Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Bill James Mailbag - 4/3/14

This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt… Magnante, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent.

Hey Bill: I just noticed that Baseball Reference now has Mike Trout and Carlos Gomez tied for 2013 WAR leaders at 8.9 each. You show Trout as being nearly twice as valuable as Gomez (40 WS to 21.2). One expects different systems to arrive at somewhat different valuations, but a disagreement of this size strikes me as a bit bizarre. Any thoughts?

Well. ..what do you think? Do you really believe Carlos Gomez is the equal of Mike Trout? I don’t feel that I have a deep need to defend my position, and I don’t see any point in attacking there’s.

Now that baseball has finally crossed the Rubicon and begun embracing replay technology, can automating ball-and-strike calls be far behind?...

... what I have advocated for 20 years: an audible beep that only the home plate umpire hears, telling him whether the ball was or was not in the zone. He can ignore the beep if he chooses to do so; there might be cases where the technology doesn’t work, and a ball bouncing off the catcher’s shinguards will beep to signal a strike. Anything can happen. But in practice, umpires are going to learn to just go along with the beep 99.99% of the time. The game LOOKS the same; it’s the same from the seats. The only difference is, the calls are right.

Bill, from a run production stand point, would you rather have a team full of Ben Revers or a team full of Adam Dunns?

... Revere’s on base percentage the last three years is higher than Dunn’s, so it is power against baserunning. I’m not sure who would win. An odd and relevant fact is that Dunn processes as a better baserunner last year than Revere does. Revere was 11-for-22 going first to third on singles; Dunn was 3-for-27, so Revere is several bases ahead there. Revere was 5-for-8 scoring from second on a single; Dunn was 7-for-17, so Revere is further ahead. Revere was 2-for-5 scoring from first on a double; Dunn was 1-for-7, so another base or two for Revere there. But Dunn did not run into an out on the bases, all year; Revere did it five times. Running into an out is FAR more costly than the benefit of one base, so the balance of these events actually favors Dunn.

You mentioned George Allen recently. To me, he was the original moneyball man. He traded unproven commodities (draft picks) for unproven commodities (players) and won EVERY single year. Do you hav thoughts on him?

At the end of his career he was trading away the future for the present. I don’t think that was smart; I think that was selfish. I think he was a great coach up to a point, but. . .like Andy Reid in Philadelphia. . .when the coach becomes the GM, has the dual responsibility of coaching and selecting players, most often this does not work. I think Allen was a terrific coach, but I don’t think the wholesale trading of future draft picks should be allowed, and I don’t think it reflects well on anyone who does it.

Hey Bill, Baseball Reference 2013 WAR data show Mike Trout as being twice as valuable as Carlos Gomez offensively, but suggest that Gomez was five and a half wins better than Trout defensively, and that Trout’s defense actually cost the Angels a win last year. I am skeptical of that assessment, but that is where the discrepancy lies.

I was assuming that everybody knew that. What I was asking—and am asking—is, do you believe it? I don’t believe it; I think it is silly, so I’m not going to worry about arguing it through, because I don’t think anyone really believes that.

The District Attorney Posted: April 03, 2014 at 05:46 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: adam dunn, ben revere, bill james, carlos gomez, football, mike trout, nfl, sabermetrics, umpires

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. cardsfanboy Posted: April 03, 2014 at 07:46 PM (#4678870)
Well. ..what do you think? Do you really believe Carlos Gomez is the equal of Mike Trout? I don’t feel that I have a deep need to defend my position, and I don’t see any point in attacking there’s.


c'mon Bill..."there's"?
   2. Chone Mueller Posted: April 03, 2014 at 09:13 PM (#4678912)
Yeah, but who doesn't let one of those slip once in awhile?
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2014 at 10:25 PM (#4678940)
Now that baseball has finally crossed the Rubicon and begun embracing replay technology, can automating ball-and-strike calls be far behind?...

... what I have advocated for 20 years: an audible beep that only the home plate umpire hears, telling him whether the ball was or was not in the zone. He can ignore the beep if he chooses to do so; there might be cases where the technology doesn’t work, and a ball bouncing off the catcher’s shinguards will beep to signal a strike. Anything can happen. But in practice, umpires are going to learn to just go along with the beep 99.99% of the time. The game LOOKS the same; it’s the same from the seats. The only difference is, the calls are right.


That's a great suggestion, as it would eliminate more bad calls in one game than the replay system will in a week's worth of games. But the fact that it's still in the suggestion box suggests that the umpires' precious egos couldn't handle it.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: April 03, 2014 at 10:36 PM (#4678947)
But isn't 40 WS the equivalent of 13 wins? (I seem to recall it was 3 win shares per win) I loves me some Mike Trout but 13 wins?

