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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dan Szymborski: 10 Lessons I Have Learned about Creating a Projection System

How did ZiPS come about? The genesis of what later became ZiPS stems from conversations I had over AOL Instant Messenger, with Mets fan, SABR social gadfly, and pharmaceutical chemist Chris Dial during the late(ish) 1990s. I knew Chris from Usenet, a now mostly-dead internet distributed discussion system.

Usenet was my introduction into the wider sabermetrics community, full of lots of other names you would recognize, like Keith Law, Christina Kahrl, Voros McCracken, Sean Forman, and scads of others. Chris and I talked about making a basic projection system, that had results the public could freely access, that did 95 percent as well as projections hidden behind paywalls. The conception is similar to what Tom Tango later independently developed and coined Marcel.

Nothing came of that at the time. I didn’t revisit the idea of doing a projection system until after the turn of the millennium, when I was regularly writing transaction analysis for Baseball Think Factory, a startup of Jim Furtado and Sean Forman that I had been involved in since its conception in 2000. While I majored in math back in college, I was never much motivated by it unless it could put to use making me money or analyzing sports.

I had financial flexibility at the time due to the former preferred application of math, so I had the time and ability to put together a projection system. There wasn’t any eureka moment that led to the creation of ZiPS–I didn’t fall asleep at a game until a baseball fell on my head from a Barry Bonds tree–it just seemed like a practical thing to have when analyzing transactions.

What started as a basic projection system ended up as something much more complicated. I had the idea to incorporate some of McCracken’s DIPS research into the mix, which is the reason I named it ZiPS, in honor of it. I actually intended to call it ZiPs because CHiPs was my second-favorite show as a child (behind Dukes of Hazzard), but I mistyped it as ZiPS when it finally debuted at Baseball Think Factory.

2. People Overrate the Odds of a Player Improving

Even among many who are into the sabermetric side of baseball, there’s a belief in a neat, tidy, aging curve for players. It’s nowhere near that simple.  While you see this pattern in the aggregate, especially for hitters, nothing comes that easy. Many minor leaguers, even those of prominent talents, simply don’t improve past where they are 21 or 22, even at the higher minor league levels.

People also have an idea that a superstar at 22 is going to be even better at 27, but again, that’s not true, especially to the extent it may be true for a 22-year-old still putting together his skills. While a random 21-year-old is preferable to a random 25-year-old of similar abilities, the very young high achievers tend to plateau once they hit stardom.

Willie Mays never was significantly better than he was at age 23.  Alex Rodriguez didn’t have a traditional 27-ish peak. Neither did Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams, and so on and so on. Mike Trout‘s going to be an unreal player when he hits 27, but he’s unlikely to be in a different tier of craziness than he is/was from 2012-2014.

Repoz Posted: April 30, 2014 at 08:56 PM | 68 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics, site news

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sean Forman to appear on Clubhouse Confidential, MLB Network

As I said yesterday…“The ONLY downside to Clubhouse Confidential is the nightly commercial for Intentional Talk.”

I’ll be appearing on Clubhouse Confidential on the MLB Network. We are taping this afternoon and I’m pretty sure it will be broadcast tonight. The show typically airs 5:30pm and 7:30pm ET and then probably 8 more times after that. We’ll be talking baseball-reference.com and some other stuff.

I’m looking forward to meeting their crew and I’ve been incredibly impressed with how they are promoting sabermetrics on the show. If you are a stathead, it is time well spent.

Repoz Posted: January 18, 2012 at 11:09 AM | 38 comment(s)
  Beats: media, sabermetrics, site news

Monday, January 16, 2012

THT: Jaffe: The possible upcoming Cooperstown ballot apocalypse

What should happen? Well, among non-Bonds/Clements voters, Biggio should get around 85 percent. With the others, he’ll get less in what’s already a crowded ballot for people willing to support PED-rs. I’d guess he gets 65-70 percent of their vote. Maybe less.

Upshot: Biggio has a very good shot to get in. Assuming he gets 85 percent of the non-Bonds/Clemens guys (and he really should, given the clustering of Molitor/Winfield/Murray right at 85 percent), and assuming Bonds and Clemens get about 40 percent of the vote, Biggio needs only 60 percent of the votes from the supporters of Bonds and Clemens. That should happen.

Actually, I find this a bit surprising. A week ago, I assumed that Biggio was doomed on this messy ballot. That would set off the real nightmare, because if everyone from this year’s vote went into next year, it would be that much harder for anyone to rise up.

