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  1. So, does “pitching to the score” mean that a pitcher will have a lower ERA in games that he and his team wins – and a higher ERA in games that his team loses? Um, isn’t that part of the definition of how one wins or loses?

    Comment by Mark — December 30, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

  2. For many years baseball, and sports in general, have been a sanctuary where people could mentally retreat to and be comfortable. Shop-worn phrases, cliches, and easy narratives are all part of what makes this cultural space comfortable. People could come together and both have and share opinions without expending the least amount of effort. Your introduction of scientific and statistical rigor completely up ends how people have traditionally consumed sports. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but you have to realize that most people come to sports specifically looking for an area where “work” is not a requirement.

    Comment by GZ — December 30, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  3. I really enjoyed this article. I have not thought of this argument in terms of facts and opinions before. I really hope that someone inside the mainstream media sees this and responds to it. Would it be possible for someone to ask for a response from a mainstream media person?

    Comment by Joe M. — December 30, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  4. No, pitching to the score supposedly means that if a pitcher has something like a 7-1 lead in the 6th inning, they’ll pitch more to contact, which will generally give up more runs. Thus, if a pitcher gives up 3 runs in that inning, they’ll say he was “pitching to the score.” Of course, it’s been shown that this phenomenon doesn’t actually exist, and even if it did, the pitcher would be doing his team an obvious disservice.

    Comment by suicide squeeze — December 30, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  5. I’ll never understand why he should get extra credit for “winning” games while allow 6 ER, but Blyleven should be punished for “losing” while allowing 2 ER. I actually saw somebody yesterday that part of Morris’ greatness was that he’d allow a HR in the 8th inning instead of “giving in” and walking the guy.

    Morris — the anti Tom Glavine. Ain’t he grand?

    Comment by RMR — December 30, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  6. Wasn’t the whole “pitching to the score” narrative with Morris a creation long after his career ended to justify his HOF status? People didn’t actually say this about him when he was playing and they were actually watching his individual performances, right?

    The people who argue this are tacitly admitting that his track record does not merit being in the HoF, because they have to come up with (iow, make up) other reasons to vote for him.

    Comment by Koch — December 30, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  7. Yeah, you’re pretty good at this writing thing, Dave. Really enjoyed this one. If only every HOF voter were required to read this…

    Comment by Andrew — December 30, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  8. Great post!

    The best way to counter an argument is to prove one of the premises wrong. This is logic 101. However, as you note, everybody seems to forget the difference between factual assertion and opinion.

    Here’s a simple example:

    Premise 1: The be the best hitter one must have the highest batting average
    Premise 2: Jose Bautista has the highest batting average
    Conclusion: Jose Bautista is the best hitter in baseball

    Premise 1, as well as the conclusion, are opinions which the speaker is perfectly entitled to have. Premise 2, however, is an assertion of fact that is simply incorrect. If one of the premises is incorrect the conclusion therefore is incorrect. By saying that it’s incorrect I am not denying the speaker a right to his opinion, or arguing with his opinion (maybe he does think that Jose Bautista is the best htiter in baseball anyway) I am simply refuting the conclusion given a false premise.

    With that said, it’s great to see somebody understand this distinction and I agree it is often forgotten in HOF debates. HOF voters, vote for whoever you feel deserves it, for whatever reason you feel he does (I don’t care if it’s something as stupid as good looks), but don’t yell “it’s my opinion” anytime somebody shows your factual assertions are false.

    Comment by Phil — December 30, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  9. Excellent piece and a topic well worth noting. Just b/c someone says something is true doesn’t make it so.

    Comment by chuckb — December 30, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  10. I disagree Dave. You can have a wrong opinion, if by wrong we mean “unreasonable” or “inconsistent”.

    Can I have an opinion that chocolate is better than vanilla, vanilla is better than mint, and mint is better than chocolate? Each opinion on its own is fine. But, taking the opinions together shows it to be inconsistent. If I have a choice of watching Godfather or Casablanca, I’ll watch Casablanca. If I have a choice of watching Casablanca or Shawshank, I’ll watch Shawshank. If I have a choice of watching Shawshank or Godfather, I’ll watch Godfather. Again, each opinion is fine on its own. But the opinions are not internally consistent. Today, my opinion is that Obama is a great president. Tomorrow, my opinion, with no new evidence, is that Obama is a lousy president. The day after that, with no new evidence, my opinion is that Obama is an ok president.

    The only way to make the case of Jack Morris over Bert Blyleven is to severely overweight Game 7 1991 to such an absurd level that it will effect other borderline cases as well. Instead, what the Holy Writers are saying is that only that particular Game 7 at that particular year in 1991 am I going to assert a severe overweight, and other Game 7s will not get that level of overweighting, and I’m doing that only because I know that this is the only way to push Morris over Blyleven.

    Some opinions are wrong (unreasonable and inconsistent and therefore invalid), and Morris over Blyleven is such a case. How about the opinion that Jack Morris was a better pitcher than Tom Seaver. Is that wrong? You bet that’s a wrong opinion.

    Comment by tangotiger — December 30, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  11. This is one of the rare cases where the English language is an impediment to clarity.

    In Swedish, when you want to say the equivalent of “I think that X”, your word choice (either “Jag tycker X” or “Jag tror X”) is entirely dependent on whether you are making a statement of opinion or of fact. A native Swedish speaker *never* picks the wrong word. It’s essentially grammatically incorrect to choose the wrong word. If the truth of the statement depends on the speaker, you choose “tycker”. If it is independent of the speaker, you chose “tror”.

    Having spent a lot of time running blog sites, I have taken note of the truly astounding the amount of words we English speakers spend debating things would not even be a debate if the English language also made a clear distinction between opinion and fact.

    I also often wonder why this fuzziness in English persists. Seems unnecessary, on the surface. Is there some benefit to our fuzziness? More incentive to pursue creative directions, perhaps?

    Comment by Ken Arneson — December 30, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  12. Very well said. Great article.

    Comment by Matt Kremnitzer — December 30, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

  13. This is incorrect. People have been arguing about baseball for as long as there’s been a ball and a bat involved. Advanced statistics just makes some of those people much, much more educated about a long-extant subject of argument.

    Comment by JH — December 30, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  14. What is a “fact”, really? Everything is relative. There is no such thing as objective truth, only what we perceive.

    Comment by Jim — December 30, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

  15. http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293730672&sr=8-1

    Comment by TrickTickler — December 30, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  16. We don’t need to get all philosophical. If we can’t agree that certain facts are objectively true, we can’t even have a rational discussion of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Things like Bert Blyleven pitched 1146 more innings than Jack Morris have to be considered as objectively true and not perceived.

    Comment by andrew — December 30, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  17. Doesn’t starting any sentence with “I think that” imply that it’s automatically a statement of opinion, rather than a statement of fact?

    You would never say “I think that California has the largest population of any US state.” You would say “I know that California has the largest population of any US state” or simply “California has the largest population of any US state.”

    Comment by AJS — December 30, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

  18. The level of rigor sabermetrics requires is totally new. Once upon a time people worked hard in their lives (kids, job, chores) and relaxed with baseball. Now some people work hard on baseball and some don’t, and the two can’t relate to one another.

    Comment by GZ — December 30, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  19. That may be “true”, but Morris had a much better mustache, and if you weight IP totals more than that then I’m not sure your priorities are in order /cistulli.

    Comment by Jim — December 30, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  20. We’re talking about the HOF, not conversations in bars.

    Comment by Jordan — December 30, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  21. This article is just another in a long series of examples showing Dave’s anti-vanilla bias.

    Comment by mattymatty2000 — December 30, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  22. Wrong doesn’t mean “unreasonable” or “inconsistent” though. It means “incorrect”.

    Comment by mattymatty2000 — December 30, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  23. No, people say that all the time. I was having a discussion not 20 minutes ago, where someone asked what return the 49ers got when they traded Brandon Lloyd 5 years ago. My response: “I think they got a 3rd and a 4th”

    Comment by Viliphied — December 30, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  24. Jättebra!

