Emerson, Jackson, and Baseball Statistics

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” 1836

Ralph Waldo Emerson was  one of the leading figures in the Transcendentalism movement of literature and philosophy. Transcendentalism was a smaller part of a larger cultural era in American history known as the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival that defied economic and social structures. Advocates for the common man sprung up throughout the countryside, pleading the case of the poor yeoman farmer or the landless laborer. Andrew Jackson, among other political leaders, took this to heart, bringing then-revolutionary ideas, such as universal white male suffrage to the frontburner in what would later be thought of as the golden age of American politics and society.

What made this era so great was one key characteristic: it challenged the status quo. While there was still, of course, was economic stratification, previously held economic and political beliefs were turned upside down in a way that changed American history forever.

The idea of challenging the established order is not a new idea. Even before these heralded figures, the United States was a country of firsts, one that went against the grain in almost every respect. That attitude spread to much of the rest of the world, and today is prevalent in every scientific, mathematical, and philosophical field you can think of.

Times have certainly changed since the 1830s, and the demand is now for empirical evidence. This evidence has revolutionized biology, medicine, technology, you name it. Hard proof, not just logic or rhetoric, needs to be there to prove something to be true.

This has more recently been applied to Major League Baseball front offices where, like it or not, people were forced to look at new, statistical-based ideas about how the game is played.

Every single MLB front office has some form of an advanced statistical analysis department at the moment, yet there is still a large segment of fans and those who cover the game who are holding out, refusing to even acknowledge that this new set of beliefs are relevant. Many say teams still don’t use them, when in fact, the Cardinals and Red Soc have each attributed their recent success to an ideal combination of scouting and advanced statistics. It’s here to stay.

This last but still significant segment of baseball followers is not going to affect the way executives run their organizations anymore, but they, especially the writers who still have major influence, still need to be convinced. It’s always difficult to cast aside long-held beliefs and to find new perspective, especially after decades of being convinced something is superior.

The biggest barriers for many are the thoughts of current and former players on sabermetrics. They played the game for sometimes as much as 20 years. Shouldn’t they know more than anyone else? One would think that an experienced professional would know the trade inside and out, but baseball is a unique case in which there are two distinct jobs: evaluating talent and playing. The former players know how to play the game, but not necessarily evaluate it. They may know what worked for them or what worked for others they knew, but that doesn’t mean their way is the best way. That is where the people who have done hardcore research and analysis come in.

We have seen a huge influx of Wall Street GMs, and for good reason. While they are not former players, they both love baseball and can apply their statistical expertise to it. They are able to cast aside their predispositions far easier than players can.

Bill James is credited as the creator of the sabermetric movement in baseball.

This is a touchy subject, but education is an important factor as well. So many professional baseball players never went to college, and many more from foreign countries left home at 16, never even completing high school. In contrast, the analyst-types who didn’t play often have undergraduate or graduate degrees in mathematical fields, which will help them look at that data objectively. Bill James, the grandfather of sabermetrics, has a phD in statistics. Who would you rather hire to build a team, someone who both never got a college education and relies heavily on their personal experience or a highly-educated person who is able to take an objective look at things? The answer should be obvious.

Now, that’s not to say former players don’t have a place in the game, because they absolutely do. They often make great coaches and can relate to players like no other non-baseball person could. If a former player is able to combine their knowledge of the grind of a baseball season as well as knowledge of mechanics with objectivity and data interpretation, that’s even better, but it’s also uncommon. When it comes down to running a ballclub, the best person for the job is often someone who never played baseball professionally, as that combination in a player is so hard to come by.

The revolutionary figures in history are those who stood up to challenge traditions. New may not always mean better, but doing research and thoroughly examining an idea is always beneficial. Baseball is one of the few areas where new ideas are frowned upon by fans. The common “baseball card stats” were created in the 19th century, long before computers could crunch data in seconds, even before the rules of baseball were even set in stone.

I am not demanding those holdouts to “convert,” only to acknowledge that there is some validity to applying empirical evidence to baseball. As the old saying goes, you never know until you try it.

About Connor O'Brien 312 Articles
Connor O'Brien is a second-year economics student in the Rutgers University Honors College, a lifelong Mets fan, and an editor here at MetsMerized Online. He embraces a sabermetric point of view in his articles, but doesn't believe this conflicts with scouting or player development. Follow him on Twitter @connor_obrien97
  • Big Daddy D

    All I can say is that I miss my Strat-O-Matic games from the 1980’s.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    This article was brought to you by Moneyball. Moneyball, Bringing championship to teams since 20…. Ohhhh, wait…

  • NYHB

    This is a well-written article. I agree with what you’ve said. However, I don’t think you’re going to sway anyone. The idea of advanced statistics has been relevant to the Mets in a mainstream way since 2011. If Mets fans and writers (those reading this blog) have not accepted the merits of these statistics by now, they will not be moved by an additional article.

    If acceptance of advanced metrics ever happens for these fans, it will be on their own terms and at their own pace. They will have to want to learn about them, and not be inundated with them. So, while I enjoyed the piece you wrote, it was mostly due to the fact that I’m a proponent of sabermetrics already.

  • Martin

    the red sox are a very serious advanced stats team.

  • Steven

    Sabre metrics are only a part of moneyball the main part is using those stats to find low cost low valued players for small market teams and the Red Sox payroll is one of the highest.

  • El_Verdadero_Presidente

    The new metrics expose patterns hidden beneath the surface, and that’s a good thing. It produces a learning curve that can be exploited by those pushing the envelope.

    Where I believe you can go wrong is trying to alter the behavior and mechanics of established players. Can you get improved results by rewarding BpO from childhood on? Maybe. But IMO you run a very real risk when you try to get a 28-year-old professional athlete to think and act like a statistician.

  • Martin

    i know, alex doesnt know the difference. and to be fair, even large mrket teams want to maximize ROI, which is why the yankees let cano walk.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Yeah?? Should we check their payroll for the last say, 15 years or so?? people keep saying that, yet, i don’t see them low balling players and trying to shop at the 99 cent aisle like the mets do..
    If they need to acquire a contract they do, like they did last year with Peavy to put them over the top. Teams like Oakland and the Rays who moneyball, they win, good for them, but they don’t go the xtra mile to acquire that player that’ll help them win championships, those teams are content with making the playoffs if that, they are not about winning championships… well, they’re not even about winning playoffs series since the A’s have won ONE since 1999, the METS alone got 4 playoffs series win… go figure

  • Connor O’Brien

    Sabermetrics, not moneyball…

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    yeah, the $240 million had little to do with the yankees letting Cano walk.. you’re right, it was sabermetrics…

  • Man why can’t some separate “Moneyball” from saber metrics from OBP.

