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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Bill James Mailbag - 7/5/12 - 7/7/12

Fewer than .2 sales per month would, in fact, probably be bad.

What’s going on with Brett Lawrie? His defensive statistics this year would make Ken Boyer jealous. His defensive statistics were very good last year, too, but I don’t remember hearing anything about him being the second coming of Brooks Robinson. Is he really THIS good, or is it likely the statistics are distorted in a way we don’t understand?

I don’t know.  I didn’t know, until you asked, that he had good defensive statistics.  (I’ve probably seen the same charts that you have, but at my age, things like that don’t stick in your head.)

Based on how he has played against the Red Sox, I would readily believe that he’s the best defensive third baseman in baseball.  He’s just made play after play after play against us.  I would guess that he has made 8 to 10 seemingly impossible defensive plays against the Red Sox in the space of maybe 20 games.

Rick Reilly recently… was complaining about the amount of time the batter and pitcher screw around between pitches. Do you have a solution to that? Just make the umpire enforce the rules? Also… Reilly suggested the pitcher should get two pickoff attempts, and anything after that a ball is added to the hitter’s count. What do you think of that idea?

. . .it’s something, I guess.  I doubt that this rule would cut one minute off the average time of a baseball game, but it would create a barrier to one possible source of future wastes of time.

The throws to first really slowed the game down in the 1970s and 1980s, when there were many more stolen base attempts than there are now.  They’re not the actual issue any more, or rather, they might be 15% of the problem.  The other elements are a)  batters asking for time and stepping out between pitches, which I would estimate is about 30% of the problem, b) pitchers working slowly, which I would estimate is perhaps 15% of the problem, c) excessive pitching changes in the late innings (25%) and d) extended time between innings for commercials (15%).  You can’t solve the overall problem by addressing any ONE of those issues. 

I don’t think that baseball games are too long for the people who are at the park… Baseball games are too long for sportswriters and announcers, who have to go to the games every day and are inclined to complain about what a hard life it is.  Of more relevance, the games are not too LONG for television, but too SLOW…

What will really solve the problem is if the TV producers go the Major League baseball and tell them “Your product is just too slow for us.  The ratio of action to time is just too small.  You have to do something about it, or we’re not interested in purchasing your material.”  Unless or until that happens, there’s limited discipline to attacking the problem.

Random question: Any players besides Tommy John who has something off-the-field or non-performance related named after them? The Mendoza line is similar in that it can be applied in non-baseball settings - “My sales this month have dipped under the Mendoza line.” But the origin refers to on the field performance so it wouldn’t count I guess…

Lou Gehrig’s Disease would be the obvious.  I don’t know about anybody else, but in my household, laying on excessive and redundant praise is called “Jetering”.

Hey Bill, I’m curious, do you believe Kenny Lofton is a hall of famer? ...

... Lofton was a very underrated, under-valued player; I certainly agree with that.  Whether he is above the Hall of Fame line is a harder question, but he certainly had a remarkable career. 

I’m surprised to learn that Lofton never won a World Series.  He played in TWENTY post-season series, a total of 95 post-season games.  I have a friend who used to spend a lot of time in Japan, back in the 1990s.  A Japanese friend once told him, “You know, the thing about your World Series is, it’s the same players every year, but on different teams.”  That’s kind of how I thought about Lofton and Roberto Alomar; it seemed like they were in the post-season every year, but you never knew what team they would be on.

The District Attorney Posted: July 07, 2012 at 03:48 PM | 89 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, brett lawrie, derek jeter, hall of fame, history, kenny lofton, rick reilly, rules of play, sabermetrics

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   1. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: July 07, 2012 at 05:50 PM (#4175695)
Didn't James originally propose the "unsuccessful pickoff attempt is a ball" rule in the New Historical Abstract?
   2. Kurt Posted: July 07, 2012 at 06:02 PM (#4175699)
IIRC James' proposal was after two (or three) unsuccessful pickoff attempts, the runner got to advance a base.
   3. Mayor Blomberg Posted: July 07, 2012 at 06:18 PM (#4175706)
Has Jeter ever Jetered?
   4. Mayor Blomberg Posted: July 07, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4175707)
& what about Reggie Bars?
   5. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2012 at 06:28 PM (#4175710)
James' proposal in the NHBA was that on the third unsuccessful pickoff attempt in an inning and every unsuccessful attempt thereafter in the same inning, the batter gets a ball. It's a very sound theory which he supported in a very sound way by pointing out that you're limited in how many pitches you can throw without accomplishing anything, so why shouldn't the same be true of throwing to bases?

