It has little to nothing to do with “self-identification” by the writers. Players that are supposed to fail but still somehow “make it” (not by your standards, but by the general population’s) make for a human interest story. It’s a publishing industry business decision, on the reporter’s level. Stories that have that Rudy-esque element always sell. I used to have to write crap like that all the time, and I did business reporting so you can imagine how titilating the stories were (Crosby Kemper III runs UMB Bank but gets his inspiration not from mergers but from the arts!) I wouldn’t make much more of it than that.
I think this post would be necessary if “us nerds” were claiming that Ohlendorf, Bannister and Hayes were better than their results on the field for being interested in advanced statistics. That doesn’t seem to be the case, but perhaps I haven’t been reading the right articles to have noticed otherwise.
There’s a big difference between liking someone and thinking they’re good. Heck, I like Eckstein as much as I like Banny. They’re both fun in their own way. I am under no illusions that either of them are more than useful players. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another Sabermetically inclined author say that Bannister is more valuable than his raw numbers would indicate – in spite of how much they like him personally.
The problem with 90% of the sportswriters out there is that they seem to think they are the high priests of baseball. They have tasked themselves to be the moral defenders of the sacred sport. They want “grit” and “sticktoittiveness” or whatever to be the most important part of the game. Those guys that exemplify these traits they laud and those that don’t they scorn. They are especially nasty to those who don’t show them the proper deference – either player or sabermetrician. And they hate it when we pull back the curtain and show how probabilities and not moral fortitude win games.
We’re not like them at all, even if we are overly fond of Bannister.
Comment by Matt Lentzner — August 5, 2010 @ 4:36 pm
Couldn’t have put this better myself, but I’ll add to it.
I think this article is confusing paying attention to and talking to guys like Bannister with actually thinking they’re good. I’ve never read Tom Tango talk up how awesome Brian Bannister’s is. I have read Tom Tango talk about how cool it is that Bannister tries out funky pitches in low-leverage situations and checks the pitch f(x) results when the game is over. This doesn’t mean anyone thinks Bannister is better than he is, it just means that Bannister thinks about the game the same way that a lot of us think about the game. And that’s cool.
Here’s the problem: understanding more complex statistical analyses has nothing to do with the ability to convert those into success on the field. Doug Glanville was about as smart a guy as a position player has been. He had raw physical talent. He started playing before Saber became popular, but you’d think that once the analyses came out he was a guy who would have been able to understand the benefits of OBP over all else. Yet he just couldn’t walk consisently, and that’s why he spent his career as a back up outfielder.
Excellent article. I don’t think that the saber-community is guilty of raising these players above their current level, but as Noah said, it’s kind of about process versus results. Sabermetrics is primarily a process-based industry, and so we tend to give more credit to players who utilize the “correct” process (acknowledge statistics and their influence) and less credit to the “grip it ‘n rip it” crowd.
And maybe rightfully so, but it still creates a little bit of a bias in how we view the players. That being said, <3 Banny and y'all can shove off, eh?
To add to the chorus a bit, there’s nothing wrong with a broadcaster say “Boy, I love how that David Eckstein looks out there, he’s fun to watch.”
It becomes a problem when it’s “Boy, I love how that David Eckstein looks out there, I’m sure glad we got him instead of Kelly Johnson.”
People, in general, root for the underdog (especially when he does well). It’s sensationized and becomes part of our culture in movies … Rocky, Rudy, Invincible, Blind Side.
But, Eckstein is sort of a social case due to his being a ‘spark plug’ and even MVP on World Series teams (LAA, StL). He had that label of “winner”, because he played on 2 really good teams (Yes, the 06 Cards were a really good team … Decimated by injuries during the regular season).
It doesn’t take much skill to write about a player’s grittyness, and would be very unpopular to say something bad about him.
I personally do not care whether players understand advanced metrics or not. I just want them to be able to play well. The manager and FO should understand them and use them to make key decisions.
