Jan
11
2013

# MMO Post of the Week: Are Advanced Statistics Hurting Or Helping The Game?

Somewhere along the line baseball became more than just a game.

Once upon a time, baseball was a simple game. The goal is to score more runs than your opponent. Each team is given 27 outs to score as many runs as they can. In order to score runs, a team’s players have to get on base. Once a player gets on base it was the other players’ jobs to drive them home to score runs. On the other hand, the defense’s job is to get 27 outs allowing the opposition to score the fewest amount of runs. Whoever scores more runs in 9 innings of play wins – simple.

Now let’s fast forward to the 1980s. The 1980s were famous for Nintendo, big hair bands, Reaganomics, and the invention of rotisserie baseball.

Fantasy baseball exploded onto the scene in the 80s, and the men that played this game were looking for ways to build better teams. They wanted to build better teams in order to take home the lucrative prize money that came along with winning their rotisserie league. They used different combinations of stats to form equations, which in return would spew out which players they should select on their team.

Yes, the advanced stats that the game uses today were ultimately developed by men that maybe never even played the game. They were simply looking to build better fantasy teams. It leads the people with advanced knowledge of how the game is played on the field to butt heads with those that sat at their desk and computer doing all the math.

Photo Credit: bronxbanterblog.com

Bill James, the father of advanced statistics and sabermetrics, didn’t start to gather a serious following until the mid to late 1990s. Until then, he published his yearly baseball reviews and would sell 500 copies per year if he was lucky.

The game wasn’t ready for the story he was trying to tell. James was basically telling everyone in the game that they have been looking at the game improperly for nearly 100 years. Advanced statistics were born. He broke down nearly every single aspect of the game, except defense, which he was never able to develop an accurate statistical rating for.

But did the game really need the advanced statistics?

The game had survived over 100 years just fine without advanced statistics. But now, in every team’s organization, there are mathematicians working in this area. The question is, is it really necessary?

The reason why sabermetrics and advanced statistics took over the game in the 90s is because that is the when player salaries started to get to the point where some sort of projection and analysis was needed. Owners wanted to know if it was really worth it to spend the money on player X.

In every MBA program across America, students are often required to take a course dedicated to statistics and spreadsheet analysis. The students are taught how to use Excel spreadsheets and programs like Risk Solver to make business decisions. If you are under the assumption that the CEO of a big company makes decisions based on his/her gut you are mistaken.

More often than not, the decisions are made by a computer than runs simulations based on the data that the decision maker inputs. The program takes all the data and then it gives you the most logical decision after running all the simulations.

It’s actually pretty cool. You could build a model that can tell you the best location to build an ice cream shop, based on three different locations, with three different average yearly temperatures, three different traffic patterns, and three different populations in the towns they’re in. Not only will it tell you the best location to build your ice cream shop, but the expected revenue at each location.

The same thing can be done with baseball players – in theory that is.

Everyone knows that Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta’s use of advanced statistics and sabermetrics officially put them on the map. Their use was chronicled in the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

The book that exposed Billy Beane’s strategies.

Beane used the advanced statistics to remain competitive with a team that had the lowest payroll in the league. Once he started winning, people started to question how the heck the Athletics could be winning when they were only spending one-third of the money of the other teams. At that point, every Tom, Dick and Harry fell in love with sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics became the key to unlocking hidden baseball talent.

But here is the fundamental flaw with peoples’ understanding of what Billy Beane actually did – Beane wasn’t intentionally trying to win by spending the least amount of money he could. Beane wanted to spend money. He wasn’t trying to do his owner a favor by spending the least amount of money on building a team. He was simply in a situation where his hands were tied. He had to think outside of the box. He had to get more efficient with spending what little money he had. That’s it.

Somehow Beane’s strategy became an excuse for teams to spend less money, and try to build teams using a philosophy that Beane only developed because he had to and not because he wanted to.

Players are now investments, plain and simple. If a team is going to make an investment, the projections, spreadsheets, models and simulations have to all tell the same story – that the player is worth the investment.

However, there is a problem with advanced statistics – the game is still ultimately played on the field. You cannot remove the human element from the game, and no statistic can factor that in. And while past performance is a good indicator of future performance, there is only so much weight that advanced statistics should carry.

Advanced statistics paint an imperfect picture of the game when used improperly. Here is why:

Advanced statistics use inputs which are plugged into an equation and are determined by the person developing the statistics in order to arrive at a desired outcome. They often have to finagle with different stats until they get an answer that makes sense. What also comes into play is the developer’s bias.

If someone is playing with stats in order to make their equation work, how is that more accurate in telling me which player is better than if I used the old school statistics (OBP, AVG, ERA, etc.) which have been used for the past 100-plus years, and my eyes, used to watch the players play?

Let’s take a look at the Holy Bible. There is a show on TV that comes on one of the learning channels every once in awhile which basically alludes to the fact that the bible has a hidden code in it, which not only predicted things that happened in the past, but also can predict future events. Now on the surface, they did prove that there was a code in the bible. But is there really a code in the bible, or was it manipulation by the developer to come to a desired goal/outcome?

Odds are there isn’t a code in the bible, but this just shows how the manipulation of data can get to a desired outcome when played with long enough. One of the major issues with scientists to this day is trying to conduct scientific studies and not have their bias come into play. Bias alters outcomes.

The bottom line is that baseball is still a game where there is still a lot of luck involved. For instance, if a player is half a step to the left or right, a ball drops in that maybe shouldn’t have been a hit. Which stat factors any of these things in? The argument is the law of averages balances everything out. In the end, the math is the constant.

However, there are internal and external factors affecting the game constantly. These factors cannot be built into models. These factors cannot be accounted for statistically.

Where a card counter at the black jack table can turn the odds against the Casino by using probability and a system of advanced mathematical equations to gain an advantage, there is a set number of cards in the deck, and only a certain number of things can occur to account for. You can’t do that in baseball. In baseball, there are an infinite number of things all taking place simultaneously which affect the outcome of every pitch.

The problem at large is that the game has changed significantly since the introduction of advanced statistics. There are too many statistics which are complicating the game. They cause managers to over-manage situations.

For example, is a lefty specialist really necessary in a team’s bullpen? According to advanced statistics they are. But when it’s all said and done a bullpen pitcher is simply a pitcher who could not make it as a starting pitcher. Very few pitchers are groomed to be in the bullpen. In other words, why would I bring a pitcher into a game, and take out my better pitcher, simply because statistics show that one guy is better at getting left-handed batters out?

It doesn’t make sense. The best players should be on the field.

Statistics tell front offices they need lefty specialists. They tell the manager that they better go against their gut which tells them to leave their better pitcher in the game. It sounds crazy when you think about it. I’m going to take out my better pitcher because statistics show that over time, a pitcher of lesser quality has done a better job of getting left-handed hitters out? It doesn’t sound logical.

Now I have decided to take my best pitcher available out of the game to bring in a lefty specialist in order to get one hitter out. After he gets that batter out, I have to take him out of the game to put in an even lesser quality pitcher? Why not just leave my best pitcher in to get the lefty out. Now I have changed the odds of getting the remaining hitters out, all because stats have told me to take my best pitcher out of the game.

The entire landscape of the game changed because of a single stat.

Is there a stat that shows the odds of getting the remaining hitters out in a game after I made that decision? There is a stat that shows me that I should bring a lefty specialist into the game, but not a stat that shows the odds that I will get the remainder of hitters out now that I made that pitching change.

That is just one example of how stats have changed the game, but the question that still remains is – are all of these advanced statistics helping or hurting the game?

Cases can be made for both sides, but the truth of the matter is that all these stats are really good when looked at from the surface. It’s how the people behind the scenes use them that will ultimately determine whether they are good or bad for the game.

My daughter preparing for a front office job someday – you can never start them too early.

Advanced baseball statistics is very similar to the app market for smart phones. App developers are always looking to develop the next Angry Birds, and stat developers are looking to develop the next stat which proves that they have the secret formula to determine who the best player in the league is.

There is no secret formula. Baseball is played on the field, not in a laboratory, and not in a computer program. There isn’t a single stat or mathematical equation that can determine the outcomes on the field.

Nothing will ever change that.

#### About the Author: Mitch Petanick

• The bottom line is that baseball is still a game where there is still a lot of luck involved. For instance, if a player is half a step to the left or right, a ball drops in that maybe shouldn’t have been a hit. Which stat factors any of these things in? The argument is the law of averages balances everything out. In the end, the math is the constant.

However, there are internal and external factors affecting the game constantly. These factors cannot be built into models. These factors cannot be accounted for statistically.
*****************************

Well said.

For those that really hate all to do with advanced stats and how they’re used in the game today, you’ll really enjoy the move ‘Trouble With The Curve’.

• I liked the movie. It was fun, I didn’t consider it so much of a slap against stats as I thought it implies there is still value in scouting and experience.

• I saw the movie and the baseball scenes were awful and unrealistic but there was a powerful message in the movie about how the game is changing.

• I took it as that way too. That both groups are going to have to learn to work together for baseball to move forward.

Yeah, like any organization is going to let some walk on pitcher from a back water town pitch to their highly touted #1 draft pick – with all the media present.

• LOL, yeah I thought that was comical. What if he had beaned him in the head?

• Don’t understand this debate at all! No one here (or any other site for that matter) has ever been in the “war rooms” with these FO’s. that being said, EVERY FRANCHISE employs a balance of advanced metrics and “old school eyeball scouting”. No one is trying to replace the other.

It’s just like in business, the company I work for just had its best year fiscally, but many of our suppliers are very unhappy because many of them are down on over all case volume from last year and off course off their goals. How can that be up financially but way offs on volume? Well we focused on our big ticket items. Focused on the bigger accounts with more buying power and bigger case drops, etc, etc. They are just metrics and many of them just find another way to measure the same thing.

It’s human nature to try and find a way to standardize things, many work and many don’t. The whole saber hub bub is just someone taking what a scout does and sometimes making it more standardizes.

Lets face it, we can all pretty much agree that the attrition rate for players to make it to the bigs (once drafted and I’m making these numbers up) is say 30%. To sustain a career in the bigs for say 4 consecutive years in the bigs is another 30% of the original 30. Then the “Great Ones” is maybe less than 5 % of that final 30%. Now I can’t do the math but the point is neither system has a strangle hold on success.

• “VERY FRANCHISE employs a balance of advanced metrics and “old school eyeball scouting”. No one is trying to replace the other.”

Agreed, we see it in education all the time. As teachers we are flooded with stats, test scores, averages broken down by every group from male to female to race to economics… all those things are good info to have but if they are being applied by teachers that can’t teach or methods changed without the input of the teachers they don’t mean anything.

• Advanced Statistics In Major League Baseball: Hurting Or Helping The Game?”

• Over my 60 some years I played and coached baseball for about 25 of them. I did not need any metric to convince me that what I saw with my eyes was wrong. You can tell who the players are by looking at them.