But Biggio should go in next year. No one else should. If Fisk couldn’t get elected as the fourth-best new guy in 1999, Piazza won’t in 2012. Schilling will finish further down, and Sosa may be under 10 percent. As for the backloggers, Morris probably won’t move up enough because it is such a strong batch of new guys. I think he’ll get close but ultimately have to go to the VC.

VC = Viva Caputo!

Repoz Posted: January 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, projections, site news

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don Malcolm: PERSPECTIVIZING POSADA

Or as Rob Neyer just tweeted…“Good news! Still early January, and Don Malcolm’s already gotten in a gratuitous insult. With that out of the way…”

The thought of playing anywhere else probably also influenced Posada. Of all the ballparks in all the major leagues, the one he really didn’t want to walk out of (to rework that Casablanca reference just a bit…) was New Yankee Stadium. The revamped “House That Ruth George Built” proved to be exceptionally cozy for Jorge: in the three years he played there (at the advanced age of 37-39), the park literally kept his career going. He hit .302 there, with an OPS of .938. On the road, those number were considerably more wan—as in .209 and a .665 OPS. In 2011, Posada hit .165 away from the Bronx, with a .524 OPS.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t work in a couple of “midwestern angst” digs into this. First, Rob Neyer’s knee-jerk notion that Posada was held back from enough career games in 1996-99 to cost him a slot in Cooperstown wasn’t really worth the time it took to write the column. (That’s the Damoclean sword of the Internet—it just coerces that empty content out of you…)

There’s a good chance that Jorge will end up in the Hall—but it will be sometime after 2030 or so, when many more things have shaken out. Second, it turns out that Posada’s very favorite place to hit is—you guessed it—Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City (.340 BA, 1.011 OPS).

Repoz Posted: January 10, 2012 at 09:32 PM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, media, projections, sabermetrics, site news, yankees

Monday, January 09, 2012

Blyleven lobbyist not convinced Morris is worthy of HOF

No jack for The Jack!

Morris will return to the ballot a 14th year, which is how long it took Bert Blyleven to get elected. After his election, Blyleven thanked and credited an investment manager named Rich Lederer for lobbying for him. Lederer used baseball blogging site, BaseballAnalysts.com, to pump up Blyleven. He also contacted writers with Hall of Fame votes and shared the numbers he crunched on Bert’s behalf.

I talked to Lederer today after Larkin got in and Morris didn’t.

BS: Were you surprised Morris wasn’t elected?

RL: I would have been more surprised if he did get in. That would have required a humongous jump (in percentage of votes). I actually thought Larkin would get in. I have personal favorites. I think Alan Trammell should be in, and Tim Raines. I also would vote for Jeff Bagwell and Edgar Martinez.

BS: Game 7 of the World Series. Both Morris and Blyleven are in their prime and available. Who do you start?

RL: I know a lot of people would take Morris based on what he did in 1991. The one thing I got a kick out of is, the one time they faced each other in the playoffs, Bert won (6-3 in Game 2 of the 1987 ALCS between the Twins and Detroit Tigers). So I think that’s an interesting stat. I think your question would generate a lot of Jack Morris conversation. But when they did face each other, Blyleven won.

Repoz Posted: January 09, 2012 at 08:51 PM | 65 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, site news

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Beyond the Boxscore: Hall of wWAR vs. Hall of Fame vs. Hall of Merit

Damn, zapped by Hall effect…can’t link to way cool interactive blob visualization thingee.

That’s just those who appear in the Top 144 eligible players. Here, I obviously use “eligible” as meaning “retired for five years”. Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson obviously are not eligible for the Hall of Fame.

I just can’t believe we have a Top 50 player who is struggling to get in the Hall of Fame.

One thing that makes me quite happy about this visual is how much more in sync the Hall of wWAR is with the Hall of Merit than it is with the Hall of Fame. For example, the Hall of Merit contains just 26 players who are not in the Hall of wWAR. Meanwhile, the Hall of Fame contains 64 players who are not in the Hall of wWAR. Those two groups have an overlap of 15 players. Five of them (Ralph Kiner, Clark Griffith, Enos Slaughter, Roger Bresnahan, and Sam Thompson) rank among the Top 25 players outside of the Hall of wWAR.