Players understand a lot of things that advanced metrics quantify. They know you don’t keep “getting the breaks” on balls in play. They know the harder you hit the ball, the more likely you are to get a hit. Pitchers understand very well that you do better when you don’t walk guys, strike out a lot of batters, and don’t give up the long ball. They don’t need to talk sabermetrically to understand what leads to succes. Carlos Marmol likely doesn’t need to look at pitch fx data to know his slider is a monster.
It is nice that BB talks of sabermetrics, and brings attention to it. But we shouldn’t view him as being more intelligent than other pitchers who do not. He’s simply more educated of the field. But someone who says, don’t walk guys, don’t give up homers, and strike out as many as you can, and you’ll be fine … Understands the concept without the vocabulary and math.
What leads to success is rather simple. Doing it is the hard part.
Comment by CircleChange11 — August 5, 2010 @ 10:17 pm
Had Rickey Henderson understood advanced metrics, he would have been a hold-out every year.
During his good seasons he woulda talk of batting runs and WAR, etc.
During his down years he woulda talked of regression to his career norms as evidence as how he deserved a raise for the upcoming season.
I do recall from the Scerzer article that when Max has pitched well, his brother would remind him that he is due to give up a HR. Sometimes being ignorant has it’s advantages.
Think anyone on the Twins and Marlins wants to tell Frank and Josh that their HR rate is unsustainable?
Comment by CircleChange11 — August 5, 2010 @ 10:25 pm
I doubt very many pitchers — and very many managers, for that matter — understand just how damaging walks actually are. If they did, I don’t think we’d see half as many IBBs as we do. But I’m picking at nits.
Basically I’m with you on this one — I don’t think it’s that sportswriters “identify” with crummy players so much as it’s good business to write about underdogs making it big. Everybody loves a good underdog story, and, well, reporters have papers to sell, yeah?
I’m sorry guys but you need to settle down. Look I know that advanced stats should be respected and we should vomit on RBI and runs scored but you’re becoming even worse than those pundits.
You have become no better than Dan Shaugnessy in how you make fun of these type of writers. Be mature, be respective. Settle down and stop making fools of yourself.
“Chop says”: You prolly should never post on a single baseball website ever again. Your type of attitude is only destructive to the move toward advanced statistics in terms of measuring players.
Peter Gammons was the ultimate sports writer for baseball and has adapted towards the times. You idiots just have no common sense, listen to what FanGraphs says and make fun of the sports writers who became prominent during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Go away, please. You’re not helping anyones cause and you’re no better to the baseball writers of old.
If they did, I don’t think we’d see half as many IBBs as we do.
The base state and run expectancy data are averages of the entire league over multiple years. That does not mean that the same rates and expectancies apply equally to all situations, or to all players.
I agree with someone else that stated that these leaguewide averages should not be blindly applied to all situations, unless it onvolves league average players all the time.
Some things to remember about IBBs … the defensive team is already in a bad position and is often IBB’ing somebody to set up a potential miracle inning-ending DP, in situations where a batted ball scores the run (runner on 3rd, 1-out, etc), … or the base is open and they’d rather pitch to the next, inferior hitter. I would guess that this is probably the most frequent IBB situation. 2 outs, big hitter up, 1st base open.
Many times the IBB is issued to set up a leverage situation. Batter is walked, in comes the specialist to face a batter where the P has a platoon advantage. That’s a smart IBB in many cases.
The IBB situation that pisses me off is 2nd and 3rd one out, tie game, last inning, and the manager IBB’s the batter because  a batted ball likely scores the winning run,  pulling the defense in raises the batter’s BA by 100 points (or so), and  it’s puts you in a position where a ground ball could result in getting out of the inning still tied …. and then the pitcher walks in the winning run.
A lot of IBB situations are “bad situations for the defense” all the way around.
Comment by CircleChange11 — August 6, 2010 @ 12:19 am
Sabermetricians aren’t baseball nerds because they use higher level math. They are baseball nerds because they are constantly questioning, and attempting to improve the math/thinking that is used to evaluate baseball.