    While they may all have a role with each other they aren’t different words for the same thing.

  • Which is why they get confused about OBP.

    Moneyball most likely would have nothing to do with strict OBP anymore as it isn’t undervalued anymore. Because of teams like the Yanks and Red Sox, OBP is a very known commodity that all teams are hunting for.

    Moneyball now might be durable RH pitchers.
    Or perhaps platoon OF with speed and pop…

    If we knew then chances are it wouldn’t be Moneyball.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Don’t they use a ton of sabermetrics to evaluate a cheap player? see how he can fit into the lineup? you know, the scott hatterberg effect?

  • NewYorkMammoths

    I’ll see your Ralph Waldo Emerson and raise you Walt Whitman:

    “I like your interest in sports ball, chiefest of all base-ball particularly: base-ball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character. Sports take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen generate some of the brutal customs (so-called brutal customs) which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race. We want to go out and howl, swear, run, jump, wrestle, even fight, if only by so doing we may improve the guts of the people: the guts, vile as guts are, divine as guts are!”

  • Martin

    roi means return on investment. the investment is the 240 million. i dont understand your crazy ass point.

  • oleosmirf

    Maybe if you educated yourself on what sabermetrics is, you would stop saying ridiculous things like that.

    Why don’t you just learn about it already and stop criticizing things you don’t even know the first thing about?

  • Martin

    you are obviously correct. money ball is exploiting market inefficiencies.

    but i think obp is still undervalued, given its correlation with runs scored.

    also i think defense is hugely overvalued because defensive talent is not very scarce relative to offensive talent. i will hope some smart people write more books about this so i can sort it out.

  • $14435385

    Funny, I just re-read “Nature” last week after visiting Walden Pond & the replica of Thoreau’s cabin…an unexpected treat to find it referenced here on Metsmerized. Nicely done, Connor.

  • Connor O’Brien

    No. Moneyball is finding undervalued talent. The way teams do that is up to them. They could use RBI or wRC+.

    Sabermetrics is advanced baseball statistics.

    They are very different.

  • donobrien

    Hi Conner, I just wrote a long post and it disappeared. Here goes again, in brief.

    Love your starting with an Emerson quote. Thought they were your words at first and got worried. Ralph Waldo was an interesting guy, but history shows that some of his views were a crock. It was the passion for change, change, change, and chucking out tradition that led to the horrors of the 20th century. But that’s for another time and place.

    I haven’t yet studied sabermetrics [I will soon] but I know some are probably misusing it on this board to reach rediculous conclusions, such as EYJ is better than D. Murphy based on tWar, OWar, or some such. But for many, mathematical algorithms that mix disparate skills and rate players performance don’t have the appeal of “flesh and blood” stats like RBI, SLG, OBP, OPS, steals and CS.

    Many people who never saw war study tactics and strategy, and may even teach at the War College. But the men who commanded battalions and regiments have an experience that students of war will never have. Ideally, those officers who combine battle experience and theory have an advantage.

  • While it may be undervalued by fans, I highly doubt it is by front offices.

  • Connor O’Brien

    Sabermetrics has been a big part of most WS winners the past ten years.

  • Connor O’Brien

    They are on to bigger and better stats now

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Sigh….

  • Taskmaster4450

    Connor schooling Alex once again.

  • mattbalasis

    Hi Conner,
    There is a national rift among baseball circles between fans who ascribe to sabermetrics and fans who believe themselves traditionalists, but the irony in their divide is that no such rift exists in baseball circles among insiders. Teams use both scouting and advanced metrics to assess players. Do some teams rely on advanced metrics more than others? Sure, but at the same time there isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t use detailed scouting reports.
    There is an additional “winkle” to our debate that has a distinct local flavor. A lot of the attacks on sabermetrics on Mets message boards (I’m convinced) come from Yankee fans who like to slam the Mets and look for reasons to do so … I think many of them are legitimately nervous at the prospect that the Mets are doing some thing different, something that might actually turn their fortunes (even though in all likelihood the Yankees are probably using the very same metrics!). The vitriol with which these attacks occur on the Mets advanced stat approach goes beyond any rational motivation.

  • Sylow59

    “The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances and demonstrations for impressions.” -John Ruskin

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Moneyball is a fictituous movie.. that’s what moneyball is.. and if you think that moneyball has no corelation whatsoever with Sabermetrics, i suggest you think again SL..

    Moneyball basically describe by the moneyballers:
    Its focus is the team’s analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team.

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    SABR……………..BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH
    MONEY BALL….BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH

    My problem with SABR is the dolts that attempt to use advanced stats in order to attempt to tell me that some POS player is ACTUALLY a good player. Even though its plain as day said player is a POS garbage.

    Oh and the SABR-Nuts that tried to tell me that WAR is a viable stat then when I point out the many flaws and different formulas used by many publications they tell me in the same breathe its still a work in progress and has its flaws.

    Sometimes when you break something down to its lowest form it becomes something different.

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    I love having baseball conversations because its fun talking baseball, but when the SABR GEEK gets involved the convo goes south.

    SABR NUTS will tell you Josh Donald had a better season last year than Miggy Cabrera AND Chris Davis lol

    SABR makes baseball boring because it EXCLUDES or doesnt account for so many parts of the game that we love.

    And stop attempting to make a stat for defense it is utterly IMPOSSIBLE you cannot measure that statistically it is a fools errand, which I suppose is why SABR FOOLS continue to try. 😉

  • El_Verdadero_Presidente

    Whitman kind of creeps me out, though. Every time I read about him nursing injured 18-year-olds during the Civil War I get nervous.

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    Who would you rather hire to build a team, someone who both never got a college education and relies heavily on their personal experience or a highly-educated person who is able to take an objective look at things? The answer should be obvious.

    WOW! That was POMPOUS and very disrespectful.

    -We’ve had NINE US Presidents(Abraham Lincoln being one of them) who didnt go to college who RAN A COUNTRY let alone a baseball team.
    -John D. Rockefeller dropped out of Highschool
    -Michael Faraday
    -Bill Gates
    -Gregor Mendel
    -Steve Jobs
    -William Herschel

    Last but not least(there are MANY MORE)
    -Srinivasa Ramanujan – One of the GREATEST MATH GENIUSES ever on this planet….Bill James or any SABR contemporary couldnt hold a candle to this man, he was inventing Math theorems.

    Something you should know my friend is–you DONT need college or highschool to learn ANYTHING. The only thing those institutions provide is STRUCTURE with a lesson plan…Real geniuses more often than not take a different path.