• I agree to an extent. I played basketball and have now coached in over 1,000 games in 18 years and I too don’t need stats to pick my team. However, once the team is picked I use the hell out of them, doesn’t mean that I rely only on stats but I want to make sure that what I am seeing isn’t formed out of bias. Sometimes, I realize that my personal emotions cause me to see something that isn’t there.

Where we miss this is that it’s incredibly important in assessing players that you don’t often see. I might see a player play 4 times including scouting during a season. Those 4 games don’t make a season, so looking at shooting percentages, shot charts, etc for those players and teams is invaluable in preparing for the team.

• Over my 60 some years I played and coached baseball for about 25 of them. I did not need any metric to convince me that what I saw with my eyes was wrong. You can tell who the players are by looking at them”

THIS^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

• There have been many studies that prove that people see what they want to (or expect to) see. there is a name for it which I forget at the moment (something bias).

basically, if a guy “looks” like a player, you are predisposed to think he is better than he might be. And vice versa.

a good example is a QB. If a guy looks like he just came from central casting, people inherently think he is good, but if he is kinda goofy looking, a little pudgy, etc. they don’t think he is good.

Not just sports. Really attractive people are thought of differently, and you get different feedback when you do blind auditions or interviews.

• So why have batting average, era, obp, slugging, etc?

• Clearly we all need a movie to tell us how to think on the subject. And of course Clint Eastwood is the picture of objectivity.

• It does help to evaluate a player but only to a certain extent.It does not explain his character or whether or not he is a good teammate or a cancer in the clubhouse There is luck involved but there are stats for that, also stats for clutch hitting but can be luck as well. It is still and always will be Baseball Americas past time, this just gives a different perspective and gives another way to look at players.

• Helping or hurting? Why don’t you try phukking destroying the game! Ironically Mike Piazza will not get into the HOF today because some writers admitted his WAR was not HOF worthy!!! Truth!!!

• That’s awful

• The nonathletic geeks, the ones who never got picked for baseball teams in high, the ones who we used to love pounding in games of dodge ball, are exacting revenge by ruining the game.

• Prime example of where I said it depends on how people use the stats will determine whether they are good or bad for the game…in the Piazza’s case it’s detrimental

• “how people use the stats”

Agreed.

• Yes, because Hall of Fame voters are well known for their love of advanced stats.

Murray Chass: total saber junkie.

• Bart Scott is that you?

• Maniac, I think we both know that WAR isn’t the reason that Piazza won’t get in this time. It’s this damn steroids mess that just won’t go away. If any writer uses WAR for his reasoning with Piazza it’s just a dang cover up.

• Davidoff and a few others that I read who posted their ballots referred to WAR in a head to head comparison to Bagwell’s WAR. Whose to say that if you added the saber guys non-votes to the plus column it would fill the gap and get Piazza in even with the backne non votes?

• Davidoff is a dope. It wouldn’t matter if he was using traditional stats or nontraditional stats or his magic 8 ball he would still be it.

I hope no writer I actually respect wrote it. Who were some of the other ones?

• In the last week I swear I must have read 2-3 dozen Piazza posts and ballots. Davidoff was the only one I remember because he was a New York beat guy. I think that kid Clayton wrote a list of them on a recent post here too.

• I read a lot of them too but Davidoff’s was the first one I read that because of WAR he wasn’t voting him in yet.

Using WAR to compare a catcher and a 1B is about as asinine as you can possibly get. UZR for catchers and 1B is such bullcrap that even MOST “Saber” guys will claim there is still work to be done. Where in UZR does it measure pitch selection or any of the other little things a catcher does. I am willing to bet if you asked pitchers from that generation who they want to be their catcher Piazza’s name would have came up despite his inability to hold runners. 1B I have always said UZR is bogus. That’s why a guy like Murphy ended up with a high UZR, why? Because he didn’t have a clue what his area was and just went after every damn ball which took his range off the roof. Didn’t hurt of course that Castillo had 0 range and he had to go get those balls too.

Anyway to wrap it up, using WAR here is pointless.

• Where Davidoff failed is not how he necessarily used JAWS and WAR is that he took his 10 votes and said Lofton meets a higher comparable threshold compared to Piazza so Lofton bumped Piazza off his list, he wanted to vote for more people.

The guy who created JAWS, Jay Jaffe from SI uses it as a metric to compare WAR against others in the HOF currently. He even called out Davidff saying he doesn’t understand how he came to that conclusion.

This issue isn’t advanced statistics, it still comes down to the voter. There are people that didn’t vote for Piazza based on a assumed use of roids and others based on stats. Either way they didn’t vote for him and both parties are wrong. How they got there isn’t really important.

BTW the Jay Jaffe SI article on why Piazza should get in is great:

http://mlb.si.com/2012/12/14/jaws-and-the-2013-hall-of-fame-ballot-mike-piazza/

Another great piece came last night from statistician Nate Silver who breaks down currently known ballots:

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/suspicion-of-steroid-use-could-keep-bagwell-and-piazza-out-of-hall/

• Thanks for that link to the SI article. Nice read. At least the guy who created the stat knows how to use it.

• That’s exactly the problem with advanced statistics. It’s not the math it’s the stupid brain that attempts to use the math.

• Agreed.

• Bingo.
If you’re going to use them as the basis for you’re vote, you ought to at least know what you’re talking about.

• Heyman on MLB network last night didn’t vote for him – although he must have said a half dozen times he deserves to be in the HOF. I’m thinking ‘what’????

• Which is stupid because that reasoning requires you to ignore they played different positions. It doesn’t matter what stats you use, you compare Piazza to other catchers, not first basemen.

• Wow, that is just sad….

• All you need to know about WAR is this:

Piazza’s best years with the mets were 1999, 2000 and 2001:

141 GMS 303 BA 40 HR 124 RBI 398 OBP 614 SLUG % 1012 OPS 300 TOTAL BASES WAR 4.0

136 GMS 324 BA 38 HR 113 RBI 361 OBP 575 SLUG % 936 OPS 298 TOTAL BASES WAR 4.9

141 GMS 300 BA 36 HR 94 RBI 384 OBP 573 SLUG % 957 OPS 288 TOTAL BASES WAR 4.0

For the hell of it, i am also throwing his so so year of 2002:

135 GMS 280 BA 33 HR 98 RBI 359 OBP 544 SLUG % 903 OPS 260 TOTAL BASES WAR 2.7

Now, ironically, DW has had 4 WAR seasons better than piazza.. Anybody who is a mets fans, and a fan of baseball will see autimatically how flaw WAR is by me saying that, wright has not a season in his life that is better than a season of piazza, yet somehow, somehow his lifetime WAR is higher than piazza’s despite wright playing with a losing record (630-632) in his career. GO figure. now this ain’t about wright, just to show how FLAW WAR is..

• I agree, for catcher the WAR stat is almost completely useless. It can’t measure defense effectively.
This from fangraphs:
“Evaluating catcher defense has long been one of the banes of saberists everywhere. While there have been some strides in evaluating defense for position players — see: UZR, DRS – catchers are a separate world in and of themselves. There are a number of different defensive skills that catchers need to possess, and each of them has the potential ability to impact their overall value defensive: arm strength and accuracy, pitch blocking ability, pitch framing ability, and pitch selection.”

Thus using WAR for catchers to compare them to another position? Pointless.

• Hi Mitch,

Who are those advanced stats really for – those inside baseball or the fans?

You point out how managers now over-manage with relief pitching specialists – well, one should catch the upcoming re-broadcast of the 1978 AL playoff game on YES. Yankee closer and hall of famer Goose Gossage was brought into the game in the seventh inning and remained there. The fans voted games seven of the 1991 world series as one of the all-time greatest. Notice that Jack Morris pitched a ten inning complete game shutout? How many extra inning marathons does one remember from decades ago (other than the 1985 Atlanta game) when one often saw managers run out of pitchers?

But I do wish to point out that misconception regarding it was Billy Beane’s money ball efforts that made Oakland successful in 2002. Take into account the team was literally the same minus the big bat of MVP Giabmi and Damon – but that with the deepest and best pitching staff in the majors and other excellent hitters, their replacements did not need to be anywhere near the same talent range. Justice and Hatteberg were contributing players, not the ones the team was built around – and that was it. And the majority of the team was not yet eligible for free agency so the payroll was going to be low.

No, that great team came not from Billy Bean’s reliance on computer stats and money ball to keep it competitive – it came from what made him build up that team from the beginning – his great eye for talent and knowledge of the game.

And as far as determing how much to spend on free agents, that depends less on a mathemetical WAR equation as it does the other teams competiting for one’s services. WAR is for the fantasy leagues. When it comes to business, it becomes a bidding war based on market value and how many teams are willing to invest more money just to simply get the player they want. And there is also a little thing like the player’s agent. He’s not going to by some statistical economic conclusion. He’s going to say that Andy Pettite got \$12 million and his guy is better than that. GM’s can anticipate what a player is going to ask for and which other teams might be willing to meet that. And it’s the GM’s who are in the driver’s seat for lesser quality free agents. Like Sandy, they can wait out until that player finally has no choice but to accept what the GM proposes, not his agent. Of course, few of those players are going to turn a team around, either.

I think those type of business negotations have been going on ever since the transition from mercantilisim.

• “WAR is for the fantasy leagues.”

Joey, while that might be true. From listening to the GM panel on MLBN radio, that is not the case. They mentioned that WAR was the most heavily used stats by most GM’s. However, what we get caught up in is that every team can have their own WAR based on what they as a team value more. It’s not like they have to run to fangraphs to pull up WAR, they have people they pay big money to calculate that stuff for them. For example, maybe the Yankees value LH pull hitters more, that could easily be one of the stats they give more value to in their own WAR. Perhaps with the Mets they value fly ball pitchers more than ground ball pitchers where a traditional WAR might do the opposite. Again, when you hear GM’s use WAR just think of it as a way to quantify what they as an organization hold dear. Hell there could even be a scouting rating in their WAR.

• Hi TRS,

But no matter what their own WAR calculation says, they then have to go to REAL WAR against the player’s agent and the other teams waiting to join the battle.

Then it becomes a choice – how much is competitive integrity worth against a very exacting and rigid financial strategy? For many, it’s both. For others, it’s a matter of perspective – would spending more to improve the team achieve maximum profit or would spending less and fielding a mediocre team achieve maximum profit instead.

• “They mentioned that WAR was the most heavily used stats by most GM’s.”

Potatoes are the most heavily used item to cure Warts that doesn’t mean potatoes actually work…..

Doesn’t matter what they use, it’s use does not mean that the use is valid or even works to get success….

A lot of teams use it….They also all use pencils but that doesn’t make pencil use relevant to thier success now does it….
Use more pencils and you win the WS…Try it!

• Lol you are right. All these GMs know nothing about baseball or what is successful. They need to listen to you more.

• This.
Putting aside his beliefs, every fan would LOVE to have a GM as passionate as Metsie.

• How many have won a WS using it TRS…Show us the stats on that will ya?

If one is using then one is using it better than all the others so why isn’t one team winning the WS every year pray tell?