As good a time as any to note the one that that disappoints me about Mike Trout -- he's not related to Dizzy and Steve. Kid has no respect for tradition.
   5. zachtoma Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:07 AM (#4678992)
That's a great suggestion, as it would eliminate more bad calls in one game than the replay system will in a week's worth of games. But the fact that it's still in the suggestion box suggests that the umpires' precious egos couldn't handle it.


Yes but I'm skeptical that he advocated for this in 1994 as I would think the pitch-tracking technology that would be required was still over the horizon.
   6. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:38 AM (#4679000)
That Bowerman was one tough SOB.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:29 AM (#4679013)
i dunno ... when did they intro line calls in tennis? seems to me that i've been hearing speculation about auto strike calling since then.

   8. PreservedFish Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:43 AM (#4679016)
But isn't 40 WS the equivalent of 13 wins? (I seem to recall it was 3 win shares per win) I loves me some Mike Trout but 13 wins?


But I think the baseline in win shares is zero. As opposed to replacement level.
   9. Rob_Wood Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:13 AM (#4679017)
The Hawk-Eye system was implemented in the tennis tour in 2006-2007. IIRC there was an infamous US Open match with several bad calls against Serena Williams that really prompted the move. The system was slowly rolled out so maybe it wasn't until 2008 or so that it became universal.
   10. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 05:21 AM (#4679023)
IIRC there was an infamous US Open match with several bad calls against Serena Williams that really prompted the move.


It was the 2004 quarterfinals against Capriati. Serena and Venus were still young, the first black female stars on the tour, and many people wondered if there wasn't a racial element to the Portuguese umpire's judgements. There's video of the final game on the internet, and whatever the motivation, it's clear that there's a systematic anti-Williams bias.
   11. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:34 AM (#4679043)
Some umpire, sometime, maybe in 2014 and maybe in 2033, will egregiously blow a ball/strike call in a crucial (probably playoff, probably elimination) game, and then the lasers will be brought in. The fuel (technology) and oxygen (public awareness thereof) are there; it's just a matter of time until we get the spark.

And then MLB will, in all likelihood, hilariously #### it up.
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:58 AM (#4679049)
That's a great suggestion, as it would eliminate more bad calls in one game than the replay system will in a week's worth of games. But the fact that it's still in the suggestion box suggests that the umpires' precious egos couldn't handle it.

Yes but I'm skeptical that he advocated for this in 1994 as I would think the pitch-tracking technology that would be required was still over the horizon.


Probably so, but my point was more about the virtue of enacting his proposal today than whether he was quite as much ahead of the curve in 1994 as he implies that he was.
   13. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:24 AM (#4679055)
But the fact that it's still in the suggestion box suggests that the umpires' precious egos couldn't handle it.

I understand this criticism, but it's incredibly surface and simple to me. I think instead of taking human nature into account, it completely ignores it. People don't like change, and people more don't like change for something that has been one way for over a century. The idea that robotic ball/strike calls couldn't possibly change the game at all and therefore the watcher's interaction with it seems like utterly willful ignorance to me.
   14. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:28 AM (#4679058)
I think the argument is that to the extent it changes the game, it will be for the better, that less focus on umpires and more focus on players would be a good thing.
   15. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:44 AM (#4679065)
I think the argument is that to the extent it changes the game, it will be for the better, that less focus on umpires and more focus on players would be a good thing.

I certainly could be wrong, but I really don't think it's zero-sum. Less attention to the umps does not mean more attention to the players. Taking away that human interest and argumentative part of baseball in regards to the umpires lessens interest the game, not increases it.
   16. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4679069)
I think the argument is that to the extent it changes the game, it will be for the better, that less focus on umpires and more focus on players would be a good thing.


Maybe. And maybe it will throw the equilibrium of the game off in ways that we don't know and can't anticipate.

Using technology to call balls and strikes is the equivalent, when you think about it, of making a change to the strike zone (accepting the assumption that the human factor we have today distorts the strike zone from that of the rule book). As we know from history, it doesn't take much of a change to the strike zone to have dramatic effects on the game's pitching/hitting balance. I'm not sure that the net effect would be an improvement.

-- MWE
   17. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:55 AM (#4679070)
Maybe. And maybe it will throw the equilibrium of the game off in ways that we don't know and can't anticipate.

I also meant to say something like this, but certainly nowhere near as well.
   18. Bunny Vincennes Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:14 AM (#4679076)
And yet the stupid replay system seems to put umpires more in the focus. The drama of "the challenge" is ridiculous and distracting.
   19. McCoy Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:21 AM (#4679080)
Maybe. And maybe it will throw the equilibrium of the game off in ways that we don't know and can't anticipate.

Then you freakin change again. It's entertainment, folks.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:41 AM (#4679151)
I think the argument is that to the extent it changes the game, it will be for the better, that less focus on umpires and more focus on players would be a good thing.


