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  1. So let me sum up this article to people who don’t want to waste 2 minutes of their time:

    Sometimes projections are wrong, but a lot of times they are right.

    Comment by Jon — May 16, 2010 @ 2:38 am

  2. Similarly and perhaps more palatable to some: Sometimes players completely fall off a cliff, but a lot of times they do what they’ve done.

    Comment by philkid3 — May 16, 2010 @ 3:50 am

  3. Of course ZIPS and Chone saw good numbers coming. They are computers that base projections off of past numbers. They are useless for individual projections in my opinion…they are only accurate when projecting the total output from a group of players.

    Comment by R M — May 16, 2010 @ 4:23 am

  4. “The Red Sox aren’t completely vanquished yet. ”
    No, they’re just hiding behind the Blue Jays, trying not to be noticed.

    Comment by Torgen — May 16, 2010 @ 4:28 am

  5. The specific lesson is that players with extreme old player skills can fall off a cliff suddenly without warning in their early 30s.

    Comment by Adam R. — May 16, 2010 @ 5:03 am

  6. I’d say the lesson here is that just because it didn’t work out, it wasn’t the wrong decision.

    Comment by swyck — May 16, 2010 @ 8:48 am

  7. Waiting for the Ms to pick up another no hit DH type to add to Griff & Sweeney…

    Comment by Rondo — May 16, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  8. I still would like to see a piece on why FG believes Pat fell so far so fast. Is he hiding an injury? Lack of preparation and dedication? Pitchers figuring him out in the AL? Couldn’t make the transition to the DH? Simply became old fast?

    Comment by neuter_your_dogma — May 16, 2010 @ 10:59 am

  9. “Still, keep in mind that the Ibanez contract isn’t done yet, his 2010 is a far cry from 2009 at this point, and there’s still his age 39 season left after this one”

    Arguably, Phillies don’t win the division in 09 without Ibanez. If this is true, then his contract was well worth it. Also, based on ZIPS and CHONE, there is room for improvement in Ibanez’ 10 performance.

    Comment by neuter_your_dogma — May 16, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  10. ZiPS and CHONE, two well-respected publicly-available projections systems, saw Burrell as a good hitter going into 2009, and I’m guessing the Rays had similar numbers.

    This is why the projections need error bars (percentiles would be even better still, but I won’t get greedy about my free content). A weighted mean projection for Burrell was always likely to be between the two most likely outcomes, that he continued to hit well or that he did the old-player dive.

    Comment by Kevin S. — May 16, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  11. The lesson here might be for FanGraphs better illustrate some gray area… yet do some with tactful phrasing rather than regurgitating the same spiels (projections aren’t fact, small sample size, fielding metrics aren’t foolproof) every chance.

    Do this search on Google: site:fangraphs.com “small sample” 2010

    459 results… kind of a lot. I’m trying not to be too rude here because obviously tremendous work goes into this site from everyone. But as a daily reader, I’ve certainly began to develop, especially this year, a skim reading approach where I’m filtering half of the article out… just because so much of it is acknowledging a lack of certainty on a consistent basis (and is the whole topic of this one).

    To do this, my suggestion might be for it’s articles to take a less narrow focus on particular players and struggles and broaden to issues epidemic or trending on a team/line-up/rotation basis (say, the top of an order has not been adept at taking pitches during a skid, or an entire outfield has below average fielding). Easier said than done, obviously. But, for instance, I’d rather read about how the collective White Sox outfielders are performing as a whole than reading about how Andruw Jones is sure to regress…. because that’s just obvious. A good parallel was drawn in that article between Jones last year and this year, but it’s hard to stretch that out for five graphs while still staying relevant (i.e. when it drifts to “While we can’t say for certain that Andruw’s production…” it’s stating the obvious for a paragraph and my brain enters skim ahead mode).

    Well, that’s my hopefully constructive input. Have a grain of salt.

    Comment by WG — May 16, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  12. Thanks, Jon. I wish I had started by reading your comment instead of the article.