    There are men that have went to jail completely illiterate and come out smart as a whip because they stuck their head in books and didnt need a classroom setting or a piece of paper acknowledging that they graduated from a Think Factory that gives everyone the same lesson plan.

    Are they still teaching that columbus discovered America in highschools??? lol, curious…One of the Many lies taught to children.

    Just saying…………….

  • WilponsNeed2Go

    Baseball has been a statistics driven game since Chadwick invented the box score. Which occurred in 1859 btw.

  • NYHB

    Do you have any examples with links from any of the statements you’ve made here? Because, as it is, this post is simply negative fluff.

  • Great article but there are a couple of challenges that will prevent advanced stats from coming more to the forefront. One, they are relatively new and many of us got through our first 20-40 years of fandom without giving them a thought. Many prefer to enjoy the game through the same lens that they are used to, however limited. Two, people are intimidated by math. As a former math teacher (a lifetime ago), I can seriously attest to this. I do a ‘math job’ which people think is much more impressive than it actually is, because it’s math. I think the tide will turn some day as our younger fans that are reared on sights like fangraphs.com become our older and more stubborn fans of the future.

  • Connor O’Brien

    Of course you dont. There are many exceptions but who tends to be able to analyze data? Those who have studied it or those who havent?

  • Connor O’Brien

    The philosophy of finding undervalued talent (whether its called moneyball or not) is different than advanced statistics

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,

    I understand exactly where you are coming from. I come from a generation back from the sixties that indeed challenged in a MAJOR way mostly all forms of the established wisdom.

    So recognize that you are not alone. Just as you are expanding your understanding of things during your high school and college years – and doing the ABSOLUTELY CORRECT THING by questioning that in which you have been taught and making up your own mind what to believe in, follow or change – so did we all. And it should NEVER STOP when being young. If more “adults” questioned authority today then a lot of the ills in this world would at least be addressed more in the open and challenged more.

    But getting back to so many of my generation – our rebellion then and way we try to view things today was shaped by circumstances surrounding us at that time. We saw people, families and part of a continent destroyed by a war that evolved from nothing more than a one-sided view of the world and of our own economic and political self-interests. We wanted to put an end to the atrocities of racism. We saw people starving in America.

    So we know quite well about people from the outside actually knowing better than people from the inside. And because of what we went through, many of us are aware of the shortcomings of getting older – that we all tend to hold on to our own established values and instincts and are less open to new ideas – you will find this in yourself as well.

    So Connor, when it comes to what you say about sabermetrics, believe me, many of did not simply just brush aside the points you made and said we know better. As far as myself, you’ve no doubt seen my arguments (at least I hope so, I would hate to think you didn’t after all the trouble I went through LOL) which included academic studies that demonstrated why statistical correlation could not simply imply a causation and how stats could easily be calculated to justify a certain point (as we saw with Marcum). I won’t go through the many times I pointed out the many questions that the statistical conclusions failed to answer because they couldn’t.

    That is not to say the advanced stats are not good for reference and preparation and definitely not good for fans to argue which player is better if it’s stats they use to make such a stance.

    But realize, for many of us, it’s not a matter of traditional stats versus advanced stats as it is in this case the questioning of conventional wisdom when it comes to trying to re-inventing the game or re-writing it’s past. For example, did Sandy Alderson “discover” the importance of just getting on base? Absolutely not. He just came to understand an aspect of the game those who play it understood and appreciated all along.

    And in basing the course of future action based on the “probabilities” derived, one does not recognize that the statistics compiled and the analytical conclusions from them – superficial as they could be – are based on prior performances. Baseball is a game that is always evolving in the way it is approached and using them to “invent” new ways of playing the game, like “forcing” more walks or “hunting” for one’s pitch by taking more first strike corner pitches has only resulted in pitchers adapting to that new strategy and exploiting it to their advantage.
    So my problem is not sabermetrics as a way of replacing traditional stats – it is in the use of them questioning the traditional wisdom of how the game is played and how personnel moves are made. You see, Connor, there was also a very hard lesson we had to learn by our zeal with questioning conventional wisdom so much that we were unable to see that in our young age, we were becoming exactly like those we were questioning – that we knew better.

    That is why we would have also made comments like this at that time which later on we understand it was a question of our us also putting down of others who didn’t see things the way we did.

    “Now, that’s not to say former players don’t have a place in the game, because they absolutely do. They often make great coaches and can relate to players like no other non-baseball person could. However, when it comes down to running a ballclub, the best person for the job is often someone who never played baseball professionally, as crazy as that may sound to some.”

    Connor, I don’t think you recognize how demeaning that is to those who have spent a lifetime in the game and have been successful in it’s understanding. I would have loved for Ralph Kiner to have been our general manager than Sandy Alderson in terms of running baseball matters. In addition, that type of attitude is wrong, not just in baseball, but in any profession.

  • Sylow59

    “So my problem is not sabermetrics as a way of replacing traditional stats – it is in the use of them questioning the traditional wisdom of how the game is played and how personnel moves are made. ”

    you’re kidding, right?

  • CJM

    This is a great post because you mention Ramanujan, who happens to be my favorite mathematician. It is also a great display of red herrings.

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,
    So has talent and knowing what to do at the moment by assessing the pitcher, the batter, the situation, the playing conditions and all those little “games within a game” I mentioned before that wins ball games during the course of a 162 game season. Probabilities on a spreadsheet mean nothing – probabilities based upon an assessment of who and what at the moment do.
    Do you want to also believe that when it comes to playing the game, the best ones telling them how to play also comes from those who never did – while agreeing that those who did still do have their place in the game somewhere.

    Please think it over, Connor. Can’t you see yourself making the same mistakes you are pointing out to others regarding old traditional wisdom – being unopen to questioning the limits of your own non-traditionall wisdom simply because it is new?

  • Matlack

    This debate is like a debate over religion or politics. Rare is the individual who will look honestly at both sides and reach an objective conclusion.

  • NYHB

    What the hell are you talking about?

  • Sylow59

    “So has talent and knowing what to do at the moment by
    assessing the pitcher, the batter, the situation, the playing conditions and all those little “games within a game” I mentioned before that wins ball games during the course of a 162 game season”

    Do the newer stats measure this? No, but they are much
    better at determining what players produce wins over a 162 game season (hence are likely doing what you wrote) than do the baseball card stats or simple observation.

  • Joey D.

    Hi Sylow59,

    As I mentioned, my issue is not the debate over traditional stats versus new advanced stats in debating who is a better player or giving a better overall indication of one’s achievements in the game. If anything, I would take sides with Connor about the stats being a better profile.