    Comment by filihok — December 30, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  25. Vanilla is the sixth best flavor of ice cream

    Comment by filihok — December 30, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

  26. The narrative with Morris is always the same-he’s romanticized for throwing a shut-out in one of the great postseason games of all time. It was late in his career and provides this idealistic enduring image of of a man gritting out one last great victory on three days’ rest. People love that portrait. According to many, that symbolizes what he was as a pitcher, his ability to pitch to the situation and win the big games.

    It’s still just one game. One of his best performances ever happened to come in game seven of the world series, and it somehow makes people forget that he was just a slightly above average pitcher every other day in his life.

    Comment by Bronnt — December 30, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  27. If something is both unreasonable and inconsistent, that makes it invalid.

    Otherwise, you are arguing that an unqualified opinion is the same thing as bullsh!t, but that it still doesn’t make it wrong. Fine, but I want no part of that debate.

    Comment by tangotiger — December 30, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  28. The pitching-to-score argument has been around as long as I can remember (from mid-80′s on). Whether it was popular to apply that to Morris while he was active I don’t remember. I don’t think anyone “made up” reasons to get Morris into the Hall. They just applied a common misconception to him.

    Comment by Mike K — December 30, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

  29. Great line from Raiders of the Lost Ark about archeology. The search for fact, not truth. Truth is perception. Fact is fact.

    Comment by Mike K — December 30, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  30. Actually, the argument you laid out is not just unsound, it’s not valid. You’ve established having the highest batting average to be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for being the best hitter in baseball. Even if we accept the two premises you indicate, it does not necessarily follow that Jose Bautista is the best hitter in baseball. It would be wonderful if arguments would be laid out like this, however- they are improved by observation!

    Comment by Jim — December 30, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  31. Dave, you make several very insightful points, and I largely agree with your overall argument. My one reservation has to do with what I think is a tendency within the “statistical community” to paint things black-and-white, true or false. Some things can be established with a high degree of certainty (the number of innings pitched by Bert Blyleven, the speed of light in a vacuum, etc.). But statistical analysis often involves many judgments as well. For instance, it seems that there’s a strongly held view in the statistical community that FIP is a far better measure of a pitcher’s performance than ERA. ERA may be limited in what it tells us because it is a simple measure and doesn’t take into account certain complexities of the game. Yet its simplicity also makes it incontestable–we know with a high degree of certainty that X pitcher was charged with an average of Y earned runs over 9 innings. FIP, while attempting to measure more meaningful aspects of a pitcher’s performance, is limited in the sense that it was developed using certain judgments about what is meaningful and how to combine those factors into a measure that can be usefully compared to ERA. It may well be a very useful statistic, but the judgments that underlie it always can (and probably will) be subject to debate.

    I’m a big believer in intelligence, reason and quantitative analysis, but even intelligent, rational statisticians need to accept that “facts” are not always as certain as true or false. Baseball, life and human discourse are all very complex maters, and things rarely come down to being true or false.

    Comment by KS — December 30, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  32. I am actually not arguing anything other that the definition in the dictionary.

    Comment by mattymatty2000 — December 30, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  33. Blasphemer!

    Comment by mattymatty2000 — December 30, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  34. Wait a second, did Knobler even say “Morris pitched to the score” in that article? I didn’t see it although I read it quickly. Dave doesn’t put it in quotation marks, but his article implies that’s what Knobler is asserting as a fact.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  35. Unless Knobler edited his article after you published this, it seems you have completely misrepresented what he said. He never said anything about “pitching to the score” or the DH not being a position.

    Also, both of those are valid opinions assuming the premises that the statistical analysis is wrong or a scorecard (or anything else listing “positions”) is not definitive.

    “in my opinion, the statistical analysis of pitching to the score is flawed and certain players did this better than others. I base this on my experience watching baseball games for the past 30 years.”

    “in my opinion, only players who go onto the field when the other team is hitting play positions. To me, that is what a position is.”

    I’m not saying I agree with either of these, I just think you’re a bit out of your element here. That’s my opinion.

    Comment by TK — December 30, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  36. Oops, dave actually does put it in quotation marks, although in the context it seems like he means if someone says something like “Morris pitched to the score” yet there is some implication Knobler said that in the article, and, excuse me if i read it too quickly, I don’t think he said that.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  37. Actually, it is sufficient because it excludes all other possible candidates. Understand your point, though.

    Comment by Kevin S. — December 30, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

  38. But, if a pitcher was able to pitch “reasonably” well while only putting in 90% of the effort, then he’s doing a great service to himself in the long run. Pitching at less than full out effort is a lot less stressful on an arm (at some point, there’s essentially no stress at all, but I don’t think many shut it that far off), and would have some possible longevity benefits.

    If you are up 5 runs as a pitcher, maybe putting that hard slider away for a few innings is a good thing. I’d be stunned if every pitcher didn’t do this – much has been made about old-time lineups and how they let pitchers cruise at less than max effort for stretches. The only way to manage that now, aside from playing the 2010 Mariners, is to let up when you get way ahead.

    This would be offset by the slight mental letdown of some players who would concentrate less in the same situations while hitting, and the overall effect might disappear into the fog.

    Playing less hard when the game isn’t close -football teams do it, basketball teams do it, hockey teams do it, why wouldn’t we expect baseball teams to do it. And the end result is typically the same when two teams/people stop trying 100% – the better player wins anyway, and it’s hard to tell it’s even happening.

    So, long winded way of getting to a question – in lop-sided games, do pitchers throw different pitches or softer pitches than they do in identical innings in close games? Pitch F/X would show this, even if results might not.

    Comment by aweb — December 30, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  39. Yawn. I agreed with your factual opinion about not getting all worked up about Hall of Fame voting. Then I read the rest of the article where you get all worked up about Hall of Fame voting.

    Comment by JK — December 30, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

  40. I don’t know a what exact point the narrative emerged but it happened when he was still a player. I distinctly remember Buck Martinez describing Morris as a pitch to the score guy several times during the 1992 season when Morris won 20 games with a 4.04 ERA.

    Comment by AG — December 30, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  41. Yes, but what if you use “tror” and you’re just wrong? Seems to me the “fuzziness” with English is not fuzziness at all, but an ordering of words in a hierarchy that leads to a narrowing of the understanding of a subject through dialogue, while also leaving open the “fact” that observations in the natural world do not often rise to the level of “laws.” In other words, we accept many things as “facts” even though we know that the multiple observations that make it a “fact” may not be terribly reliable in and of themselves. The “fuzziness” that you speak of is the arrival at an agreement on a statement of fact through dialogue about the several observations that constitute a larger factual observation. If opinions could never be part of arriving at an agreement regarding a statement of fact, few scientific experiments would ever begin. In fact, if you are a scientist simply stating a fact rather than an opinion that your novel research will lead to some unique result, nobody is going to fund you, because there is just no point in that.

    This may not seem like a big distinction between having two different words for opinion and fact, but it’s actually the heart of the scientific method. Outside of “laws”, which carry a very high standard, which the statement “Jack Morris did not pitch to contact” does not rise to, reasonable people can arrive at the understanding of the “fact” that he did not upon rigorous investigation and discussion.

    The English language does not have two exclusive words for opinion and fact for that very reason. King Felix did not win the Cy this year because sabremetricians shouted the same things over and over. For years they researched and debated the issue, and won over supporters. Maybe this is the same thing as saying the process is more important than the result.

    Comment by Paul — December 30, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  42. Funny thing is, as far as the post-season emphasis, Blyleven had the better overall record, won games in 2 different world series where his team won the WS, and “beat” Morris in the playoffs in 1987 when they faced each other. FWIW.

    Knobler was likely around 9 years old when Blyleven started his caree, so he may not have noticed his early years so much. But he also was covering baseball professionally by the time of the ’87 series. Was Blyleven obnoxious to writers and Morris mr nice guy? because other than that, the focus on that 1-0 game, or even on Morris’s world series record alone, is indeed obsessive (just my opinion and i’m not a pyschiatrist).

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  43. Wow, even by baseball_reference war, Blyleven’s performance from ’77-’92 alone is better than Morris’s whole career from ’77-’94 (and that leaves out Blyleven’s stellar early career).