In fact, 49 players appear in the Hall of Fame but not either of the others. Just 11 players appear only in the Hall of Merit while 20 players grace only the Hall of wWAR. That’s a list I’m particularly interested in—the players enshrined by my Hall of wWAR, but not the others.

Repoz Posted: January 03, 2012 at 10:40 AM | 30 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, sabermetrics, site news

THT: Jaffe: Next week’s Cooperstown election results today

From the Daniel Dunglas Home of predictions…Chris Jaffe produces…

Based on the above criteria and my own semi-informed guesses, here are my predictions alongside last year’s performance to show the predicted change:

Name	      2012	2011
Barry Larkin	82	62
Jack Morris	65	54
Jeff Bagwell	54	42
Lee Smith	52	45
Tim Raines	52	38
Edgar Martinez	39	33
Alan Trammell	32	24
Larry Walker	27	20
Mark McGwire	24	20
Fred McGriff	24	18
Dale Murphy	19	13
Don Mattingly	18	14
Rafael Palmeiro	15	11
Bernie Williams	12	XX
The Rest	 3	XX


That’s 5.18 names per ballot, which would be a clear all-time low – and yet it might still be too high. You’re better taking the under than the over on 5.18 names/ballot.

Good news for Reds fans – Barry Larkin is going in easily. A guy in the low 60s rarely makes the jump over 75 percent like this, but this isn’t a normal year.

Repoz Posted: January 03, 2012 at 06:22 AM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, projections, site news

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don Malcolm: HALL OF FAME REDUX: 1936

He thought he had the world by the tail - till it exploded in his face, with a ballot attached!

A couple of years ago we suggested to the folks at the Hall of Merit that they extend their efforts by following the strictures of actual history and select potential Hall of Fame inductees according to the original rules:

—Vote for 10 players;
—75% of the votes produces enshrinement;
—Eligibility rules as in existence for each year in question, with the exception of Gehrig (presumed inducted via special vote in 1939).

So far the Hall of Merit folks have not taken us up on this idea. That’s fair enough: they have their own activities and approaches, and we can all applaud their alternative take on the best ballplayers in baseball history.

But we remain fascinated by the prospect of having a more sabermetrically-engaged membership take on a “Hall of Fame Redux” where the first ballot begins precisely when it did in 1936, using the exact parameters that the BBWAA faced (and continues to face seventy-five years later).

So here’s our pitch. If the good folks at Baseball Think Factory will see fit to link to this post, thus creating a thread where anyone who is interested can vote, we will tabulate the votes after a five-day voting period, announce the results, and continue with weekly posts moving through the years toward the present.

...Here is our vote for the 1936 election (in alphabetical order):

1. Pete Alexander
2. Ty Cobb
3. Eddie Collins
4. Rogers Hornsby
5. Walter Johnson
6. Nap Lajoie
7. Christy Mathewson
8. Babe Ruth
9. Tris Speaker
10. Cy Young

Vote early, vote once only, and let’s see how many players can receive 75% or higher in the vote count. Five players made it in the actual BBWAA election; we’re thinking that it might be possible to elect seven or eight in the Redux version.

Repoz Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:13 PM | 54 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, media, site news

Monday, December 12, 2011

BPP: The 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame, Version 2.0

Uh-oh…don’t let Danny Peary see this.

45-Tie. Harold Baines, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 5 yes, 26 no): Guys like Baines illustrated an interesting point for this year’s project, earning far more votes by and large than many of the 19th century greats on the ballot, but with a much lower percentage of their voters saying they belonged in the Hall of Fame. Certainly, I doubt too many people will cry foul about this over Baines, a very good designated hitter for much of his career but no immortal. His 2,886 hits, 384 home runs, and .289 batting average are all respectful but they don’t demand a plaque.

45-Tie. Roger Maris, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 17 no): It’s been 50 years now since Roger Maris hit 61 home runs, and there are those who still consider him the single-season champion. This and his back-to-back MVPs for his 1960 and star-crossed 1961 seasons are the main things he has going for his Hall of Fame candidacy. Given that the museum rarely enshrines players on the strength of short-lived brilliance from Smoky Joe Wood to Lefty O’Doul to Denny McLain and many others, Maris’s chances don’t look great, though he’ll surely live on in the hearts of fans regardless if he ever has a plaque.