    However, it’s the inference that understanding the stats can make one who has not played the game at it’s highest level or does not have the experience of being directly involved in it at the highest level (scout, etc.) can thus become better qualified to run it than those who have a high understanding of the game by experience – that is going too far, for if one looks into the auto industry when those who knew how to run a business but not what it took to make an automobile took over as CEOs and thus the corporations began going down because their weren’t “car” people running the show.

  • Sylow59

    Extending that theory Babe Ruth would have been a great manager, Ted William a great hitting coach, and Earl Weaver would have never finished out of the basement.

    Consider this:

    Who would you rather design a bridge?

    A) The construction workers that actually put it together

    B) Engineers who have never driven a cement truck

    What Connor is saying is that the vast majority of players do not understand the drivers of production whereas the SABER GEEKS have a much better understanding of what produces runs for a team over the course of a 162 game season. Producing and measuring production are very, very different. Remeber, this is baseball. A regular sees 2,000+ pitches a year. That’s a lot of Bernoulli trials.

  • Connor O’Brien

    You do realize that the reason we analyze things carefully to make sure we aren’t wrong.
    What you’re saying is that we should never do that. We should just stick with what has always been the definition of a good player, when the reality is that the data shows otherwise.
    You say that sabermetrics proves a bad player is good, but the empirical evidence shows that it isn’t “clear as day.”
    I find it odd that people throw out sabermetrics as a whole. I know for a fact that you haven’t done any hardcore research into the validity of every sabermetric stat out there, because if you did, you are bound to find something intriguing or interesting.
    But, because it’s different than what you believe in, or at least that’s what you’ve heard, every last thing that falls under that umbrella is complete garbage…

  • Connor O’Brien

    But they’ve never used good statistics, at least not ones for determining how good an individual player is.

  • Connor O’Brien

    Yeah, it’s too bad sabermetric-heavy teams have succeeded right?

  • Eyeball

    I’m all sorts of bothered by the assumptions and generalizations in this article. Since I have nothing nice to say, I won’t.

  • Connor O’Brien

    If you read my phrasing of things, I assume and generalize very little actually.

  • Martin

    you just said something. something vague and negative without any productive criticism.

  • Martin

    ops+ is park normalized. use that, problem solved.

  • Martin

    all the people you mentioned are highly educated. bill gates reads more books than every old school scout. all the guys you mentioned are agressively curious individuals that read books.

    the old school baseball guys dont read. reading is overwhelmingly the key to education. most of the guys here that care aboout pitching wins or grity players or cluch perrformances have not made an effort to learn about the game. they should read more.

  • Joey D.

    But Sylow59,

    You must remember your history a bit.

    Babe Ruth was not given the chance to be a manager not because anyone questioned his understanding of the game but because he had infuriated ownership, management and even the commissioner with his total irresponsibility not just off the field but on it which included being drunk during games, disobeying his managers, ignoring team curfews, not showing up on time, etc. which caused them to believe he would be too irresponsible to be managing a team (even though he said he had changed his habits) and sadly, had the Babe literally ignored upon his retirement from the game.

    As far as Ted Williams being a hitting coach, his book on the art of hitting is one of the most respected journals on the subject in the game today. In addition, one of the successes he had as manager of the Washington Senators beginning in 1969 was turning the late Eddie Brinkman – a great fielding shortstop who had never hit above .229 in his prior six full years in the majors and had hit .188/.187 the prior two seasons before Williams came aboard – into a .266 and .262 hitter his last two years with the Nats.

    Now, please remember I specifically talked in terms of individuals who had acquired a thorough understanding of the game – which clearly meant not just any type player. We know how Lastings Milledge was not a “smart” player. There are many who had the talent but were undone not by their ability but by their lack of understanding.

    It was also cited that besides the ones who excelled at the game, thee wee those who didn’t but had a top understanding of baseball by either playing it or simply being around it all their lives. Earl Weaver, Tommy Lasorda and Walter Alston are just a few examples of that, along with Branch Rickey from an earlier time. So are many of the general managers who never quite had the talent but the observant skill to understand the game and all it’s little nuances. The bottom line is that with all these individuals,baseball was their life.

    So let us now take two examples of “educated” players against top “educated” sabers talking the same subject area to compare how deep their understand might parallel each other.

    The Educated Saber – Sandy Alderson:

    When Sandy was in the television booth, Ike Davis was at bat and struggling. Gary Cohen asked Sandy what he saw wrong with Ike’s mechanics. Sandy said he wasn’t a player but only an observer so that he couldn’t offer an opinion.

    The Educated Hitter – Ralph Kiner:

    During a spring training game in 2012, Jason Bay had just homered so Gary Cohen mentioned it seemed he had found his stride again. Ralph Kiner said no, explaining he saw something wrong with Bay’s wrist action which was causing him to swing with no authority. That despite the home run he just hit, he was mostly going to wind up with base hits via soft line drives or grounders up the middle or lifting soft fly balls to the outfield. Ralph was right.

    The Educated Saber – Brian Kenny:

    Kenny brought up the fact that one with a low batting average but a high OBP should bat lead off instead of at the bottom of the order for it’s obvious his getting on base more often would produce runs and that his OBP should be looked at and not his batting average. Kenny cited a specific player.

    The Educated Player/Manager – Larry Bowa:

    In response to that, Bowa said that if leading off, that batter would be pitched to much differently. Batting eighth, he was being pitched around to quite often which resulted in the large amount of walks he accumulated and his high OBP. Pitchers would come after him more if he was batting on the top of the order. This would result in his walks going down while remaining the poor hitter he was. He also pointed out to Kenny that the batter in question had always batted eighth when in the minors – something Kenny admitted he didn’t know.

    With that in mind, who seems to have the inside edge of the the higher level details about the game, the educated career baseball person or the educated saber? Who would be more qualified to run things?

  • Connor O’Brien

    OPS isn’t really something more than a general stat that you first look at, not something you make decisions over.

    Oh and any league or park adjusted stat fixes that problem.

  • Connor O’Brien

    This is all game strategy. In the article, I’m solely talking about building a team as a general manager.

    Sure, Bowa or Kiner may make good coaches, working with the players on day-to-day mechanical issues, but the other type of people you mention may be more qualified.

    Kiner may be able to tell if a hitter’s swing is off one week, but can he gather and interpret large sets of data in complex ways to quantify trends he either can’t see or can’t quantify? And if they contradict his previously held belief, will he even believe the data? I don’t know Ralph Kiner, of course. Since I’ve been watching Mets baseball, he’s only been a guest infrequently and mostly tells stories of his career.

  • Connor O’Brien

    “the best ones telling them how to play”

    No. The ones building the teams, not telling them how to play.

    “Probabilities on a spreadsheet mean nothing – probabilities based upon an assessment of who and what at the moment do.”