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  44. But sabermetrics is not for the ballpark experience. Or just watching a game at home with a beer in your hand. The game is fun enough to watch on its own. And I don’t see sabermetrics being forced down anyone’s throat (which reminds me, if sabermetrics ruins your enjoyment of baseball, what are you doing here?) It’s for those that A) have a team to run — real or fantasy — and want to better evaluate performances/talent or B) find the sabermetrics in itself an enjoyable past-time… those that have a hunger to understand what they see, and probably not just in baseball.

    Comment by Captain Hindsight — December 30, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  45. “Advanced statistics just makes some of those people much, much more educated about a long-extant subject of argument.”

    Advanced statistics also make some people much more pompous and self-aggrandizing about the subject of baseball without actually making them more knowledgeable.

    Exhibit A: Dave Cameron.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

  46. I have always considered the HOF to be based on opinions, not facts, by definition. Otherwise why else would there be a need for more than 500 voters?

    Comment by jmr — December 30, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  47. “I actually saw somebody yesterday that part of Morris’ greatness was that he’d allow a HR in the 8th inning instead of “giving in” and walking the guy.”

    Yes. That’s smart baseball. If I’m a pitcher working with a sizable lead in the eighth inning, it’s much more efficient and logical to challenge batters rather than walking them. If you’re winning 6-2 in the eighth, it’s better to give-up a solo HR with one out than it is walk a batter. Walks lead to more late-inning rallies than solo HR’s.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  48. “Wasn’t the whole ‘pitching to the score’ narrative with Morris a creation long after his career ended to justify his HOF status?”

    You nailed it! There has been this massive conspiracy on the part of the mainstream media to make people think that Jack Morris was a very good pitcher who turned-in some terrific pressure performances.

    But those of us “in the know” know that this is a big bunch of BS. Fangraphs has taught us that intangibles are utter nonsense. The ONLY THINGS that matter in judging a pitcher a FIP, xFIP, and ERA+. (Or is one of those passé by now?)

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  49. “However, as you note, everybody seems to forget the difference between factual assertion and opinion.”

    What nobody here seems to note is that just because something has a number attached to it doesn’t make it a fact. Advanced statistics are merely a reflection of how a group of mathematicians chose to weight certain data.

    Just last month, this very website changed how they weighted their most-favored statistic, WAR. For a couple years, people at Fangraphs had the OPINION that using UZR was the best way to judge defense and apply it to a player’s WAR. Then, they CHANGED THEIR MINDS and decided that DRS was now the best way to judge defense in the WAR calculations.

    STATISTICS OFTEN ARE OPINIONS. How a person CHOOSES to weight and compile evidence is AN OPINION of what that person BELIEVES to be most important in making his evaluation.

    IT IS NOT CONCRETE FACT.

    That’s something that many SABR people may never understand.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  50. Good to hear your opinion on the topic, now lets hear from the other side.

    Comment by JKCMason — December 30, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  51. How is a pitcher doing his team a disservice if he wins 7-4 vs 7-1? It does make intuitive sense that a pitcher would be less concerned about getting strikeouts, for example, than pitching to contact to cut down on the number of pitches thrown even if it means he gives up a dinger or two that doesn’t factor into the W-L.

    I listened to the famous Tony Cloninger game where he it two grand slam HR’s and won the game 17-3 against the Giants. I recall in the post-game interview, Cloninger said that once he got the big lead, he threw only fastballs for the rest of the game. Maybe that meant he won the game 17-3 instead of 17-0 or 17-1, but maybe it meant he threw fewer pitches with less stress on the arm and it may have gotten the game over more quickly.

    I don’t have an opinion on whether Jack Morris was able to do that enough to make a difference over the cours of a career, but it is theoretically possible, and would not be doing his team a disservice if he did.

    Comment by DrBGiantsfan — December 30, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  52. Wonderful post. There’s real subtle hints of FJM to it. A+

    Comment by PL — December 30, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  53. [citation needed]

    In what universe does it follow that allowing a single baserunner is worse than allowing a run?

    Comment by skipperxc — December 30, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  54. skipper, I think the idea is not that it is better to give up the homer, but that it is better to throw strikes with a late comfortable lead because the odds of the home run are small, so take the small chance of a homer over the larger chance (debateable) that a walk may lead to a rally or throwing more pitches and the need for a reliever.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

  55. In this case I really do hate to repost previous comments. But Morris’s postseason stats in 84 are awesome (Seriously, look them up).

    They’re bad with TOR. But, he put up two outstanding postseasons, and one crappy one. People forget the TOR stats because his team won the WS. That’s not fair, but that’s reality.

    Can we please stop equating Morris’s rep to one game. It’s an assertion of fact, and one that is demonstratably false (to stay in the theme of this thread).

    Now, whether Morris belongs in the Hall is a different conversation. I am simply refering to Morris’s reputation as a big game pitcher or his worth being based on one world series game.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 30, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  56. You are correct in saying that how you weight certain stats is an opinion.

    You are however incorrect in saying that the statistics themselves are not facts. They are concrete calculations based on things that actually did happen.

    How useful they are, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. You cannot argue about the accuracy of batting average, but you very much can argue about its utility. Ditto OPS, ditto a lot of things. A very large part of the disagreement about defensive metrics is this discussion, and it is good that we continue to discuss and improve them.

    That said.

    Jack Morris “pitching to the score” is not a matter of opinion. It simply did. not. happen. See this link: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1815

    Joe Sheehan went through every single start of Jack Morris’s career to determine if this truly was the case. It turns out Morris was definitively worse in one-run or tied games than he was in games with either a large lead or in which he trailed heavily.

    Comment by skipperxc — December 30, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

  57. Depends on the definition of qualified opinion. Typically a qualified opinion meant the person giving the opinion was including a bunch of caveats, that they were covering their asses. This is typically the terminology provided by auditors and certain investment professionals when giving their professional opinion. Contrary to its connotation, a qualified opinion is not a good thing.

    Comment by Locke — December 30, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  58. OK, the sar-chasm, but in all seriousness, players (and not just Joe Morgan) have indicated this belief themselves (not Jim Bouton, but ok). Tom Seaver once said, when he was young, still a Met, that if he gave up no runs he deserved a win. One run, a tie, and no runs, a loss. of course, with those Mets team, that was almost accurate as far as results he might expect. :)

    But the thing is, for Morris versus Blyleven, there’s very little evidence that Morris was somehow more “clutch” even if there is such a thing than Blyleven. Unless you put ALL the emphasis on the 1-0 game 7. Blyleven pitched well and won world series games for the World Series winning ’79 Pirates and ’87 twins. He beat Morris in a playoff game. His post-season e.r.a. was lower. His career e.r.a. plus was lower, he even arguably out-pitched Morris during the years their careers overlapped, which ignores Blyleven’s stellar career from ’70-’77, his prime.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  59. You know what else did not happen? Danny Knobler did not say “Jack Morris pitched to the score.”

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  60. Skipperxc, that’s simple. If you let him get to first, then the other batters are in the clutch. This is the situation where somehow batters add 100 points to their BA and become super players!

    [end sarcasm]

    Comment by Barkey Walker — December 30, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  61. Uh… so right after the 1991 WS game, people said it… I’d believe that.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — December 30, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  62. You can have that type of cyclic preference. It just means that you can’t form a utility function from it.

    I know that it is then possible to extract money form someone with this type of preference, but that assumes that they don’t just decide to not let you do that.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — December 30, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  63. This wasn’t necessarily a comment on Danny Knobler, just one popular facet of the conversation. Other aspects (K rate, complete games, shutouts, etc.) are a lot easier to research on this and other websites than the “pitching to the score” myth. Presumably he looked at at least one of these.

    The point is that Knobler could not have come to the conclusion he did based on fact. It’s simply impossible. Smarter men than I will tell you the same.

    (Also I just discovered that Sheehan article for the first time today and was dumbfounded that the study had been done eight years ago and nobody cares or mentions it.)

    Comment by skipperxc — December 30, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  64. The choices made by mathematicians– for a statistic to be any good– will be those supported by the best fit of the data to a model. This is why wOBA is good (linear weights supported by thousands of games of historical data) and slugging percentage isn’t (linear weights supported by a vague simile).

    At the point where you’re calling determination of the mathematical best fit an “opinion,” the term loses any meaning whatsoever.