Like I said USE does not make something valid or right….

• Nobody said sabermetrics were perfect.

• your the one challenging trs, the burden of proof is on you now…

/useless debate team knowledge

• You spelled your name wrong….Should have been spell AN IDIOT!

• As I said, if people who are considered highly enough to be baseball GMs with their job on the line feel it is important and heavily rely on them that’s all the evidence I need. Certainly more so than any you have provided to the contrary.

• I think the Red Sox have something to say about advanced stats can help lead to WS victories, since they got 2 of them.

• The Red Sox also had the second highest payroll in baseball only trailing the Yankees from 2004 – 2007 … That may have helped as well.

• right. moneyball with money. I heard that someplace once, just trying to remember where…

• Yeah right here! Thts wat DePo called what they were going to do….

So show us the money part of that?
Hell show us where the WINNING regardless of spending you think Moneyball is capable of….

Do you have either? NOPE!

• Thank You itch you saved me from having to point that out to them for the 10000th time because they always point to Boston when Oakland fails them….

• Hi If,

and that team in Boston hired the grand father of saber metrics after it had already gone to the playoffs prior seasons without him. A year after they hired him as a special advisor to the general manage they finally broke their jinx against the Yankees and the Curse of the Bambino in the world series. The core of the team had not changed with his coming on board after the 2002 season.

How did the team suddenly change with the hiring of that statistician? Again, over-exaggerating a point to prove a point that isn’t there.

• “Again, over-exaggerating a point to prove a point that isn’t there.”
You mean like how you say we were in the thick of the pennant race in 2011?

• HI Trs,

But then please explain to me how the Mets could not have been in the thick of the playoff hunt on July 28 when the eventual wild card winner St. Louis was just one game ahead of them and was?

• Because they were a whole hell of a lot better than we were AND you are basing decisions on the current time not the result. What the hell does how the Cards did have to do with the Mets? Baseball always has oddities. Theoretically the Mets could have traded for help and gotten worse, or not traded and won 90% of their games. Still doesn’t make either outcome likely. At the time of the trade the Mets were too far out of it to risk tanking the future of the team for some illfated run.

We have been over this. However, my point was your challenging this guy by saying “over-exaggerating a point to prove a point that isn’t there” is exactly what you are doing. They may have been on the outskirts but logic tells you otherwise and they certainly weren’t in the thick of it.

• Hi Trs,

What you are offering is a judgment not based on the standings but an opinion of the chances of the Mets and the other teams involved for the rest of the season.

That is not reflective of the actual standings as of that date. If one says those who thought they had a chance to remain in that race were exaggerating things, that is fine. But there is a difference.

Based on the standings, saying one was not in the thick of the playoff race at that time is not accurate. It was a fact. Saying they were not good enough to do anything more past that time is another story. Some would agree with you, some would not. All would agree, however, that there was no chance at all once Sandy sent their top hitter and closer packing and anyway who then thought otherwise was indeed not just exaggerating, but dillusional.

• “Based on the standings, saying one was not in the thick of the playoff race at that time is not accurate”

Joey where were they in the standings at the time of the Beltran trade and how many teams were ahead of them?

• The last game Beltran played for the Mets was on July 26th. Following that game the Mets were 52-51 13.5 games behind the Phillies and 7.5 games behind the 2nd place team in their own division who happened to also be leading the WC. This was with 4 teams in front of them. For good measure they were only 2.5 games out of last place in the division.

• Trs,

I said ability to sustain themselves.

After the Beltran trade they actually gained some ground in Cincinnati but I felt as you did at that point – that it was all over and despite the way they were playing between that time and when KRod was traded it didn’t matter to me what the standings showed, either.

However, I would not have said they were not still in the thick of the race for according to the standings they were. I would have said they’ve peaked and now expect them to fall out of it quickly despite being in the thick of it standings wise.

• Joey we have way different definitions of in the thick of it, that’s obvious. 7.5 games with 4 teams in front of you, one game above .500 and only 2.5 games out of last place, that’s not in the thick of it by any sort of definition that I can conjure. If you can, so be it.

• we had a .514 win pct the day Beltran got traded in 2011…..

The eventual WS champions that year had us by one in the win column and one in the loss column on that day….

A difference of TWO GAMES!

You gave up…the Cards did not….

• More to the point, a stats guy doesn’t have to help you change the core. Sometimes its the small changes that make the difference or it could be even things that help the current players.

• Oh wait a minute there slappy….You went from “THEY USE” to the “RELY HEAVILY”

SHow me a quote from one of them that says they rely HEAVILY on the use of WAR then tell me what they won doing that!

• I already told you the quote summary. That it was one of the most heavily used stat which I said at the time surprised the hell out of me. Moving on.

• Ok so now we have a NEW one “heavily used”…..

Now here is why (if it is used at all) it really doesn’t validate it as a metric….

Because the GMs are not the ones creating the calculations some Saber guy is making up the list and if you ask me that DOES say the GM may NOT have a clue if he is USING, RELY HEAVILY, or HEAVILY USING War as a metric to build his team.

They are buying an answer a MATH GUY told them was important and nothing more…

I’m sure Sandy uses it HEAVILY too where has it gotten him?

• As a avid fantasy baseball player WAR is the last thing that most people look at. Fantasy baseball does not use defensive metrics so using WAR would not work. If you used oWAR it may help if you are stuck between drafting 2 people at the same position and need help deciding, but besides that it is pretty useless. If I need a player that has a high HR and RBI rate or a high SB rate, WAR is not going to tell me that.

• Agreed. I didn’t want to get into that. But I will say this, if you consider yourself an avid Fantasy baseball player I take even more pride in my victory!!!

• Sigh you mofo…

• LOL, I am not sure I will even play this year. That’s the only league I do and I want to go out on top!

• Exactly, most leagues use the standard 5×5 format.

Hits
RBI
HR
SB
E

W
S
K
Hits
BB

Some use Batting Average and ERA, but in general, they don’t use averages and composites because it is too much work.

• It does not matter. The game hasnt changed. Last year, if I remember, a team had to win enough games (which is done by scoring more runs than your opponent) to either win a division or a wild card spot. After accomplishing that, the team had to win the required number of games to win the series and advance onward. Ultimately, the two teams that kept doing that reached the WS which was won by the first team to win 4 games.

While the number of PO teams has changed and the length of series, everything else is the same. How teams put together their roster, well that varies. The bottom line is guys expected to produce often miss no matter how one arrives at the conclusion while others surprise on the upside. All the metrics in the world will create success on paper (or a computer monitor) but ultimately the games are won on the field. And that is why the WS trophy is awarded in October (sometimes November) and not February 1st.

• The lefty reliever argument,…. there are probability equations that teams use to determine when to take out pitchers, based on who else they have in the bullpen, who is on deck, and the current score and inning of the game. I’m sure managers look at those things.

There are tons of ways to rate players in past seasons, and many of them are very good, and I trust them. But the Holy Grail is finding a way to predict future performance. It is difficult, simply because no one can predict the future. That is the only “human element” that is not factored into advanced baseball statistics. However, because baseball produces so much data, we often have a pretty good idea of how players will perform in the future.

• “the Holy Grail is finding a way to predict future performance. It is difficult, simply because no one can predict the future. ”

Right, it’s nothing new. That’s all SABR stats are trying to do, same thing that managers and owners have been doing for a century.

• So yes, I think they are definitely helping the game. We have a much better understanding of what it takes to win games, a better understanding of how good players were in the past,…. and most importantly, we have a much better product at the Major League level, because advanced statistics help teams determine who the best players in their organizations are.

• I agree to a certain degree when it comes to player development and putting the highest quality product on the field but not when it comes to game strategy. You take away the human element of a manager and coaching staff making decisions versus them simply doing what an algorithm tells them to do. If that is the case then anyone can be a manager. Just put a PC in the dugout and have the batboy handle the decisions.

• I don’t think any manager is doing that though. And it’s not like these stats provide clear answers all the time. The managers still often has to go with his gut and often still goes against the stats.

• Its not like many managers were deviating from common ideas anyway. Most of the time, they did things because that is what they were supposed to do or expected to do.

Teams do better when the managers make as few in game decisions as possible.

• H Sven,

Who is “we”? The fan, the business person or those who have played and coached the game? As many have said, those stats might put into mathematical percentages something those inside the game know by experience.

• We is everybody. The fan, the front office, the owners. I believe baseball is a better game because of advanced statistics. Actually, I don’t believe it, I know it’s true.

• Hey guys, just so you know Sven is very knowledgeable with both on the field baseball strategy and statistics. He runs the website 60ft6in and over the past few years have gotten to know him by playing side by side with him. He also does freelance work for STATS inc.

Dude knows his stuff.

• Most of the time I don’t even click on the link for posters so I am glad you pointed that out. That is certainly a very interesting site. Bookmarked.

• TRS – I actually did a piece in early November where I evaluated the entire Mets pitching staff using using the Factor12 rating from 60ft6in – Sven was a big help and his stat is what I look at to evaluate pitchers now.

• I think I remember that.

• Hi Sven and Mitch,

Has it bettered the game or just made it a different game? Does a less talented team or player have a better chance of producing – or preventing runs – specifically due to changes learned from the stats? And with those innovations,, which also came first, the stats or the baseball knowledge?

For example, we know that platooning began in ernest in the fifties with Casey Stengle being one of the first managers to adopt to this new philosophy. In Brooklyn it was known that Duke Snyder had trouble hitting lefties, yet instead of the hall of famer being a platoon player, he was a regular. Might have been that against lefties he was still better than anyone the Dodgers had who could take his place in the lineup, however, had he played in the seventies, he might have been more the platoon player.

In the forties, Joe Paige was the first reliever to have a specific role rather than not just being good enough to break into the startng rotation.

Managers and coaches knew how to position fielders based upon the hitter, the pitcher and the particular pitch. The stats today might give them more precise information on where to place the fielder – that is not learning nothing new rather than the acquiring of more exacting details. Same with Davey Johnson with his computer back in the eighties – he was not learning anything – he was just acquring more exacting information knowing what had to be done beforehand.

So I do wonder how much advanced stats are more for the fans and that information acquired from a computer is more for having access to a storage of information in terms of reference that is limited in capacity of the human memory – for most.

• Nice post but I disagree. We live in an information age and the new statistics are better barometers for predicting future performance than anything we ever used before. Maybe like you say Avg, OBP, etc were good enough for the first 100 years of baseball, but the game has evolved and you should too.

• Well said Patrick.

• Patrick if yoyou

• Patrick/Sven I have no problem with using stats to put the best product on the field I just think they shouldn’t be used as much with in game strategy. Those stats are based on the fact that everything is constant…every situation presented is surrounded by different circumstances which change outcomes.

Here’s an example – I’m pretty sure every teams employs a lefty specialist….does every basketball team in the NBA employ a dynamite 3-point shooter who only comes in when the game is on the line to nail a 3-pointer or does the coach put the ball in their best players hands? Same concept…different sport. 9 times out of 10 you put the ball in your best players hands.