    The notion of a spreadsheet scares people away I guess lol. Say you’re down 2-1 in the sixth inning with a runner on second, just as an example. The odds are better to let the hitter (when he isn’t a pitcher) swing away, or take whatever normal strategy he would against that pitcher. What would make it different? If you’re more likely to score by allowing the hitter to hit away, why wouldn’t you do it? Because tradition says you should do that.

    But anyway, this is about the building of a club. Former players as coaches is fine, but very often, they don’t have an objective perspective when building clubs.

  • Connor O’Brien

    Hey Joey, thanks for the response. Of course I read your posts!

    I’ll address some of your points below…

    “academic studies that demonstrated why statistical correlation could not simply imply a causation”

    You have shown this on numerous occasions. However, as much as anti-sabermetric people try to discredit wOBA or OBP with the fact that correlation does not equal causation, that does not mean that there is never causation with things that correlate. It’s safe to say there is in this case, as both the data and logic point towards the same thing.

    “For example, did Sandy Alderson “discover” the importance of just getting on base? Absolutely not. He just came to understand an aspect of the game those who play it understood and appreciated all along.”

    Whether they respected the idea or not, they certainly didn’t utilize it in the way that they should. Of course they thought it was important, but it’s the actions they took that shows they didn’t care enough about it to do anything. (Really, it’s a balance of quality hits with frequency of getting on base, not one or the other, that makes the best hitting teams.)

    “it is in the use of them questioning the traditional wisdom of how the game is played and how personnel moves are made”

    I assume you mean the argument against sacrifice bunting? If teams tend to score more runs without them, why keep them? It doesn’t matter who is saying the fact if it is a relevant fact that proves something.

    “Connor, I don’t think you recognize how demeaning that is to those who have spent a lifetime in the game and have been successful in it’s understanding. I would have loved for Ralph Kiner to have been our general manager than Sandy Alderson in terms of running baseball matters.”

    It doesn’t matter to me whether players think they should be in charge or not. Whether they think it’s demeaning is frankly not something I really care about (and it’s just my opinion, and I’m sure people have said far more demeaning things to them at some point). I think someone with an Alderson type background with the ability to utilize the expansive technology we have developed would be more effective at building a team and an effectively run organization than Kiner.

    Don’t get me wrong, Kiner would be a better coach than Alderson, but not better at utilizing the massive amounts of data we have now. He’d probably be fine with the scouting side, but he would be missing a huge part of the job. That’s not meant to offend him as I have a tremendous respect for him. I would just rather pick the guy who can analyze and quantify trends and figure out how to respond to those trends.

    “In addition, that type of attitude is wrong, not just in baseball, but in any profession.”

    Baseball is a unique profession where some of the typical rules don’t translate. What’s the equivalent of player in a bank versus a stats guy in a bank? Maybe a Willy Loman type versus an analyst?

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,

    Isn’t the premise with money ball is to use what is found with sabermetrics to then find the least expensive talent that the analysis says could do the job that could help make the team a winner? Without the sabermetrics, there could be no moneyball.

    That is not to say that without money ball, of course, there is no sabermetrics. But I think that is the point Alex is trying to make. The clubs trying to find talent on shoestring budgets appear to be relying a lot on sabermetrics – however, even with that we do not really know the extent. Is it more reference than it is for programming? Is it more for evaluating comparison trends in progress of minor leaguers and if so, how much of it is still balanced against empirical knowledge?

    You see, we know clubs employee the use of these statistics but to what extent and with how much emphasis we do not know. Sabermetrics has been way over-hyped and distorted and it’s just not Alex who is making that point. Part of the premise of the 2002 Oakland A’s is not just about the “money ball” aspect. What was also being distorted into myth was how the team was going to compensate itself for the loss of the league’s MVP and Johnny Damon – made worse by the fact they could not not simply go out and buy their replacements.

    What is wrong with attributing the use of sabermetrics to the success of that 2002 team was the returning of that dominating pitching staff and the majority of the position players that made them successful. In 2001 they had the best pitching and one of the top run scoring teams in the league. With the pitching in tact and so many other players returning (because they were still under team control) the loss of those two bats only meant they would not outscore their opponents by well over 200 runs. The replacements he got were not major factors in 2002 as they were supporting players. There were few moves Beane had to make nor major changes in the way Oakland had to play – they were still scoring more than enough runs to support that dominating pitching and did not need to re-think their offense

    So with Oakland’s 2002 dependency on sabermetrics being over-exaggerated, the same with Sandy being credited as the architect of those earlier Oakland clubs with no professional knowledge of the game on it’s highest level and even Fangraphs last season using certain stats to make a case that Met fielders were responsible for Shaun Marcum’s record being so bad, one can understand why Alex, myself and others take such a limited view on advanced statistics in the manner of use that you are presenting it.

  • XtreemIcon

    “Moneyball is a fictituous movie.. that’s what moneyball is..”

    You are 1000% percent right, and that’s the prevailing theme that people on both sides don’t understand.

  • Sylow59

    I’m away until Monday. I’ll track you down then with a more detailed response. But

    please remember your history a bit. There were very large changes from the mid-60s to 1969. The Senators had a large increase in neutralized team offense from 1968 to 1969. But by 1971 or 72 the Senators offense dropped by 40%. Also those horrible BAs by Brinkman were under Gil Hodges, a pretty good hitter.

    Also try to remember that the job of a GM differs from a coach or color commentator. And writing a book is different than being an actual coach.

    Regarding Denny vs. Bowa: it’s a hypothetical situation and Bowa assumed facts not in evidence and ignored an awful lot of other factors. I looked up Tejada 2011. His OPS batting 8th and 2nd were nearly identical. His sample size leading off was small. I’d like to see a study on this. It has to be within the same season and against the same handed pitcher.

    Now here’s some history for you. Teams, including the Red Sox, avoided playing LH pitchers and LH batters because they thought Fenway heavily favored right handers because of The Wall. Well that’s not the case. Fenway favors left handers. This was proven by Bill James (who never played the game) back in the 1980s. Also, Davey Johnson has a Masters in mathematics. All those times he used HoJo or Mitchell at SS were due to his statistical research. Remember, Johnson played under Weaver, who kept detailed books on every player. Both used analytic methods that other teams did not. Johnsons was pretty advanced for the time.

    And my choice of Ruth was a quick grab of a name. I could have done better. But in general great players make poor managers as a rule (finding 1 or 2 counterexamples does not disprove this btw). You can’t teach 20/15 vision for example. Talent is key to a good player. That can’t be taught, it can be tweaked – but it needs to be there to begin with. The job of the GM is to determine, through a variety of sources (SABER types, scouts, …), who has talent, what it’s worth, and how it fits into the overall plan. The new stats help this process. Not using them is putting your team at a big disadvantage, like not having scouts.