45-Tie. John Olerud, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 5 yes, 23 no): Olerud might be Keith Hernandez minus the mustache and the cocaine and with a batting helmet that he wore in the field. Both men were slick fielders and good contact hitters in their prime, and Olerud even got the attention of Ted Williams. “Olerud hits more straightaway than I ever did,” Williams wrote in his 1995 book with Jim Prime, Ted Williams’ Hit List. “He gets the bat on the ball very well. He has a great attitude and always waits for a good ball to hit. But he may lack one key ingredient to make a legitimate run at .400: speed.” Williams was right.

Repoz Posted: December 12, 2011 at 11:49 AM | 64 comment(s)
  Beats: baseball geeks, hall of fame, history, site news

Friday, December 09, 2011

ChicagoSide: New sports website fields strong starting lineup

Borderline Primates unite!

Regardless of how the Cubs and White Sox fare in the coming season, serious Chicago sports fans could finally get what they’ve been waiting for on Opening Day 2012.

That’s when they’ll be introduced to ChicagoSide, which may turn out to be the most game-changing addition to the sports media scene since the Score debuted on radio 20 years ago next month.

“We’re launching the best Chicago sports website the city’s ever seen,” said Jonathan Eig, 47, the veteran reporter, columnist and nationally acclaimed author (Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season, and Get Capone) who’s founder and editor-in-chief of the new venture. “And we’re doing it with an amazingly talented pool of writers and editors who are hungry because they love sports and they love journalism, and there aren’t that many places to write anymore in this city.”

...“We’re going to have the best piece of sports journalism every day in the city of Chicago that you can find . . . at least one piece of original material every day that we’re absolutely confident will get people talking,” Eig said. “Then we’ll also aggregate and link to the best stuff around the web — all on Chicago sports.”

Eig already has assembled a lineup of more than three dozen writers, including newspaper and magazine veterans Lou Carlozo, George Castle, Jim Coffman, Lauren Etter, Elliott Harris, Noah Isackson, Billy Lombardo, Amy Merrick, Joel Reese, Chris Silva and Alan Solomon, along with best-selling authors Joseph Epstein, James Finn Garner and Robert Kurson.

Repoz Posted: December 09, 2011 at 03:48 PM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: announcements, business, media, site news

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BPro: Jay Jaffe: Talkin’ Cooperstown on Clubhouse Confidential

Weee…my “Please Sack Plesac” campaign seems to be working! (Congrats, Jay!)

It gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ll be debuting on MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential on Tuesday at 5:30 PM Eastern. For the uninitiated, Clubhouse Confidential is a cutting-edge attempt to put advanced statistics in the television spotlight, using them not only to analyze the day’s big news but to explore some of the perennial controversies which often pit statheads against the mainstream. The show debuted earlier this month — Derek Carty gave an early review — and from the point of its inception, those of us at Baseball Prospectus had reason to hope we’d get into the mix, particularly since host Brian Kenny regularly featured BP alums Joe Sheehan and Keith Law during his days at ESPN; Sheehan has already become a regular guest on the new show. A couple of weeks ago, their producers reached out, and I auditioned last week. Maybe the tie was the key.

I’ll be discussing the top names on the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era ballot for a “Cooperstown Justice” segment, guys like Ron Santo and Gil Hodges who are staples of my annual JAWS review (see here for my full writeup). The spot should run about four minutes, so I’ll have to work on being concise, something that anyone who has waded through my 3,500-word pieces on the topic knows doesn’t come naturally to me.

Repoz Posted: November 29, 2011 at 01:51 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, history, site news, television

Thursday, October 06, 2011

BBTF Playoff Chats

Just a reminder that BTF’s IRC chat room is open for people who want to live chat during the playoffs.

Dan Werr’s directions after the break.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

S.I.: Sheehan: The Moneyball revolution from someone who helped it happen

Given that, we were taken aback when Federal Express delivered a letter…

The revolution is over. Well, that one, anyway. The new ideas earned a place at the table on merit, by being good ideas that contribute to winning baseball games. While I’m no capital-S stathead, I was fortunate enough to work at Baseball Prospectus for a dozen years alongside some of the best in the field, from Clay Davenport and Gary Huckabay, through Rany Jazayerli and Keith Woolner, through Dan Fox and Nate Silver.