    Comment by Paul Thomas — December 30, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  65. If we can’t agree that there are certain things that are objectively true, then we can’t have a rational discussion regarding anything, not just the HoF.

    Comment by Everett — December 30, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  66. If you don’t think Cameron’s any more knowledgeable about the area than you are, start your own blog and build your own base of tens of thousands of readers.

    Or just keep ankle-biting, if it somehow improves your self-esteem.

    Comment by slamcactus — December 30, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  67. Really? I mean, that’s what Dave’s post is about, but it seems, and I’m not really sure quite where I got this impression, that the poster I responded to was talking about “baseball, and sports in general.”

    My bad.

    Comment by slamcactus — December 30, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  68. There isn’t really a difference between winning 7-4 and 7-1…the difference would be the pitcher leaving the sixth inning with a 6 run lead or a 3 run lead. At that point, the other team has a much better chance of winning the game if the pitcher pitched to the score and had bad results. Yes, there’s a good chance it won’t make or break the game at that point, but you would still be hurting the team by giving up 3 runs.

    I would say that it is possible that some sort of pitch to contact philosophy could work, but you’d have to have some way to suppress hitters’ babip, and I don’t think there are proven, reliable ways to do that. I know Roy Halladay has said he tries to induce grounders in lower leverage situations, but he still has a career babip around .300, and still relies on strikeouts for a lot of his outs. Also, he’s superhuman and probably shouldn’t be used as a general example.

    Comment by suicide squeeze — December 30, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  69. “Unless Knobler edited his article after you published this, it seems you have completely misrepresented what he said. He never said anything about “pitching to the score” or the DH not being a position.”

    You misread what Dave said. He didn’t say Knobler said those things, he said:

    “But when someone begins to make claims like “Jack Morris pitched to the score” ”

    Dave is not saying that Knobler said Morris pitched to the score. He’s saying that people are making factual assertions when they use that argument that Morris pitched to the score.

    Comment by Mark — December 30, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

  70. Okay, but he pitched 3 whole games in the 1984 postseason. He also pitched a stinker in 1987 where he went 8 innings despite bleeding runs left and right (losing out to Bert Blyleven, hey!). And then he had an awful postseason in 1992, making it much harder for the Blue Jays to win the series-the Braves only won games that Morris started. Overall, in 13 postseason starts, he had a 3.80 ERA and 3.74 FIP. So he was like, 3% better in the postseason compared to his career. Either he was ever so slightly better in the postseason, or it’s small sample size noise.

    Comment by Bronnt — December 30, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

  71. “cursory glance at any official scorecard will reveal a box next to the players name with the words “Pos” written in the heading”

    Jeez, I know there’s some disdain regarding the DH rule, but that’s going a bit far isn’t it?

    Comment by Undocorkscrew — December 30, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

  72. “If you don’t think Cameron’s any more knowledgeable about the area than you are, start your own blog and build your own base of tens of thousands of readers.”

    Lots of people read Perez Hilton, too. That doesn’t mean it provides quality analysis.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  73. “It’s still just one game. One of his best performances ever happened to come in game seven of the world series, and it somehow makes people forget that he was just a slightly above average pitcher every other day in his life.”

    Wow. Somebody missed Jack Morris’ career, and is just parroting what Fangraphs bloggers like Dave Cameron say.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  74. “In what universe does it follow that allowing a single baserunner is worse than allowing a run?”

    Expending eight pitches and allowing a baserunner with a 6-2 lead in the eighth is worse pitching than throwing two pitches and allowing a solo HR.

    YOU PLAY THE GAME TO THE SCOREBOARD. Not every situation is the same. Baseball isn’t some research experiment conducted in a vacuum for the benefit of pompous blowhards with calculators and linear functions. It’s a GAME, and you PLAY THE GAME according the scoreboard.

    It’s frankly sad how so many people who purport to be so knowledgeable about the game because they can recite what Tom Tango and Dave Cameron spout don’t understand this simple truth to the game of baseball.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  75. “Skipperxc, that’s simple. If you let him get to first, then the other batters are in the clutch. This is the situation where somehow batters add 100 points to their BA and become super players!

    [end sarcasm]”

    It’s endlessly amusing how many people here substitute sarcasm for knowledge. Ironically, your sarcasm would be much more effective if you ACTUALLY KNEW SOMETHING.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

  76. “I don’t know a what exact point the narrative emerged but it happened when he was still a player.”

    This is a great point. If all of these people who PLAYED AND COACHED BASEBALL were saying that Morris adjusted his approach according to the score of the game, then it COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE TRUE.

    Does it make ANY SENSE that a pitcher would throw more hittable strikes when leading late in a game after having thrown 110 pitches?

    OF COURSE NOT. As Dave Cameron has taught us in his infinite wisdom, EVERY SINGLE BASEBALL SITUATION IS IDENTICAL in its importance. Things like – I don’t know – the score of the game, the inning, the point in the season: those don’t matter at all. They’re all just made-up factors, invented by jocks and promoted by the media to support the farcical narrative that in an era where pitchers still often threw 20 CG’s a year, Jack Morris pitched to the scoreboard, and sometimes allowed a few extra runs to score in “garbage time”.

    The veil has been lifted from my eyes. What fools we all have been.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  77. “Advanced statistics also make some people much more pompous and self-aggrandizing about the subject of baseball without actually making them more knowledgeable.”

    It does both. The problem is you’re so locked onto the “pompous” and “self-aggrandizing” part that you’re refusing to see the knowledge possessed by that individual.

    Tom Tango would be a good example of someone who isn’t pompous nor self-aggrandizing. Do you easily dismiss his knowledge as well?

    Comment by The Typical Idiot Fan — December 30, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

  78. “Tom Seaver once said, when he was young, still a Met, that if he gave up no runs he deserved a win. One run, a tie, and no runs, a loss. of course, with those Mets team, that was almost accurate as far as results he might expect.”

    I’d bet Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee would agree with Tom Seaver.

    “But the thing is, for Morris versus Blyleven, there’s very little evidence that Morris was somehow more ‘clutch’ even if there is such a thing than Blyleven.”

    “Clutch” is not something you can put your finger on. Baseball is a funny game. Little mistakes that don’t show-up in the box score can lead to big innings, or pivotal runs.

    Looking at pitchers, there are going to be those games where every line drive and ground ball is right at somebody; and there are going to those games where every ground ball finds a hole, every blooper finds some real estate; borderline pitches that are often called strikes are called balls.

    I do think that many here are being very dismissive of Jack Morris’ career. He wasn’t some average pitcher who just so happened to wind-up with the ball in game seven of the World Series and pitch a great game; Jack Morris was a dominant pitcher for a good dozen years.

    To say that the choice is between Morris or Blyleven is, to me a false choice. Both pitchers have a lot of positives going for them, and to speak positively of some of Jack Morris’ attributes does not diminish Blyleven’s attributes, or achievements.

    Bert Blyleven has a lot going for him. While it might be true that he never had the career-defining moments of Jack Morris, Blyleven did show remarkable durability, winning 287 games, while posting terrific strike-out-to-walk numbers. He also rather quietly compiled a pretty good postseason résumé.

    If I possessed a HOF ballot, I’d be more inclined to vote for Bert Blyleven at this point in time. (He really ought to score some points on his name, alone.)

    I don’t, however, have a problem with people lobbying in support of Jack Morris. He was an ace pitcher and a workhorse for over a decade, and did pitch one of the most memorable games in recent baseball history.

    While many people might be placing too much emphasis on Morris’ effort – pitching for the second time in a row on three days’ rest at the age of thirty-six – Morris did pitch a ten-inning shutout in game seven of the World Series. The degree to which some people here diminish this accomplishment is laughable.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  79. WT,

    You said so much stuff that I agree with, I’ll just cut everyone a break and type “what he said”.

    So, the baseball world doesn’t have to be divided into Team Jack & Team Bert as if we were 12 year old girls?