• Anyone notice that the emphasis on lefty/righty pitching matchups has caused the roster to have more pitchers and less position players? How many teams now carry three catchers, for example? How many teams run out of position players late in the game simply because they have less bench strength at tthe manager’s disposal?

Does this emphasis on the value of more specialized relief pitching actually help clubs win more games over emphasizing more bench strength instead? Or is it simply a different way of playing the game, no better or no worse than before – only different and representative of the current era?

I don’t think it matters much in the American Legue due to that terriable DH rule. But in the senior circuit, yes, it certainly does.

• That’s not the only reason. It’s also because the conservation of staring pitchers.

• Hi TR,

And that is right about the conservation of the starting pitcher – which goes hand in hand with the emphasis of the relief pitcher and the de-emphasis of the starter going deeper into the game due in part to pitch count or due to the over-emphasis of the relief pitcher.

Would a manager be better off using less pitchers in a game and more bench players? Depends upon the era. Two decades from now and the game might be seen differently once again with more emphasis placed on going with the hot hand rather than percentages regardless of how hot that hand might be. That’s because a new generation wants to try things with a “new” approach which is really nothing more of something that goes around comes around.

• Consider the pot stirred Mitch. Well done.

• While I may not always agree with him, I have found Mitch to be very neutral.

• Switzerland baby!!!!!

• Agreed. I really enjoy reading what Mitch has to say. Don’t always agree but I always know that he looks at all sides of a story very well before coming to a conclusion.

• Thanks Connor

• Interesting lost in the hoopla comment on MLBTR:
Minnesota wasn’t among the first clubs to use statistical analysis in their decision making, but it’s now a significant part of their process. Ryan now runs personnel moves by the team’s manager of baseball research, Jack Goin. In fact, the GM said that he likely wouldn’t make a trade or sign a player without first consulting him.

• “Advanced statistics use inputs which are plugged into an equation and are determined by the person developing the statistics in order to arrive at a desired outcome. They often have to finagle with different stats until they get an answer that makes sense. What also comes into play is the developer’s bias”

I have been trying to tell people here this for YEARS!

Analysis is only as good as the effort to keep your own personal bias OUT of the equation and just let the numbers tell the story…

Stats are just WORDS in a mathematical sentence…The creator of the sentence usually puts the emphasis where he WANTS it to be not always where the stats say it SHOULD be….

It’s easy to say THIS is important and then create a metric that shows it….Pick the stats that make the case and ignore the others that hurt the case.

In BJ’s case (intentional abreviation) he started from the BIAS that ALL outs are BAD, NO EXCEPTION….As a result OBP became more important than BA because OBP was about a NOT BEING AN OUT while BA is all about a Batter contribution….

But are all OUTs created equal?
Is a Sacrifice fly not MORE valuable than a groundout?

It sure doesn’t get reflected in your OBP? SO your ignoring a POSITIVE event all because of a BIAS involving OUTS BAD when we all know there are GOOD outs and BAD outs…

Is a groundout with one out that scores a run really worse than a Walk that doesn’t advance the runner and sets up a double play?

Bill James thinks so….

Math is only ever as good as the person who constructs the equation being used….
And that is only determined by how well the constructor kept personal beliefs out of the equation to stack the deck in favor of the answer he wanted or believed before he ever plugged in a single variable or did a single calculation.

This is why WAR and wOBA is weighted the way it is….
Becuase they needed to have a result that put High OBP, Low Impact players into the same realm as High Impact LOW OBP players to fit thier philosophy regarding OBP!

They even added RBOE because they needed to get more OB than OBP provides into it to make the case that getting HR Hitters with low OBP is not worth having!

Making the case they read in a book proved by showing HR and power hitters not worth spending on and getting low impact high OBP players instead because they both look as valuable as each other when thier OB Biased War Metric is used to make the list!

Whats worse is all those who actually believe what Moneyball said forget that Oakland didn’t ACCEPT any of what Bill James proposed and went after the BEST OBP available….
There were a TON of names that showed up at the TOP of the HIGH OBP list that were immediatly taken out of contention and the LIST because of what they would have to be paid!

So in the end Oakland made a list of all the high OBP players then eliminated players at the top based on MONEY (not OBP) before they made thier selection….

And what was the result in the end?

Oakland who supposedly looked for high OBP as the reason for getting a player DECLINED AS A TEAM in OBP each year until they gave up on OBP being the metric to look for!

But that doesn’t make the answer you get CORRECT nor worth acting on,.

• Hi Metsie,

“In BJ’s case (intentional abreviation) he started from the BIAS that ALL outs are BAD, NO EXCEPTION….As a result OBP became more important than BA because OBP was about a NOT BEING AN OUT while BA is all about a Batter contribution….”
OBP is about a batter’s contribution as well. Not helping the other team is a contribution, is it not?

“But are all OUTs created equal?
Is a Sacrifice fly not MORE valuable than a groundout?”
You are correct, not all outs are created equal, and there are statistics that measure that.

“Math is only ever as good as the person who constructs the equation being used….
And that is only determined by how well the constructor kept personal beliefs out of the equation to stack the deck in favor of the answer he wanted or believed before he ever plugged in a single variable or did a single calculation.”
Observations of the game is only as good as the person watching the game. And that is only determined by how well the observer kept personal beliefs out of what he saw to stack the deck in favor of the answer he wanted or believed…

“Making the case they read in a book…”
How about making the case that they discovered when pouring themselves into the trends and data of the last ~150 years of baseball?

Lastly, I want to hit on your final point about on-base percentage:
I highly fdoubt any baseball team in history has ever used OBP as there sole (or almost sole) statistic for measuring a player’s worth. That’s a common argument, but there is absolutely no proof that anyone ever built there roster completely (or almost completely) based on on-base percentage as you are implying.

• “Not helping the other team is a contribution, is it not?”
Nope! Because your assumption that an OUT is not as good as a WALK in that situation isn’t certain NOR proven….

Runner on third….
What is it about not making an out via walk NOT HELPING the other team? How about in a situation where there is one out? You just HELPED them set up a DP that could erase the runner on third from being scored….

So your making a ASSUMPTION based on a theory that seems reasonable but ONLY provided there is no situation attached….As soon as a CERTAIN SITUATION is looked at you see your doing more to HELP the other side by walking than you would be helping them by hitting a groundout that scored the runner….

“and there are statistics that measure that.”
None of them are part of OBP are they? Are they part of WAR? NOPE!
These are the Metrics that most of the Saberrattlers think are the most important, and the fact that runs driven in seemingly has NO PLACEMENT in War at all but are the one thing that ACTUALLY determines who helps his team win more often it shows the inherent BIAS that created the WAR metric because the guys who created it put WAY more importance on OB than Runs which are REQUIRED to win games….

“Observations of the game is only as good as the person watching the game”
Not really…Any Idiot can tell Carlos Beltran is a much better player than Jason Bay and they don’t need any baseball experience and/or a spreadsheet to see it!
In fact most of the use of Stat Analysis is because people don’t want to BELIEVE what thier eyes tell them or have no faith in what they saw and look to math to tell them an answer they SHOULD know just by watching him.

I don’t need a equation to tell me Matt Harvey is going to be a good pitcher in the MLB and no Metric is going to tell you if he will ever win the Cy Young award or be an ACE any better than your eyes will. You brain can proccess more information than any spreadsheet you can configure or design becuase your brain knows and percieves a whole hell of a lot more than you even KNOW and could factor into the equation in your spreadsheet!

“How about making the case that they discovered when pouring themselves into the trends and data of the last ~150 years of baseball?”
You mean to say when they poured 150 years of baseball into an equation that stacked the deck into giving the answer they wanted it to come up with before they made even the first calaculation? You know like that crap research that says the higher the OBP the higher the RS despite the fact it almost NEVER works? Only when the team is so good that everything is better does HIGH OBP fit with the HIGH everything else….

“I highly fdoubt any baseball team in history has ever used OBP as there sole (or almost sole) statistic for measuring a player’s worth. ”
Yet you guys sure do tell us they do as you suggest in the case of the A’s and OBP….
Tell me whats more important?
The first stat you use to compile a list of candidates to get or the LAST one you used to make a selection? In the case of the Oakland A’s who looked for high OBP that wasn’t the LAST metric they used to make a selection…SALARY WAS! Really doesn’t matter what Metric you think is most important if you throw out the results that metric tells you for something UNRELATED to player performance does it?

I found all the guys with the best OBP because I think it is so important but then ignored the rankings and took #20 on the list because he was affordable….Maybe if you did it the other way it might work out better for you but then OBP wouldn’t be the first thing you look at Payroll would and OBP would just be the LAST thing but at least THEN it would be the thing that was a decider…

• “Runner on third….
What is it about not making an out via walk NOT HELPING the other team? How about in a situation where there is one out? You just HELPED them set up a DP that could erase the runner on third from being scored….”
Do you know that a walk in that situation drastically decreases the likelihood of a team scoring? Does it decrease the likelihood of a team scoring two or three runs? I’ve never done the research but I don’t see your evidence either. Argument makes sense, which is why OBP isn’t used as the main stat for analyzing baseball.

“None of them are part of OBP are they? Are they part of WAR? NOPE!
These are the Metrics that most of the Saberrattlers think are the most important, and the fact that runs driven in seemingly has NO PLACEMENT in War at all but are the one thing that ACTUALLY determines who helps his team win more often it shows the inherent BIAS that created the WAR metric because the guys who created it put WAY more importance on OB than Runs which are REQUIRED to win games….”
Not sure where exactly I read this, but there was little to no difference in batter performance when a runner is on base as opposed to when a runner isn’t or isn’t in scoring position.

“Not really…Any Idiot can tell Carlos Beltran is a much better player than Jason Bay and they don’t need any baseball experience and/or a spreadsheet to see it!”
Any idiot with a spreadsheet can tell you that as well.

“I don’t need a equation to tell me Matt Harvey is going to be a good pitcher in the MLB and no Metric is going to tell you if he will ever win the Cy Young award or be an ACE any better than your eyes will.”
Will equations not help? You can evaluate baseball pretty well with your eyes, but are your conclusions WORSE when you both watch and calculate/compare data? I don’t think so (but that’s just my biased opinion lol…)

“The first stat you use to compile a list of candidates to get or the LAST one you used to make a selection? In the case of the Oakland A’s who looked for high OBP that wasn’t the LAST metric they used to make a selection…SALARY WAS! Really doesn’t matter what Metric you think is most important if you throw out the results that metric tells you for something UNRELATED to player performance does it?

I found all the guys with the best OBP because I think it is so important but then ignored the rankings and took #20 on the list because he was affordable….Maybe if you did it the other way it might work out better for you but then OBP wouldn’t be the first thing you look at Payroll would and OBP would just be the LAST thing but at least THEN it would be the thing that was a decider…”
Obviously salary was one of the last things used to make a decision because they couldn’t afford to buy the players that their data (and eyes) said was best. If the A’s had money AND used sabermetrics, this wouldn’t even be a debate right now. The lack of money limited what they could do, even WITH their sabermetric strategies.

