I was very pleased to see Simmons promote open mindedness when looking at baseball stats in his column. I was even more pleased that he mentioned my favorite baseball site, this one, to his very large audience. Hopefully that brings a whole slew of curious people here. Luckily, Fangraphs is very fan friendly won’t scary anyone away with being to complicated. Everything is explained very well and just about anyone that wants to learn about advanced baseball metrics can.
Hopefully Simmons’ mainstream audience will now open themselves up to a new way of looking at the game. Simmons is such a great writer and I’m glad to see he is now keeping himself up with the changes taking place in baseball to go along with his entertaining personality.
I first started reading this site because of Klaw. Simmons is also one of my favorites. It brought tears of joy to my eyes to see him mention fangraphs and I hope the viewership spikes up amazingly for this wonderful site.
I think its interesting to note that Simmons only thought that Fangraphs/sabermetrics had something to offer because the numbers “jibed with what I had been watching.” If they hadn’t then they would be useless? Actually it seems to me that the numbers should be considered useless if all they do is tell us what we already know using our eyes. The real value of the numbers is its ability to raise our judgments from small sample sizes of our eyes.
Comment by Dr. Strangelove — April 3, 2010 @ 10:14 am
Who wants to go to a mainstream website to read someone be a homer about their favorite team (oh wait, ESPN just photoshopped Lebron in a Knicks jersey)? If I wanted to read Sox homers talk about how wonderful their team is, I would go to a Sox site. And the whole point of this article was to convince people that the Red Sox were going to be super-amazing this year. If the ‘advanced stats’ didn’t suggest that, Simmons would want no part of them.
What I’d really like to see, instead of everyone patting themselves on the back for fangraphs getting a mention, is a discussion over his disagreements. Specifically, his WAR/salary comment. I find it hilarious to come here and see GMs get praised or ripped for spending less or more per WAR than fangraphs says they should, as if WAR/dollar is the only study that needs to be done in playing the FA market.
Somebody should tell you that that’s what he saw with his eyes, and his opinion as someone who watches the Red Sox very often has just as much weight as yours in terms of scouting. And that UZR rated him poorly, though that doesn’t necessarily indict Ellsbury as an awful defender.
The whole point of the Fans Scouting Report, for example, is to determine what fans who watch as much of their team as Simmons does think about the players they are watching. I find that information pretty useful, but your mileage may vary I suppose.
I like that Simmons was talking about merging stuff he saw with stats. I echo some sentiment about whether he would be so open if the stats did not agree with his assessments, but I think he’s shown a good deal of open-mindedness. The fact that he’s a homer doesn’t make him a whole lot less interesting/entertaining to me, but I do know that he’s pretty polarizing in popularity.
To simply call Simmons a homer is to miss what makes him so special. I’m not saying he isn’t, but even as a Yankee fan, he does such an incredible job blending into his narrative an account of what happened, his perspective on it, and the humorous interjections that have helped define his schtick. I think it’s great that Simmons is on board the sabermetric train, and I think his point about the accessibility to the common fan is an incredibly important one that’s sometimes missed.
I’m glad Bill Simmons is now paying attention to sabermetrics; but I dont think it’s genuine. It seems like he cant use RBIs/Errors/AVG/etc and say the Red Sox are going to be good, so he has to switch to OPS/FIP/UZR in order to have confidence in his team.
But I can easily see him (and other Red Sox fans who are saying “I’m giving Theo 1 year for his “spreadsheet baseball) turn right around if Red Sox fail to make the playoffs and say “See! UZR and FIP suck, back to AVG and HRs.”
That’s what kind of stinks: as well run as we are, we still could have nothing go wrong and miss the playoffs.