    Comment by hk — May 16, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  13. Prior to joining the Rays, Burrell’s career numbers vs. AL pitching:

    492 ABs, 19 HRs, 160Ks, .199/.327/.384 OPS: .711

    Performance while with the Rays:

    496 ABs, 16 HRs, 147Ks, .218/.311/.361 OPS: .672

    Comment by Alan — May 16, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  14. Hey! The A’s like that type of no hit DH type too! (Fox and Chavez)

    Comment by PJ — May 16, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  15. “The Rays can do no wrong”

    Comment by Nick — May 16, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  16. And sometimes if you watch a person play you notice things that aren’t obvious in the numbers.

    Comment by bflaff — May 16, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  17. If Ibanez is showing this year to be slowing down then Dave’s ‘old-player skills’ lecture will be proven out. Too bad he’s given that lecture (and prediction of eminent failure) for about the last 8 seasons. Meanwhile, Ibanez has perhaps been the biggest bargain in baseball over that time-span.

    Comment by CaR — May 16, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  18. Even when they do wrong, they make it right, instead of trying to save face.

    Comment by DW — May 16, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  19. Similarly, Ryan Garko was DFA’d by the Rangers. For whatever reason, guys in basements fell in love with Burrell and Garko.

    Comment by JayCee — May 16, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

  20. They aren’t useless for individual players, they are a starting point. I agree that they should be tweaked when projecting individual players.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — May 16, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  21. That’s the point (albeit not clearly expressed) point of my article — they do have error bars, even if they don’t always make them public (CHONE had percentiles last season, I know Dan S. has published “percentiles” for some projections). It’s just a reflection on uncertainty.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — May 16, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  22. Yeah, I wasn’t super-clear. Sorry I wasted so much of your (obviously) valuable time.

    That was more the assumption than the point. The point was less about projections than analyses based on them — just because uncertainty isn’t always laid out explicity, doesn’t mean that teams/authors aren’t aware of it.

    The Rays took a risk and it didn’t work out. It doesn’t necessarily mean their processes were bad.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — May 16, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  23. I would not say anyone “fell in love” with Burrell. In that free agent season, Burrell and Ibanez were similarly valued as good offense, awful defense types. The Rays got Burrell for cheap and were praised, while the Phils got Ibanez for a hefty price and appeared to be getting an older version of Burrell for a lot more. This was the discrepancy in reaction to those deals.

    It hasn’t turned out the way most people who frequent this site figured it would, but that’s baseball. You can’t always be right, more or less what Matt was saying.

    Comment by Michael — May 16, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  24. Except, unlike the other three, Fox still has growing to do. The other three break if the wind gusts too quickly.

    Comment by thehemogoblin — May 16, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

  25. Because, after all, projections are like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get (with certainty).

    The difference being that when you buy the wrong box of chocolates, it doesn’t cost you 16 million and strike out looking quite so much.

    And, also, re: bflaff
    Sure, sometimes you notice things, but I’ve been living in Philly for 5 years now and I think I saw most of what Burrell had to offer. I though the Rays contract was a pretty fair one. Burrell had many limitations, but he was consistent at his level of play. Unless you “saw” something in 2008 that indicated that he would get injured, then have his BB% drop 5 pts, with his K % going up 5 pts… well then eyes just plain aren’t that useful. Burrell was always valuable and consistent with the bat with the Phils. The Rays expected 25 HR and 15% BB, with a stomach-sickening average and K %. I don’t see how anybody could have expected how this went down.

    Comment by B N — May 16, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

  26. You’re right. It’s an ambush play. Wait until the Yankees and Rays get complacent in August and then steal the division! Because that works… somehow. Hey, it used to happen to the Red Sox all the time. Why can’t turnabout be fair play?

    Comment by B N — May 16, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  27. By now it’s basically got to be backwards. He no longer has “old player skills.” He’s an old player who’s still got some skills, haha.

    Comment by B N — May 16, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  28. I donno if everybody hated the Ibanez deal. I personally thought those signings were positives for both teams. The Rays got Burrell for a reasonable price (I wouldn’t say cheap, but fair). The Phils got Ibanez for too many years, but looking beyond the context-neutral linear weights it was pretty clear that was an improvement for the Phillies.