  • Sylow59

    Also, I see you haven’t responded to my bridge question.

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,

    It’s a shame you do not know Ralph Kiner better for you would then understand he is a baseball genius. And remember what I mentioned before, as much as us “older” people can fall into the trap of not being open to new ideas, from personal experience I can tell you that younger people can also fall into the trap of not being open to old ideas.

    One idea that we do disagree on is not the need to always having to quantify but rather the belief that this can be done with stats instead of other more viable methods. Compiling data does not give one the answers you believe it does. Remember those articles by the academic world explaining in deep detail why statistical correlation does not imply causation, i.e., data does not quantify?

    Why not look into this aspect first, since it is the foundation of which a case could be made pro or con for validity of sabermetrics as a concept in the manner you speak about it. We can then take that to the next level and talk about how scientifically sound the premise is that the analytical study of stats in itself can reveal a world of more understanding for those who not considered “experts” in their fields.

    That’s a friendly debate we can have my friend. You up for it? Here’s a start.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/10/correlation_does_not_imply_causation_how_the_internet_fell_in_love_with_a_stats_class_clich_.html

    My own take of the analytical study of stats is that it could serve as an indicator for someone more astute to evaluate further. I have a friend who is an x-ray technician. When he reads an x-ray he can tell when there is trouble, even a general idea of how serious the prognosis is, and can alert the doctor to that. However, he cannot determine the exact nature of the prognosis nor what it means in conjunction to other tests and the patient’s overall condition and past history. That is for the specialist with the expertise to determine.

    To me, that could be the extent of the saber statistician – to point out something to one with the proper baseball knowledge to understand whether or not it could be a sign of something he might have missed, was already aware of or doesn’t mean anything at all because it is based on just too much data. That means not putting that individual in charge to run things – only to assist those qualified to runs things.

    What are you thoughts about that Connor? Can you see where I’m coming from?

  • Joey D.

    Again, the point about nothing new being discovered.

    I have stated this many times before (go through my profile to see this) that as a teenager in the late sixties I already understood that Fenway Park was actually a disadvantage to those who hit to left field and did not need Bill James to explain that to me.

    I knew all about the left fielder having to play further into the infield because the wall itself was so close that balls hit over his head were going to bounce off the wall so there was no need to play close to the warning track which would be the normal distance in other parks. This allows him to catch up with sinking liners and texas leaguers that would otherwise fall in. It also prevents base runners from taking an extra base because the left fielder is so on top of the play a long throw is not necessary. For every Bucky Dent home run there are also hard hit line drives that are prevented from going out due to the height of the wall. We saw that last Fall when what would have usually been a grand slam home run turned into a single driving in just one run because it was hit so hard and the bounce was played perfectly by the left fielder.

    So if I understood this, certainly the players did. They did not need Bill James to suddenly open their eyes up to a startling new revelation.

    Davey used that computer for reference instead of relying upon his own memory. He already knew what moves he could do and based his final decision on the profiles of the players he had available or was working with at the moment. He did not wait until he got the information to determine what his options were. He already knew what his options were and which ones he preferred over others – he was relying on the computer to provide him the information to make up his mind – not to give him the probabilities and make up his mind for him.

    And he used HoJo and Mitchell at short because he knew they could play the position.

    And everyone kept a “book” on opposing players. Pitchers and catchers had a pre-game ritual going over that information for a century already.

    If it was hypothetical with Kenny, then in that case he needed to come across as if he was posing a question for discussion instead of advocating that the player he was citing (forgot who) be inserted in the lead off spot. In that segment the reason he brought it up was because Tampa Bay had done it with one of their own players and he was advocating the use of this by other teams looking at OBP in determining who should hit first.

    Again, this is one of the roots of our disagreement – and let us both keep it friendly. Sabermetrics does not bring out revelations unknown or not not fully appreciated by those who play or understand the game – at least not those who aren’t as I think Eddie Stanky once described as “dead from the neck up”.

    Brinkman’s batting average sunk once he was traded to Detroit. And each year Washington had slowly improved under Gil.

  • Sylow59

    I’m not sure why you keep bringing up correlation is not causation. Everyone that had an upper level college course in mathematical statistic, actually even in a course like quantitative methods in psychology, knows that. It’s pretty much beaten into you. And it’s been known since the beginning of correlation analysis. It’s not some new fangled discovery.

    Correlation measures how strongly the variables are related. It is a predictive measure, not one that has ever sought to explain cause. Sabermetrics seeks to predict outcomes with a large degree of certainty.

    If two variables have a very high (positive or negative) correlation then one can be used to predict the other.

    OPS and runs scored have a correlation well north of .900. As such increasing OPS will very likely increase runs. Duh, you say? Well that one is pretty duh.

    OBP in isolation has a correlation near .900. People ignored it until useless nerds figured it out. What does this mean? Well OBP was undervalued and was cheap. Hence the term Moneyball. Now that every team is aware of this OBP is properly priced. Think about it as you’re the first to find an arbitrage situation. You make a ton of free money. Then the market corrects and it’s now properly priced, hence no more free or low priced money.

    Here’s another one: the correlation between SB and runs scored is just about zero. One can’t be used to predict the other. Hence increasing SB does not increase runs scored. That’s the math. I don’t really care what you see because it’s wrong.

    And btw try being less insulting in the future.

  • Eyeball

    I read this on my phone, and admittedly for me, that format tends to make me skim articles a bit more than on a larger screen (or God forbid, paper). I saw a lot of points that, well, aggravated me. I started a post, but decided to zip it until I had a chance to re-read the article.

    “We have seen a huge influx of Wall Street GMs” & “While they are not former players, they both love baseball and can apply their statistical expertise to it. They are able to cast aside their predispositions far easier than players can.”

    Who are they? I decided to look through the profiles of all the GMs and most are either former MLB or MiLB players or guys who were long-time scouts/player development people who worked their way up the ladder. Most of the other guys who haven’t had that kind of experience actually played baseball collegiately. It’s not as if teams are bringing in investment banker ‘super fans’ or stat crunchers to run the show – nearly all of them have some kind of legitimate baseball background.

    “So many professional baseball players never went to college, and many more from foreign countries left home at 16, never even completing high school. In contrast, the analyst-types who didn’t play often have undergraduate or graduate degrees in mathematical fields, which will help them look at that data objectively. Bill James, the grandfather of sabermetrics, has a PhD in statistics. Who would you rather hire to build a team, someone who both never got a college education and relies heavily on their personal experience or a highly-educated person who is able to take an objective look at things? The answer should be obvious.”