...All of this probably happens without Prospectus. The ideas were too important and there was too much money to be made for them not to become the way in which baseball teams were run. Nevertheless, Prospectus happened, and became the way in which many people within the industry were introduced to these ideas. Prospectus was, for a time, the center of the stathead world, publishing research that would set the discussion for years to come, that would change the way players were evaluated. Fielding Independent Pitching ERA shows up on the MLB Network. Felix Hernandez is honored with a Cy Young Award with 13 wins. Every team has a Peter Brand or three, collecting, parsing and presenting data, gaining credibility every time a defensive shift or pitch sequence or lineup change puts a W on the board.

Moneyball captures the tipping point in that revolution, when a team embraced something new because it had to, and won a lot of games because of it. I’m proud to have been a part of the history. The smoke has cleared and the guns have been laid down, and I’m excited to see what will come now that so much less energy is being spent drawing lines between two sides that both want the same thing: great baseball.

Repoz Posted: September 24, 2011 at 03:10 AM | 66 comment(s)
  Beats: books, community, history, media, sabermetrics, site news

Friday, September 23, 2011

JFMB: Stat-Geeks are ruining Sports and taking over Mariners Blogosphere

Please Pardon Our Noise, It Is the Sound of Freedom!

I started this Mariners Blog last season as a way to express and share my love for the game of Baseball. Sadly the Mariners have had two terrible seasons despite employing sabermetrics types in the front office,which has made this team tough to follow but my passion for the game seems to drive me on. I guess there is no known advanced metrics formula to measure committment to this game but I suppose I have a high WAR in that area and I have a feeling I will out sit a lot of the Stat-Geeks who seem so cold and unattached to the beauty of this game.

I realize that most of the attention in the Mariners Blogosphere goes to the more established Blogs like USS Mariner, Lookout Landing and Sojo Mojo. And I even read these guys, but my perspective is more old-school in case you haven’t noticed. Perhaps I am part of a dying breed of Baseball Fans like Jason Whitlock from Fox who are trying to hold on to a more colorful and fun era of baseball where everything was not reduced to mathematical calculations. Well so be it, but I am too old to change now and I am not going anywhere for awhile so if any of you Stat-Geeks happen to be offended by my post or the one by Whitlock you may need to go read one of the Blogs that delights in always proving how superior they are with their new calculations and formulas. I love this game too much to reduce it to a mere science.

Repoz Posted: September 23, 2011 at 01:10 PM | 52 comment(s)
  Beats: mariners, media, projections, sabermetrics, site news

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BPP: An interview with Dan Szymborski

You can’t spell ZiPS without…Dan!

How long ago did you come up with ZiPS?

Szymborski: The genesis of it was there’s a [person] who contributes to Baseball Think Factory named Chris Dial, and in the late ’90s, they were talking about how someone could make a projection system that’s very basic and get most of the way there, in a way kind of a primordial version of Marcel which is a tabulator.

Before 2002, I was thinking maybe I should try my hand at a projection system. At that time, Voros McCracken’s FIPS research was fairly new, so I wanted to [align my idea.] That’s why I made it rhyme with FIPS, and the Z stands for Szymborski, the second letter of my name. I mean, it’s just a little side thing that started. Then I decided to do hitter projections, because it seemed kind of stupid to do because there were not hitter projections. And then over time, as computers got faster, I could do more things. Over time, it became a pretty complex system… I’m pretty happy with how it’s worked out.

Do you think you have another ZiPS idea in you or do you think that’s going to be your big thing?

Szymborski: I dunno. I always kind of think of myself more as a writer than a statistics developer, but I have more ideas how to use it. I continually refine my aging models and long-term projections and the different things I can do with it. I certainly hope there are other ideas in me, but I don’t have those ideas yet. Hopefully they will develop over the next few years.

Repoz Posted: September 20, 2011 at 04:43 PM | 26 comment(s)
  Beats: baseball geeks, media, primate meetups, projections, sabermetrics, site news, zips

Monday, September 19, 2011

FanGraphs New York Meetup

Amity Hall? Wuh…you guys too good for John’s Pizza? (chomp…I’ll probably be heading over…chomp)

On Sunday, September 25th, we’ll blow the horn for FanGraphs East and announce happy hour drinks and our own private space for our particular brand of nerdery. Come to Amity Hall any time after one PM eastern, and we’ll be hanging out, talking baseball and enjoying happy hour prices. And there will be a ton of togetherness because really how much can you hate a Mets fan right now. Oh! Also, come downstairs. We’ve got the downstairs bar.