I think it's fascinating that now you can ask Bill James a question about the validity of advanced fielding statistics, and have him respond with an anecdote of his own limited personal experience to support them. That it's the exact opposite of what he was doing 30 years ago is delightful irony. It means we've long since won the war he started.
   6. AndrewJ Posted: July 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM (#4175724)
I just e-mailed Bill that a turn-of-the-20th-century outfielder named John Anderson once tried stealing second with a runner on second. This blunder became known for awhile as a "John Anderson play."
   7. Walt Davis Posted: July 07, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4175745)
Maybe it should be legal to have mulitple guys on the same base. :-)

Lawrie's defensive ultra-brilliance is shift-related. Fangraphs rates him as only really, really good (+9 so far this season) but not the Darwin Barney of 3B. :-)

Other folks have posted about it here and hopefully they're being accurate so ... the Jays shift Lawrie to the right side and leave the SS where he is when they shift. Apparently b-r WAR just records those as plays made by a 3B to the right of second and concludes "heavens to Betsy that's amazing range!"

Barney is probably a bit harder to explain as he is a 2B and so he's not ranging across half the diamond to make his shift plays ... and it's not like the shift was invented this year. He is making plays that other 2B aren't making but could even if credit should probably go to Sveum and the coaches rather than Barney.
   8. bobm Posted: July 07, 2012 at 08:44 PM (#4175807)
Does being "[Wally] Pipped” count as an off-the-field baseball eponym?

Also: "Charley Horse" from Wikipedia: "The term may date back to American slang of the 1880s, possibly from the pitcher Charlie "Old Hoss" Radbourn who is said to have suffered from cramps."
   9. AndrewJ Posted: July 07, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4175815)
And Fred Merkle's last name become synonymous with "boneheaded mistake."
   10. Walt Davis Posted: July 07, 2012 at 09:06 PM (#4175821)
Nobody's even mentioned "Ruthian" yet which you can actually find in the dictionary.
   11. Cblau Posted: July 07, 2012 at 09:19 PM (#4175836)
Ty Cobb twice (at least) tried to steal third base when third base was occupied. He actually made it back to second once.
   12. Darren Posted: July 07, 2012 at 09:43 PM (#4175864)
Hey Bill--

How come the team you work for has done so many things that you would have laughed at in the 80s?
   13. The District Attorney Posted: July 07, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4175921)
I think it's fascinating that now you can ask Bill James a question about the validity of advanced fielding statistics, and have him respond with an anecdote of his own limited personal experience to support them. That it's the exact opposite of what he was doing 30 years ago is delightful irony. It means we've long since won the war he started.
Heh... well said, I suppose.

I just e-mailed Bill that a turn-of-the-20th-century outfielder named John Anderson once tried stealing second with a runner on second. This blunder became known for awhile as a "John Anderson play."
Bill's response:
The John Anderson example is meaningless outside of baseball, and Charley Horse is only relevant to the category if his name was actually Charley Horse. There are many baseball phrases which are widely used, like "out of left field" and "playing hard ball" and "making the big leagues", but the question was about a player's name entering the language.

[Barney] is making plays that other 2B aren't making but could even if credit should probably go to Sveum and the coaches rather than Barney.
Maybe we now finally have a way to quantify the contributions of managers. Shift Points!
   14. Greg K Posted: July 08, 2012 at 12:09 AM (#4175955)
To my mind anyway, Lawrie presents an interesting quandry. If we're in a sort of closed circuit era of "value", what do we do with shifts?

I'm far from well versed in the matter, but it seems like we're at the point now where the value of each outcome is divided up between pitcher, fielder (sometimes), and batter. Crediting Lawrie with all the value of a successful shift (when he makes a play that 99% of infielders could make if they were standing where he is) seems less than ideal. Should the credit go to the pitcher? That doesn't seem ideal either.

Shifts appear to be adding value, but how to incorporate that value into WAR? (or whatever value stat you're using)

EDIT: Apologies for any gross simplification or misunderstanding of what stats like WAR do.
   15. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 12:43 AM (#4175966)
It's not just bWAR that grades Lawrie as historically great with the glove; plus-minus does as well. The Jays don't shift THAT much, do they? I have a hard time believing the shift is entirely, or even mostly, responsible for making a +10 fielder look like a +60 fielder (plus-minus has Lawrie at +40 so far this year).
   16. Ron J Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:44 AM (#4175976)
#15 The Jays are doing some really unusual things with Lawrie. He's made plays in shallow right.

And #14 it's not clear that shifts are adding value. They change who makes the play, but pull hitters don't hit much on grounders at the best of times (and most shifts are for dead pull hitters). I think it's mostly about changing who gets credit on what amounts to a discretionary play. Basically teams are seemingly in the process of changing the expected distribution of outs on balls in play. I don't think it'syet a general problem, but there are specific problematic cases (and Lawrie is one of them)

This may be an area where James' fielding system shows to advantage in that there's a team component to every fielder's rating.

Before I give the Jays (or any other team's management) extra credit I'd want evidence that the fielders are actually making extra plays.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:03 AM (#4175979)
I tend to think that if his numbers are so outrageous, everything might be true. He's fantastic, and the shift is fooling the numbers, and it's a flukey small sample size.

But really, at what point does this community remember that you need a gigantic sample of defensive numbers before you can begin to trust them?
   18. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:27 AM (#4175982)
In Michigan you can buy Verlander flakes. I have to think there are dozens of similar examples.
   19. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:41 AM (#4175983)
Random question: Any players besides Tommy John who has something off-the-field or non-performance related named after them?

