Great post, especially for us noobs still wading through the mounting heap of acronyms in the baseball world. I think the reason I’m drawn to places like this is that stat development and projection models seem like real bright spots in the midst of an otherwise phony era. I don’t think it’s coincidence that steroids and SABR are blowing up around the same time… Though I don’t have any numbers to back it up, I think fans will always be looking for authenticity in the game.
Interesting observation, MLT. I suppose sabermetric analysis restores some of the historical continuity that may have been lost for some as a result of the Steroid Era. That’s not to say advanced metrics can account for ped-enhanced performance or determine who’s using and who isn’t (at least not yet!) but they provide more of a historical (warning: cliche to be used ahead) “level playing field” when it comes to side-by-side analysis of a players’ value.
While of the idea of “baseball as a living narrative” has emanated from nostalgia and memory for some, advanced stats allow everyone to view that narrative as based in logic and objectivity instead. I think the decision, whether conscious or not, to embrace sabermetric analysis depends on what is more valuable to you: nostalgia (which can be nebulous) or historical objectivity. I just want to have both…
Happy New Year and thanks for all you do! I love this site and appreciated that post. The acronym soup can be confusing, but it’s good for us to learn what they mean and how they work.
Thanks so much to you and Tango and everyone else for all the stats, and to all of the writers, you and Tango included of course, who give us something to chew on every day.
Very well put. I think you and MLT may have a good point.
I like what you wrote…
“While of the idea of “baseball as a living narrative” has emanated from nostalgia and memory for some, advanced stats allow everyone to view that narrative as based in logic and objectivity instead. I think the decision, whether conscious or not, to embrace sabermetric analysis depends on what is more valuable to you: nostalgia (which can be nebulous) or historical objectivity. I just want to have both…”
I know for me, James’ work and now this, it gives me a much better sense of historical comparison. Are all ballplayers now just worse than Ted Williams because they don’t hit 400? No, certainly not. For one thing, hitting for a high average isn’t the best thing you can do, and for another, context, context, context. For me, having a way to put Ted Williams and Joe Mauer or Albert Pujols in a story that lets them be wonderful players and makes sense of what they do..
That’s why I’m here. In addition to enjoying the on field game, that sense of history is why I love baseball and the power of SABR type work to enhance that is a real and unexpected joy. (A year ago I’m not sure I knew what “SABR” meant. Thanks, Rob Neyer…)
“For me, having a way to put Ted Williams and Joe Mauer or Albert Pujols in a story that lets them be wonderful players and makes sense of what they do..” Excuse me…
… Is another reason to love this game. One of the biggest, at least for me.
But if Silva asked me if the scene is getting too saturated, I would say this:
For now, I agree. A nice, slow phase in until metrics become a 2nd language, as much as AVG, RBI, ERA, etc, is needed. Shouldn’t mean that for those actively seeking better measurements (geek fans and front office types, occasional reporter), that you should just stop. wRC+ has definitely been demanded, because wOBA, as useful as linear weights are, sucked at comparing players of different eras. wRC+ addresses it. Now we can check and see that Mickey Mantle was even better than we thought, we can stop penalizing Padres and loving on Rockies, etc.
Essentially, just because they’re being formulated, doesn’t mean that Tom Tango plans on driving to Bristol, CT and putting a gun to the ESPN Production Director’s head and threatening to shoot if BBTN doesn’t begin in depth xBABIP analysis on players, and that Brian Kenny should be put into the booth on Sunday Night Baseball…
Companies will come up with complex metrics that measure how changes affect their goal, whether it is producing more product, product with fewer rejects, or simply profit.
In baseball the object at a low level is producing runs or preventing opponent runs, which general metrics are lined up with. But the higher level object is winning games, so we get things like leverage (from the simple GWRBI to WPA), and the highest level is championships, which is difficult to measure (if I add my CF with league-average fielding and 105 OPS+ and 25/32 SB being paid at $30M/3 yr to an average playoff team with a 60 percentile payroll in an average market, does that increase their chance of winning the WS?).
Football embraces the QB rating even though the writers often say it is beyond their comprehension because there aren’t a lot of other advanced stats around and it does a good job of identifying who is performing better. If Elias had produced OPS+ or WARP in 1980 it would have just been part of the baseball card regardless of whether it had a better correlation to run production than RC, etc.
I imagine the football front offices have their secret formulas for QB rating that change the values of TD passes vs interceptions or say what down a pick was thrown (e.g. getting picked off on 1st down rather than throwing it away is different than trying to force a throw on 3rd down when you would punt after an incompletion) that would have a football stat alphabet soup faceoff, with people trying to correlate their QB ratings to wins.
Excellent post, Appelman. You have a talent for simply explaining the potentially complex.
I think one of Silva most troubling complaints (on his original post — or maybe in the comments section) was the accusation that the Sabermetric community has become a group-think community. Granted, when Tango Tiger, Sky Kalkman, Dave Cameron, or someone of that sort speaks, I tend to listen with childish (maybe undue) enthusiasm; but I also see elements of dissent, competition, and disagreement among various sabermetricians — for instance the row JC Bradburry created through his aging methodology rather than the delta method (if that doesn’t sound like a Doomsday Device or a plot from “Superfriends”, then what will?).
However, how can a community disprove or (better yet: avoid) Group Think? I believe that’s a question worth examining…
You (may be) making the mistake of confusing group think with consensus.
In country A, everyone is told what green is. The population sees the fangraphs logo and everyone agrees that it is green. While they may have been told it’s green, they used their own critical thinking ability to determine it for themselves.
In country B, the population is led to believe the color green is actually red. They see the logo and decide it is red. Rather than learn for themselves what colors are, they’ve accepted what someone of a higher influence tells them without challenging it.
Baseball’s already a groupthink bonanza to begin with. Remember how much it blew your mind when you first realized that AVG/HR/RBI was not the best way to judge a hitter? Simply put, we were told that a .300 hitter was automatically better than a .250 hitter, and that RBI is a measure of run production, and never questioned it because hey, sounds right to us.
I don’t know why Tango dedicated so much time and space to this “debate”, but Silva did not come across very well. Appears that he spent little time looking into anything prior to his diatribe, and while he did participate in the discussion, I did not think he had a particularly open attitude to our side. In a way, Silva reminded me of JC Bradbury.
There are many people who challenge sabermetric “groupthink” from inside the community from time to time, and while obviously there are many within the community who follow the leader, there are so many independent thinkers on these blogs that someone will eventually challenge any faulty assumptions held by the group before long.
Side note: I dislike the word “groupthink”, it seems like it carries some sort of ironic self-referential quality in additon to sounding dated- while 1984 was an incredible work and still holds a ton of weight today, the syntax from its dystopian future has not exactly weathered the passage of time, just the themes which seem to sadly become more relevant with each passing year.
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There’s just really quite a gap between supporting of Mike Trout’s MVP candidacy based on defensive statistics…
And tearing into another baseball fan for ever even mentioning RBIs, Wins or Batting average.
Stat smart is the new baseball stupid.
None of this is science – just ways to talk about baseball. I can count on one hand the guys that got jobs coming from the stat world, a statistical null.
The other problem is the common use of the internet to reinforce one’s own ideas, rather than to challenge oneself with new ones. The internet works as a mental security blanket – how many people used the 2012 AL MVP race simply to down other fans?
Comment by rubesandbabes — December 27, 2012 @ 12:44 pm
Ha – I didn’t see this was 2 years old…
Comment by rubesandbabes — December 27, 2012 @ 12:47 pm