    This is the old Experience vs Education argument. IMO, solid experience ALWAYS trumps solid education. BadBadLeroyBrown kindly posted a list of notable individuals who have achieved great levels of success without a college education. It’s incredibly pompous to think that somebody is more qualified to run a business simply because he/she graduated from college. It also seems very close-minded to presume all ‘old school’ guys are close-minded themselves.

    Most of the rest of the article basically assumes former players are incapable of understanding advanced stats/metrics. Hello? I’m sure the name Billy Beane rings a bell. All players have had to negotiate a contract at some point and I’m sure they’ve found a million different ways to view statistics in order to sell themselves to management, so they are probably better equipped to understand what numbers actually are useful and what’s foo. I would think that a former player armed with solid information would be able to make a more informed choice than someone judging solely by numbers without real world interpretation.

    Personally, I’m an old-school baseball fan, but I’ve always been a numbers guy. I don’t see why former players cannot be as well.

  • Sylow59

    You really are missing the point. And I like how you make things up to prove your point. Mitchell could barely play LE so how did Johnson “know” he could play SS? and if he could play SS they why wasn’t he the full time SS?

    Johnson has a Masters in mathematics. Have you ever had a course in theoretical / abstract mathematics? After you’ve had a few dozen of them you do not simply go by what you see and use a computer to store data. There is a rigor in proof courses. That’s why mathematics works. Once a theorem is correctly proven it can never be wrong. Once you’ve proven the “obvious” wrong a few hundred times you tend to not hand wave when you have the ability to properly analyze the data. So the notion that Johnson used the computer as nothing more than storage (and why would he be storing data if he already knew the answer?) is just silly.

    And lefties hit well in Fenway because pitchers would pitch them inside (their wheelhouse) and on outside pitches they’d bloop it off the wall. It has nothing to do with right its getting robbed of HRs because of the Wall. Further righties tended to change their approach to hitting to take advantage of the wall, which for the most part translated poorly on the road. Also (sorry for rambling but I’m on my phone), opposing teams would skip LHP, including the good (read: not great) ones, in favor of a AAAA RHP. Hence a platoon advantage for lefty batters. Now if you knew this in the 60s why did baseball not change things until the 80s? Most of James’ data came from the 60s and 70s. So apparently you, as a teenager, knew more than the entire American League. Nothing personal but I find that difficult to believe.

  • Connor O’Brien

    More often than not, the players from the 70s and 80s that are working for baseball teams now don’t. Of course there are exceptions. I don’t understand why that’s an issue. I don’t say there aren’t any players who can’t do this. The point that readers should have gotten out of it was that a GM needs to be able to be able to utilize the copious resources around them and look at the game objectively. If that’s a player, so be it, but it’s more often the non-players for which that is the case.

    The quoted paragraph comes off too harsh (I was writing it at two in the morning) but if a player can combine both their experiences as a player with objectiveness/data interpretation abilities, the more power to them.

  • Connor O’Brien

    You never miss out on an opportunity to call me pompous and disrespectful do you?

    I did write it at two in the morning, so my wording was of course not great. Here is what it reads now:

    This is a touchy subject, but education is an important factor as well. So many professional baseball players never went to college, and many more from foreign countries left home at 16, never even completing high school. In contrast, the analyst-types who didn’t play often have undergraduate or graduate degrees in mathematical fields, which will help them look at that data objectively. Bill James, the grandfather of sabermetrics, has a phD in statistics. Who would you rather hire to build a team, someone who both never got a college education and relies heavily on their personal experience or a highly-educated person who is able to take an objective look at things? The answer should be obvious.
    Now, that’s not to say former players don’t have a place in the game, because they absolutely do. They often make great coaches and can relate to players like no other non-baseball person could. If a former player is able to combine their knowledge of the grind of a baseball season as well as knowledge of mechanics with objectivity and data interpretation, that’s even better, but it’s also uncommon. When it comes down to running a ballclub, the best person for the job is often someone who never played baseball professionally, as that combination in a player is so hard to come by.

  • Joey D.

    And while you are waiting for me to answer your “bridge” question, would be curious about your thoughts about a teenage kid figuring out those hitting to left field at Fenway were playing more at a disadvantage than an advantage a decade before Bill James proved this. 🙂

    That’s what I meant about nothing new being discovered.

    Your point about increased SB would not cause increased run production because there is no correlation. Well, that is again what I mean it being a statistical question and not a practical one on the field. If you recall when Sandy Koufax pitched his perfect game, the Dodgers only got one hit themselves which did not have any bearing on the one run they scored. How did they get that run? Lou Johnson walked and was sacrificed to second. He then STOLE third and scored on the wild throw. That’s all that matters, don’t you think? Otherwise, the game might have gone into extra innings and for all we know, Sandy’s effort might have gone the way of Jim Maloney’s no hitter against the Mets a few months earlier.

  • Sylow59

    Actually it’s the PhDs employed by the team and agent that do the number crunching.

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,

    Curious, why don’t former players very often have an objective perspective when building clubs? Can you “quantify” that for me? LOL

    Also, and in all seriousness (like we haven’t been?) how much of the club building is due to the general manager and how much is really run by the baseball people under them? That’s something to consider for as we know the GM is the spokesperson for the club who gets the credit for things going well – and the blame for things going wrong when often he deserves neither. Remember that article I posted many times about the corporate general manager in which owners were quoted explaining that the GM was now involved so much with the business end that most have little to do with the baseball end of things until it pertains to those business ends?

  • Sylow59

    Are you incapable of grasping that anecdotal evidence proves nothing other than “there exists a counterexample”? Remember Ruth got thrown out trying to steal thus ending the 19?? World Series.

    Did you read what I wrote about Fenway above? And if you did “figure it out” I’d like to see your work showing so. You see, what is “obvious” isn’t necessarily correct. Newtonian gravity works quite well at slow speeds. But is utterly useless at near light speed. That wasn’t “obvious” until Einstein.

    BTW, I’m very curious how you figured Fenway out as a teenager while the rest of baseball continued down the same path for decades. You see, statements involving mathematics without a proper rigorous investigation are basically just words. Sometimes they are correct. But more often they are wrong. But something that has been correctly analyzed is very likely correct(and you can even generate a confidence interval of expected results.

  • Eyeball

    It seems like you are just assuming everyone with a couple of grey hairs is automatically a relic akin to Lou Brown from Major League. I mean, how exactly can you say that they don’t?

    Frankly, I don’t know how these front offices choose their players (at least when it comes to free agents). I’m thinking anybody worth their salt probably knows who’s available, knows what room is in the budget, and is armed with some sort of statistics to validate the investment (value). What stats they use probably depends on the team and what it wants it’s identity to be.