Yogi Bear.

The Baby Ruth bar.

Less clearcut and/or significant: the Keltner list, the Pesky pole, Kiner's Korner, Wrigley's Gum.

And Jack Glasscock.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: July 08, 2012 at 06:44 AM (#4175989)
I have a hard time believing the shift is entirely, or even mostly, responsible for making a +10 fielder look like a +60 fielder (plus-minus has Lawrie at +40 so far this year).

There was a link a few days ago which went into a bit more detail and it looks like it does. Lawrie is making plays which are ridiculously far out of his zone (in RF). He's compared to other 3B and of course no other 3B is making those plays. UZR ignores shift plays entirely and has him at +9 on the year, not +32.

In the AL, Toronto has the #1 3B, the #2 SS and the #1 2B (Kelly Johnson for crying out loud). In the NL, the Cubs have the #1 2B and the #1 SS (Castro, bwahaha). If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck but fields like Ozzie Smith then it stinks like 3-day old fish.

Here's what I don't get. If the tracker can actually code the "zone" of a batted ball (along with type and speed), they should be able to code the zone each IF starts in before the pitch. In/out of zone then gets measured relative to that starting zone. It will be crude but better than nothing.

Hey, where's MWE? This is the Jeter and Chipper issues all over again really.

But really, at what point does this community remember that you need a gigantic sample of defensive numbers before you can begin to trust them?

Yes, but in the "WAR era" we have never seen half-season numbers like this. Lawrie is already at +32. Brooks has the greatest season ever at +33. He needs to regress all the way to average not to set the record.
   21. BDC Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:05 AM (#4176006)
I'd always thought that the Baby Ruth was named after Ruth Cleveland, but come to find that that is one of those reverse-intuitive things where the more obvious answer really is the correct one.

Other players (besides Ruth and Reggie) have had candy bars named after them, including Junior Griffey. Joe Medwick, when he was in the minor leagues, had the Duckie-Wuckie bar named after him. This is no longer in production, sadly.
   22. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:14 AM (#4176010)
The Baby Ruth bar.


Supposedly named after some president's young daughter.
   23. Greg K Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4176012)
It's not just bWAR that grades Lawrie as historically great with the glove; plus-minus does as well. The Jays don't shift THAT much, do they? I have a hard time believing the shift is entirely, or even mostly, responsible for making a +10 fielder look like a +60 fielder (plus-minus has Lawrie at +40 so far this year).

I should clarify that Lawrie also looks pretty awesome at 3B. I can easily believe Lawrie is a great 3B that is getting some kind of shift bonus that makes him look other-worldly.
   24. Greg K Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:25 AM (#4176013)
A Japanese friend once told him, “You know, the thing about your World Series is, it’s the same players every year, but on different teams.” That’s kind of how I thought about Lofton and Roberto Alomar; it seemed like they were in the post-season every year, but you never knew what team they would be on.

That's how I felt about Alan Embree. We all knew how great he was, but I sometimes wished another guy would get a chance in the post-season.
   25. Morty Causa Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4176021)
21 & 22:

Yeah, that is interesting. We all think as impressionable young folks that it's named after Babe Ruth. Then we're told it's after Cleveland's daughter--mainly because that's what the candy company maintained. But, it turns out, it probably was named after Babe, and the Cleveland thing was promoted so as to not have to pay Ruth for the use of his name. Of course, a lot of this is just argument. See snopes.
   26. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4176024)
If I recall DRS gives Lawrie for every play made in the shift almost a full run of credit and for every missed play to third base while in the shift slightly less than that.

So far this year, according to FG, Brett has made 49 out of zone plays. 181 balls in zone and he made 140 plays on those balls.

Moustakas is only a thousandth of a point behind Lawrie in RZR but is 21 plays behind in OOZ. DRS views Mike as a +9 runs guys while it views Brett as a +32 runs. UZR has them at 8.5 and 9.1 respectively.
   27. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:15 AM (#4176029)
Baby Ruth Cleveland would have been a 29-year-old infant when the candy bar was named, if she hadn't died 17 years before her coincidental peanutty eulogy. We can expect to see the Baby Chelsea bar any day now.

For the record, Hanna Barbera also denied naming Yogi Bear after anybody. And if you can't trust a company that ripped off the vocal inflections of Phil Silvers, Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, Ed Wynn, Bert Lahr, Peter Lorre and Jimmy Durante, who can you trust?
   28. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:21 AM (#4176031)
I ran a batting event query on BRef using Toronto as the opponent against LHB to see if I could find those 49 plays. According to the hit location map Lawrie made 14 plays in the 34 zone, 3 plays in the 4 zone, 2 plays in the 89 zone, and 1 play in the 3 zone.

Other plays that might be considered OOZ but are more normally expected of a 3B are 12 plays in the 6 zone, 1 play each in the 25, 9, and 2 zone. So that is 35 plays.