Wah wah not making the playoffs, not the point. The point is, RSN will throw a shitfit of epic proportions and frankly, I don’t want to listen to millions of people repeating the hacky crap they hear from CHB/Mazz/etc
That’s not entirely his point. He’s not saying “all” WAR does is tell you that Pujols > David DeJesus, or whoever he used. I think what he was getting at was that, at a basic level, any newish statistic has to reinforce what you’re seeing. For example, Simmons out-and-out dismisses John Hollinger’s PER rating system for NBA players because it gives you crazy results like Greg Oden somehow being 9th, ahead of Caremlo, Amare, and others. There’s really no facially valid way to argue that a computerized system that spits out results like that is useful. In comparison, WAR has all really, really good players lurking around the top. Once you can establish that your system is popping out crazy results, you can begin to trust and rely on it to make more nuanced evaluations of players.
Actually, Simmons’ point about numbers and observations matching is a really, really good one. Anyone can come up with a formula that spits out a number, and there might even be some really compelling logic behind the formula. But there’s no guarantee the number works, no guarantee it’s an accurate model for what happens on the field. Fielding Percentage was an “advanced” stat in it’s day after all.
That doesn’t mean annectodes should trump numbers, just that at some level, the numbers need some sort of independant validation. If the numbers don’t “tell us what we already know using our eyes” then one of two things is wrong: either the forumual sucks and need to be refined or you’re looking at the game wrong and ought to refine the way you see it. And if the numbers do tell us the same thing we “already” know about players we regularly watch, then the numbers can tell us the same thing about guys we don’t get to see every day too. That’s kind of valuable.
That’s what I mean. To a lot a people, if Red Sox dont make the playoffs then that is suppose to prove that sabermetrics suck or whatever. And they are kind of just going along with it this year with a wait-and-see mentality.
I disagree with Bill Simmons’s eyes having just as much weight. A trained, objective scout watching the games from the best vantage point of evaluation, focusing on Ellsbury’s defense, yes. A biased, emotional Red Sox fan watching the games on TV without any scouting experience, no.
Kevin – special? The same shtick over and over again is special? And I was responding to his point about liking Boston teams. His narrative is one of a completely biased Boston fan. And part of the reason that these numbers weren’t considered accessible before is that guys like Bill Simmons out and out dismissed them because he didn’t want to put more than two seconds of thought into analysis. The only reason that he accepts and promotes any stat is that they say what he wants to believe.
Greg Oden scores at a more efficient rate, more of the possessions end in assists, and he grabs a higher percentage of rebounds than Amare Stoudemire. This is like saying someone has a higher OBP and SLG in 100 PAs compared to someone with 600+. He is performing at a more efficient rate, but we have to put it in the proper context. And Hollinger does, if you look at his Expected Wins Added, Oden ranks 28th among C’s. We shouldn’t out and out dismiss something because we can’t see something that we don’t like and don’t even try to understand the proper context. A good stat will challenge our preconceived ideas sometimes.
So what you’re saying by pointing out Greg Oden as a bad example is that you don’t know basketball. Early this year Greg Oden was playing exceptionally efficient basketball. He was in fact among the best per minute players in the league, grabbing an insane amount of rebounds and scoring at an elite level for any player. In fact, across the board Greg Oden’s per possession stats are almost identical to Dwight Howard.
You might want to keep the basketball analysis to basketball fans.
A couple days ago he still thought ‘wins’ mattered in assessing a P’s performance, as he said to Keith Law in a chat. Law asked him why, and Simmons’ reasoning was inexplicable: Schilling got a lot of wins in 2007 because he would spare the relief pitchers/go deep into games…the inability to see how this would not help a pitcher who was on a bad team obtain wins (despite objectively pitching as well) reflects a lack of sophistication that I think is fairly consistent with any Simmons idea.
Look, I’m not surprised that a lot of regulars on this site don’t care for Simmons, just like I’m not surprised that some of Simmon’s readers are dismissive of the analytical tools that are popular with fangraphs’ readers. I think there is a divergence between the two groups, especially among the most devoted of each group.
