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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Baer: Jim Kaat wants to throw Sabermetrics “in the trash can”

Or as thebadguyswon put it…“We don’t need the WBC to prove to use that Joe Torre is an idiot.”

Former Major League pitcher and 16-time Gold Glove award winner Jim Kaat called for Sabermetrics to be thrown in the trash can while commentating on MLB Network. Kaat made the quip when the U.S. put runners on first and second in the top of the second inning against Canada in a deciding match between Pool D contestants in the World Baseball Classic. Ryan Braun had doubled and Ben Zobrist had reached base on error, then were advanced a base on a successful bunt by Adam Jones. After giving up the out, Eric Hosmer and Shane Victorino grounded out to end the threat with no runs scored.

The expected runs matrix at Baseball Prospectus spits out 1.44 expected runs with runners on first and second and no outs as opposed to 1.29 with runners on second and third and one out. In one game, the difference of 0.15 runs is unnoticeable, so neither side can claim with any authority that the decision to bunt in that specific circumstance was an extremely good or extremely bad idea.

...Update (6:20 PM): Just as I pushed “Publish” on this post, Zobrist attempted to bunt with runners on first and second and no outs. Rather than advancing the runners, he popped out to the catcher. World Bunting Classic.

Repoz Posted: March 10, 2013 at 10:37 PM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: wbc

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   1. RollingWave Posted: March 10, 2013 at 10:56 PM (#4385988)
you need to consider the ability of the bunter, the guy coming up behind him too.

but I digress, in a contest like the WBC, some small ball is usually a good idea . depending on the situation , though I don't approve of Taiwan's bunting of 1 out and man on first, that was part of the reason that killed us IMHO.

Also, Kaat's probably the best announcer in baseball, and generally has a very sound knowledge of the stats as well. I think he was specficially referring to that one play, and not Sabermetrics as a whole.

   2. Dale Sams Posted: March 10, 2013 at 11:15 PM (#4385999)
No...later with men on 1st and 2cnd and no outs, a bunt led to an error and a run...and since it FINALLY worked...sorta...he started crowing about it.

But ya know, if you WANT your guys with all-star credentials bunting against those mighty Canadian pitchers, go right ahead.
   3. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 10, 2013 at 11:31 PM (#4386008)
"commentating"?
   4. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: March 10, 2013 at 11:35 PM (#4386010)
"commentating"?


Forget it, he's on a roll.
   5. Coot Veal and Cot Deal taste like Old Bay Posted: March 10, 2013 at 11:59 PM (#4386018)
"commentating"?


it's what commentators do, doncha know?
   6. Coot Veal and Cot Deal taste like Old Bay Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:07 AM (#4386022)
**don't never refresh on this version of BTF**
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:27 AM (#4386026)

the hitting and bunting ability of the batter seems more important than anything else in making the decision, as 1 suggests.

it's weird whenever I hear pro OR anti bunters not make that the first order of business....

   8. Walt Davis Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:45 AM (#4386029)
Well, the bunter's name was Adam Jones. I think we know that name. I think he's considered a good hitter. Of baseballs no less. He was facing a Canadian pitcher not named Ferguson Jenkins (I assume).

I can only assume the Canucks beaned the next batter in revenge for this affront to baseball's honour.

Kidding aside, he has been a good bunter in his career reaching base in over half of his 35 fair bunts. However, only 6 of those were classified as sacrifices ... no idea how many were hits in a sacrifice situation.

The unanswered bit in all our bunt knowledge is that bunting for hits is a different technique than bunting with the intent to sacrifice. I do not want Jones trying to give himself up there. It's fine if he's bunting in a scenario (e.g. 3B playing back) and with the hit-generating technique. That is just because Jones reaches base on 50% of his bunts does not necessarily mean he's got a 50% chance of reaching base when trying to sacrifice with the 3B in.
   9. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:03 AM (#4386035)
Maybe it's a silly and unnecessary word, but "commentate" has been used since 1794.
   10. Perry Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:27 AM (#4386039)
Maybe it's a silly and unnecessary word, but "commentate" has been used since 1794.