    Let’s put it this way:
    1. You are in a position to get to the world series, and maybe win, so every bit of production counts.
    2. You have a young guy with great patience skills but bad contact skills.
    3. Moreover, anybody with power not named Utley ALL has those skills (Howard, Werth, Burrell). So you end up getting wasting lots of walks due to later Ks or unproductive outs.
    4. So you sign a guy who is good at making hard contact, sucks at walking, and has similar power to the guy you let go.

    At some point in time, life is just plain not context neutral. To me, if most people looked at the stats and thought Ibanez was a head scratcher- they clearly don’t take enough care looking at WHICH stats are relevant. I mean, isn’t a lineup analysis tool a form of stat too? Why don’t it get no love during signings?

    Comment by B N — May 16, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  29. The nerds are not always right. Silly Rays, someone should tell them that “using your eyes” leads to 100% positive results, which is why the Royals are headed to their third straight World Series title.

    Comment by Joseph — May 16, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  30. Further, would his stats from this year and last year even have been included in the error bars? He fell off a cliff; error bars don’t account for that. I don’t know how many deviations from his normal stats he’s at now, but it’s certainly at least a couple.

    Comment by TheMadCaddy — May 16, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

  31. I think he was commenting on the fact that they were in fourth place, honestly.

    Comment by Kevin S. — May 16, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

  32. If he had a 20% chance of falling off a cliff, then that would have showed up in his 20th percentile. If the error bars were a 95% confidence interval, that would be just inside two standard deviations. I think that would have showed up there.

    Comment by Kevin S. — May 16, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  33. I can hardly wait for Brian Sabean to go dumpster diving yet again. I predict Burrell will be a San Francisco Giant very soon.

    Comment by Sabean's Folly — May 17, 2010 @ 12:17 am

  34. However, when a player like Burrell flops so badly that might be indicative of the Phillies knowing something about his aging profile that other teams didn’t. It’s not necessarily just random variation from the correct process.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — May 17, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  35. One thing that the numbers can not tell you about is the players dedication. By that I mean, how hard is a player willing to work in the off season to stay good. When they finally get that big contract near the end of their career, or in Pats case the last decent contract, do they feel content, satisfied, and cruise to the end, or will they still work hard to be as good as they can be. Not saying this is the case with Pat.

    The other thing is the league adjustments. Playing in the AL, especially in the AL East is just tougher. Some players can adjust, some can’t. You simply can not project that. The 3 year average for Pat over about 150 PA before signing with Tampa was about a 720 OPS, suggestive if not conclusive. This is about the same as his career averages with much larger samples as Alan pointed out.

    Last thing, possibly related to the first thing, is some players are/were performance enhanced (those who use are motivated to spend more time in the gym). Not saying this was the case here, but in general. When you stop using steroids, some players find their natural testosterone levels drop lower than before they started using. Saps their strength. Given the known health effects of steroids and other PED’s, some players stop using after a contract year, having locked up that big contract, and regress to their true ability, or worse.

    The more data the better. Statistics w/o observation is no better than observation (on and off the field) without statistics. They complement each other.

    Comment by pft — May 17, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  36. I thought that PECOTA actually did have breakout and collapse rate predictions?

    Comment by NBarnes — May 17, 2010 @ 1:25 am

  37. Yes… behind a subscription wall. :-(

    Comment by Kevin S. — May 17, 2010 @ 1:33 am

  38. Let me sum it up even better. Burrell was a player who had gone through a ton of small injuries that just built up over time. His heel was made of glass, his knees were shot, and his back was that of a 60 year olds. When people made the age argument with Burrell and Ibanez, it was a moot point because Burrell’s body was beat up to the point of a 37 year old.

    Comment by Dave — May 17, 2010 @ 4:33 am

  39. All sabermatricians should read the book “How we decide” which discusses the neuroscience of decision making. I love stats, and preach their importance all the time. However reading this book makes me have a newfound appreciation for the old pros who watch thousands and thousands of games and develop a gut feel for what is going to happen. That gut feel can be a valuable tool if you know how to use it.