• “Do you know that a walk in that situation drastically decreases the likelihood of a team scoring? ”

Certainly decreases the chance of them scoring ONE run without any meaningfull increase in chance of scoring more than one!

Lets try another situation…

Bottom of the 9th, Runner of 2nd and 3rd….Down by one
Whats better walk? Or Sac fly that scores the tieing run and moves the winning run to 3rd?

You gonna say the walk that sets up a force at any base is better and has a better chance of scoring a run than the Sacy fly does?

“but there was little to no difference in batter performance when a runner is on base as opposed to when a runner isn’t or isn’t in scoring position.”
I’ll bet it was in some post by a Saberguy who was trying to dismiss RISP and it’s importance over OBP….

“Any idiot with a spreadsheet can tell you that as well.”
No he can’t if he doesn’t know which metric is more important than another….
If he picks the WRONG one then he might pick the one Metric that favors bay!
Don’t need to pick the right metric when your just looking….
You have the ACTUAL result and how he got there….With Stats you only have the result and have NO CLUE if the batter earned what he did or the Pitcher gave it to him.
ALl you see is a walk and it could have been intentional but you won’t know that by looking at his OBP will you?

“You can evaluate baseball pretty well with your eyes, but are your conclusions WORSE when you both watch and calculate/compare data? ”
Again if I decided low Ks was the metric to look at I might miss the fact the guy has a .220 BA or that he doesn’t K because he hits into groundouts instead of the guy who Ks more but when he doesn’t hits 40 HRs….

“Obviously salary was one of the last things used to make a decision ”
Maing all other statistical analysis WORTHLESS because you chucked it all away based on something that was NOT performance or RESULTS based at all!
Still like what they did?

• Well said Metsie,

But then there are always going to be those who will lump you, me and others as having an agenda to prove, despite all the evidence we provide and that those professionals who are the most ardent supporters of advanced statistical analysis are the ones with the lesser baseball knowledge in general – and that is different than the baseball person acknowledging that stats have their place in the game but onto to a degree.

I will try to find that article I came across almost a year ago discussing this among general managers. From what I can recall (and will try and verify so not to be called a liar) is that as most all organizations began using it then after a while many found them to have limited value and went for it less and that the reason many still go deep into statistical analysis is simply to get a handle on how other organizations might be building their own teams around it – no different than spying on one another.

And again, Bill James acknowledged the limitations of statistical analysis when he said he was not the right one to ask about Boston’s minor league prospects and that as a statistician he shouldn’t be the one telling Manny Rameriz how to hit. For those who want to accuse me of making this up, go through past MMO posts for my reply which included a link for a blogger conference call with Bill James of about eight or nine years ago.

Of course, those who profess saber stats are not just important for the fan to understand things but vital for the baseball professional as well should heed those words from the one who fostered statistical analysis as a way to explain why things happen to begin with.

• Well lets be clear Joey…I DO have an agenda…To argue against those that have an AGENDA!
Especally where statsistical analysis is GOD is concerned….
There is a reason why no SPREADSHEET has ever been named GM!
If a spreadsheet could find the answer then whoever it was who found it would win every year!

And the only ones who have even come close are the Yankees and they didn’t use a spreadsheet to do it they used MONEY…Lots and lots of MONEY!

• Hi Mitch,
Very convincing argument, one of the most convincing I’ve seen on this subject. Great job

I just want to hit on a few points you made:

“Advanced statistics use inputs which are plugged into an equation and are determined by the person developing the statistics in order to arrive at a desired outcome. They often have to finagle with different stats until they get an answer that makes sense. What also comes into play is the developer’s bias”
And scouting (“Nice face”) isn’t subjective?

“Somehow Beane’s strategy became an excuse for teams to spend less money, and try to build teams using a philosophy that Beane only developed because he had to and not because he wanted to.”
Very little proof of this (about Beane). I also disagree that is an excuse. It is just another way of determining whether “that the player is worth the investment.”

“There isn’t a single stat or mathematical equation that can determine the outcomes on the field.”
There isn’t a single eyeball either.

“Bill James, the father of advanced statistics and sabermetrics, didn’t start to gather a serious following until the mid to late 1990s. Until then, he published his yearly baseball reviews and would sell 500 copies per year if he was lucky.”
Bill James’ ideas actually took off, and his Baseball Abstract became very popular pretty quickly because so many people saw the logic and agreed with his ideas.

“Is there a stat that shows the odds of getting the remaining hitters out in a game after I made that decision? There is a stat that shows me that I should bring a lefty specialist into the game, but not a stat that shows the odds that I will get the remainder of hitters out now that I made that pitching change.”
Very similar stat to what you are saying is Fangraphs’ win probability charts:
http://www.fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2012-10-28&team=Tigers&dh=0&season=2012

————————————————————————————————————————————-
I completely agree that there are arguments for both sides. Both scouting (whatever you see with your eyes) as well as statistics is the best way. There isn’t any team out there right now that doesn’t use both. It’s illogical to dismiss one side because there are major flaws to both what you see with your eyes and the calculations the baseball front offices use.

• “Both scouting (whatever you see with your eyes) as well as statistics is the best way.”

This.

It’s about using all the information available to you that you find most relevant to help make the best informed decision.The Twins GM Terry Ryan recently described how he does this with their manager of baseball research, Jack Goin as follows,

“I don’t think I’d make a trade without throwing it past Jack,” Ryan said. “And whether I agree with him or not, I will give him his due and let him give input from his point of view. Back when I was over at the Metrodome in ’07, we did a lot of stat work, but it wasn’t with the depth that he certainly provides for us. It’s different. And he’s got some statistical things that I don’t believe in, and he’s got a lot of things that I do believe in.

“The other good thing is Jack is also an evaluator, so he understands the human element. And we had plenty going around down there in that Nashville suite (at the winter meetings) — ‘OK, Jack, what do you think?’ He gives us his input, and some guys don’t believe it and some do. But he is an integral part of this baseball operation. I don’t think I’d do a thing on a trade scenario or a free agent acquisition without giving him his due on exactly what he thinks.”

• Completely right NJ, thanks for digging that up.

I disagree with the fans who completely ignore sabermetrics as well as the people who ONLY use sabermetrics. Using every piece of information available to you when making a business decision is the key to success.

• Obviously Terry Ryan isn’t a baseball guy and has no idea what he is talking about.

• Has he won anything?

• Nope, you sure got me there.
Of course neither have Wright, Reyes, Beltran or Omar so I guess they aren’t successful either. But hey, at least Sandy is.

Wow.

• One more thing:
“I’m going to take out my better pitcher because statistics show that over time, a pitcher of lesser quality has done a better job of getting left-handed hitters out? It doesn’t sound logical.””
Disagree. Wouldn’t you want the pitcher in there that is the most likely to get the hitter out?

• I think that people try to make things again to white or black when again things are in a gray area.

It may be that the next guy has great splits against a RH but there’s no one on base and the guy behind him has even better numbers vs LH. You may choose to pitch carefully to that guy and go after the next. That doesn’t mean you went against the stats. That just means you knew the stats and made a logical decision based on your baseball experience and what the stats say.

Which brings us back to the Terry Ryan quote where he says he would never make a trade without running it by his stat guy first. Doesn’t mean he will follow what he says but he wants his input so he can make a more informed decision. That’s all 99% of us are saying. Use both stats and scouting, why wouldn’t you? It’s there to be used.

• WAR has many flaws. Doesn’t penalize players for hitting into double plays or striking out. Those are tow of the worst results you can have and they are treated like any other out. Clutch hitting gets no credit. It is not adjusted for how you hit against the better pitchers in the more important games. It is blind to real baseball. And lastly the defensive metrics are guesses at best and don’t adjust for the ballpark you play in. IE centerfield in Marlins park or Coamerica vs Philadelphia or camden yards. Plus astroturf for infielders isn’t adjusted. So too much is overlooked. Now i am the last guy to put Derek Jeter on a pedestal but was he really the ninth best shortstop last year??he was per WAR

• real statistical analysis does not start with the formula. It starts with repeated cuts at the real data (the facts) looking for the patterns. Something like regression analysis. Plug it all in, and see which actions most closely correlate to which outcomes.

do that with a big enough sample size, and yes you can “prove” something. Which of course, does not guarantee it will always happen, but it does give better odds.

• First off even the SEARCH for patterns is an act of BIAS as you predetermine the PATTERN your looking for….
You obviously don’t understand that Computers don’t and CAN’T do anything but follow instructions you give it.

EVEN if you managed to find one that could find patterns the answer to what drives a certain metric will always be THE METRIC not some other unrelated stat column…
Ask a computer what stat most correlates to runs scored it will tell you it is runs scored…

It does not know what significance each metric has and without that knowledge it can’t find an answer….

How does it GET that answer? Thats where the BIAS of the person who designed the Analysis algorithm comes in….He tell the computer what is relative and in Bill James case he said OB was the key and of course all his research found the key he wanted!

• We still have to look at what comes first, the chicken or the egg (no San Diego jokes, please ).

Are the stats obtained from a statistician a way for the baseball person to get more detail on a point he or she was looking for to begin with? Did the creation of the stat change the point of view of that baseball person?

And, to what extent is the relevancy of the stat? Does it simply put into the extreme or infinite mathematical exactness the probability of the outcome that is not necessary? When it comes to the game strategy or use of individual talent in an individual game situation, does it prove any practical usage? Does it over-sell the importance of what it is trying to say? For example, the drop in PPPA as described by Sandy was as alluded to by somebody here, one less pitch per every twenty plate appearances as brought out by Gary Cohen?

Does the final tally of a series of combined stats to show which player would be more beneficial taking in each others strengths and weaknesses not something that the baseball person doesn’t appreciate already? Does the minute difference in the stat mean anything credible in the real world of the game like that PPPA drop Sandy referred to? If it is a mild difference is it reasonable to believe that mild difference is something a statistician needs to tell a baseball person for otherwise the fact would be lost by one with the skill to see when a pitcher is taking something off his fastball, the difference in velocity between a pitch going from 92 miles and that of 90 (.021 percent)?

That’s why I say these advanced stats might help a fan better understand how the game works but is nothing that the intelligent player (Lastings Miledge being the example of a non-intelligent one) doesn’t already have a keen knowledge of through instinct and perception – whether it be a hall of fame player like Frank Robinson or a fringe player like Billy Beane.

These people play the game and have a sense of what the stats show. The over-exaggeration of the use of advanced stats to me is no different than the over-exaggerations seen in the film adaption of “money ball”. What these stats do best is to provide specific information that the player or manager did not know he needed, but rather the specific information the player or manager knew he needed. That is storage, not analysis.

• Arguing against statistical analysis is like arguing against the score deciding the game. The numbers are the only thing that matters. You might say there are Intangibles. If they are I tangible and don’t show up as tangibles on the scoreboard, they do not matter.