Not much used here, but standard in the UK. I hear it all the time on soccer broadcasts and highlight shows and they use it in the British press.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: March 11, 2013 at 02:49 AM (#4386048)
The expected runs matrix at Baseball Prospectus spits out 1.44 expected runs with runners on first and second and no outs as opposed to 1.29 with runners on second and third and one out. In one game, the difference of 0.15 runs is unnoticeable, so neither side can claim with any authority that the decision to bunt in that specific circumstance was an extremely good or extremely bad idea.


First off, the expected run matrix is for MLB baseball, and should not be used for other levels of play in which the quality of play is different. Second the expected run matrix is based upon an established scoring level, something that isn't the case for the WBC.

So anyone that is using the expected run matrix in this situation, is a certified idiot.

Add in that as it stands, we know that bunts have a higher than normal percentage of reached on errors than you would expect from normal play, then add in that you are dealing with probably a lower level of quality than MLB and it's even more likely for an error.

Having said that, I don't see any reason that you bunt in the second inning when you are the team more than likely favored to win handidly. Playing for one run, when you are probably the significantly better team, is giving the opposition what they want.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: March 11, 2013 at 03:30 AM (#4386050)
Maybe it's a silly and unnecessary word, but "commentate" has been used since 1794.

If the improper usage can't be traced back to before 1700 then it's improper usage.

Not much used here, but standard in the UK.

Yeah, but they also say "orientated" all the time. Maybe someday they'll learn to speak English.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: March 11, 2013 at 03:34 AM (#4386051)
First off, the expected run matrix is for MLB baseball, and should not be used for other levels of play in which the quality of play is different.

Obviously technically true but scoring levels in the minors seem to track pretty well with the majors (PCL aside) so it's probably a pretty good approximation in pro ball. Beyond that, once you've controlled for the scoring environment, I bet the run expectancy matrix is pretty much identical regardless of the quality of play. (A double with two men on is a double with two men on no matter what league you're in.)
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: March 11, 2013 at 03:58 AM (#4386054)
Obviously technically true but scoring levels in the minors seem to track pretty well with the majors (PCL aside) so it's probably a pretty good approximation in pro ball. Beyond that, once you've controlled for the scoring environment, I bet the run expectancy matrix is pretty much identical regardless of the quality of play. (A double with two men on is a double with two men on no matter what league you're in.)


I don't know all the math behind it, but I would imagine that with lower quality of play(defense) that getting a man on base and in scoring position has a higher chance of scoring than in the real MLB, and that it's harder to score with no men on base than it would be in the majors, even if they have the same run environments.




   15. Knock on any Iorg Posted: March 11, 2013 at 06:38 AM (#4386061)
Maybe it's a silly and unnecessary word, but "commentate" has been used since 1794.

Not much used here, but standard in the UK.


Yeah, but they also say "orientated" all the time. Maybe someday they'll learn to speak English.


Why would you want a common tater when you can have one of those Orient taters with all that tangy Asian spice?

I guess the goal should be consistency, so if you're going to say "commentator" you should be consistent and say "orientated", even though the latter makes my head hurt.
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 11, 2013 at 07:19 AM (#4386063)
Jim Kaat wants to throw "commentate" into the dustbin.
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 11, 2013 at 07:43 AM (#4386068)
"commentating"?


I first heard that word about 20 years ago when a guy in a pool room complained that I was "always commentating" about his game. Being as how the guy was kind of a lowlife who was always prone to malapropisms, it cracked me up, but I had to admit I liked the sound of it, and there was no mistaking what he meant. I put it in the same boat as Bogart's pronunciation of "Natzis" and "fifth colyumists" in All Through The Night, even though it wasn't technically in the same category. But even today, every time I hear it, I think of my buddy the lowlife and smile a little smile inside. Unlike the godawful misuse of "disinterested," it has a nice melodious ring to it, and to me that's half the battle.
   18. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: March 11, 2013 at 08:22 AM (#4386074)
"commentating"?

It's a perfectly cromulent word.
   19. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: March 11, 2013 at 08:36 AM (#4386079)
So, why is a guy called a "sports commentator", then? Why not a "sports commenter"?
   20. DL from MN Posted: March 11, 2013 at 09:49 AM (#4386155)
Why would you want a common tater when you can have one of those Orient taters


Jim Thome's ears just perked up
   21. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 11, 2013 at 10:15 AM (#4386191)
17 - I've used it a time or two for similar reasons, though without the back story. Sound matters.
   22. Ron J2 Posted: March 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM (#4386229)
#11 Thing is that you don't need any specific run expectancy matrix to analyze the play. I've used 1968 NL and the heights of sillyball and the results come back as basically the same.

