Mike Silva teaches us a neat lesson

In a post entitled, “wRC+ = Follow the Money Trail,” Mike Silva of NYBD figures out the dastardly plans of the online saber community: make that money. Take it away, Mike:

We need more advanced statistics just like we needed Cool Ranch Doritos, New Coke, or a colorful cover for the iPod. What I mean is the “powers that be” in the statistical community have created a profitable industry for themselves that results in sites like Fangraphs. Just like newspapers churn out content daily, statistical analysis becomes stale if it isn’t procured with another variation of the same thing. Why have boring old Runs Created, or OPS+, when you can fancy it up with wRC+.

Tango (seen here) responded to Silva in the comments section by saying:

As I keep saying on my blog time and time again, summary opinion without evidence is the very definition of bullsh!t. And Mike’s statement here is pure bullsh!t.

And the funny thing is how right Tango is. You see, the neat lesson Silva has taught us today is the beauty of meritocracy in the online saber community. It would be near impossible for Tango or Appleman to bring out the same old stat spiced up with a different name and get away with it. Why? Because there are smart people here on the internet who would never put up with being treated like idiots. These aren’t mindless hoards of consumers begging for Michael Bay to blow things up for the billionth time. These are intelligent fans, some of them specialists in mathematical and analytical fields, who demand good evidence be given at all times. If Dave Appleman were to go on Fangraphs and say, “Hey guys, we have a new stat: wUZROBA+, and it’s made by doing this nonsense, etc…” people would stop reading Fangraphs! Instead, he says this:

As you may have noticed, there’s now an extra column in the “Advanced” section for batting stats called “wRC+”. You can think of this stat as a wOBA based version of OPS+. It’s park and league adjusted and it’s on a very similar scale as OPS+. The difference is that it uses wRC, which is based on wOBA.

There’s the evidence. Now whether or not this is a good stat or not can be discussed. How? By actually analyzing the statistic based on its inherent merits, which Silva never does! Mike responds by saying:

You don’t need to go to an Ivy League school, create a metric, or understand science to have intelligence (looking at you Andy), perhaps if some of the people skills that, from my experience, many in the sports industry lack, were present you would be able to sell your concepts to the generally public rather than arrogantly responding (looking at you MGL) your critics.

And I agree, you don’t need to have a PhD (or any degree) to be a knowledgeable baseball analyst. But you do need to demonstrate tangible proof for the claims that you make, and this is where Mike fails greatly. In fact, he admits it:

Front offices all across the country are riddled with politics, am I naïve enough to believe the advanced metric community is no different? Do I have proof? Of course not, I can’t read your mind… You will learn that many things in this world at not x +y = z…All I know is new stats continue to be churned out and sometimes I really don’t see where they are nothing more than the proverbial rocking chair.

Here’s how you can uncover Tango, MGL, Appleman, and the rest, Mr. Silva: demonstrate with evidence that their stats are nonsense, and you win. Seriously. Just prove that wRC+ is utter and complete dribble and you can advance your position a lot. But Silva, admittedly, doesn’t have evidence. He has a hunch. A gut feeling. He sees analogies to other entities (that aren’t analogous) and creates links. And this, at its heart, is what is separating the saber community from the rest of the pack.


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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

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22 Comments on "Mike Silva teaches us a neat lesson"

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Nick Steiner
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Nick Steiner

Damnit Pat.  Silva’s jst a troll looking for web page hits.  You just gave him a few thousand.

James K.
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James K.

Hopefully no one actually clicks through to the original post.  Nice writeup Pat. Regardless of Silva’s nonsense you made a lot of great points about sabermetrics and the saber community.  Hopefully this is the last time Silva garners any attention from the rational crowd.

Peter W Hjort III
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Peter W Hjort III

Well done, Pat.

Jason C
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Jason C

1st the Carl Crawford “secret handshake deal” and now this crap? Wow…

Rich
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Rich

I can’t believe anyone reads that guy’s stuff.

Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman
Got to say, I agree with Mike Silva’s general point (though I haven’t read his original post).  There’s nothing “wrong” with the new stats, but the extra insight they yield is marginal.  At the same time, they run the risk of making sabermetrics unapproachable to the majority of fans. Every “generation” of baseball analysts feels compelled to create its own stats.  That’s always been true, and it will always be true. That’s the fun of it. And the sites that display those stats will be the favorite sites among the active sabermetricians of the day.  At THT, we refrained from… Read more »
Joe R
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Joe R
I agree with what Dave said. wRC+ is a moderate upgrade to OPS+ and wRC on their own, but for a casual fan, throwing that statistic around at them could turn them off to good analysis in general. Most fans I know, despite everything, still start their baseball related prayers with “In the name of the batting average, and of the home run, and of the holy RBI”, and telling them (before this year at least) that Jack Cust’s bat is more productive than Alfonso Soriano’s, or that Joe Carter was one of the worst players ever with his career… Read more »
Pat Andriola
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Pat Andriola

So we should ignore/avoid marginal upgrades in the fear that their reception would be negative?

Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman

So we should ignore/avoid marginal upgrades in the fear that their reception would be negative?

No, but you should at least respect the opinions of those who see no use for the marginal upgrades, and you should also recognize that you may be setting back the “cause” of getting sabermetric ideas accepted by more baseball fans.