Now then I found 6 groundballs for singles that went through the 56 zone with a LH up against Toronto.

edit: A BIP query turns up 15 plays for Lawrie in the 34 zone and 4 plays in the 4 zone. The extra two plays are a ROE and a hit.
   29. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:25 AM (#4176034)
Baby Ruth Cleveland would have been a 29-year-old infant when the candy bar was named, if she hadn't died 17 years before her coincidental peanutty eulogy.

I wonder if Oscar Charleston would've squawked if Curtiss had put out a candy bar named after Cleveland's rape child and refused to pay him any royalties.
   30. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4176038)
One question for all, where can I find the spray charts for hitters?
   31. jingoist Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:57 AM (#4176044)
Right Guard website
   32. just plain joe Posted: July 08, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4176077)
Wrigley's Gum.


Wrigley's Gum dates back to the 1890's, long before the Wrigley family had anything to do with the Chicago Cubs or Wrigley Field.
   33. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:12 PM (#4176115)
UZR ignores shift plays entirely and has him at +9 on the year, not +32.


I think that goes too far the other way, and I disapprove of UZR just ignoring selective plays because they don't match up to its theoretical framework. Lawrie's certainly making plays, and I think he should be credited for them somehow. Not as much as dWAR says, but I don't think you can just assume that all the balls in the area would have been outs without him.
   34. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:14 PM (#4176118)
Well, they'd probably be outs if all teams had a fielder there instead of at third base and those plays most certainly wouldn't be worth a run saved if every team put a player there.
   35. BDC Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4176124)
UZR ignores shift plays entirely

This is a weird, weird development. A few years ago I remember incurring the pique of Chris Dial in one of these threads for opining that strict by-position assessment of baseball defense was artificial, in that there's really no reason anyone except the pitcher and catcher must play anywhere special, just that they must start in fair territory. Nonsense, said Chris (with reason), the seven fielding positions were established æons ago, and are as graven in stone as any Commandment. But within almost no time, fielding metrics are indeed being bedevilled by the fad/trend/seachange/whatever of sticking various guys just about anywhere the ball is likely to be hit.
   36. Dan Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4176129)
It's not just bWAR that grades Lawrie as historically great with the glove; plus-minus does as well. The Jays don't shift THAT much, do they? I have a hard time believing the shift is entirely, or even mostly, responsible for making a +10 fielder look like a +60 fielder (plus-minus has Lawrie at +40 so far this year).


bWAR's fielding component is plus/minus, also known as DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). They are the exact same thing.
   37. tshipman Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4176136)
I think that goes too far the other way, and I disapprove of UZR just ignoring selective plays because they don't match up to its theoretical framework.


How are you supposed to measure it though? UZR and other defensive metrics are based off of comparing the player to his peers. If his peers aren't moving around the diamond, how do you credit or debit someone for playing out of position?
   38. JJ1986 Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4176138)
How are you supposed to measure it though?


I don't know how much this would help, but for those plays, they could consider it a temporary position switch. Lawrie is playing 2B, the 2Bmen is playing SS and the SS is playing 3B.
   39. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4176141)
There must be some plays where they put the shift on and the batter cleverly hits it to exactly where Lawrie usually plays, and it's a base hit. Maybe those should be massively overweighted to cancel out the other shift plays.
   40. PreservedFish Posted: July 08, 2012 at 01:40 PM (#4176143)
Oh, forget all this UZR, Plus/Minus stuff. I'm just ignoring it all until we get Field FX publicly available.
   41. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4176154)
Lawrie is playing 2B, the 2Bmen is playing SS and the SS is playing 3B.

But that isn't what is happening when Lawrie moves.
   42. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4176156)
There must be some plays where they put the shift on and the batter cleverly hits it to exactly where Lawrie usually plays, and it's a base hit. Maybe those should be massively overweighted to cancel out the other shift plays.

It's like I'm on ignore or something. DRS gives Lawrie something like .99 runs when he makes a play in the shift but penalizes him something like .94 runs when a ball is hit to third base and he is in the shift. So far Brett has made about 25 plays in the shift and had 8 groundballs go through the third base area while he has been in the shift.

Plus Brett gets no penalty for not making a play while in the shift since it is considered a bonus play for him.
   43. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4176166)
How are you supposed to measure it though? UZR and other defensive metrics are based off of comparing the player to his peers. If his peers aren't moving around the diamond, how do you credit or debit someone for playing out of position?


No idea! I just know I don't like any of the solutions so far. Perhaps, since Lawrie is effectively playing a defensive position unique in baseball, the defensive metric just weren't built to handle this situation.
   44. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: July 08, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4176176)
Perhaps, since Lawrie is effectively playing a defensive position unique in baseball, the defensive metric just weren't built to handle this situation.