Base for an out is generally a poor play (though late/close, runners on first and second with nobody out a base for an out is a fine exchange -- generally speaking. Probably not if you happen to have a couple of TTO guys coming up, but it's a decent general rule), but if the guy's a good bunter and has a reasonable chance of reaching (as you note, the error rate is pretty high, plus there's always a chance that they'll try for the lead runner and fail to get him) it's a perfectly acceptable play. If the pitcher is up, or if the hitter is a late 60s/ early 70s glove guy then the bunt is basically mandatory. (pitchers who can actually hit ... fine, swing away)
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM (#4386255)
Maybe it's a silly and unnecessary word, but "commentate" has been used since 1794.

What value does it add over "commenting"?
   24. Bug Selig Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4386271)
There's a carpet cleaning chain in the Detroit area called "Modernistic". I hate them with a passion.
   25. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4386296)
23: better for depicting the work of a commentator (as joked about above); for depicting the efforts of someone who is acting like a commentator (can imply a level of superciliousness)
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: March 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM (#4386317)
Base for an out is generally a poor play (though late/close, runners on first and second with nobody out a base for an out is a fine exchange -- generally speaking. Probably not if you happen to have a couple of TTO guys coming up, but it's a decent general rule), but if the guy's a good bunter and has a reasonable chance of reaching (as you note, the error rate is pretty high, plus there's always a chance that they'll try for the lead runner and fail to get him) it's a perfectly acceptable play. If the pitcher is up, or if the hitter is a late 60s/ early 70s glove guy then the bunt is basically mandatory. (pitchers who can actually hit ... fine, swing away)


And I'll argue that you just can't use the MLB run scoring metric when dealing with lesser quality talent. Lesser quality talent means lower quality defense, lower quality defense means better chances of errors/mistakes and more chances to capitalize on it with a man on base.

Note: I agree with the argument that you don't bunt. I just think that MLB's run scoring metric is a poor piece of equipment to use as evidence against that,especially using just the two outcomes(The expected runs matrix at Baseball Prospectus spits out 1.44 expected runs with runners on first and second and no outs as opposed to 1.29 with runners on second and third and one out.) In order to use that, you would need to know the error rate on bunted balls, in mlb it's around .030. In mlb defense overall is around .015(.985 fielding percentage) on bunted balls it's around .965. Along with all the other variables for the environment that you are in.

On top of that, I'm not sure he was using the expected run matrix correctly. Or more accurately he wasn't considering the probability of the team scoring just one run. With a man on first and second and no outs, the team has a 61.8% chance to score one run. With a man on second and third and one out, that changes it to 68.9%(again using mlb averages, harder for me to say with lower level of play if that stays the same)

MLB is the highest level of play available, don't care if they are using MLB players, the level of quality in the WBC is going to be less, lower quality probably increases the chances of errors, mistakes, or even just poor heads up baseball.

Again, the US team had to be heavily favored, and playing for one run(which is what a bunt is) is aiding the lower quality team. I'm personally not a fan of the sacrifice bunt except in the obvious (crappy hitter or late inning situation one run or tied game with both teams having high quality relievers etc.) but I don't think this article does a particularly good job of explaining why it was a poor choice.
   27. PreservedFish Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:04 PM (#4386323)
Yes, I think "commentating" has a unique flavor. To use Andy's pool room example, if I told you that Joe was commenting during our game, that might mean that he was saying any number of things. He could be commenting on the weather or on the film he saw last night. If I told you he was commentating, you get a vivid impression of him pompously narrating the game, criticizing form and strategy, etc.
   28. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4386324)
Maybe it's a silly and unnecessary word, but "commentate" has been used since 1794.


I looked it up in the OED. The 1794 usage was referring to writing marginal commentary in texts, something along the lines of Medieval scriptural exegesis through masses of marginal commentary. It also seems to be used somewhat pejoratively. This cite expresses it well:

1864 Spectator. 31 Dec. 1500. Refined prelates of the Medicean type—the men who commentated, not Fathers, but only poets.