I’m kind in the middle. I enjoy analyzing sports in a more sophisticated way than most of my friends (many of whom played at a high level and understand it well but would consider these metrics nerdy); I also went to college and partied and gambled on sports and wasted a lot of time sitting around watching corny movies in a slightly altered state with my buddies. So part of me identifies here, and part of me identifies with Simmons.
Point being: it isn’t any more fair for you guys to be dismissive of Simmons and/or make generalizations that all his readers are simplistic and don’t get sports except on the most basic level than it would be for Simmons and/or his readers to dismiss everyone hear as pocket protector-wearing geeks.
Different strokes for different folks.
Comment by Austin Croshere — April 4, 2010 @ 12:22 am
@Justin: Well then you’re just a biased hack. You don’t have to like Bill Simmons to know he’s the most read sports columnist in the States. And he just spent his column before Opening Day pimping fangraphs and sabermetrics. So, yeah.
“I also went to college and partied and gambled on sports and wasted a lot of time sitting around watching corny movies in a slightly altered state with my buddies. So part of me identifies here, and part of me identifies with Simmons.”
I could very well be wrong, but I don’t see much of a correlation between the first sentence and identifying with Simmons. It seems like a generalization to say anyone who went to college, drank/experimented and gambled is a Simmons fan. I enjoyed reading Timothy Leary for a time, and never was big into hallucinogens (although I did have some vices that aren’t as socially acceptable as alchohol).
FG at least IMO seems to be one of the LESS snarky/elitist sites. A SABR neophyte can freely come into a thread and post questions in a polite and inquisitive manner and be referred to the appropriate glossary page or thread that will resolve or at least clarify his state of puzzlement. If one wants to find snark as a reaction to innocent ignorance look at deadspin or even my favorite site Amazin Avenue. I love the guys there, but at times we can be snarky and abrasive towards traditionalists.
I may have missed your point Austin, and I may be somewhat naive but I don’t see the hostility in FG comments towards Simmons readers nearly as much as I see it from the other side.
On another note, did anybody see that Bogut injury lsat night? Man, that one is right up there with Kendall/Ventura/Theismann.
Also, damn those 2000 Pacers :).
Comment by MetsKnicksRutgers — April 4, 2010 @ 9:05 am
Kinda condescending the way he puts, “Hey, there’s really something here.” as if there wasn’t until HE saw it. Listen to any of his podcasts where he talks about baseball and it’s clear he really doesn’t know much about the game. Listening to him and Jack-O is especially embarrassing.
His best podcasts are the non-sports ones these days because he’s pretty out of touch with all sports, except maybe NBA but that’s a horrible game so who really cares? :)
At any rate, I do agree that his finally accepting FG and sabermetrics will open them to whole new audience since he is pretty popular with a more casual fan base.
And? Nothing you said I disagree with, nor did either of my posts imply that I am biased against him or don’t like him. I find most of his articles mildly entertaining (which I said, it’s right there) his good articles are tremendous. No matter how well read he is, however, changes the fact one article is not that big a deal.
It’s certainly not such a big deal as to inspire “tears of joy”, which was the crux of my initial post. So, yeah.
Your mileage may vary, though. So I see no point in arguing this further.
You realize WAR said Zobrist was the MVP in 09, right?
Either you picked a poor stat to use as an example, or stats don’t need to match observations.
I agree with what others have said … If the metrics disagreed with BS’s observations, the metrics would have been discarded. Be careful who you “knight”. SABRmetrics aren’t deperate enough to give praise where it is not rightfully earned.
Comment by Circlechange11 — April 4, 2010 @ 4:11 pm
Yes, that’s why he states that his friend used VORP to show that BS was wrong about the Angels offense. That’s why, upon thinking that Zobrist leading the league in WAR was ridiculous, he delved deeper and saw that it made sense instead of just writing it off. That’s why he gave us this line:
Shin-Soo Choo didn’t exactly have me chewing my nails when he played Boston, but seeing his WAR rating (5.0 wins) made me say, “Maybe I underestimated him; I’m gonna spend the next 10 minutes looking at that dude’s stats.”