I don't think there's any "perhaps" about it. I certainly prefer UZR's method to one where Lawrie suddenly becomes the bestest third baseman of all-time.
   45. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 08, 2012 at 03:11 PM (#4176190)
Agree with Voros. They should create a "rover" position for zone stats and account for Lawrie's play in shifted defenses there. When he's standing in the center of a triangle between 1B, 2B and RF before the pitcher goes into his windup, he's not playing "third base" and should not be credited with defensive "value" as a 3B for playing not-3B. It would be like crediting Martin Prado with 3B credit for all of those plays he makes in LF (when he's playing LF.)

If managers are going to create new defensive positions (basically Lawrie is playing short-RF "rover" from men's league softball on shift plays) then analysts need to account for this change in tactic, not sit around and demand that the game can only be measured according to their already-existing methodologies.
   46. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4176261)
Maybe a solution for now is just not to count plays made when playing a non-traditional position?

As to the issue of defensive stats generally, the problem is not the limitation of the defensive stats; the problem is that people treat defensive stats with the same confidence as offensive stats. Isn't that what WAR does, after all? Just add oWAR and dWAR as if they're both calculated to the same degree of confidence?
   47. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 08, 2012 at 07:49 PM (#4176303)
Yes, that's the problem with combined WAR. No one should ever do that.
   48. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: July 08, 2012 at 08:36 PM (#4176364)
Maybe a solution for now is just not to count plays made when playing a non-traditional position?


I guess that's the best solution for now, but I still think it's weird to start doing that just as teams start shifting all over the place. It makes defensive statistics even sketchier.
   49. PreservedFish Posted: July 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM (#4176399)
As to the issue of defensive stats generally, the problem is not the limitation of the defensive stats; the problem is that people treat defensive stats with the same confidence as offensive stats. Isn't that what WAR does, after all? Just add oWAR and dWAR as if they're both calculated to the same degree of confidence?


If B-R had a WAR number with a smoothed out dWAR (a regressed multi-year average or something), I believe that people on this website would use it.
   50. McCoy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4176434)
How would that help with the shift problem?
   51. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:17 PM (#4176443)
I guess that's the best solution for now, but I still think it's weird to start doing that just as teams start shifting all over the place. It makes defensive statistics even sketchier.


The game is complex. The model must be complicated if it is to be useful.
   52. cardsfanboy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:20 PM (#4176453)
I guess that's the best solution for now, but I still think it's weird to start doing that just as teams start shifting all over the place. It makes defensive statistics even sketchier


Remove the ones that the system considers to be "out of position" but then dump it into a team stat called "coaching" and keep track of it that way. Not every play has to be attributed to a player, there is nothing wrong with putting some plays into coaching value.
   53. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:25 PM (#4176467)
Right; as cfb says, there is no need to discard the data completely. Store it until you know just what in the hell to do with it as far as evaluating players goes.
   54. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4176511)
I like the idea of dropping shift-outs into a "team defense" bucket. I know it sort of goes against the uber-alles notion of much stat-think; the idea of each player as an island of individual performance detached and analyzable as a solitary unit. But sometimes reality goes against that sort of thinking, and the wise maps his theory to reality rather than foolishly attempting to bend reality to his will.

(You may take these learnings to the OT-P thread as you will, children.)
   55. Into the Void Posted: July 08, 2012 at 09:54 PM (#4176516)
Groat's Disease? :)
   56. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:13 PM (#4176557)
If B-R had a WAR number with a smoothed out dWAR (a regressed multi-year average or something), I believe that people on this website would use it.


I think Sean intends for oWAR to be used this way. oWAR includes positional adjustments but assumes everybody's an average fielder. So, if people don't like BB-Ref's defensive numbers, the idea is you can start with oWAR and make your own adjustments from there. Mike Trout currently leads the AL in oWAR with 3.7 and Lawrie's not in the top 10.
   57. PreservedFish Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:18 PM (#4176564)
I think Sean intends for oWAR to be used this way.


I don't think that goes far enough. We need a number that everyone can reference, a number with leaderboards and such.
   58. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 08, 2012 at 10:26 PM (#4176574)
We need a number that everyone can reference, a number with leaderboards and such.


I linked to the top 10 leaderboards for the 2012 AL; oWAR is the third statistic shown - it's in the top row. It's the second statistic listed under batting leaderboards at BB-Ref. I'm 99% sure you can use it as your stat of choice in their Play Index. People aren't used to looking for it and using it, but it's really no harder to find or use than total WAR.
   59. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 11:09 PM (#4176626)
I linked to the top 10 leaderboards for the 2012 AL; oWAR is the third statistic shown - it's in the top row. It's the second statistic listed under batting leaderboards at BB-Ref. I'm 99% sure you can use it as your stat of choice in their Play Index.


Actually, it so happens that I tried to do just this for the anti-All Stars thread, but was unable to do a play index search via oWAR.

   60. PreservedFish Posted: July 08, 2012 at 11:15 PM (#4176634)
#58 - what I mean is a number that includes the defensive component. If we're ignoring defense, and everyone is making their own mental adjustments, there's no common ground in debates. For a number to surmount WAR it needs to be extremely convenient.
   61. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 08, 2012 at 11:15 PM (#4176635)
it so happens that I tried to do just this for the anti-All Stars thread, but was unable to do a play index search via oWAR.