Of course, a lot of sabermetricians consider that a lost cause anyway.

dkappelman
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dkappelman
Dave,  I completely agree with you that there’s no point in adding stats just because they exist or are new. I think over the past year there’s been very few new stats added to FanGraphs.  wRC+, xFIP, tRA, and the pitch values are the only actual stats that have been added to the site and there’s not a whole lot of plans to add additional raw stats, though there are some things I’d like to see such as baserunning and catcher defense. I believe, FanGraphs has a mostly complete statistical toolbox on how to evaluate a player and unless there’s… Read more »
Funes
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Funes
Every “generation” of baseball analysts feels compelled to create its own stats.  That’s always been true, and it will always be true. That’s the fun of it. And the sites that display those stats will be the favorite sites among the active sabermetricians of the day. Part of what is disappointing about this cycle is the way that “new stats” are often integrated into the existing body of knowledge. Often, not enough attention or explanation is given to the underlying construct the new metric is supposed to represent.  This can create confusion and fragmentation between “generations” rather than the organic… Read more »
Tom M. Tango
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Tom M. Tango

“No, but you should at least respect the opinions of those who see no use for the marginal upgrades,”

Right, I respect those opinions by ignoring those opinions, just as much as they ignore my opinions and blog.  Ignoring each other is perfectly fine.

The problem is when you go from ignoring to DISMISSING.  Where “ignoring” means not to go to someone’s party, “dismissing” means to tell other people that that party sucks.

If they were to tell people WHY the party sucks, then that would be fine.  He provides value.

But, Mike’s article was all about dismissing things he did not understand.

Tom M. Tango
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Tom M. Tango

“wRC+ is based on wRAA – not on wOBA”

Actually, all of these stats are based on Pete Palmer’s Linear Weights.

Funes
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Funes
Actually, all of these stats are based on Pete Palmer’s Linear Weights. Sure.  I know.  And that’s my point.  If all of these “new metrics” were explained in a fashion which made them grow out of a common body of growing knowledge that has a clearly defined conceptual basis that would help a great deal. So explaining wRC+ as an extension of linear weights would be much clearer than trying to contort it to a wOBA version of OPS+. And following the link from the Fangraphs page to The Book, much of the discussion through the thread is how wRC+… Read more »
dkappelman
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dkappelman
Funes, if you think it was poorly explained on FanGraphs you can put that on me.  My reasoning for presenting it the way I did was that most everyone on FanGraphs is familiar with wOBA and there was a lot of discussion about why wOBA+ wasn’t used, so I framed it in such a way where it was an extension of wOBA.  And then you wanted to learn more so you clicked on the link which gave you all the details, which you had obviously clicked on. I’m not sure though that if I had explained it some other way… Read more »
Tom M. Tango
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Tom M. Tango
If all of these “new metrics” were explained in a fashion which made them grow out of a common body of growing knowledge that has a clearly defined conceptual basis that would help a great deal. Well, I think I do explain them like that.  The Book is all about the “run expectancy matrix”, and how everything, Linear Weights (which is wRAA on Fangraphs), wOBA, Win expectancy, Leverage Index spins off that.  As for wRC+, David linked to my blog in his intro post: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/what-is-wrc “Big thanks goes out to Tangotiger for pointing out how easy it was to implement… Read more »
Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman

Hey David, my comments were meant to be general, not specific to this situation.  I can see how wRC+ fills in a gap in Fangraphs’ stats. Makes a lot of sense to me.  You know I think you do a fantastic job.

Tom, I understand the point about ignoring vs. dismissing.  I assume you’re referring to some part of Mike Silva’s post that wasn’t included in Pat’s copy and paste, though his follow-up comments are ridiculous.

Joe R
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Joe R

My favorite part of Silva’s “argument” (more like trollbaiting) was saying that wRC+ doesn’t provide a better understanding of things.

Take Mike Cameron (.346 wOBA) and Dexter Fowler (.345 wOBA). On paper, that’s the same.

Cameron wRC+: 113
Fowler wRC+: 103

Suddenly the gap between their offensive seasons is far greater. So yeah, looks like wRC+ does provide plenty of understanding.

(Brian Giles’ career wRC+ is 140, Mark Teixeira’s is 138, btw. Suck on that, ESPN).

Funes
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Funes
I’m not sure though that if I had explained it some other way this whole discussion could have been avoided…. Fair point.  I was trying to make a more general point and that was simply one example that came to mind.  I think the wRC+ data is useful and a nice addition. And it very well might be true that however you slice it, it’s difficult.  But my general sense is that drawing more of a connection between the similar ideas underpinning these individual metrics in isolation might help bridge some of the gaps in “generation” Dave Studeman was speaking… Read more »
Mike Fast
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Mike Fast
Silva’s assertion that Tango is a selfish fraud and nefarious huckster pretty much destroyed any facade that he was just concerned about clarity of discussion or the best interests of the game.  Although I respect Studes a great deal, I have to disagree with him 100% here.  Silva can take the insults and BS he flung toward Tango and MGL and turn them on himself. They’ve both given a lot to the game and have been as open to criticism and inspection of their methods as anyone.  It’s ridiculous for Silva to continue to whine they need watching and someone… Read more »
Nick Steiner
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Nick Steiner

This ^^

Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman

Mike, I don’t disagree with anything you said, let alone 100%.  I haven’t read Silva’s original post (and don’t intend to). But I do think the broader point, which I’ve tried to articulate in my own way, has merit.

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