I mean, does that sound like someone who’s only using advanced stats for validation? Look, I’m not saying Simmons is all of a sudden the leading SABR authority, but some of the people bashing him (not singling out Circle Change here) need to RTFA before they rip into him, because he didn’t do what you accuse him of.
Been a fan of the advanced metrics for a few years now (chalk me up as converted by Michael Lewis) but I had never been to Fangraphs until reading Simmons’ piece today basically saying this site is the shit. Super-strong endorsement from the most influential sportswriter in the country.
And yet, I read this article and the comments and my main impression is there’s an unnervingly high asshole factor here. If you guys care about spreading the word about thinking about baseball intelligently, you might consider amping up the community/courtesy vibe.
Seriously. It’s baseball. We all love it (and in my case are utterly convinced of its cosmic superiority to pretty much everything else). But why be a dick about it?
Kevin S … You’re right that I did not read the article … Posted from phone on long Easter trip. If his sentiment was as you describe, I gladly eat crow. Also something (actually huge something) about WAR in SI
WAR is a stat that has caused me to look at certain players differently as well.
BTW, RTFA = Classic. Brilliant.
Comment by Circlechange11 — April 4, 2010 @ 10:23 pm
Just saying hi to my peeps.
Now that Simmons is SABR-friendly, who’s next? Joe Morgan?
Comment by god shammgod — April 4, 2010 @ 10:55 pm
I have used the site a lot for over a year, and your critique is valid. If you’re here for the interaction, just make sure you don’t ever criticize a Dave Cameron article. His disciples will rain virtual blows down on you. Unfortunate.
Nick, you beat me to the punch. I had been reading Rob Neyer, BP and others, and through Simmons thought this site could help me enjoy the game a bit more–which is, after all, the point. In 30 years as a baseball fan, I don’t need to be preached to about what I must and must not believe, but I do enjoy an interesting discussion with fellow fans.
At least, with fellow fans are aren’t complete a-holes. No ballgame or sports bar experience is ever enhanced by loudmouthed jerks blasting anyone and everyone who dares disagree, or fail to pledge eternal devotion. The difference between here and the sports bar or game, however: we can’t just ask the a-holes to continue to the discussion in the parking lot like we normally would, then savor the moment as they face their own cowardice. This format tolerates, if not encourages, the a-hole coward.
I hope there are more Francos, RKO36’s, MLB Prospect Watches and the like, but the loudmouthed jerk factor does seem to be a problem here.
You want to go mainstream, fangraphs? Drown out the jerks. Otherwise, you are stuck with each other–and none of the rest of us.
I agree with some of the comments above about the general hyper-prickliness present in the comments section from what seem to be longtime users of the site.
I read every word Bill James ever wrote the day it was published (well, except for the first one or two books that were mimeographed or whatever) but had always been a little intimidated by the newer stats like WAR, VORP, UZR, etc.
So now, partly encouraged by Simmons (who I read regularly while understanding all the usual objections and agreeing with many of them), I’m starting to check out FanGraphs and really like it. But one of the nice things about James and that sort of 80s cohort of analysts was that they seemed welcoming. The newer breed, or at least people who comment on sites like this, seem like they could display a little more of that generosity.
“Anyone can come up with a formula that spits out a number, and there might even be some really compelling logic behind the formula. But there’s no guarantee the number works, no guarantee it’s an accurate model for what happens on the field.”
Well, that’s why you test it and look at your results, to see how the numbers describe what happens in reality….
“Point being: it isn’t any more fair for you guys to be dismissive of Simmons and/or make generalizations that all his readers are simplistic and don’t get sports except on the most basic level than it would be for Simmons and/or his readers to dismiss everyone hear as pocket protector-wearing geeks.”