I stand corrected. I can't imagine why BB-Ref doesn't allow that; they really should.
   62. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 08, 2012 at 11:23 PM (#4176640)
what I mean is a number that includes the defensive component.


But isn't the whole issue that people want to use their own defensive numbers? I mean, if you want to have an uber-stat that has defensive numbers that you believe, the only possible answer is to construct the data yourself using your personal defensive estimates. If you want an uber-stat that has A defensive number, there are any number of choices: bWAR, fWAR, I think Baseball Gauge has their own version of WAR (although they might just use BB-Ref's?). Heck, I created my own player won-lost records and you can use mine if you'd like (although I use Retrosheet data, so I won't have 2012 numbers until after the season).

I actually do like using oWAR as a starting point, though, because it can help to clarify the issue: how much better defensively would player X have to be than player Y to really be better overall, and how likely is it that he's that much better?
   63. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 08, 2012 at 11:30 PM (#4176649)
I prefer oWAR to WAR. I wouldn't mind an uber-stat that used a compilation of the various defensive metrics as its defensive component, ideally with an adjustment to weight the defensive component less than we would otherwise since it's pure fantasy that defensive metrics are as accurate as offensive ones.

But I can't get behind using just one flavor of defensive metric, let alone weighting it as if we had perfect information.

When you have vast disagreement between multiple reasonably designed defensive systems, you simply shouldn't be overselling the utility of the systems.
   64. cardsfanboy Posted: July 08, 2012 at 11:42 PM (#4176662)
I actually do like using oWAR as a starting point, though, because it can help to clarify the issue: how much better defensively would player X have to be than player Y to really be better overall, and how likely is it that he's that much better?


Thanks to your post 58, I think that might be the way I would like to look at it. I'm still going to ignore catchers as I do not think that we are remotely close to evaluating the positional advantage/difference for catchers. I had more or less regressed to using ops+ with a caveat of whether the obp is weak/average/strong. (not currently a fan of any of the war numbers after the recent shake up at bb-ref, just doesn't feel right in way to many cases---where before my primary gripe was with the Mauer war calculation, now it seems I can find many examples like that, which seem to be way off)
   65. Ron J Posted: July 09, 2012 at 12:05 AM (#4176681)
#49 To me this makes as much sense as regressing offensive stats. And I don't mean it as an insult.

If you're looking to find out how good a guy is, it makes all the sense in the world to regress a current year's results.

But if you're trying to figure out present value ... not so clear. Defensive stats are bound to be noisy since the meaningful sample size is so small (somewhere around 70% of all balls in play are of the "everybody makes the play" or "nobody makes the play" nature), but ... fielders do have good and bad years too and it feels wrong to me to just adjust this away in discussing seasonal value.

And yes, plus minus doesn't handle shifting in a way that comes close to making sense. I'm pretty sure the "right" way to handle it is to use different areas of responsibility and directly create a team debit for balls that go through the vacated areas. And ideally not give any credit on the discretionary plays. Hard to do with the currently available information. (It's pretty much what PMR is aiming for, and PMR makes a nice sanity check for plus minus)
   66. PreservedFish Posted: July 09, 2012 at 01:10 AM (#4176704)
If you're looking to find out how good a guy is, it makes all the sense in the world to regress a current year's results.

But if you're trying to figure out present value ... not so clear.


What I'm saying is that I would be content with an apples+oranges stat: a combination of a value estimate of offense (oWAR) with an ability estimate of defense (the regressed multiyear dWAR). I realize it's a Frankenstein's monster of an uberstat, but I think it's a good compromise. I think it would improve the stat's utility in the type of debates that we have here.

but ... fielders do have good and bad years too and it feels wrong to me to just adjust this away in discussing seasonal value.


There are any number of ways of smoothing out the defensive numbers. You don't need to just do a 3-year average, you can give Year X a 65% weight or something. I don't know what would be best.

But isn't the whole issue that people want to use their own defensive numbers? I mean, if you want to have an uber-stat that has defensive numbers that you believe, the only possible answer is to construct the data yourself using your personal defensive estimates.


No, the whole point is to improve the WAR uberstat. And thus individual decisions are not the "only possible answer." How about this answer: Sean Forman comes up with a blend that he thinks works well, and it becomes broadly accepted by the stathead community.

I like what you're doing with oWAR, it makes sense to me. But the mental adjustment ultimately doesn't work well for a site like this because it is not convenient, it needs to be explained. I have realized that, sadly, the convenience of the WAR uberstat is irresistible. People keep using it again and again and again despite the pitfalls. So I want it to be better.
   67. Walt Davis Posted: July 09, 2012 at 07:49 AM (#4176762)
What, nobody likes my idea of coding what zone the fielder starts in?