And this is who will be hanging out:

David Appelman, FanGraphs Dark Overlord, so dark
Mike Podhorzer, Serious about (fantasy) baseball, RotoGraphs
Eno Sarris, Fan of Graphs, Fan, Not and Roto
Amanda Rykoff, espnW contributor, beer lover and Yankees fan
James Kannengeiser, professional curmudgeon and Amazin Avenue writer
Chris McShane, Amazin Avenue backbone, ready to dance
Eric Simon, Amazin Avenue head honcho guy, generally nice dude
Mike Axisa, aka “Mike from RAB, FanGraphs & Trade Rumors,” you know, just Mike
Joe Pawlikowski, music lover, FanGraphs escapee and River Avenue Blueser

Repoz Posted: September 19, 2011 at 09:02 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: announcements, community, media, primate meetups, sabermetrics, site news, special topics

Sunday, September 18, 2011

BPro: Carty: Reviewing “Behind the Seams: The Stat Story”

Paging JamesPotocki…

Once we get past this little detour—which is much smaller than I’m sure I’ve made it out to be—“The Stat Story” actually levels off pretty well, attempting to shed a positive light on statistics and telling the story of how statistics have impacted the game of baseball. In fact, after it was all said and done, our Finley/Brock/Lasorda spectacle became much more of an afterthought, almost included to say, “OK, there are still people who don’t agree with all this, but it’s here, it’s undeniable, and here is the impact it’s having on front offices, Hall of Fame and awards voting, and the way fans view the game”. All in all, despite my wariness after the first few minutes, the documentary wound up being fair.

In fact, one of the first such things I noticed and really appreciated was that many of the interviewees were prominent internet writers. Of course there’s excellent work being done behind closed doors in front offices, but much of the modern day sabermetric movement is taking place on the internet at places like Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, Beyond the Boxscore, etc. I wasn’t sure if this would be acknowledged in the documentary, and while specific mention was scarce, many of their authorities came from our little corner of the internet: former BPers Jonah Keri and Joe Sheehan, SBNation’s Rob Neyer, The Baseball Analysts’ Rich Lederer, FanGraphs’ David Appelman, and Retrosheet’s David Smith.

...One of the biggest things that casual observers of statistics—and, it seems to me, the makers of this documentary—fail to understand is the distinction between statistics and sabermetrics (words which the documentary used fairly interchangeably). Sabermetrics is the search for truth, which isn’t limited to numbers. I’ve long been a supporter of using qualitative information and was both honored and thrilled to have had the opportunity to attend MLB’s Scout School a couple years back. Scouting is a part of sabermetrics. On the quantitative side of the coin, sabermetrics isn’t just about using numbers; it’s about analyzing which numbers are useful and how to properly use them.

Statistics, on the other hand, are composed exclusively of numbers and, in the improper context, can be misconstrued. In this documentary, it mentions how Earl Weaver used batter/pitcher matchup data to set his lineups, with one of the interviewees chiming in, “And it worked!” But batter/pitcher matchup data is essentially useless. Yes, it’s statistics, it’s numbers, and it’s quantifiable… but it’s not sabermetrics.

Repoz Posted: September 18, 2011 at 08:25 PM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: history, media, sabermetrics, site news, television

NYBD: Silva: Why I Applaud Keith Law’s Evolution

Law Abiding Citizen: How do you stop a blogger who is already behind Insider?

I can identify with Law because I see some what he is going through in me. I have grown since I started covering baseball in March of 2007. Before that I was just another fan who watched the game as a fan and listened to talk radio. By no means do I have the front office experience or analytical background of Keith Law, but I think I know baseball pretty well and can hold my own with the big boys, sometimes.That’s not my point. The point is interacting with people from all different backgrounds, experiences, and writing styles has made me well-rounded. It’s made me a better writer, radio host, and analyst of the game. The best part is how the learning process is fluid. I hope to be better at this in 2012 than I am in 2011. I have made mistakes in the past, but does that mean I can’t learn and grow from it? Should I be punished forever due to something I said in 2009? Should Keith Law be punished because of what he thought at age 29 as a new baseball executive?

Law basically did his mea culpa with the scouting community on the ESPN podcast. Assuming it’s a sincere take – and I have no reason not to believe that is isn’t- he should be applauded. I don’t know the guy personally, but by reviewing his evolution it appears he is someone that many in this community- writers, scouts, executives, and coaches- could learn from; both traditional and advanced thinkers alike. I know I just did.