    The bottom line here is there are obviously things that sabermetrics will not tell us. Pat’s projection is one of them. I think the Phills watching him over thousands of at bats convinced them he was done, even if they couldn’t prove it with stats. Sometimes, you really do just know something, and it’s important to learn to pay attention when your gut does not match the math, and learn when to trust one and when to trust the other. It’s not all cut and dry, even today. That’s what makes baseball so fun. It will never be a simple mathmatical excercise.

    Comment by Dan in Philly — May 17, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  40. Agree 100% with this, particularly with respect to Phils not offering Burrell Arb, which completely shocked me at the time since it seemed like an easy way to get some extra draft picks.

    Comment by Knox — May 17, 2010 @ 8:46 am

  41. Dan in Philly is partly right

    I know character and intangibles supposedly plays near 0 role, and in some sense that’s true, (the shortstop doesnt have to be best buddies with the first basemen to deliver a perfect throw etc etc), but Burrell was a well-known partyboy throughout philadelphia. The amazing thing is, it’s become almost a Bunyan-esque legend at this point.

    I had one friend who was about 2 months into a great relationship that was ruined by Burrell. I have a coworker who would regularly see Pat out late nights in Center City bars. He had a well known reputation for needing to be coddled. (to the point that Pat Gillick once openly ripped him in a season ticket holder end of year thing).

    A third friend was in the Walnut room the night before a game and Burrell was face forward head in the crook of his arm arm on the bar in front of him half passed out with a cigarette out of his lips.

    In short, if I knew nothing about body types, boxscores etc, and i knew player one was a fitness fanatic, didnt drink, wasn’t openly carousing around, while player two had enough features on him to be its very own deadspin compilation, i would bet much heavier on player one aging gracefully than player 2.

    That in effect was the difference between Raul and Pat.

    If you went out more than once a month and were going to the nicer bars in Philly, you had a significantly higher than non-zero chance of watching Pat in his exploits.

    Score one for the non-sabermetric crowd.

    As a final aside… any philly fans that can link a famous death in the last 3 days with Pat will get a drink on me this season either at the game or in the city.

    Comment by TheUnrepentantGunner — May 17, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  42. Burrell once toured as the bassist for Dio?

    Comment by Steve — May 17, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  43. right celebrity, wrong answer.

    Comment by TheUnrepentantGunner — May 17, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  44. ok, we won’t string this out.

    Most of burrell’s career his at-bat music was “Holy Diver”, sung by none other than Ronnie James Dio.

    it was just about perfect for Burrell, (who always had hilarious taste in at-bat songs, his last season in philly was “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley, where the at-bat guy would play the intro but surely Pat was thinking of the ‘kick em when they’re up, kick em when they’re down’ chorus.)

    burrell was the guy who one year showed up into spring training with a giant fu-manchu, and his bull dog, and a bright shirt with giant lettering saying something I can’t put here.

    Dio died yesterday, right about when the Rays designated Burrell for assignment.

    Comment by TheUnrepentantGunner — May 17, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  45. And all they have to do to fix this no-hit DH problem, to an extent, is to get Jack Cust out of LF and put him at DH, where he belongs (sorry, Cust is not a LFer)

    Then they have a LF problem though, but with Coco Crisp returning, that problem won’t be long.

    Comment by BX — May 17, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  46. Ok first off talking about Burrell’s age is stupid. Age has nothing to do with his struggles with the Ray’s people he was predicted to have a good 2009. What can’t be predicted is that his Neck would have got hurt. He was plagued by a Neck injury all season may I remind you all. oh and comparing Burrell to Ibanez is dumb as Ibanez played over his head. remember Ibanez’s oblique strain? That’s because his body couldn’t handle the level he was playing at. Now here in 2010 we are seeing the Real Ibanez while over in San Francisco. Burrell is making an offensive and Defensive comeback.

    Comment by Rob W. Prelle — August 8, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  47. Cliff Lee Just Left for The Phillies Dam MLB 2011 Season. They use a whole rotation full of guys the Giants overcom on their way to the World Series.Will be About to Possibly be Popping Between Yankees,Sox & Phillies…Mets Exactly who? LOL, Lets Go Yankees!Patent Mapping

    Comment by Tommye Edelman — December 14, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

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