As I understand it, the only thing the Jays are doing differently is shifting Lawrie to short RF (and basically leaving the 2B and SS where they are) rather than shifting everybody over one position. A Q&D solution that would probably be better than UZR ignoring shift plays (how is this defined anyway?) is suggested above -- just treat Lawrie as the 2B on those plays. This still "misses" the shift but no moreso than stats have done every year before this one (when the shifted 2B was treated as a 2B).

But maybe the Jays are doing something different -- as I noted, they are dominating the AL IF stats. So all the guys are either making more plays or making more OOZ plays or something.
   68. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 09, 2012 at 08:13 AM (#4176773)
The whole discussion about baseball players being known outside the context of baseball reminds me of a question I sometimes ask my completely-non-baseball-following wife. If I want to know if a certain athlete has made it beyond sports, and into society, I'll throw name at her, and ask her if she's:

1) Ever heard of the athlete, and
2) Can say anything descriptive about the athlete.

Now, she's very well read, well-educated, etc., but it's a reference point for me, as a big sports fan.

Michael Jordan? Check.
Larry Bird? Check.
Lebron James? Check.
Kevin Durant? Who?

Barry Bonds? Oh, yeah. He's bad!
Roger Clemens? Oh, yeah. Didn't he do something wrong?
Ken Griffey? Rings a bell, couldn't tell you anything about him, though.
Albert Pujols? No idea.

I think you might be surprised at how few baseball players, in particular, are known outside of the sports fan world.
   69. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 09, 2012 at 09:03 AM (#4176798)
? She knew 3 of the 4 baseball players you mentioned. Same as 3 of the 4 basketball players.
   70. PreservedFish Posted: July 09, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4176852)
? She knew 3 of the 4 baseball players you mentioned.


Uh, they were 3 of 4 the most absurdly talented, famous and important baseball players of the last 20 years.
   71. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4176854)
I also got the impression that "check" meant she knew of them, and could describe who they are. Whereas, for the baseball players, she clearly had only heard their names and (in two of the cases) a brief news item.

I could be wrong, of course.
   72. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 09, 2012 at 10:11 AM (#4176860)
As I understand it, the only thing the Jays are doing differently is shifting Lawrie to short RF (and basically leaving the 2B and SS where they are) rather than shifting everybody over one position.


It seems obvious to me that, at this point, Lawrie is no longer playing third base, and all the plays he makes should either be coded to a different position or ignored for purposes of ranking him as a third baseman. I know it would be a total pain to have to keep track of defensive positions and stats by batter, but if Lawrie is playing to the right of second base, and is not the leftmost member of the infield, he is not in any meaningful sense playing third base. Any system that records his numbers at that point as making third-baseman plays is wrong. It's no different than if he swapped positions with the first baseman, but you continued to record his stats as if he were still playing third.
   73. SoSH U at work Posted: July 09, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4176880)
It seems obvious to me that, at this point, Lawrie is no longer playing third base, and all the plays he makes should either be coded to a different position or ignored for purposes of ranking him as a third baseman. I know it would be a total pain to have to keep track of defensive positions and stats by batter, but if Lawrie is playing to the right of second base, and is not the leftmost member of the infield, he is not in any meaningful sense playing third base. Any system that records his numbers at that point as making third-baseman plays is wrong. It's no different than if he swapped positions with the first baseman, but you continued to record his stats as if he were still playing third.


And, if he throws a guy out at first while standing between the second baseman and shortstop, should that be recorded as a 5-3 putout in the scorebook?


   74. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4176905)
Uh, they were 3 of 4 the most absurdly talented, famous and important baseball players of the last 20 years.


As opposed to the relative obscurity of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and LeBron James?
   75. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:11 AM (#4176910)
And, if he throws a guy out at first while standing between the second baseman and shortstop, should that be recorded as a 5-3 putout in the scorebook?

Interesting question.

For a casual fan, yes. The "5" is more of a way to say "The guy currently listed on this sheet as '3B' made this play" than "the guy standing in the traditional third base position made this play", at least to me.

For a more advanced scorer, maybe. There should be some special notation made, for sure.
   76. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:13 AM (#4176911)
Agree with Tom in #72.

And even aside from the specific 3B issue, I don't even know how we know what "value" Lawrie has when he's standing in short right field, in order to even add it to WAR. Do we even have enough info to know how many plays the average "short right fielder" makes in those instances of the balls that come into his zone?
   77. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:22 AM (#4176918)
For a casual fan, yes. The "5" is more of a way to say "The guy currently listed on this sheet as '3B' made this play" than "the guy standing in the traditional third base position made this play", at least to me.

For a more advanced scorer, maybe. There should be some special notation made, for sure.


Casual fans don't know what "5" means in that context anyway. If you're familiar with the 5-3 notation you're not actually a casual fan.

That said, for scoring purposes some sort of notation adjustment is in order. Something like 5(4/9)-3 to indicate "the listed 3B, playing out of zone between 2B and RF, assisting the 1B on the put out.)
   78. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4176931)
Casual fans don't know what "5" means in that context anyway. If you're familiar with the 5-3 notation you're not actually a casual fan.

You'd be surprised. My mother keeps score at every game she's at, and I'd consider her a casual fan.