I certainly could be wrong, but I really don't think it's zero-sum. Less attention to the umps does not mean more attention to the players. Taking away that human interest and argumentative part of baseball in regards to the umpires lessens interest the game, not increases it.

But that horse already left the barn with not-so-instant replay. The only thing that would be different about roboumps at home plate would be that far fewer bad calls would be made.
   21. Morty Causa Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4679158)
16:

Yes, but if a problem arises from the mechanical, that's easier to correct than if comes about due to a dispositions of human character.

EDIT: I think 19 is getting at what I write here.
   22. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4679211)

But isn't 40 WS the equivalent of 13 wins? (I seem to recall it was 3 win shares per win) I loves me some Mike Trout but 13 wins?


Preserved Fish is mostly correct; Win Shares is not an alternate WAR, not exactly. It seeks to assign every actual win by a team (in 1/3 increments) to players on that team. There is in practice a very low replacement level; I forget the precise way it is calculated but James uses a 'worst possible team' baseline to determine the contributions of each player. But that level is much lower than the replacement level used in WAR. And all the Win Shares by players on a team will add up to their actual win total, in theory.
   23. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:47 AM (#4679243)
The only thing that would be different about roboumps at home plate would be that far fewer bad calls would be made.

"Only" is a real oversell here, and covers way too much ground to equate them.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think far fewer people say "I can't watch baseball because the balls and strikes aren't perfect" than would say "I can't watch baseball because this robo-ump makes the game more boring to watch."
   24. AROM Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4679287)
I don't see a downside to the sport of James' proposal on the strike zone. Fans wouldn't even know anything has changed. There is a downside if you are a catcher who excels in framing pitches. It would likely be the end of Jose Molina's career, but then at his age he can't have that much left anyway.

WS: Hardball Times used to calculate win shares above bench, basically adding a replacement level. I think a replacement player playing everyday would have something like 10 win shares. Let me see...

10 win shares for 8 positions = 80
the non-pitcher/pitcher split set by James is explicitly set at 57/43 if I remember correctly, so a team has 140.
Divide by 3 and the replacement level team wins 47 - pretty close to what BBref/Fangraphs use.

So Bill's stat is saying Trout was a 10 WAR player - that's in the ballpark.

He's got Gomez about 3.5-4 WAR. You can break this down simply: John Dewan says Gomez saved 38 runs in the field last year, and Bill James doesn't buy it.
   25. pure bull Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4679302)
i don't doubt bill advocating for auto-calls for balls and strikes, even going back to '94. using the tech available at the time probably wasn't feasible, really, but he was certainly advocating for it at least as early as that...

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Dock Ellis on Acid
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogKapler: Baseball’s next big competitive edge
(39 - 3:58am, Sep 15)
Last: Curse of the Andino

NewsblogOT August 2014:  Wrassle Mania I
(150 - 3:30am, Sep 15)
Last: The Kentucky Gentleman, Mark Edward

NewsblogMassive Tie Scenarios : baseballmusings.com
(4 - 3:26am, Sep 15)
Last: silhouetted by the sea

NewsblogDave Kreiger: New Baseball Hall of Fame voting rules
(13 - 2:49am, Sep 15)
Last: Bhaakon

NewsblogFraley: Millions in lost revenue from ticket sales will impact Rangers payroll | Dallas Morning News
(30 - 12:40am, Sep 15)
Last: escabeche

NewsblogOT: NFL/NHL thread
(8035 - 12:17am, Sep 15)
Last: zenbitz

NewsblogOT: Politics, September, 2014: ESPN honors Daily Worker sports editor Lester Rodney
(2380 - 11:42pm, Sep 14)
Last: Ray (RDP)

NewsblogChris Sale’s Season for the Ages
(21 - 11:35pm, Sep 14)
Last: Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes

NewsblogSports Bog: Fans Switch From Skins to Nats
(43 - 11:30pm, Sep 14)
Last: Curse of the Andino

NewsblogOMNICHATTER 9-14-2014
(122 - 11:21pm, Sep 14)
Last: DKDC

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread, September 2014
(184 - 11:02pm, Sep 14)
Last: ursus arctos

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - September 2014
(249 - 9:35pm, Sep 14)
Last: andrewberg

NewsblogThe skills Rangers' Jon Daniels wants in new manager/partner - does Tim Bogar measure up? | Dallas Morning News
(3 - 7:39pm, Sep 14)
Last: Rough Carrigan

NewsblogMiami man charged with smuggling Cuban baseball star to U.S.
(1 - 6:35pm, Sep 14)
Last: Joe Bivens, Minor Genius

NewsblogOT: September 2014 College Football thread
(237 - 6:00pm, Sep 14)
Last: Gold Star - just Gold Star

Page rendered in 0.3867 seconds
54 querie(s) executed