Maybe, but at least on the level of analyzing baseball statistics, the facts, analysis and research all back up FG and other “saber” crowds being right, whereas the collective group that dismisses these notions (any of Simmons readers who try to dismiss “advanced stats”, for instance) do so based on completely wrong notions. So at least we have that going here…
Well, we can look back at the whole Belicheck going for it on 4th down incident to find stuff like this from Simmons:
“Combine all these variables and what do we have? According to a formula called “Expected Win Probability When Going For It,” Pattani believed that the Patriots had an 80.5 chance of winning the game. By punting, they had a 79.0 chance of winning. So my argument (made on Monday’s podcast) that Bill Belichick should have “played the percentages and punted” was technically wrong. Barely. Belichick did play the percentages if you took those percentages at face value.
I am not disputing the numbers or the methods for achieving them. But by Monday night, based on various columns and message boards (as well as e-mails to my reader mailbox), you would have thought Belichick was a genius for blowing the game. He played the percentages! It wasn’t as crazy as it looked! By this logic, Belichick also should have held a loaded pistol to his head on the sideline, spun the chamber and tried to shoot himself like Chris Walken in “The Deer Hunter.” If those 1-in-6 odds came through and he succeeded, we could have said, “Hey, he played the percentages: 83.6666 percent of the time, you don’t die in that situation! You can’t blame him for what happened!””
So there’s understandably some skepticism here. The article then talks about basketball +/- numbers….blah blah blah….basic point is it’s pretty clear Simmons flat out doesn’t understand basic statistical concepts. Sure, I’m glad he’s finally gotten around to seeing value in all the work done at places like Fangraphs and The Book, but until he really figures out statistical basics, you can’t really have a rationale discussion on statistics with him – the best we can hope for is he just accepts that other people know what they’re talking about and he doesn’t, so he accepts their work at face value.
I mean, he admits his opinion is wrong, and then argues it anyways, with some horrible metaphor that just doesn’t make any ounce of sense. I guess it’s a step in the right direction, but it still makes me weary when people give their opinion on a topic they’re entirely uneducated on (in this case, Simmons and statistics)….
“The newer breed, or at least people who comment on sites like this, seem like they could display a little more of that generosity.”
The internet does seem to be a pretty unwelcoming medium, probably has to do with the power of anonymity you get sitting behind a computer and not having to actually interact with the other people reading your comments. All I’ll say is the best approach is to follow what the actual authors of the various blogs say – they’re the ones that put the effort in, do the research, present the findings, and ehance all of our knowledge. Before you decide whether you agree or not with a criticism, look for actual research into the validity (or problems) of a stat. These guys do the work, they check each other – whatever your concerns, there are a lot of really smart, big time baseball fans out there that have spent a lot more time thinking about them than you or I, whether they’re at HBT, The Book, Fangraphs, BtB, BP, or wherever else….
In my opinion, a lot of the “problems” with the stats tend to be problems of the stats being misapplied by people who don’t fully understand what they’re telling us….
I read Simmons all the time. But I think of him more as a diversion. I don’t take his opinions that seriously, except maybe on the nba.
I’m not surprised by the lack of enthusiasm displayed here for Simmons’ “conversion.” People on this site take their baseball, and metric analysis of it, very seriously. Some people might think too seriously, but hey, whatever your trip is. Simmons, on the other hand, has a habit of jumping into trendy topics and then spouting off a bunch of half-assed ideas based on his psuedo knowledge. See his ideas for “fixing” tennis and college basketball and his adoption of an English Premier League team.
Some of the commenters’ concerns that he could help start backlash against saber are legit. Witness his brief infatuation with poker. He entered the World Series thinking he was a lot better than he was and then in a column dismissed the game as pure luck after he got blown out in about an hour. I remember his explanation for overbetting his hand. Something about knowing nobody at the table had trips “because of their body language.” LOL! I could see something similar happening with metrics if the Sox go bad.
Comment by Rockymountainhigh — April 5, 2010 @ 4:29 pm