That said, you're right that there's some level of advanced knowledge necessary to keep score. "Casual" in that context is relative; for those who don't know what "5" means, who gives a crap what we mark on the scorecards?
   79. PreservedFish Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4176940)
As opposed to the relative obscurity of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and LeBron James?


Astonishing to me that you could miss the point of that comment.
   80. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4176941)
You'd be surprised. My mother keeps score at every game she's at, and I'd consider her a casual fan


It's probably just semantics, but I wouldn't say anyone who keeps score at every game they go to is a casual fan. But even so, the question at hand isn't how your mom should score that play. If she wants to score it 5-3 that's between her and her file cabinets of old scoresheets at home. The only point where it becomes relevant is how *the guys building defensive metrics* score it, and in that case I don't see how anyone could defend not noting that Lawrie was playing as a short fielder in right, rather than playing as a third basemen, when he fielded a grounder in the deep 2B zone and threw out the runner. He most certainly didn't get such a brilliant jump on the ball off the bat that he ran past the pitcher's mound, past the 1B, past the 2B and outraced the RF to the ball to make that play.

The stats have to account for reality if they're going to be meaningful at all.
   81. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4176949)
Astonishing to me that you could miss the point of that comment.


Well, I just re-read the exchange and I still don't see the point of your comment, then. (This is not meant as an insult. I sincerely am not seeing it.)
   82. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4176953)
The only point where it becomes relevant is how *the guys building defensive metrics* score it

Of course, that's kind of what I was getting at (badly). Matt's question was more along the lines of an unofficial scorekeeper anyway, or at least that's how I read it. Official scoring, to my knowledge, is much more detailed than just "5-3" anyway.
   83. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:58 AM (#4176958)
Ray -

The original comment had two criteria:
1) Ever heard of the athlete, and
2) Can say anything descriptive about the athlete.


Therefore, "check" would imply that both points were met; for three NBA players, she had heard of them and could describe them.

She had heard of three of the baseball players, but could barely describe any of them (I wouldn't count "he's bad" and "didn't do something wrong?" as accurate descriptions, really).
   84. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 09, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4176959)
Of course, that's kind of what I was getting at (badly). Matt's question was more along the lines of an unofficial scorekeeper anyway, or at least that's how I read it. Official scoring, to my knowledge, is much more detailed than just "5-3" anyway.


Why don't we just GPS the players and the ball?
   85. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4176963)
Why don't we just GPS the players and the ball?

That would be pretty awesome. I would imagine currently, costs make it impractical. Maybe not, though.
   86. SoSH U at work Posted: July 09, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4176970)
Of course, that's kind of what I was getting at (badly). Matt's question was more along the lines of an unofficial scorekeeper anyway, or at least that's how I read it. Official scoring, to my knowledge, is much more detailed than just "5-3" anyway.


Who's Matt?

My point is more a question of what the number represents, rather than it's practical application (though truth be told, I'm a lot more interested in a tidy scorebook than the effect on modern defensive metrics). Does the number represent the player or the place on the field?

Let's look at another example. If in the 15th inning of a game, the manager brings in a pitcher (or late model Rusty Staub) to man rightfield . When a lefty comes up to the plate, the skipper shifts the pitcher and the leftfielder. Does the pitcher become the 7 and the leftfielder the 9, or do they retain the number they were assigned at the beginning of the inning?


   87. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 09, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4176971)
That would be pretty awesome. I would imagine currently, costs make it impractical. Maybe not, though.


For balls, yes. You'd have to put a chip into every ball at manufacture. But the players? Just sew a chip into their jersey number/name and go to work. That way you can *literally* track how much ground Lawrie covers on any given play.
   88. Eddo Posted: July 09, 2012 at 12:12 PM (#4176982)
Who's Matt?

Whoops. Got confused with another thread. Sorry SoSH.

Let's look at another example. If in the 15th inning of a game, the manager brings in a pitcher (or late model Rusty Staub) to man rightfield . When a lefty comes up to the plate, the skipper shifts the pitcher and the leftfielder. Does the pitcher become the 7 and the leftfielder the 9, or do they retain the number they were assigned at the beginning of the inning?

Personally, I'd score it as the position they took prior to the pitch, so yes, the pitcher would be the 7 and the usual leftfielder would be the 9 in your example. In this case, it's not too weird, since you are still lining up one player at each of the nine standard positions

Shifts, I'm not really sure. Sam's 5(4/9) notation is fairly clean, so I could see that as an answer. Where Lawrie plays when the shift is on isn't a standard position. You still have the RF at the 9 spot, and the 2B and SS are not very far removed from the standard 4 and 6 spots, respectively.
   89. PreservedFish Posted: July 09, 2012 at 12:12 PM (#4176983)
You guys are basically just describing Field FX. It uses cameras instead of GPS, but it's the same idea, trying to track every single movement on the baseball field. As I said in #40, I believe that in the near future we'll have the Field FX numbers available, and all of our previous defensive estimates will look like ####### jokes.

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