The Sabermetrician In Me All Along

An article by posted on November 29, 2010

The purpose of Sabermetrics, in a nut shell, lay in its constant pursuit of finding the value of player’s most minute components. It’s a pure almost sanitized view of a player’s performance however like it is even admitted to in the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, in human behavior there was always uncertainty and risk.

No matter how accurately you valued past performance, it was still an uncertain guide to future performance. If it were perfect by design then the players would be digital representations of themselves and seasons would be played out on a computer, with Las Vegas putting Johnny’s college fund on the line as to whether David Ortiz would ever regain his pre-performance enhanced game or not. But the game is played on the field and not in some cyberspace vacuum.

Actually I feel sorry for guys like Podesta and Beane. The purest of the Sabermetricians seem to take no joy from the game, for that is subjective emotion and clouds ones’ judgment. I suppose in their positions I can understand their reluctance, but I still find that to be a profoundly sad and lonely place to be. To not allow yourself to enjoy what you want to enjoy so badly is borderline Greek tragedy.

I happen to be someone who appreciates the value of finding…value, especially where it is least apparent. For years I would argue with friends and family about why the mid to late 90′s Yankees were better then any of their later teams.

To me it was obvious that players like Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and even Chuck Knoblauch shared a similar trait among them; plate patience with the ability to get on base. They would work the count deeper and battle the opposing pitcher so much that in little time their opponent’s weakness was exposed – their bullpens.

Lets face it if relievers were all that great they’d be starters so to me, it made sense to wear the starter down. Those particular Yankee teams embodied that premise. That’s part of the core of Saber and never once did that dawn on me at the time.

I don’t fully agree with all of Sabermetrics rationale, such as the idea that there is no such thing as a “clutch hitter”, that luck is simply the answer. Some players do well under pressure. Some don’t. Is it any different to see someone like Derek Jeter elevate his game in the postseason as it was when Michael Jordan would at times will the Chicago Bulls into dominance during the NBA Finals or perhaps Joe Montana in the Super Bowl?

Now can it be scientifically dissected and explained? Of course not, if it could I’m sure Alex Rodriguez would be one of the first to feast on the knowledge. Luck certainly plays a part in every game as I’m sure a player like Bucky Dent would admit, but talent tends to rise when need be, exceptional talent that is.

To quantify a player who excels in the spotlight – consistently – by saying his success is pure luck does a disservice to the game. Just like trying to prove the existence of God; in the end you either have faith or you don’t. And to those who argue that it’s simply luck – who would you rather have hitting with two outs, the bases loaded and down by a run in the post season – Derek Jeter or A-Rod?

When you look at the 2010 New York Mets and do a comparison to Team X – we’ll call them Team X for now – you may be surprised to say the least. First off the Mets scored 656 runs, 13th in the NL. Team X scored 697 9th in the NL. The Mets had a .314 OBP raking 14th in the NL and Team X had a .321 OBP for 9th in the NL. The Mets walked 502 times with Team X walking 487 times. Ranking both 12th and 13th in the NL.  Comparitively, their pitching were both outstanding.  The Mets allowed 652 runs, 11th best in the NL while Team X just 583 which was second best in the NL.  Considering the Mets pitching staff from 2010, it’s remarkable.

Which leads me back to the glaring difference being the 41 runs scored differential between the two. If you don’t know by now Team X happens to be the World Champion San Francisco Giants. Just take into account if the Mets had full, average seasons from Beltran, Reyes and Bay, that run differential might be a bit different, no?

The need going into the 2011 season for the Mets will be to acquire a starting pitcher, especially since Johan Santana will be out optimistically until the All Star break. How much are the Mets willing to spend and on whom happens to be the key question. We’ve seen Jon Garland go the Dodgers for a one year $5 million dollar deal and Javier Vasquez go the Marlins for a one year $7 million dollar deal.

I just don’t see the Mets spending that kind of money, period. One of the hallmarks of Saber is finding hidden value in players that others cannot or have not seen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alderson go after a player like Justin Duchscherer.

The former Oakland Athletic has had a barrage of injuries the past few years and has dealt with clinical depression. When healthy he’s one of the better arms in the game – when healthy – and since he’s coming off of an injury he may be willing to accept a lower end deal that’s incentive laden.

Another pitcher coming off an injury that may be affordable is Chris Young formerly of the Padres. Sandy Alderson certainly knows everything there is to know about Young and as long as he’s healthy, he too may be of interest. The bottom line, the Mets are not going to spend their way to a championship, at least not in a flashy Omar Minaya-esque kind of way.

The Mets are going to be in the market for Rick Reed type pitchers and that is more than fine with me. I’m sure we’ll hear names that we’ve hardly heard of before being bantered around to fill out the rotation. That’s where having a front office of executives schooled in the art of finding value in players becomes irreplaceable.

I know MMO has touched on Sabermetrics a few weeks back so many of you might think I’m a bit late on the subject. Maybe so but in all honesty I wanted to read Moneyball for myself before going on the record. Sabermetrics isn’t some new age alchemy, it’s taking existing statistics but looking at them in a different way.

Do I believe that a team of Scott Hattebergs would be good for the Mets? Probably not. But, plate discipline is the foundation to greater success offensively. I wonder what Ted Williams would’ve said about Sabermetrics? I have a feeling he’d actually agree on many of the principles especially when it comes to hitting as I have come to as well.

About the Author ()

I'm just your regular Joe. Staff writer @ Metsmerizedonline.com. Happily married and a father to a baby girl. I attended my first Met game at the ripe old age of 3 where my father scored a foul ball and had it signed by Lee Mazzilli, Joe Torre and Joe Pignataro. It was my Holy Grail - 'till I buried it in the backyard. I have my own website where you can read my drivel at your leisure @ www.thespectorsector.net

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