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 30, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  80. Oh sure, I think Morris was pretty good too. But I’m not the sportswriter justifying a vote for Morris and not Blyleven. I agree Morris was pretty darn good, pitched very well in 2 world series and a great 10 inning game 7 in ’91. I am not complaining too much about someone voting for him, although he’s slightly below the borderline to me. It’s voting for him instead of blyleven that seems odd, but whatever. I’m not Bert’s mom, so it doesn’t make much difference to me. The really strange thing to me is how so much of this is about the “pitch to the score” aspect and that’s not even what the other guy wrote.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  81. Barkley, kidding aside, I think there’s some validity to throwing strikes and taking the relatively slight chance on a home run when you have a 4-5 run lead in the 8th say versus nibbling to a guy with say a .125 iso late. I haven’t done the math, but what are the odds if a homer is 1/30 versus 40% chance of a lead off walk or other hit. You’ve never watched a game and seen someone nibbling to a medicore power dude with a big lead late and said to yourself “come on, just pitch to the guy.”? maybe that’s received wisdom.

    damn, if there were only a site where intelligent baseball minds looked at questions like this in depth with facts.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  82. “Tom Tango would be a good example of someone who isn’t pompous nor self-aggrandizing. Do you easily dismiss his knowledge as well?”

    No. I have tremendous respect for Tom Tango and his advancements to SABR. He does tremendous research in his arena. He’s not in your face with a snarky, condescending attitude all the time, like Dave Cameron.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 30, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

  83. skipper, I agree absolutely, but it is still a pretty large straw man argument to take one of the things he definitely did NOT say and build the fact versus opinion article on that. It’d be pretty easy to take the things he did say and use that to make the argument. Morris was the best pitcher of the ’80s? Bly pitched about as well if not better in the ’80s. Morris pitched at beginning of ‘roid era? Blylven did too, other than Morris’s last 2 not so good years. Morris had 2 great world series? Bly did too, pretty much (or close enough). Bly’s post-season record better. Bly beat Morris in post-season. Then you toss in everything else. If you justw ant to make the case, don’t use his article as the starting off point or if you do, address what he said, not what someone else may have said.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

  84. It’s prettye asy to misread, because he puts it in quotes, fairly soon after he said this by way of introduction:

    “But where he goes off track – and where I believe a lot of voters miss the mark – is to mistake a factual assertion for an opinion.”

    The factual assertion he then devotes much time to, referring to studies he says debunk this, is the assertion that “Morris pitched to the score.” Yes, he never specifically says the guy said this, but why not say what the guy did argue and then refute that. Where did Knobler go off the track if that’s not what he said? I think i know, but it isn’t really addressed by dave.

    Comment by wobatus — December 30, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  85. “A cursory glance at any official scorecard will reveal a box next to the players name with the words “Pos” written in the heading, and the letters “DH” will appear in that box next to the designated hitter, denoting his position for that game. Whether the DH is or is not a position is not a matter of opinion – taking that stance is a factual assertion, and one that is demonstrably wrong.”
    -Great Quote to End the Debate.

    Comment by Sammy — December 30, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  86. Why don’t you go on and get the hell out of here?

    Comment by nitro2831 — December 30, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

  87. waynet-
    I believe that the disconnect “advanced analysts” and athletes and coaches is the amount of influence both camps feel that the pitcher has on batted balls. The stat crowd loves the leaning towards randomness conclusions provided by misinterpreting basic DIPS theory. Jocks know that the pitcher has the most input in the vector/velocity equation but haven’t quantified it. Just read through some of the posts where the authors misuse the data, and certainly aren’t quick to correct their readers misconceptions either. You find very little sympathy (as read above) for Halladay et all claiming to steer grounders to their SS, that is seen as old school and bogus by the saber crowd , yet while not always successful, that is precisely what Roy is doing.

    And he is not unique, many pitchers are able to control to large extent where and how solid the ball is hit. Always? Certainly not, but definitely to a greater degree than they are given credit through the advanced metrics.

    Comment by CaR — December 30, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

  88. I think the big thing is that the arguments for Blyleven are based on statistics and actual performance, things that can’t be denied. He had more wins, more k’s, less walks, a lower era, lower whip, better postseason numbers. . .etc. Whereas the arguments for Morris are based on intangible attributes that can be argued as to whether the attributes actually exist.

    http://thebeenstew.com/2010/12/22/heyman-you-kidding-me/

    Comment by Bob Wickman — December 30, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  89. Wobatus, I’m replying to, “Walks lead to more late-inning rallies than solo HR’s.” This has been looked at. Walks with nobody on are no different than singles. If you know about value added analysis, they have the same value. I don’t have the number on the tip of my finger, but I do know that the value of a guy on first is less than the value of nobody on and the same number of outs – 1.

    It is always better to have points on the board than players on base.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — December 30, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

  90. When you say “it is good when people don’t starve” in Sweedish, which word do you use? It is cry common to find people saying that good and bad are subjective, and this is a claim about good and bad. Can Sweedish people have this debate? I am genuinely curious, but it seems like this legitimate question (are good and bad subjective?) lies at the root of a lot of the confusion we have about opinion and fact.

    Comment by philosofool — December 30, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

  91. @aweb & DrBGiantsfan

    You both make the point that pitching to the score (i.e. pitching to contact & throwing more fastballs) could be benefial in that it can save your arm. So what?

    If Jack Morris saved his arm by pitching to the score and that made him more effective in his next start (or helped extend his career) then that added effectiveness has already been accounted for in his career pitching stats.

    [I don't mean to attack either one of you, as you both brought up an interesting point, and I doubt either of you are using Morris's ability to pitch to the score as your basis for your support of his HOF induction.]

    Comment by Danmay — December 30, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

  92. In fairness to Jim,, the original post makes some weighty philosophical claims, like no one can argue your preferences. If you prefer a marriage in which have all the power and control most of your partner’s life, people who say your preference is wrong are not just making some sort of ridiculous claim. Your certainly right that Blyleven’s IP totals are not up for grabs, but are hall voters just entitled to the opinion that no DH should ever get in?

    Comment by philosofool — December 30, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  93. Every inconsistent pair of propositions is the site of one wrong thing and one right thing.

    Comment by philosofool — December 30, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

  94. Skipperxc – Thanks for posting the link to the Sheehan article. The comparison to Carter is, I think, apt. I watched both of them play a lot of games and when they were younger and hadn’t yet gained the respect accorded veteran players they both were often described as “inconsistent”.

    For both players it was only later in their careers when they’re strengths came to be emphasized more than their weaknesses. I liked Morris and thought he was a good to very good pitcher but I doubt if at any one time during his career I would have picked him from among his contemporaries to be in my “ideal” starting five.

    Comment by EdwardM — December 30, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

  95. CaR,

    I’ve read (and talked *grin*) more about DIPS, BABIP, and defensive metrics this past week than any one man probably should in that time span.

    I would say that there is a difference between how non-FG sites/blogs view pitcher influence on BABIP and how FG views it, in regards to calculating WAR. It was surprising to me, that not everyone (active in the research field) thinks the same about BABIP, as it is often presented as “fact”.

    Any objections or questions I had to BABIP and pitchers has been asked and researched by men smarter than I.

    There are so many aspects that go into whether a BIP goes for a hit or an out, that it is very difficult to attribute full credit one way or another.

    Simply put, different folks have different views on BABIP influence, and what to do with it as far as WAR calculations go. But, FG does a few things differently than some other places … simply because there is not consensus. The more data we able to accumulate on BIP, the better we will be able to attribute influence as well as improve defensive metrics (really cool stuff coming in this regard, IMO). That should lead to more consensus.

    I hope so, because WAR could really change a lot of stuff in baseball, and lead to many aspects of the game being appreciated by even the common fan.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 30, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

  96. I don’t know that this article really needed to be written. I actually don’t have a problem with Cameron’s writings or his style in general, and the point is valid in a vacuum. Personally I’m the guy who tells people that saying “I don’t beleive in sabermetrics” is stupid because they obviously exist, that person doesn’t beleive in their efficacy.

    That said, I think most people intuitively ascribe statments (all statements that aren’t empirical) made by sportswriters as opinion. At least when I here someone say “X is better than Y” in a baseball context I atribute that to a statement of opinion. Speaking as someone of decidedly average intelligence I think most baseball consumers intuitively know that as well whether they could articulate that point or not.