  • Connor O’Brien

    How exactly can I say they don’t? The majority just don’t. Most former players (it seems) are anti-sabermetric anyway.

  • Eyeball

    conjecture

  • Sylow59

    Since you’ve ignored the simple bridge question it is safe to assume you’d rather use the nerd designed bridge.

    This is one of the biggest “duhs” in mathematics. Bu, please read the section regarding what it took to prove it correct. Saying “just look at it” would get you laughed out of any mathematics program on the planet.

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,

    Of the points you made, I’ll take issue with the one about not utilizing or caring enough about getting on base before Sandy Alderson brought this out.

    I’ll even use “stats” to quantify my argument. You will see that since the new strike zone and mound height came into effect in 1969 that batters have not been getting on base with any more proficiency at any one time over the other considering the proportion of the batting averages.

    When Sandy came in, it was followed by an explosion in hitting which included more getting on base via the walk because of the steroid issue. Run scoring, batting averages, home runs, extra base hits were all starting to going up – especially with Oakland. So of course, there were more batters being walked because pitchers were being more careful. Once the era of so many being juiced seemed to be a thing of the past, the ability to get on base settled into the same “statistical” consistency as before.

    And again, the past few seasons has seen a drop in getting on base other than a hit and is lower now than many times in the seventies and early eighties. Look at the walk ratio per game from many of those seasons. I can certainly see your point about players not caring enough about getting on base in the eighties – but think about that even before the steroids came onto the scene. There was a different mentality then. Players went on strike twice within five years (the second lasting just two days, fortunately). It was a lot about money and big contracts and big contracts came with home runs and hits.

    And unfortunately, I see that happening now not so much with money as it is with strikeouts being seen as no big deal. As you and I know, so much can happen with a ball put in play that is very important to avoid the strikeout. Two outs and nobody on and a ground ball to Dan Uggulia and one has a chance of still making it to first base.

    You have to remember, Connor, not caring about getting on base was something that had to do with the fans rather than the players. Believe me, I know. As a kid, I hated it when I saw my favorite player draw a walk. So many from the stands were yelling for the pitcher to throw strikes for him to hit. Fortunately, the players knew better. As said, just because the baseball record books didn’t include OBP with the player stats, that didn’t mean the players weren’t aware of the importance getting on base meant in order to win a game.

    The idea was to “take” a walk and not to “force” a walk as Bobby Ojeda would put it and it worked because it was a natural procession. That’s the only difference, not any less caring about it by the players.

  • Joey D.

    Hi Connor,

    “When it comes down to running a ballclub, the best person for the job is often someone who never played baseball professionally, as that combination in a player is so hard to come by.”

    Again Connor, would appreciate knowing how a statement like that could be “quantified”.

    I would bet that the one without the traditional baseball knowledge relies quite heavily not on his stats but on the baseball people he has working for him. Again, how would Sandy Alderson know how to make a decision on who to draft if he cannot even offer an opinion on one’s mechanics? He’s got to rely on those below him. And then how would he make decisions on which prospects to keep or possibly use as trade bait? Does he go by his stats or the projections of those below him who say this kid does not have the ability to go further up the ladder despite the numbers he’s putting up?

    There’s the thought process held by Bill James and Brian Kenny that there is no special mental toughness required to be a closer and thus any reliever can do in the ninth what he can do in earlier innings. That has been shown to not be the case, however, did Sandy go by the stats that might make one believe that when he signed Frank Francisco to be our closer when his past performances showed he did not do well in the closer role nonetheless?

    And of course, if one was going to trade Angel Pagan, was one going to trade an every day player for a relief specialist who would come in to face one or two batters and that’s it – along with a journeyman center fielder who only had one good half a season and was four years older than Angel?

    And what led him to the decision to sign Shaun Marcum? If it was just marketing then we need not go any further. But if it was based on helping the team, what did he go by? The stats he put up throughout his career and the first half of 2012 or the reports by players and scouts who said he had nothing left on his pitches when he came back from the DL later that year and the reports that his arm was just about shot?

    Those were three moves right there which many of us thought were bad decisions from the very start for the reasons I just made so I am not saying this now in hindsight. I saw them as bad moves at the time based on my limited understanding and research. Now, I am not saying make me a GM but I am saying these were things I thought were important to consider and I cannot think of valid counter-arguments to the contrary to justify the moves. Arguments, yes, but valid enough, no.

    That is what I mean about a non-baseball person who understands statistical analysis being qualified to run a baseball club. The stats are too superficial and when it comes to young, raw talent, the stats are less important than the scouting evaluation regarding one’s ability to improve on his mechanics – which Sandy says he cannot offer opinions on. Baseball people are needed for that.

  • Joey D.

    Now who is the one being insulting?

  • Martin

    i am talking about stats, you are talking about payroll. they are not the same.

  • Martin

    ops+ is park normalized. its not the same as ops

  • Martin

    fomer players are not going to be able to work the numbers like wall street guys. those guys are smarter. thats why tamba bay has the best management in the league. former players are not as smart.

  • Sylow59

    Back in June of 1987 I left grad school and took a job as an actuarial student at a massive insurance company. The there were about 15 of us. For our first two weeks we were in orientation where we were taught the history of the company and industry. We had a variety of management skill classes. And we had a number of actuaries come in and talk about their areas. One was an investment actuary who headed their computer trading area. Some of tge tenants behind CT are:

    1. The use of continuous functions to approximate a discrete process

    2. An arbitrage free environment

    3. All participants had the same tax situation, trading costs, and cost of capital. As such they can be ignored

    4. All securities are infinitely divisible meaning you can buy and sell partial shares to re balance

    5. There was always a buyer at the theoretical price.

    Without these the mathematical model was impossible. And these assumptions work in a functioning market, much like Newtonian gravity works well on Earth. But like Newtonian gravity they break down at the extremes. The crash in October of 1987 was due largely to the lack of buyers at the theoretical price. That’s when it began to spiral out of control.

    During my orientation I specifically said if there were no buyers it would break down. As it turned out I was right. But I wasn’t correct, I was lucky.

    You’re statement about Fenway was lucky in that there was no analysis behind it. It’s not a repeatable process that can be peer reviewed. Bill James was the first to perform the proper analysis, hence he proved it. Like you I did not perform the proper analysis and like you I did not have the ability to do so and like you I was lucky.

    Equating luck with a thorough analysis with the proper experiment design and controls, good data, in a rigorous documented repeatable format that can be peer reviewed is an insult. And saying that quants can do all the research but are incapable of forming decisions based on that research is an insult. Actually it is dangerous to ignore their conclusions and opinions as they know best the limitations of the data, design, results, context, and applicability.