NotGraphs Baseball

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  1. It is exceedingly difficult for even the most statistically-minded of sports fans (not exclusively baseball fans) to read statistical analysis of sporting events devoid of a compelling narrative. Without this, the stats can tell a story, albeit a sterile one deprived of humanity that created the statistics themselves. Similarly, sportswriting without a solid grip on reality can elucidate ephemera but serves as little more than fable, thus depriving people knowledge seekers of the education they seek. People come to sites like Fangraphs in search of both knowledge and (hopefully) entertainment, and great writers like Breslin, Deford, and Arthur Daley before them generally managed to do both, even if the method of delivery seems unrigorous to certain contemporary readers. I think we’re in good stead going forward, and I hope that more people like Jack manage to strike that balance between factual analysis and storytelling.

    Comment by dp — June 26, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  2. I agree. Great writers like DeFord and others can create a story that could not be told in any other way, giving readers insights and understanding unavailable anywhere else. Great documentarians are the same way.

    But there’s two more sides to the story. The first is that, statistics, properly understood and presented, can also provide insights and understandings unavailable anywhere else. The best post on FanGraphs and other sabre-sites combine statistics and insightful narrative into a compelling story that couldn’t told otherwise. The numbers, without the narrative, aren’t very compelling.

    Second, the vast majority of today’s sports writer’s are terrible. They’ not only aren’t in DeFord’s class, they’re not even in the same school. Most are lazy and not real bright, providing paint-by-number pieces that provide almost no insight or understanding leaving the reader wondering why he spent 2 and a half minutes bothering with the drivel from Jean Jacques Taylor (http://espn.go.com/dallas/columns/archive?name=jean-jacques-taylor).

    Comment by MrMan — June 26, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

  3. There is room for both. Fangraphs teaches people how baseball games are won. How to spot market inefficiencies, things like that. They try to take the emotion out of analysis and point out that this guy who looks like he tries really hard, it’s ok to like him and his game, just don’t confuse him with a superstar for those reasons.

    You see very little of the emotional, more personal side here and that’s fine. The Q&A columns with the current and retired ball players are a little bit of an exception but even there the questions are more analytical than emotional and I think that’s great because it elicits much more thoughtful answers than all the usual cliches that athletes are used to giving to the same old questions.

    Comment by MikeS — June 26, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

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