    Comment by deadpool — December 30, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

  97. There may not be a best hitter in baseball.

    Comment by fred — December 30, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  98. Can somebody tell me how the members of the BBWAA are chosen in the first place, or how there are removed?

    In this case, the problem isn’t that a writer on the BBWAA uses “he pitches to the score” as an argument for selecting a ballplayer to the HOF. The problem is that he says “you shouldn’t say that I’m wrong”. If you can’t defend your position, then you shouldn’t be in the BBWAA.

    Like tangotiger posted: “You can have a wrong opinion, if by wrong we mean “unreasonable” or “inconsistent”. If your opinion is that Jack Morris pitched to the score, then what is your basis for this opinion? If you don’t want to use stats, then what do you use? How can you state that Jack Morris pitched to the score, but Bert Blyleven didn’t if you are only going on a gut feeling?

    You would think that there would be some action (or lack of action) that could get you removed from the BBWAA. Voting for Jack Morris and not Bert Blyleven should not be a reason to be removed from the BBWAA, but not have a reasonable, consistent reason for your vote should.

    Comment by Danmay — December 30, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  99. @ waynetolleson

    “It’s frankly sad how so many people who purport to be so knowledgeable about the game because they can recite what Tom Tango and Dave Cameron spout don’t understand this simple truth to the game of baseball.”

    If someone claims to be as knowledgeable as someone who has presented a convincing argument to them, then I would agree that it is a little sad. However, I highly doubt that to be the case. If you learn something because someone teaches it to you, then you are likely more knowledgeable than you were before. The teacher is likely still more knowledgeable though. But this is either because they have been taught more than you have, or because they have actually done the leg work (like the work that went into writing The Book, and I think I should point out that Tom Tango is frequently trying to get his readers to do more of the leg work themselves.)

    You are also discounting the ability of individuals to process what they have learned and determine for themselves whether or not what they have learned is meaningful or valid and worth repeating.

    So I ask you this: What makes someone legitimately more knowledgeable in my eyes?

    Comment by Danmay — December 30, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  100. Danmay,

    Personally, I’d be fine with both Blylevin and Morris in the HOF. As far as I’m concerned, Morris deserves it for his WS game 7 that he pitched for the Twins against the Braves alone. Well, maybe not alone, but when you put that game up along with the rest of his very good career, that’s enough to tip the balance for me.

    Anyway….

    If, and I’m not saying this is a fact, but if Morris pitched in a lot more lopsided games in his career and Blylevin pitched in a lot more tight games, then you may not see the “payoff” you refer to from Morris’s low leverage innings. Of course, you could argue that Blylevin deserves more credit for pitching in more tight games.

    All I’m saying is that I can see a theoretical reason why Morris might have a higher ERA over the course of his career and still be a great pitcher, because he pitched in significantly more lopsided games where he didn’t have to bear down the whole game.

    Whether or not you can prove it statistically, I’ve heard enough pitchers say that once they got a big lead in a game, they went to more of a fastball only/pitch to contact strategy that I believe it happens a lot and it posssibly could be a factor in Jack Morris’ career numbers.

    Comment by DrBGiantsfan — December 30, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  101. BTW, I’m basically a “big tent” guy when it comes to the HOF. As far as I’m concerned, the purity of only allowing in the best of the best was violated a long time ago.

    Also, it’s the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Statistics. Players can be famous and not necessarily put up classic HOF numbers. IMO, it would be a shame if HOF voting came down to nothing more than an analysis of statistics.

    Comment by DrBGiantsfan — December 30, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  102. DrB, as a Giants fan you know that a six-run lead is far different from a three run lead because of the effect on the bullpen: even if the starter ends up pitching a complete game and winning by three, Bochy would likely have gotten the bullpen up and throwing at least twice, and I’d guess more.

    Comment by merizobeach — December 30, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  103. @DrBGiantsFan (sorry the comment is out of place, I’m on my cell phone)

    Re pitching to the score: my mistake, I got too tied up in my point and forget that his ER would in theory be inflated from when he allowed runs in blowouts.

    And I agree, it’s the not the Hall of Stats.

    Comment by Danmay — December 30, 2010 @ 10:43 pm

  104. Now that I think about it, I had no point. Not a valid one at least.

    Comment by Danmay — December 30, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

  105. But people say “I think” in those instances only because they are not totally certain of the ‘truthiness’ of what they’re stating – they’re not saying that it’s open for debate or that it’s an opinion. He’s essentially saying “it may have been a 3rd rounder, maybe a 4th – obviously there is only one correct, indisputable answer, I’m just not 100% certain of what it is.”

    Comment by Jason B — December 30, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

  106. In response to both the original post and the criticism it garnered, this is exactly the sort of pointless word parrying that hurts the progression of conversation between the stats people and everyone else.

    The assertion that a HR is better than a BB, as an outcome for the pitching team, under any circumstances, is factually wrong. Period. End of discussion.

    However, the underlying concept being voiced in that assertion, in the context described, is absolutely correct. With a large lead late in games, especially the 9th inning, the biggest mistake a pitcher can make is walking a batter. This is because, a pitcher only controls the pitch they throw, and even pitches thrown right down the middle of the plate frequently result in outs, or at least strikes, whereas balls thrown off the plate to spots the batter won’t swing at don’t.

    A civil advancement of the conversation would involve acknowledging the merit in the argument being presented as to baseball tactics while politely pointing out the factual error (or even overlooking it as being of trivial importance). The sorts of responses seen in this thread are precisely the reason why the baseball statistics crowd gets derided and ignored by much of the non-statistics based viewership and press.

    Comment by Jake R — December 31, 2010 @ 12:00 am

  107. Another outstanding post Dave. I hate to be so damn agreeable but you are spot on. Separating fact from opinion seems to be lost on Knobler. Great job of “outing” him on this.

    Comment by Bob — December 31, 2010 @ 12:19 am

  108. I think the choice of Casablanca over The Godfather renders this comment invalid ;)

    Comment by Aaron B. — December 31, 2010 @ 1:03 am

  109. The DH may be a ‘position’, but he isn’t a baseball player. Just a hitter. Baseball players play defense.

    Comment by Eddie — December 31, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  110. I’m not sure how people related to Limas Sweed feel, but I’m sure Swedish people can in fact debate whether good and bad are subjective.

    /grammar snark

    Comment by AJS — December 31, 2010 @ 1:09 am

  111. You didn’t answer the question. Having respect for someone and acknowledging that they do a lot of research does not mean you think Tom Tango has lots of knowledge gained from advanced statistical analysis.

    Do you think SABR related research and study has made Tom Tango more knowledgeable about the game of baseball?

    Comment by The Typical Idiot Fan — December 31, 2010 @ 1:28 am

  112. Dave – I agree wholeheartedly with your Morris examples (and 99% of what you write), but one of your premises on the DH/position example may not be sound: you assume that everyone agrees on the definition of a baseball “position.” By assuming we all agree what constitutes a “position,” you’re begging the question.

    Comment by Justin C — December 31, 2010 @ 3:35 am

  113. If I read one more comment that suggests that there is some kind of “Morris vs. Blyleven” among voters for the Hall of Fame, I will puke. That is in fact factually untrue. Many voters vote for both of them. Others vote for neither of them. They could both make the Hall the same year. They could both neither make the Hall. Those are facts.

    Comment by Breadbaker — December 31, 2010 @ 3:57 am

  114. Jake R: Any time you end an argument with the words, “end of discussion,” you lose. It doesn’t matter if you are correct, even if what you are stating as fact is indeed objectively demonstrable, most actual grown people don’t like to be told that the discussion is over. See, e.g., the global warming “debate.”

    Your description of the advancement of civil discourse is frankly alarming. You argue for the acknowledgment of an opposing point of view, and responding with politely worded responses, but in your opening you lament the “word parrying” that hurts discourse.

    So your formula for improving discourse among fans of all stripes is for one side to impose some sort of code of conduct including speech codes; accept statements of fact that do not rise to some cosmic standard of importance, lest be accused of “word parrying”; and by all means when one side or the other states that the discussion is over, by golly it is, so shove off Joe Sixpack (but ain’t we discoursing so much better now?).

    Did you not notice during the typing of this post that you argued for and against shutting off debate as the grand solution?