Definition 3, "To deliver an oral commentary, esp. upon politics or sport; to act as a commentator", is first cited in 1951. This 1951 cite was a diary entry in a diary that wasn't published until 1968, so I think that 1968 is really the first cited use. Then it blows up in the late 1970s. It's a stupid, TV age neologism.

EDIT: The 1928 BBC handbook is the first usage of "commentator" as an announcer. They have the commentator "commenting" on events. That was good enough for the next 40 years.

   29. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:07 PM (#4386325)
So, why is a guy called a "sports commentator", then? Why not a "sports commenter"?


Yes.

You and I comment. We are commenters. Andy Rooney was a commentator. Official and expert types get to commentate. They are commentators. They could be the distinction our minds are groping at.

When I got out of high school many years ago, I spent the following summer trying to sell dictionaries in Montgomery, Alabama. I'll always remember this black dude and his wife. As I made my sales spiel, she was ragging on him the whole while. He seemed interested (a novelty in itself) in what I was saying, so, finally, exasperated he expostulated: "Baby, can't you see--I be conversating with the man."
   30. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:12 PM (#4386330)
I think there often develops a slightly different alternative to a word. Forty-fifty years ago, it was preventive and preventative? I'm sure there are many other examples.
   31. The District Attorney Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4386334)
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a big fan of "conversate."

He even talked to the Editor at Large of the OED about it. The editor said he expected it to be in the next version (although that was a few years ago and I don't know if it actually happened.)

   32. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:23 PM (#4386340)
I remember being a bit taken aback during grad school when my wife (she was in English; I was U.S. history) brought home something that used the verb "remediate." Not sure what was wrong with "remedy," but so it goes.

You and I comment. We are commenters. Andy Rooney was a commentator. Official and expert types get to commentate. They are commentators. They could be the distinction our minds are groping at.


We offer comments. They offer commentary. I suppose we should be thankful that they aren't described as commentarians.

   33. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4386349)
Different word variations often are an attempt at a distinction. I think commentarians has been used. May still be used. Sometimes it has to do with the historical development of a word. That can be messy, just like biological evolution. Evolution takes place from the trenches up. Sometimes a word will acquire a special meaning within a profession. Jargon.
   34. bjhanke Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4386350)
Having a Master's degree in English, I find myself paying attention to stuff like "commentate." Essentially, the issue is English being a living language. Things change, in ways that would outrage formal Latin grammar. "Commentator" is clearly a backform of "commentate", which means commenting for money, more or less (the definition is in flux right now). "Orientate" is a backform from "orientation." The correct word is "orient", but that has come to mean "in the east" rather than "getting pointed in the right direction." My personal pet peeve is the words people put after "different." The only correct one, in formal grammar, is "different from." "Different than" and "different to" have no formal grounding, but they are in constant use now, having started to enter the language about 30 years ago. I've even heard, much more recently, "different for", which makes no sense at all. But that's just the price of a living language. IMO, U R just swimming upstream if you try to fight this stuff. - Brock
   35. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:41 PM (#4386353)
There's a carpet cleaning chain in the Detroit area called "Modernistic". I hate them with a passion.

This is subject to the James P. Johnson exception.
   36. bjhanke Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4386355)
My personal opinion is that one of the great features of baseball is the "race for the run", which governs bunts and stolen base attempts. Basically, if you get a man on first with no outs, you will not score if you just trade outs for bases, because, if the third out is a force or a caught fly ball, the run doesn't count no matter how quickly the runner got to home plate. Sacrifices have the problem of not gaining anything in the race for the run. You've just traded an out for a base, and that's not a scoring strategy, although it works some of the time, like when the next batter hits a single that scores the runner from second. Stolen base attempts, when successful, put you a base ahead in the race, which is why they are so tempting, but caught stealings deflate everything. The tension of the race for the run is a lot of what makes baseball not at all boring for those who understand it, which presumably includes all of you guys here. - Brock
   37. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM (#4386363)
The only correct one, in formal grammar, is "different from." "Different than" and "different to" have no formal grounding, but they are in constant use now, having started to enter the language about 30 years ago.