• The numbers are the only thing that matters. You might say there are Intangibles”

Wow… Have you EVER grab a bat in your hand? Do you even understand the game of baseball? Or you just wake up in the morning and see the boxscore and you draw your own conclusion of the game?? You have got to be kidding me, all you gooners are the reason the game has lost its lack luster and passion. Forget to learn how to play the game, do the right things in the game, all it matters is numbers and that’s it. Amazing…

• WRONG!
The Acts and Events that CREATE the numbers are the most important!

Numbers don’t tell you squat!

• numbers dont tell you squat? then how do you determine who won? the game is nothing but numbers. the numbers add up to what we call “the score”, and this determines the winner. you act as if the winner is determined by who tried hard. it isnt.

• Ok here are some numbers….
Tell us all what happened that day….

And who was the one who made it happen…

Score was 3-0

Tell us the rest….

• One team won, and another lost. You do realize the whole point of the game is to statistically beat the other team, right? To compile more numbers than the other guy, right? The goal isn’t to look cool or to try hard. It’s about numbers.

• You do realizethat another team can statistically be better and still lose right?

A team with 10 Hits and no runs loses to a team than has one hit and one run!

You said you could tell me what happened in that game based on the numbers…
I see you couldn’t tell me how they won what events were involved but you still think the numbers tell the story don’t you?

• Incorrect. The stat called “the score” determines the winner.

• And what the players do on the field determine the score…without that there is no score and there are no stats to analyze.

• That is wonderful but the goal of the game is to win, and wins are determined by stats.

• No..slappy Wins AND STATS are determined by what players do on the field!

A person gets a hit not a stat!
Maybe if you watched baseball on a field as opposed to watching it on your computer you would know these things.

• Martin you can’t be serious – the stats don’t determine the games the players do. The stats are a representation of what took place on the field. Without the players playing the game there are no stats so how can a stat determine a win or loss?

• “Yes, the advanced stats that the game uses today were ultimately developed by men that maybe never even played the game.”

That goes for pretty much any stat. In fact, ERA and batting average were invented by a British writer who didn’t really understand baseball, so he used statistics from cricket to better relate to it.

and most of the guys who write about it never played it at any relevant level.

• Hi Donal,

“and most of the guys who write about it never played it at any relevant level.”

And remember how Willie Randolf got into a heated arguement with Francesa and Mad Dog at one point yelling at them “are you telling me how to manage my team?”. It was about Willie giving Billy Wagner some extra work in an early season game he wasn’t needed in. The dynamic duo were coming across as if they knew better (natch).

• Ya, like you and me and every here does.

• “Once upon a time, baseball was a simple game. The goal is to score more runs than your opponent. Each team is given 27 outs to score as many runs as they can. In order to score runs, a team’s players have to get on base. Once a player gets on base it was the other players’ jobs to drive them home to score runs. On the other hand, the defense’s job is to get 27 outs allowing the opposition to score the fewest amount of runs. Whoever scores more runs in 9 innings of play wins – simple.”

And none of that has changed. We just let more people play now and measure their effectiveness at driving in or preventing runs differently.

“Yes, the advanced stats that the game uses today were ultimately developed by men that maybe never even played the game. They were simply looking to build better fantasy teams. It leads the people with advanced knowledge of how the game is played on the field to butt heads with those that sat at their desk and computer doing all the math.”

No. Advanced stats are hardly used in fantasy leagues at all. Most leagues depend mainly on counting stats (HR, K, H, RBI) etc etc. They try to avoid averages and such because it is messy and inconvenient. In fact, RBI, Saves and Wins are in pretty much every league. Are you about to tell me those are advanced stats?

“The game had survived over 100 years just fine without advanced statistics.”

You might want to explain to someone like Branch Rickey. I’m sure you could teach him a thing or two about the game.

“Beane used the advanced statistics to remain competitive with a team that had the lowest payroll in the league. Once he started winning, people started to question how the heck the Athletics could be winning when they were only spending one-third of the money of the other teams. At that point, every Tom, Dick and Harry fell in love with sabermetrics.”

No, most people realize that Zito, Mulder and Hudson had a lot to do with it.

“Advanced statistics use inputs which are plugged into an equation and are determined by the person developing the statistics in order to arrive at a desired outcome. They often have to finagle with different stats until they get an answer that makes sense. What also comes into play is the developer’s bias.

If someone is playing with stats in order to make their equation work, how is that more accurate in telling me which player is better than if I used the old school statistics (OBP, AVG, ERA, etc.) which have been used for the past 100-plus years, and my eyes, used to watch the players play?”

Which is why you are required to show your work. The whole point of advanced stats is to acknowledge personal bias and other factors. If you have to show your work and prove to us, rather than just tell us, your conclusion, we can review it and critique it accordingly.

A peer review process if you will. A good honest method will filter out personal bias.

“If someone is playing with stats in order to make their equation work, how is that more accurate in telling me which player is better than if I used the old school statistics (OBP, AVG, ERA, etc.) which have been used for the past 100-plus years, and my eyes, used to watch the players play?”

No, someone playing with the stats should not be taken seriously. But, neither should your eyes. You are human and have personal biases, just like you accuse others of. The difference is, the math takes the conclusion out of the hands of the person with the bias. If the process is sound and the numbers being plugged in are accurate, then the conclusion should be good.

and just because we did something for a long time doesn’t mean we should keep doing it that way. “that is the way we always did it” is a stupid reason to do anything.

“One of the major issues with scientists to this day is trying to conduct scientific studies and not have their bias come into play. Bias alters outcomes.”

Which is why there is a peer review process that requires you to publish your methods along with your results.

“The bottom line is that baseball is still a game where there is still a lot of luck involved.”

True, but if you were investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a team, wouldn’t you try to minimize the luck factor?

“”The problem at large is that the game has changed significantly since the introduction of advanced statistics. ”

No. It really hasn’t. Free agency has done way more to change the game. And even then, the game between the lines has changed less than it did during the Good Old Days That Never Really Happened.

” There are too many statistics which are complicating the game.”

Then feel free to ignore them. It would probably make you a happier person.

“They cause managers to over-manage situations.”

No, egos do that. Managers have been snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for a long time.

“For example, is a lefty specialist really necessary in a team’s bullpen?”

Yes. this the one case that advanced stats back up bullpen specialization. Generally, though, advanced stats go with the “put your best guy in the most important spots” theory.

” But when it’s all said and done a bullpen pitcher is simply a pitcher who could not make it as a starting pitcher.”

Usually, ya.

” Very few pitchers are groomed to be in the bullpen. In other words, why would I bring a pitcher into a game, and take out my better pitcher, simply because statistics show that one guy is better at getting left-handed batters out?”

First off, you are misrepresenting the situation here.

Second, yes, proven facts trump indigestion.

“Statistics tell front offices they need lefty specialists. They tell the manager that they better go against their gut which tells them to leave their better pitcher in the game. It sounds crazy when you think about it. I’m going to take out my better pitcher because statistics show that over time, a pitcher of lesser quality has done a better job of getting left-handed hitters out? It doesn’t sound logical.”

Especially when you over simplify it. Big, over swinging, lefty power hitters are susceptible to inside curves and cutters from lefties. Not really a secret.

“Now I have decided to take my best pitcher available out of the game to bring in a lefty specialist in order to get one hitter out. After he gets that batter out, I have to take him out of the game to put in an even lesser quality pitcher? Why not just leave my best pitcher in to get the lefty out. Now I have changed the odds of getting the remaining hitters out, all because stats have told me to take my best pitcher out of the game.”

And here is another thing you and many others either don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge about advanced stats. They aren’t just used batter to batter.

If your starter is doing well and it is still early, by all means, keep him in. He’s a starter for a reason.

But, if the pitcher in question is a middle relief type who won’t see the next inning anyway, go to your specialist.

“Is there a stat that shows the odds of getting the remaining hitters out in a game after I made that decision? There is a stat that shows me that I should bring a lefty specialist into the game, but not a stat that shows the odds that I will get the remainder of hitters out now that I made that pitching change.”

Win probability and leverage index.

• “No, someone playing with the stats should not be taken seriously. But, neither should your eyes. You are human and have personal biases, just like you accuse others of. The difference is, the math takes the conclusion out of the hands of the person with the bias. If the process is sound and the numbers being plugged in are accurate, then the conclusion should be good.

and just because we did something for a long time doesn’t mean we should keep doing it that way. “that is the way we always did it” is a stupid reason to do anything.”

Sums it all up perfectly.

• You definitely get an A for analyzing although I disagree with a bunch of stuff – that’s what’s great about baseball.

Just a note on the fantasy stats – I understand that most leagues use a standard scoring system but the advanced stats were originally used by guys trying to gain an advantage in their rotisserie leagues.

The whole point is that the advanced stats changed the game forever…there needs to be a healthy balance and many people rely too heavily on these stats…that is when I think the stats become a detriment to the game

And referring to the win probability leverage index…I would never ever rely on a computer to tell me who to put into a game and when…its like playing someone in chess and letting the computer give u the odds of every move during your game. I still think too many circumstances surround the game that the computers can’t account for.

• “I understand that most leagues use a standard scoring system but the advanced stats were originally used by guys trying to gain an advantage in their rotisserie leagues.”

No. That is simply not true. Fantasy leagues are popular because they get casual fans interested in out of market teams. Advanced stats run completely opposite of that.

Rotisserie baseball was invented by a bunch of baseball writers in the early 80s. Are you really going to tell me baseball writers in the early 80s were pushing sabermetrics?

“The whole point is that the advanced stats changed the game forever”

1) The game is always changing. People really need to accept that.

2) Change can be a good thing.

“there needs to be a healthy balance and many people rely too heavily on these stats”

that is such a vague and open statement. What people? What is too much?

“I would never ever rely on a computer to tell me who to put into a game and when…its like playing someone in chess and letting the computer give u the odds of every move during your game. I still think too many circumstances surround the game that the computers can’t account for.”

Again, the C word. Stop being so hung up on a computer. Its not a magical box from the Nether World. It wasn’t forged by Sauron in the fires of Mount doom. Computers are just tools that people use to do work. The same work people used to do with ledgers and graphing pads.

Advanced statistical analysis has always been around. From Connie Mack to Ted Williams to Earl Weaver to Branch Rickey, baseball people at all levels are always looking for a deeper understanding of the game through numbers. The difference is back then, they used pencil and paper to do their work. Now, the same work is being done on computers with far more data.

And besides, I have no idea why proven facts are somehow less acceptable than group think when choosing a line up. Because that is what things like “common sense” and “baseball knowledge” tend to be. Group think.

• It’s no use donal, these guys are never going to listen. The sad part is that most of this is completely inarguable but people act like it is.

• Hi Mitch,

Since you have had a long career in the game yourself, can you share with us some of things you learned about baseball from statistical analysis that you were unaware of yourself?

By that, I don’t mean finding out the information you sought after, which is storage, but coming across things that taught you something you found out you and many others did not appreciate before.