    Comment by Paul — December 31, 2010 @ 5:03 am

  115. This new guy Wayne Tolleson is really great!

    He is really stirring the poop on Fan Graphs and I love it!

    Different ideas, whether or not agreed with, are good food for thought.

    Comment by Yowling — December 31, 2010 @ 5:33 am

  116. why does wayne get so many minuses when he’s right?

    Comment by fredsbank — December 31, 2010 @ 6:44 am

  117. albert pujols begs to differ

    Comment by fredsbank — December 31, 2010 @ 6:47 am

  118. I’m not certain it’s at all clear where the boundary lies between fact and opinion. This is certainly a subject more deserving of rigorous research and critical thought than anything in baseball, obviously.

    Certainly some statements are accepted by most as facts “Babe Ruth hit more official homers than Jeff Franceour” for example, would be taken by most as fact. “I don’t like baseball” is also a statement of fact, about one’s sports preferences. “Baseball is boring” is obviously going to be accepted by most as a statement of opinion, and relative to the subject’s feelings.

    The statement “The official scorecard should be the final arbiter regarding whether a certain designation in baseball should be considered a position” is ambiguous at best, but, if anything, seems more like an opinion than a fact… but I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.

    Comment by Thomas J. — December 31, 2010 @ 7:19 am

  119. @Locke

    “Contrary to its connotation, a qualified opinion is not a good thing.”

    I believe you are using the wrong definition of qualified. The definition that applies here is: limited or restricted. The sense I think you’re using is: meeting the proper standards and requirements for a task.

    Comment by Danmay — December 31, 2010 @ 11:15 am

  120. Thanks to skipper for posting that link to that great study by Sheehan. I particularly liked this:

    “Jack Morris made his first major league start on July 26, 1977. It was a bountiful time for the Tigers, who would bring Morris, Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell to the majors within six weeks of each other…”

    I find it amazing that all four of those bordeline HOFers came up at the same time and stayed together for awhile as well. I can sympathize with the Tiger fans that are passionate about seeing them get more recognition but I think the voters have been right.

    Morris’ best claim is that he was either the best or 2nd best in those ‘tweener’ years between great pither eras. I find the arguement of that one great postseason game holding considerable weight ludicrous. It is a career honor and even weighing one entire SEASON heavily doesn’t make sense.

    Comment by Griggs — December 31, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  121. Understood Barkley, but I am talking about what are the odds before you give up the homer or walk the guy. It is obvious a guy hitting a homer is worse for the pitcher than a guy getting a walk. But the odds of a homer just because you are throwing strikes isn’t all that high, and the odds of a walk if you nibble is higher. That’s all I’m saying. Understanding you address a different point.

    Comment by wobatus — December 31, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  122. And some people voted for Morris and not Blyleven, and gave their reasons, so some people are addressing that. Oops, sorry if I made you puke.

    Comment by wobatus — December 31, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  123. and by the way, Knobler’s article, which Dave links to and addresses and quotes from, says he voted for Morris, and he didn’t vote for Blyleven.

    Comment by wobatus — December 31, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  124. Well, if I could really translate “tycka” and “tro” accurately into English, my comment would not really be necessary.

    Comment by Ken Arneson — December 31, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

  125. If you wanted to translate “I think it’s good when people don’t starve”, you would use “tycka”.

    If you used “tro”, I would start wondering where the heck we would go to find confirmation that it is good that people don’t starve. Because obviously, you would be citing some external source of fact, not your own personal belief.

    If, on the other hand, you just said “I think people don’t starve”, you would use “tro”.

    Comment by Ken Arneson — December 31, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  126. This article is ridiculous. For example, who can objectively define what a “meaningless” game is? And while I’m not among the anti-DH crowd, their argument is that DHs don’t “deserve” to be in the Hall, which most definitely is an opinion.

    Comment by Bigmouth — December 31, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  127. “You are also discounting the ability of individuals to process what they have learned and determine for themselves whether or not what they have learned is meaningful or valid and worth repeating.”

    No. What I’m saying is that I find Dave Cameron to be a pompous blowhard. I’ve read his work for years, and although he gets a lot of things right, he gets a lot of things wrong, as well.

    My main beef with Cameron is that he’s of that “either you agree with my opinion or you’re an idiot” crowd.

    The fact of the matter is that SABR really isn’t that special. When I was a kid pitching in Little League, I understood that it was important to keep the ball down in the strike zone so as not to give-up long fly balls. I understood that it was much more advantageous to be up 1-2 in the count than down 3-1 in the count.

    SABR practitioners like Cameron tend to think that the latest newfangled stats have somehow unlocked a Holy Grail of sorts, and that anyone who doesn’t understand DIPS, OOZ, and FIP is utterly incapable of understanding the slightest thing about baseball, and, therefore, their opinions don’t matter.

    And no matter how many times he’s wrong about something, Cameron is back at it with some snotty, condescending piece where he asserts his superiority, and criticizes all others who don’t share his opinion as worthless.

    Comment by waynetolleson — December 31, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  128. I’m sure there are examples where you could use either tycka or tro and not be looked at strangely. But your word choice still indicates a clear distinction.

    Take, for example, “I think that he has brown eyes.”

    If I say “jag tycker han har bruna ögon”, it is obvious by the context that his eye color is somewhere on the border between brown and maybe green, and I’m looking at them and expressing my personal choice on which side of the fuzzy color line his eyes fall. I’m allowing for you to feel differently without being wrong.

    If I say “jag tror han har bruna ögon”, I probably not looking at him right now, I’m trying to recall, but I don’t know for sure if I remember correctly. Maybe they were blue. The truth is external to the speaker.

    Comment by Ken Arneson — December 31, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  129. I agree with your position on morris vs blyleven, since it isn’t that ahrd to take a look and see if there is any indication of morris “pitching to the score.”

    However I disagree with your take on DH. Yes it is technically a position, but I think what people mean when they say that is that the player provided no substance other than at the plate. You certainly have argued that defense needs to be added to a player’s value so I am a bit surprised to see you think it is OK if a player with zero defense belongs in the Hall.

    @Bigmouth, it isn’t that hard to define – I have seen people who took a look at all Morris’ wins when he gave up 4,5,6 runs to see if he pitched to the score – i.e. got a huge lead and then finished the game a winner while giving up runs.

    In fact what happened the vast majority of those games was that Morris gave up the 4,5,6 runs early and then wathced as his team outscored the opponent. Is that pitching to the score? I’d say no.

    Comment by mike — December 31, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  130. SABR practitioners like Cameron tend to think that the latest newfangled stats have somehow unlocked a Holy Grail of sorts, and that anyone who doesn’t understand DIPS, OOZ, and FIP is utterly incapable of understanding the slightest thing about baseball, and, therefore, their opinions don’t matter.

    That’s my gripe.

    If only Walter Johnson knew that striking out a lot of guys, while not walking many, and not giving up homers, was the recipe for success.

    If only those old guys knew something about pitching mechanics, oh they did.

    The truth is, a lot of advancement in sabermetrics, is really only good for the field of sabermetrics. It helps staticians understand the nature of statistics.

    There have been a few cases of teams using sabermtrics to their advantage, such as looking at BABIP for projections, or valuing OBP, etc.

    But, there have also been teams long before that accumulated hitters that got on base, built teams around dominant pitching and defense, etc. There was far more team diversity BEFORE sabermetrics than during it.

    The big advantage of sabermetrics, and stats in general, is that it is supposed to take the subjectivity out of it, based on the human memory bering flawed.

    Have stats really done that? Are defnsive metrics really more accurate than scouting reports? Are pitching metrics really more accurate than advanced scouting of pitchers?

    You would think teams would primarily use advanced methods to “link curent players to possible career paths” (i.e. this type of player usually peters out at age 30, pitchers of his type really seem to blossom at age 27, etc), to project the upcomng season (regressing from good/bad luck), etc.