I haven't exactly been taking notes, but my impression is that "different to" is waaaaay more likely to come up in British prose or speech than in discourse in the U.S.
   38. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 02:54 PM (#4386412)
   39. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 11, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4386419)
Yes, I think "commentating" has a unique flavor. To use Andy's pool room example, if I told you that Joe was commenting during our game, that might mean that he was saying any number of things. He could be commenting on the weather or on the film he saw last night. If I told you he was commentating, you get a vivid impression of him pompously narrating the game, criticizing form and strategy, etc.

I'd never thought about that distinction before, but it makes a lot of sense. And I was definitely "commentating" on his game, no question about that, though in this case "sharking" would have been an even more appropriate word.

(Hey, it was in self-defense. The guy was stringing racks on me.)
   40. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 11, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4386442)

Murder, he says. Energetic send-up ditty about using language. It was big hit back then.


From that link --

1. Murder: Excellent! In the words of H.L. Mencken, in "the vocabulary of the jazz addict…anything excellent is killer-diller, murder or Dracula."

Why was I not informed of this till now? I intend to work this usage of "Dracula" into my every utterance from now on.
   41. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 03:39 PM (#4386455)
Glad to be of service. It's all part of being a freedom rider.
   42. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 11, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4386489)
1. Murder: Excellent! In the words of H.L. Mencken, in "the vocabulary of the jazz addict…anything excellent is killer-diller, murder or Dracula."

For whatever forgotten reason, my closest high school friends and I used to use "Correlative!" as a synonym for "outstanding". Problem was, one of these friends was a bit on the dim side, and one day in English he was asked to name the parts of speech, and stumbled on the last one. Whereupon my evil friend whispered to him, "it's a super-correlative conjunction," which he then proceeded to repeat to the whole class with a gusto that only confident ignorance can muster. Needless to say, I've been in love with "super correlative" ever since.
   43. UnclePab Posted: March 11, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4386494)
I remember being a bit taken aback during grad school when my wife (she was in English; I was U.S. history) brought home something that used the verb "remediate." Not sure what was wrong with "remedy," but so it goes.

As a teacher, I can tell you that we "remediate" students who are in need of remedial work. Basically it's another way to say "provide remediation".
   44. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 04:31 PM (#4386502)
   45. Morty Causa Posted: March 11, 2013 at 04:34 PM (#4386506)
   46. Walt Davis Posted: March 11, 2013 at 05:42 PM (#4386559)
I don't know all the math behind it, but I would imagine that with lower quality of play(defense) that getting a man on base and in scoring position has a higher chance of scoring than in the real MLB, and that it's harder to score with no men on base than it would be in the majors, even if they have the same run environments.

Well, I'd have to see the distribution. But if the overall run environments are the same, the expectancy are going to be pretty close.

Say you've got a runner on 2B and one out. OK, sure, in the minors there's probably a higher chance of an error but also a lower chance of a HR ... so lower probabilities of zero runs and lower probabilities of 2 runs ... all of which probably balances out to nearly the same number of expected runs.

Alternatively look at it this way. If all else was equal then obviously a higher error rate leads to more scoring. But that puts things into a higher run environment and obviously you don't use a run expectancy matrix for a 4 run environments in a 4.2 run context. If the run environments are about the same but the error rate is higher in one, then those extra errors are getting balanced out by other events happening less frequently (or possibly by more caught stealings or something). Those might lead to slightly different run expectancy matrices but (I'm guessing!) not by a lot.

Since we don't have run expectancy for WBC we need to plug something in to judge Torre's move (not that it's the only piece of info we need). But ... yeah, in that context maybe nothing really works. This was a team of MLBers playing against a team of mostly, what, AA players. Team USA, when batting, should be in a sillyball scoring environment if not higher than that.

Much as we gripe, I'd probably rather see a win expectancy matrix anyway. Tactics that keep the game close wouldn't seem a good idea for Team USA in this game.

EDIT: Sorry, I mean something like a "true" win expectancy matrix or a win expectancy matrix that takes into account the expected run differential between these two teams.
   47. cardsfanboy Posted: March 12, 2013 at 04:28 PM (#4387094)
Much as we gripe, I'd probably rather see a win expectancy matrix anyway. Tactics that keep the game close wouldn't seem a good idea for Team USA in this game.


Agreed, there is absolutely no reason for team USA to be bunting against team Canada(or pretty much any team other than Cuba?, Japan, and Dominican.)except in a late inning situation.

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