Repoz Posted: September 18, 2011 at 04:14 AM | 21 comment(s)
  Beats: history, media, sabermetrics, site news, special topics

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Keith Law: Moneyball

I’m sorta reminded of the time Effin’ Stink Lad (non-LOSH) cruised a dump on D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage because he was too close to the action.

Moneyball, the movie, is an absolute mess of a film, the type of muddled end product you’d expect from a project that took several years and went through multiple writers and directors. Even good performances by a cast of big names and some clever makeup work couldn’t save this movie, and if I hadnt been planning to review it, I would have walked out.

...Then there’s the baseball stuff, which is not good. For starters, the lampooning of scouts, which draws from the book, isn’t any more welcome on screen (where some of the scouts are played by actual scouts) than it was on the page; they are set up as dim-witted bowling pins for Beane and Brand to knock down with their spreadsheets. It’s cheap writing, and unfair to the real people being depicted. Current Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota also gets murdered in a drive-by line that depicts him as a clueless intern given the head scouting role after Beane fires Grady Fuson in April after a clubhouse argument (that never really happened). I’ll confess to laughing at the scout referring to “this Bill James bullshit,” although the A’s bought into that bullshit years before the film claims they did - and, in fact, hired Paul Depodesta three years before the movie-A’s hired Brand. (In the film, Fuson refers to Brand as “Google boy,” a term applied to Depodesta by Luddite beat writers in LA three years later.)

 

Repoz Posted: September 14, 2011 at 10:46 AM | 326 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, books, media, reviews, site news

Friday, September 09, 2011

Jim Crane Speaks, But Did It Help or Hurt Him in Securing the Astros?

Maury adds…“Let’s play, “Fall on the sword”.

Jim Crane spoke publically to the Houston Chronicle for the first time yesterday since the mid-May press conference to announce the sales agreement to purchase the Astros. Crane approached the Chronicle in an attempt to address some of the issues swirling around his stalled approval by the league’s owners. It was a needed move, that on one hand, addressed direct issues around the EEOC, war-profiteering and divorce issues, while on the other hand, may have done more harm than good in the eyes of Bud Selig and the league’s owners due to Crane’s comments about being impatient.

On the EEOC investigation involving discrimination (see this 2000 article from the Houston Chronicle for details), Crane said that all of them were unfounded, even though over 200 claims were not fought. According to Crane, it was a matter of business economics, not that they were valid.

“The company ended up settling a small group of claims only because the board felt that it was more economical for the shareholders to go ahead and pay out a small number on cases that we could probably have litigated and won,” Crane said. “I didn’t want to pay the claims, but when it costs $3 million to try them and $900,000 to pay them out, it’s a business decision at that point.”

Repoz Posted: September 09, 2011 at 07:41 PM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, business, media, site news

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tango: The 2011 Scouting Report - By the Fans, For the Fans

Break out those Spooners and stogies…it’s that time of year again!

Welcome to the Eighth Annual Fans’ Scouting Report. For those looking for past results, go here (2008 and prior) and here for 2009, for 2010.

Baseball’s fans are very perceptive. Take a large group of them, and they can pick out the final standings with the best of them. They can forecast the performance of players as well as those guys with rather sophisticated forecasting engines. Bill James, in one of his later Abstracts, had the fans vote in for the ranking of the best to worst players by position. And they did a darn good job.

...The Project

What I would like to do now is tap that pool of talent. I want you to tell me what your eyes see. I want you to tell me how good or bad a fielder is. Go down, and start selecting the team(s) that you watch all the time. For any player that you’ve seen play in at least 10 games in 2011, I want you to judge his performance in 7 specific fielding categories.

Repoz Posted: September 07, 2011 at 08:14 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: media, scouting, site news, special topics

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mitchell: Baseball at Ground Zero: Ghosts in the Outfield at Killing Field

Required reading…for John Sterling.

To welcome its first pro team, Hiroshima erected the stadium in the early 1950s. The mayor hoped baseball would “revitalize the spirit of Hiroshima,” and make the citizens forget what had happened on August 6, 1945. Yet he built the stadium 300 yards from the epicenter of the atomic explosion.

There was no evidence that the fans felt particularly uncomfortable in this setting. A majority of adults in this city were survivors of the bomb, or lost parents that day, or were related to hibakusha, yet thousands come to this spot where so many perished to drink beer and cheer. Among the players they applauded were hired mercenaries from the country that dropped the bomb on their relatives (or themselves).