    I don;t think teams are probably using advanced metrics the way we are.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 31, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  131. IMO, sabermetrics are likely more valuable to fantasy baseball than they are to major league baseball … while still being somewhat important to MLB.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — December 31, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  132. @ DrB,

    We are aware it’s not the hall of statistics, but it’s a lot easier to measure things via statistical analysis than by having Tim McCarver ascribe a scrappiness factor to a player and decide that way who is inducted. I am not sure why you do not think that because, in your opinion, the purity of voting in the best of the best was violated that voters can not correct their mistakes and do not learn from them. Even today voters have expressed dismay over past selections (look at all the pitchers from the 1930s in the hall!) and are unwilling to vote for comparable candidates.

    “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

    Comment by Mat — January 1, 2011 @ 6:47 am

  133. Walks leading to more late-inning runs than solo HR’s is a factual assertion, and I hope research shows it’s demonstrably false, because in my opinion adding a run with one swing should give teams more hope than a mere baserunner…

    Comment by uspsjeter2 — January 1, 2011 @ 7:44 am

  134. I’d like to take on this DH debate. I wonder how many folks on this thread would argue about whether or not a punter is a position in football ??

    In any case, DH it seems is one of those “fuzzy” areas,perhaps because almost no one has been “just” a DH in his career. Reggie Jackson, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, etc. started out playing the field, then kind of morphed into DH’s. But it seems to me extremely inconsistent to single out DH’s as almost non-players, but no one seems to rail about non-starting pitchers being 2nd-class citizens. If hitting a baseball is widely considered the hardest accomplishment in sports, shouldn’t guys who have a job because they do that one thing so well be in the conversation? Isn’t Mariano Rivera relevant to the HOF discussion? Then why not Edgar Martinez?

    Comment by uspsjeter2 — January 1, 2011 @ 8:16 am

  135. Mike, it’s not hard to define, but it’s impossible to define objectively in the sense that there’s one True Definition of a “meaningless” game. Even if agree with your definition, it’s not like we can submit it to the baseball gods for a ruling. It’s a fact that Morris performed the way he did in the type of games you mention. It’s opinion whether those games were meaningless.

    Comment by Bigmouth — January 1, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  136. CircleChange- I don’t quibble with slight differences from one site to another as to how BABIP is seen. My quibble stems from basic statements made by certain sects of analysts who don’t appear to understand how little certainty that was generated by DIPS theory stuff to begin with. In a nutshell, I have been left with the impression that advanced stat proponents basically believe that the pitcher has no impact on a baseball play after he releases the pitch. What happens with the ball is up to chance, fielders, parks etc. I disagree with this philosophy straight up, knowing what I do about the hows and whys of pitching. Again, I don’t know it all, but I can be confident that much of the research goes down the wrong road based on some faulty premises. Those premises can’t possibly be based on experience.

    Comment by CaR — January 1, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  137. “I’m a big believer in intelligence, reason and quantitative analysis, but even intelligent, rational statisticians need to accept that “facts” are not always as certain as true or false. Baseball, life and human discourse are all very complex maters, and things rarely come down to being true or false.”

    I agree with everything you’ve said except the middle part. Facts are true or false, they are testable, falsifiable, repeatable. Statistics and quantitative analysis are an effort to uncover facts. Those facts can be misinterpreted or misused, they can be used incorrectly to reach spurious conclusions, but the facts remain facts. The problem comes when they are used incorrectly, when they are poorly developed, or when they are used to argue something that they don’t prove.

    In the case of the argument here, I assume it arises because people are confusing objective statements (Blyleven was empirically superior to Morris) with subjective statements (I’d rather have Morris in my rotation than Blyleven because he’s a winner). I can’t see any analysis bridging that gap, but in a lot of ways I don’t even know if it should be bridged. Life’s a little more fun this way.

    Comment by Justin — January 1, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

  138. The fact that this was thumbed down: “What is a “fact”, really? Everything is relative. There is no such thing as objective truth, only what we perceive” seriously brings question to the intelligence of the readers of this site. If you don’t understand the truth in these words you shouldn’t be reading on topics like this, your mind isn’t developed enough yet.

    Comment by DownwiththeDH — January 1, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

  139. DownwiththeDH!

    They lead to longer games which are more boring because a big chunk of classic baseball strategy is removed in dealing with batting pitchers and pinch hitters, in addition to the time it takes to play the game.

    The inability to pitch the opposing pitcher inside or hit him if needed must have a negative effect on the integrity games and health of players as well.

    Comment by DownwiththeDH — January 1, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

  140. I agree about Morris. That is a factual assertion, and something we have the data to look into — to see if the phenomenon even happened, at least, before we start to inject motive of whether or not he was actually “pitching to the score” instead of just having a bad inning when he happened to have the lead.

    But I think smacking people on the snout with a rolled-up newspaper over “DH is not a position” is too much about the verbiage. It’s pretty obvious that they’re not claiming that DHs existed in some baseball vacuum that doesn’t actually exist; as you say, it’s on lineup cards and it’s spelled out in rulebooks. If those people had said instead that “DHs are one-dimensional players not worthy of Hall consideration,” it reverts immediately to opinion and is almost assuredly closer to what they were actually trying to communicate.

    In the case of professional writers, maybe they should be held to that level regarding their word choice — but it seems unnecessarily pedantic to me. Whether or not DHs deserve to be in the Hall is an open question for a lot of people, with valid arguments on both sides. “DH is not a position” is not one of them, but it’s still worth trying to understand whether or not that is just an oversimplification of what they’re actually trying to communicate.

    Comment by Jon B. — January 2, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  141. My quibble stems from basic statements made by certain sects of analysts who don’t appear to understand how little certainty that was generated by DIPS theory stuff to begin with.

    You’re preaching to the choir on that one.

    People seem to be self-limiting to the research by McCracken, but don’t consider the research by Tippett, and comments by Tango and Litchman.

    I understand the desire to have it be as simple as possible, but there really is not a consensus about it, nor is it even close to black and white.

    I primarily just visit FG. So, some of the non-consensus stuff was new to me. Sabermetrics is a big part of this site and other sites, such as baseball-reference, who handles BABIP in a very different manner.

    I’m in the “I don’t know” group in terms of the exact percentage of BABIP that is the pitcher’s “fault”. I agree with Tango’s position that by giving the pitcher half credit/blame, put us closer to the accurate answer … unless the accurate answer is 0% or 100%.

    I agree that there was likely a rush to accept the “no influence on BABIP” aspect because it was/is so counter to conventional thinking, and part of the sabermetric process is to break from traditional thinking. I’m willing to wait until we “know more” to put all my eggs in one basket. But until we do know more “plitting the difference” so to speak seems to both [1] make sense, and [2] put us closer to the accurate answer (as Tango descrbes).

    There is definitely not a consensus on the matter though, and it seems to be an issue where you have to “choose sides” on (unnecesarily).

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 2, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  142. Agreed! Down with the DH! Would give us some more well pitched games in the AL for once.

    But seriously, regarding the DH and the HOF: It is disingenuous to keep voting in the best relievers and not vote in the best DH’s. Regardless of whether we THINK DH is a position, MLB decided to make a DH in the American League, so that position must be given the same weight as any other position. The HOF needs to give those instructions to the voting community very strongly. Edgar Martinez was the best DH of his generation. He should be in!

    Comment by Godfrey — January 3, 2011 @ 1:55 am

  143. The longer I thought about “DH is not a position,” the crazier it made me. Just its syntax.

    If you’re talking strictly about positioning — where a player stands in the field of play as a defender, then the DH is not a position. He has no positioning responsibilities. (The pitcher is on the mound; the catcher in the catcher’s circle; the third baseman is the leftmost guy in the infield.) This could get hazier with non-traditional shifts, but ultimately, the DH’s position is “bench,” amongst other dudes.

    Offensively, yes, the man who is the designated hitter will have a place in the line-up. Perhaps his offensive positioning is “4″ — or anywhere one through nine. But that usually isn’t what people refer to when they mention “position.”

    Too much syntactical thinking after reading the oft-syntactical posts for over an hour.

    Comment by Bernacki — January 3, 2011 @ 4:28 am

  144. @antagonistic tollesen

    Have you noticed, in today’s baseball world how many GMs have “PLAYED AND COACHED BASEBALL”? Only one AL GM has spent even a minute in the majors in that capacity. There is a reason for that. The fact that you do not understand it is the root cause of just about everything you post…

    Comment by Someanalyst — January 4, 2011 @ 11:37 am

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