The people that are as bad as you say don’t care what you have to say, because they either think they are right anyways, or, at the very least, don’t realize they fit the description. The people that aren’t as bad as you say don’t need to be grouped together. If you have a point you want to effectively get across, then you should probably settle down too. If you don’t, then stay off of this website.
Dunno about that guy up there…not a whole lot of substance to that argument.
I think part of our fascination with players like Bannister and Disco Hayes is the movement in baseball itself towards more advanced statistics. In 20 years people will no longer be able to say “I played in the major leagues and we never used those made up stats, go away.” Bannister or Ohlendorf’s success is somewhat irrelevant–its validation that there are those actually playing the game who appreciate the research done on this site and many others.
Its not unhealthy to have a favorite player for any number of reasons. To favor a player because he actually thinks about baseball…well, that’s far from a terrible thing.
And I have to back up the earlier post about celebrating a player and believing that guy is actually good. I know Bannister is a back of the rotation starter. But still, I don’t dislike him for that. He’s still a much much much better player than I ever was.
Also, I believe there’s some sense of the pre-bandwagon with this fascination. In the future, modern statistical analysis will be so widely accepted that it won’t be fun to root for the Disco Hayeses of the world anymore. The walk will be abhorred by all pitching coaches at all levels of professional baseball and the game will evolve as it always has.
Why can’t we appreciate these men for being just a bit ahead of their time regarding the approach to pitching? I don’t think that’s unfair at all.
Comment by Mike Savino — August 6, 2010 @ 12:47 am
I would really love to see a list of all players who are ‘into’ sabermetrics…and if any of them have actually had high levels of success at the major league level.
Clearly I’m aware that there are situations that call for an IBB — for example, if it’s the bottom 9th, I have a one-run lead, there’s a man on, and 2004 Barry Bonds comes up to the plate with 2010 Garret Anderson on deck, I’m walking Bonds. That notwithstanding, the IBB, like the sacrifice bunt, is heavily overused in the current baseball environment. Both are situational moves that can be wise, but, if used improperly, can dig you in even deeper.
I think Eckstein is a bad example of the kind of player that statheads consider overrated because he has always had a pretty good walk rate(and hit by pitch rate). In many years his offensive output has been outstanding for a SS. I don’t know about his D but his reputation is for good range. I think Juan Pierre is a better example. He has been an outmaking machine (at the plate).
Many good comments here, can’t respond to all of them. This wasn’t meant to trash Bannister or whomever, just a bit of a caution. As for this particular comment — while I agree that a careful look at Eckstein’s numbers show he’s been pretty valuable, I think if you go to the Fire Joe Morgan archives, you’ll find many, many examples of what I’m talking about (although in the first draft, I used Pierre, too, but needed to cut some stuff out of an over-long post).
Hey danmay you’re an idiot. You prolly have no common sense and must be a retard to actually think what you say is true. Do not rip on me because I have street smarts in terms of baseball and can be rational about things. Go hang out with TangoTiger and give each other rimjobs for hours upon hours
Based on what I see and use in regards to IBBs, they primarily exist in situations where the trailing team feels that if they give up any more runs they game will be reasonably out of reach. So, they are taking a chance on a move that has the potential to result in them getting out of the inning without the lead extending.
They’re usually already in a bad spot and giving up an extra doesn’t really add extra challenge as giving up a single run.
When we look at the data on IBBs, it is possible that we look at totals, instead of context. IBBs can lead to extra runs expected. But many of those situations are likely when the team is going to lose anyway. So, when it fails they end up losing by 4 or 5 instead of 2 or 3.
I could be wrong, but it does seem like teams generally employ the IBB when they are in a situation where they’re trying to keep the deficit to 2 or 3 runs, so they still have a chance at coming back.
Comment by CircleChange11 — August 7, 2010 @ 5:23 pm