Al Leiter, for example, said that he wished these stats were available when he was pitching because of the vast amount of information he could gather about a hitter’s strengths and weaknesses. It was just simply too much information for a pitcher to put all that he knew about each hitter’s tendencies on paper.

• For me it was the hot/cold areas when hitting…I guess similar to Leiter but since I was a hitter it would be from a hitters point of view.

A lot of times it is the catcher that does the research on this area and its a major component of what is considered calling a good game. It’s still on the pitcher’s shoulders to exploit the weaknesses and its not easy to pinpoint pitches and take advantage of hitters weaknesses even for pros.

The virtual chess match that goes on between the pitcher and hitter is what will always make this the greatest sport in the world.

• Hi Mitch,

That is very interesting because it deals with the point I’ve been bringing up – the difference between the storage of information to find out about somebody (the PC compared to the note pad) rather than discovering some new way to analyze things.

{itchers on the major league level forty years ago before the advent of the computer age knew the general hot and cold spots of most every hitter. Having the talent to hit precise spots around the plate in which a batter has trouble hitting has been what modern day pitching has always been about. The stats just allow for more storage and more precision information that the human brain can’t retain in memory. It’s not a new way of studying a player. It’s still only going to provide a statistical break down of one’s hot and cold spots which mostly confirms what the players already know. If they didn’t, their careers would be much shorter..

And as a hitter, did you not have a sense of what areas of the strike zone gave you the most trouble? Isn’t that what batting coaches are to observe to help the hitter adjust or at least know when to lay off rather than swing? Again, the stats only give a quicker and more precise summary of those zones. It’s not a revelation of things.

Thanks for the response. Did I misunderstand some of the points you were making?

• “A lot of times it is the catcher that does the research on this area and its a major component of what is considered calling a good game. It’s still on the pitcher’s shoulders to exploit the weaknesses and its not easy to pinpoint pitches and take advantage of hitters weaknesses even for pros.”

No one here has said anything to contradict this. You are creating a straw man here.

Yes, execution will always come down to the players. But all that work and research the catcher does through…gasp…computers (whether it is himself or the scouts doing it), does a better job of arming the pitcher than in the past. Even David Cone has said so.

• I seriously have no idea what you are talking about with regards to mcreating a straw…I was commenting in regards to what Leiter said about having to remember the hitters’ weaknesses and how it’s more the catcher’s job to know the hitters and the pitcher’s job to execute.

Why do you feel it necessary to chime in on everything I say?

• Because you don’t worship at the holy altar of Sabermetrics thats why…..
Their devotees are even more fanatical than Scientologists and must attack anyone who doesn’t worship the holy spreadsheet!

• Hi Donal,

With the information found on computers by the catchers, is that really just a case of finding out more about one’s tendencies and just another tool besides watching the video tape, past recollections and and what is going through the baseball grapevine?

There is a difference between finding more detailed information about a player than finding out new revelations about under-appreciated aspect of one’s talent or how the game should be played. The stats don’t reveal startling evidences that the players and managers themselves are not already aware of by knowing what they see happening on the field day in and day out.

This is not to say that the professionals cannot learn something by understanding what advanced stats might reveal. It’s the degree of how much they actually learn from it which is one of the issues.

It’s the non-baseball professionals who talk about advanced stats in terms of being an educational tool and I think that is another issue that needs to be addressed – the over-exaggeration by the saber side in having a more detailed statistical knowledge of the game. Does it matter when a statistician says a certain thing works maybe 62 percent of the time when the players and managers say they know it works a bit more often than it doesn’t?

And with that detailed statistical knowledge of the game, there is then another issue of those who rely so much on numbers not realizing it only fosters a more severe superficial knowledge of the game and nothing more. I don’t want to repeat myself about the wrong conclusions coming from Brian Kenny about an 8th place hitter having the same OBP if he was moved to lead-off spot or that extreme shifts should be the norm instead of the exception because of the affect it would have on pitchers. Or with Sandy regarding PPPA and all players following a certain mindset about working the pitch count. Or the act of getting on base is more appreciated now when the “stats” show the percentage of times one got on base other than a hit hasn’t varied since 1969 with the reduced strike zone and lower pitching mound – or that more than a half century ago players actually got on base more often without a base hit than those today.

When those who played the game begin talking more in terms of numbers when it comes to game strategy instead of how one did the right thing based on the ability of the players or game situation, or about numbers showing one’s strengths and weaknesses instead of pitcher’s ability to take two miles off a fast ball, fielders playing out of position based on the hitter and the pitcher, one’s need to better level his swing or step into a certain type pitch differently, how one can be so deceptive with holding runners at first or that players should not be something they are not capable of (like when Reyes’s overall production sank after the Mets wanted hit to try and draw more walks because it altered his approach during his at-bat) – then I will be convinced that advanced stats play more an integral part for those who know the game.

As it is, those general managers today who are more the lawyer and business type rely on those under them to formulate team personnel, etc. It then becomes a matter of hiring the right people to work under them, which was always the case obviously, but more-so now than ever before. But that’s a discussion for another time.

• Forgot to add that somebody had written that he thought these were new revelations because from what he was reading, based on things written in the past, is that people were talking mostly in terms of batting average, runs batted in, etc. I mentioned that was the way the game was discussed by fans and reported by the sports writers, but that doesn’t mean that was the way game was dissected by the professionals.

It’s not like a catcher going to a pitcher and because he didn’t know much about the hitter at the plate said let’s look at what his bubble gum card says.

• I would say Joey that the really GOOD catcher may read the scouting reports on batter but dont’t really need it!

Easy to see a chart on what pitch gets a guy out most often but the stats don’t tell you how to setup that guy to make that pitch work.

Was it a Slider low outside after being busted inside with a fastball?
Was it a fastball inside after throwing a curve outside?

The good catchers know these things without the scouting report and can tell as much by where the guy is standing and approaching the plate than any stat sheet can tell you!

If a guy comes up and crowds the plate then despite the scouting saying he is vulnerable outside you have to pitch inside and move him off the plate before it will work…Thats WHY he is crowding the plate to protect the outside…

So Scouting reports, tendencies and Stats of a batter are all well and good but just a tip of the iceberg to what makes a good catcher who calls a good game!

• “With the information found on computers by the catchers, is that really just a case of finding out more about one’s tendencies and just another tool besides watching the video tape, past recollections and and what is going through the baseball grapevine?”

Seriously, just stop mentioning computers. you are using them as a buzzword. All computers are doing is the grunt work baseball people have been doing since Day 1, but on a much larger and more detailed and accurate scale. Try to have these discussions without mentioning them. You will see how flawed your arguments are.

And they surpass flawed human memory and gossip.

“There is a difference between finding more detailed information about a player than finding out new revelations about under-appreciated aspect of one’s talent or how the game should be played. The stats don’t reveal startling evidences that the players and managers themselves are not already aware of by knowing what they see happening on the field day in and day out.”

Except for how harmful sac bunts and intentional walks actually are. How base stealing has been misused and over valued.

But, it doesn’t matter. any new information that we learn has been dismissed by people like you and several others here.

It is a no win situation. If the advanced stats confirm traditional thinking, they are just telling us what we already knew. If they reveal something contradictory to our old assumptions, then the computers are obviously wrong since they defy entrenched baseball knowledge. No need to actually view the process or anything when you can just dismiss undesired results.

” I don’t want to repeat myself about the wrong conclusions coming from Brian Kenny about an 8th place hitter having the same OBP if he was moved to lead-off spot or that extreme shifts should be the norm instead of the exception because of the affect it would have on pitchers.”

Yes, you keep misrepresenting that incident. Kenny misused the evidence, and his co-hosts corrected him by using documented evidence INCLUDING STATISTICS. Kenny was proved wrong by verifiable facts, not vague recollections and empty cliches.

“When those who played the game begin talking more in terms of numbers when it comes to game strategy instead of how one did the right thing based on the ability of the players or game situation,”

You think the 2 are exclusive? Not at all. Knowing what to do in a situation is strategy.

“or about numbers showing one’s strengths and weaknesses instead of pitcher’s ability to take two miles off a fast ball, fielders playing out of position based on the hitter and the pitcher, one’s need to better level his swing or step into a certain type pitch differently, how one can be so deceptive with holding runners at first or that players should not be something they are not capable of ”

You are all over the map here. Analysis does not replace execution. Analysis measures a player’s production. The various methods of execution may explain how the player is producing the way he is. You should have a lot of information about both.

“like when Reyes’s overall production sank after the Mets wanted hit to try and draw more walks because it altered his approach during his at-bat”

complete opposite of reality. In 2011, Reyes laid off the junk out of the strike zone, so pitchers were forced to throw him more fastballs over the plate, which allowed him to be more aggressive. this is documented. Contrast this with Ike in the first half of 2012. I think it was TRS who went through the game logs to prove Ike was getting far more first pitch breaking balls than he had before and he was swinging right through them. Add that to the hitch in his swing Keith Hernandez pointed out, and we could see the center of his issues. Second half, Ike starts laying off the junk and takes the hitch out of hiss wing (a use of both statistical analysis and mechanical analysis) and we saw the difference.

• Hi Donal,

Larry Bowa and Mitch Williams did not use any stats to make their point – just their knowledge of the game. Bowa said put that player in the lead off spot and he won’t get the walks he gets because he won’t be getting the pitches that he gets batting eighth. He will not be pitched around and pitchers would instead be coming right at him. In fact, there were no stats either could refer to since the batter in question was not a lead off hitter but an eighth place hitter at the time.

Sacrifice and stolen base over rated?

The 1965 Dodgers became world champions specifically relying on the sacrifice and stolen base to generate the little offense they could due to such poor hitting. For Koufax and Drysdale, that was enough – and, if there was ever a team that relied so much on just two players, it was that L.A. team. The joke back then was a typical Dodger home run consisted of Maury Wills leading off the inning drawing a walk, stealing second, going to third on a sacrifice bunt and then scoring on a sacrifice fly.

Or, what about Bill James who said: It has never been my philosophy that including stolen bases in an offense was futile.”

And if stats are a valuable aid in evaluating talent, why Bill James’ answer to the following question about which minor leaguers would best help the Red Sox?

Q – who are the best talents in the red sox farm system? who could help the sox this year?

A – My ability to answer questions about the Red Sox is limited, but Freddy Sanchez is tearing it up at Pawtucket. And he’s the real deal–an actual prospect.

Attached again is the entire conference call with bloggers.

http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/3503

You did write:

“Analysis measures a player’s production. The various methods of execution may explain how the player is producing the way he is. You should have a lot of information about both.”

Well, as mentioned before, when players, managers and coaches begin explaining a player’s production – or lack of production – in terms of statistics rather than not only how he is performing but how he is being utilized in terms of in-game strategy and the consequences – instead of those who haven’t played the game professionally for a living and are not major leaguers, then I will put more merit on advanced stats revealing things not already appreciated or understood on that highest of professional levels.

• Hi Donal,,

Forgot to add that I was referring to Jose Reyes circa 2007 or 2008 when he began dipping in overall performance at the plate – what he did in 2011 was learning to be more disciplined.