Out of guilt or uneasiness, I found myself cheering loudly for the Carp, as if this could somehow compensate for the decision to drop the bomb. Still, this was once a killing field, and any fan raising his or her eyes could see that spot in the sky where the bomb went off.

For a baseball fan from New York, it was hard to enjoy the game. At Yankee Stadium you get a screeching subway; at the Mets’ home field, jumbo jets from LaGuardia. At Hiroshima Stadium, for decades, you got the A-bomb Dome over your shoulder. It is often said that the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig haunt Yankee Stadium. One did not want to think too deeply, especially at a baseball game, about the apparition potential at Hiroshima Stadium.

Repoz Posted: August 30, 2011 at 01:20 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: books, history, japan, media, site news, special topics

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SABR: MLB Network to Air “Behind the Seams: The Stat Story” on September 18

With Bob Costas! This could be a riot…(the “Plesac Flies…And How REAL Sabermetricians Feel About Him/Them” seggy looks especially interesting!)

MLB Network will air “Behind the Seams: The Stat Story” at 10 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, September 18, 2011.

The hour-long program, narrated by 22-time Emmy Award-winner Bob Costas, will document the evolution of statistics in the National Pastime and the rise of sabermetrics — the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball.

“Behind the Seams: The Stat Story” will include interviews of many SABR members and footage shot during this summer’s SABR convention in Southern California.

 

Repoz Posted: August 25, 2011 at 09:29 PM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: announcers, media, projections, sabermetrics, site news, television

BtB: Q&A with SaberWizard Tom Tango

On the other hand, if there is one misconception that the average saberguy doesn’t quite understand, what would it be?

That there’s uncertainty in whatever we do, so only defend what you do as far as the numbers allow.

Other than the coming Field F/x, what territory is most ripe for analytical improvement?

Any of the SportVision or Trackman data, really, as its the one place where you will get convergence on performance analysis and scouting observations.  And that will be the pinnacle of sabermetrics.

Last, I’m pretty sure I’ve read you saying that it doesn’t matter if Sabermetrics goes mainstream. Considering we’re seeing the adoption of WAR on mainstream ESPN broadcasts now, is there any danger if it does?

Danger?  I suppose the mainstream didn’t appreciate the biases in RBIs, and I suppose they won’t appreciate the biases in OPS either.  The danger will always be present, no matter what gets adopted.

Thanks to El Zorzal.

Repoz Posted: August 25, 2011 at 12:48 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: business, history, media, projections, sabermetrics, site news

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TYA Interview With Marc Carig

Found this part interesting…and somewhat familiar.

TYA: Bloggers and twitter users, myself included, often criticize the mainstream media. How do writers tend to take that sort of criticism? Do you think any of it is useful in terms of honing your craft? Do you think it might be more effective and useful if the tone was less acerbic? What would you say to the argument that just as players are public figures who are open to criticism from the MSM, writers put their work product into the public forum and are therefore also open to criticism?

...The day after Derek Jeter collected his 3,000th hit, I wrote a story in which I brought up the possibility that he could be one of the last to reach the milestone, and part of the reason is because the game has changed. Statistically, we’ve seen hitters take more pitches, which means strikeouts have increased. We’ve gained a better understanding of the value of the walk. One of the major criticisms I got for that piece was that I had jumped to conclusions in making some of the assertions in the story. And I thought they were fair. I won’t apologize for the effort behind the piece. I didn’t willfully jump to conclusions. In fact, I ran the premise of the story by several people I trust in the game, all of whom have an extensive background in analysis. Still, I should have pushed harder, put my assertions through greater scrutiny. It was a lesson learned. I felt like I gained something from those who offered criticism in the spirt of starting a dialogue.

But I was surprised by the amount of criticism that amounted to little more than snark for snark’s sake. Sadly a lot of it came from sabermetric types — many of whom clearly didn’t know my work or my outlook on the game. They revealed this lack of familiarity by making all the blanket statements one would expect, assuming that for some reason that I bemoaned the change in the game, and that I was somehow beholden to the Church of Batting Average, RBI and Grit. To me, it’s the most unfair criticism, to assume that just because I’m in the mainstream media that I’m closed-minded about these things. Are we still fighting this stupid philosophical battle? It’s not 2002, anymore, and it’s been years since I’ve made a mom’s basement joke. So, save the snark.

Repoz Posted: August 24, 2011 at 08:37 PM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: media, sabermetrics, site news, yankees

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