Thursday, May 15, 2014
At the risk of relying on a buzzword, what managers are looking for is synergy; that is, ways to make one and one equal three, to make Moss and Carter—spare parts—equal an All-Star.
Oakland’s example illustrates that opportunities for a synergistic advantage can be found in unexpected places. Interaction doesn’t have to be on the field to boost a team: Oakland players reported their team chemistry to be worth a huge on-field advantage, and studies show touchy teams are bolstered by a “high-five effect.” Or, an advantage can come from the field itself.
To wit: The Athletics are the only remaining team to play in a dual-purpose stadium. They share the concrete Oakland Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders, and it shows; the field is shaped strangely, with far more foul ground than any other park. Moreover, it’s a homer-suppressing environment, with spacious dimensions and a marine climate that knocks the ball down. In other words, Oakland has the perfect environment for fly-ball pitchers to succeed: Their main worry, home runs, is mitigated, and they get extra outs because more popups are caught in play. The finishing touch? Management has surrounded these pitchers with excellent defenders in the outfield. The pitchers suit the stadium and the defenders match the pitchers.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
As much as people try to tell you otherwise, stats don’t lie. “Jack Morris would have one of the highest ERAs in the Hall of Fame” is not something up for debate as much as some would like to think otherwise. However, translating those numbers into something that predicts human behavior is damn near impossible. ESPN’s 2014 MLB preview brings us their new chemistry score. Through some simple inputs ESPN’s crack team is able to determine how much people like each other4. Not only that they’ve managed to turn compatibility into wins.
Unfortunately, part of this algorithm actually involves grading a team on racial purity. This leads to someone saying the difference in the AL West could be that “Dominican reliever Fernando Abad is the only nonwhite pitcher on the [Athletics] projected roster”, and the Dodgers will suffer because Hyun-jin Ryu and Kenley Jansen are the only people from their respective countries on the roster. Suggesting that the Dodgers would be better off if they managed to trade Ryu and Jansen for their white guy equivalents would look horribly racist 25 years ago, let alone today. However, because “it’s based on real math” there will be some people out there that take this seriously and argue the Dodgers should deal Ryu for Mike Minor.
This isn’t the last we’re going to see of this either. Baseball Prospectus suggests that we have the potential to use the new field f/x data to look into a players mental state and see if he’s depressed. This is incredibly dangerous. Being able to measure every single thing a player does means you can certainly find a smoking gun somewhere to prove whatever it is you want to, and making a leap from “this guys first step is slower” to “he’s suffering from mental illness” is hugely irresponsible. Again because it’s backed up with “evidence” people are going to take opinions like that much more seriously.
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