With Ike Davis, it was many things, of course, not just one. He wasn’t seeing the ball good and swung at bad pitches. But as we also know, Davis had always been an aggressive first pitch hitter and was taking more pitches. So along with a change in mechanics, Davis also got the OK from Terry Collins to go back to what made him comfortable – knowing he could swing first pitch if he thought he could. When one sees a pitch they believe they can turn on, one should swing at it for often they might not ever see “their pitch” in that at bat or even get a chance at another good pitch at all.

• I already showed you the stats that shows Ike did not take more pitches nor was he taking more first pitches. He swung at more first pitches overall and more first pitch strikes. Up from both his rookie season and his cut short season in 2011. I’m not sure why you keep insisting that Ike was taking more first pitches and more pitches overall.

• Hi Fonzie,

I am glad you brought that point up because it precisely points out the misconceptions one gets by basing things on statistics.

What your statistics did not show – and could not show – is that it’s not that Ike was doing anything different on the first pitch as it was he was he again free to be himself and deal with the first pitch on his own terms without worry of going against the wishes of his batting coach and manage. Even though the stats show he didn’t take any more pitches than he normally would, just knowing the Mets wanted him to do so played on his psyche. Relieving him of that dilemma helped him to become more relaxed knowing he was no longer going against club policy and taking that thought with him whenever he came up to the plate. It was not the cure-all, he had mechanical issues to deal with as well, but just knowing he could be his normal self was one of those steps.

Terry Collins acknowledged that Ike liked to be more aggressive on the first pitch and by allowing him to be himself freely – instead of feeling he was going against the instructions of his batting coach and manager- was one part of the many steps which enabled Ike to finally turn things around. Every player tells you not to mess around with a one’s psyche. They all have certain habits that, good or bad, make up the overall player they are. Ike could be a terrible first pitch hitter but if that is a part of what makes him into the overall hitter he is. He was not going to perform well knowing he was going against something the brass wanted him to – he has not been in the majors long enough to have the stature in which he wouldn’t have to worry about upsetting his bosses.

Again, we are talking about one’s emotional comfort zone – in this case, still being himself but with the burden of also knowing he didn’t sit well with those who wanted him to stop being himself and that plays mind games within an individual. They got him to relax by letting Ike know it was OK to be himself.

Just because the stats revealed no major statistical change in this pattern doesn’t mean there was none going through his head. And that was something lost by relying on the stats you did to find an answer.

• ” just knowing the Mets wanted him to do so played on his psyche. Relieving him of that dilemma helped him to become more relaxed knowing he was no longer going against club policy and taking that thought with him whenever he came up to the plate. It was not the cure-all, he had mechanical issues to deal with as well, but just knowing he could be his normal self was one of those steps.”

You completely pulled that out of thin air. Your answer makes us much sense as saying Ike found a good acupuncturist.

• Joey can you provide a link that states the Mets policy is to take first pitches. Listening to Dave Hudgens I have never once heard him say anything of that sort. He preaches discipline. Laying off pitches out of the strike zone whether it’s the first pitch or not. He preaches attack pitches in the strike zone whether it’s the first pitch or not. Again I don’t know where you get this from. Ike’s problem was he was over aggressive. He was swinging at breaking balls he couldn’t touch. He started to put up better numbers when he became more disciplined.

• HI Fonzie,

As you know, I’ve attached so many links on that subject. It’s not that they are told not to swing on the first pitch but to indeed laying off pitches if not in a good hitting zone. That has caused a lot Met players to take called first strikes, put them behind in the count 0-1, and then have to swing defensively.

The problem with that was with what Bob Ojeda talked about. I attached many links to which Bob Ojeda first said in May that he, as a former MLB pitcher, was picking up the signal that the Mets were telegraphing to opposing pitchers that they were not being aggresive on first pitches and that it was going to work against them for the reason just stated. Then, in August he touched on the subject again explaining exactly why the run production had gone down.

I had also attached several different links pertaining specifically to Davis coming out of his slump in which it was quoted by Terry Collins he told Ike it was OK to be more aggressive on the first pitch. If I recall properly, it was noted that this went against Dave Hudgens wanting Ike to be more disciplined on the first pitch since he swings so often at them (as you pointed out with those stats).

I do not have the time right now to go review all the numerous articles written on the subject and then review each of them to find my reply with the links, but they are there. If you’re curious to see if I misunderstood something, of course, please feel free to do so as well and let me know what you found.

• “what he did in 2011 was learning to be more disciplined.”

Ya, I know. that is what I’ve been saying. Glad to see you learned.

“But as we also know, Davis had always been an aggressive first pitch hitter and was taking more pitches.”

No, you are completely wrong. and you constantly repeat this lie. You are verifiably wrong. And it has been explained to you many times.

Davis was not taking more pitches. Let me repeat that: Ike Davis was not taking more pitches.

You are right that Ike is an aggressive swinger. and since you and I know that, it is a pretty safe bet every pitcher in the league knew it. So, what they did was start throwing this thing called a curveball. They did it more frequently on the first pitch to Ike than before. We know this. the game logs confirm it. The game logs also confirm Ike was not taking them. He was swinging away at them.

“So along with a change in mechanics, Davis also got the OK from Terry Collins to go back to what made him comfortable – knowing he could swing first pitch if he thought he could. When one sees a pitch they believe they can turn on, one should swing at it for often they might not ever see “their pitch” in that at bat or even get a chance at another good pitch at all.”

No. documented facts prove you wrong. Game logs show Ike started taking those first pitch curveballs. This increased the number of fast balls he saw.

Guess what kind of pitch Ike most frequently puts over the wall.

“When one sees a pitch they believe they can turn on, one should swing at it for often they might not ever see “their pitch” in that at bat or even get a chance at another good pitch at all.”

and there in lies the problem, Ike was swinging at pitches he obviously couldn’t turn on.

• “Bowa said put that player in the lead off spot and he won’t get the walks he gets because he won’t be getting the pitches that he gets batting eighth. He will not be pitched around and pitchers would instead be coming right at him. In fact, there were no stats either could refer to since the batter in question was not a lead off hitter but an eighth place hitter at the time.”

In other words, he referenced the lack of production of a pitcher vs a typical #2 hitter.

“Sacrifice and stolen base over rated?”

Yup

“The 1965 Dodgers became world champions specifically relying on the sacrifice and stolen base to generate the little offense they could due to such poor hitting.”

I’m pretty sure the Hall of Famers on the rotation had a little something to do with it.

But, yes, a reliance on bunting and stolen bases is a sign of a weak offense.

And 1 example does not disprove a mountain of evidence. that is called an outlier.

“Or, what about Bill James who said: It has never been my philosophy that including stolen bases in an offense was futile”

Again, you are creating a strawman. I didn’t say futile, I said over rated. Mainly because people for a long time didn’t take into account caught stealing. also, people tend to get caught up in how flashy stolen bases are and ignore deficiencies on the base stealer’s game.

“And if stats are a valuable aid in evaluating talent, why Bill James’ answer to the following question about which minor leaguers would best help the Red Sox?”

I have no idea why his answer contradicts what you claimed I said. First off, what is Bill James’ role with the BoSox? Is he their minor league talent evaluator? To my knowledge, he mainly focuses on the big club.

also, since minor leagues focus on development and not pure production (unlike the majors), statistical analysis isn’t given as much weight. Not that stats aren’t valuable, just not as valuable as they are on the big clubs.

“Well, as mentioned before, when players, managers and coaches begin explaining a player’s production – or lack of production – in terms of statistics rather than not only how he is performing but how he is being utilized in terms of in-game strategy and the consequences”

Not their job. managers should have an understanding of advanced stats and strategy, but in terms of figuring out why a player is having problems, him and his coaching staff should be focusing on things like mechanics. Again, you are confusing issues.

• “a reliance on bunting and stolen bases is a sign of a weak offense”

Whitey Herzog and the Cards in the 80′s would like to have a talk with you in the back alley!

Using speed doesn’t make you a weak offense thats determined by how many runs your able to score…

All using bunts and speed means is you not RELYING on the HR to get all yor runs or just sitting back WAITING for the big hit your producing runs in other more creative ways…

• I just thought I would point out something as I was just watching the MLB top 10 2Bs show and Advanced Statistical analysis says that Murphy if the top 10 2B in the league….

All you saber rattlers can now discuss this among yourselves!
LOL

• Oh and Bill James had Pagan as his #10 CF too…

Good thing we got all those great players in return eh?

• Hi Donal,

I said go beyond the stats and to look at the human element. If you believe a young player’s psyche cannot be affected knowing he is going against instructions of his manager and coaches instead knowing he has the backing of them, well, that means the game is played by robots.

What has been said about Ike Davis, among other things, of not listening to instructions? Did it not rattle him?

Ignoring the human element when it comes to others is impossible. We can’t ignore our own sensitivities, motivations, fears, confidence levels, intimidations or try to be someone that we aren’t – but baseball players can? Some are less inhibited than others, granted, but that comes with age and maturity. Ike Davis is only 25. His confidence level was down during his slump. If one thinks I still made up out the point about one’s psyche and the affect it has on a person out of thin air, well…, there is nothing more that could be discussed.

• are you just ignoring everything donal says? Its just strawman after strawman.

• “I said go beyond the stats and to look at the human element. If you believe a young player’s psyche cannot be affected knowing he is going against instructions of his manager and coaches instead knowing he has the backing of them, well, that means the game is played by robots.”

But you never played the game. You have no connection to professional sports. If we apply your standards equally, you shouldn’t regard your statements at all.

I am not saying that there are no psychological factors. But, most of what we see and read and say are not special insight into a player’s mind. It is insight into ourselves and our desperate need to think we have 1 clue as to what goes on inside the clubhouse.

• HI Donal,

No, I never played the game, but I have participated in the human experience. And since Ike had been an aggressive first pitch swinger since high school, Terry Collins did tell him to go back to the approach he felt more comfortable with.

I had posted months ago articles which quoted Collins and Hudgens about that move but since so many things have been written since, there are just too many web pages to browse through to find them. We would have to go through MMO for late June early July to see the links I attached.

So that’s why I mentioned his psyche being affected by not being allowed to approach his at-bat the way he was emotionally comfortable with as one of the MANY things going wrong at the same time. His turn around did happen after Terry Collins told him it was OK to return being more aggressive on the first pitch – even though the stats said he never stopped doing that – so that is why I suggest having the weight of knowing he was going against the instructions of his batting coach and manager (and front office) lifted for one so young was a factor in this as well.

• “but I have participated in the human experience.”

Then you understand how egos, need to be accepted, and flawed memories warp our perception of reality. How we’ll say things just to look like we’re connected to the event in question.

How we’ll offer a tidbit of “information” to make ourselves look like insiders despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. How we’ll absolutely convince ourselves these tidbits are true.

## NL East Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Braves4330.589 -
Nationals3536.4937.0
Phillies3538.4798.0
Mets2741.39713.5
Marlins2249.31020.0

Last updated: 06/20/2013

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