEEERRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!  Did you get a load of the nerd?

But it’s also driven by gut instinct.

Maybe sometimes if it’s a close call, but it’s not really worth talking about, and where data is available data always wins.

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?*

Sabermetrics is totally racist, you guys.

Also, David Ortiz has played in 13 World Series games and he’s never had fewer than 4 PAs in any of them. Ortiz probably has been removed occasionally in NL parks for defensive purposes (Doug Mientkiewicz, everybody!), but no team would ever do something like this because David Ortiz is awesome at hitting. This is another example of Colin’s Toe Marmalade.

*Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent.
Forfty percent of all people know that.

Blah blah blah.

Grrrrr.

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

That guy’s name is Mike Trout.

and give me that pitcher who waves off his manager when he reaches 100 in the pitch count.

That guy blew out his UCL making the waving motion.

And I’ll take a Triple Crown winner over anyone.

I don’t care if it’s a cloudy day or not.*

I will list a series of things I like in a ballplayer and then just go with the Triple Crown because Sabermetricians care about the weather too much.

*And with that, a mighty cheer went up from the heroes of old-timey baseball. They had banished the awful lemon tree forever, because it was haunted. Now let’s all celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice.

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4 thoughts on “Old Man Yells At Cloud*

  1. Pingback: Reading Digest: I Am Smoten Edition | Dead Homer Society

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