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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Bill James on 60 Minutes

No Tivo required.

Jim Furtado Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:03 AM | 270 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: media, sabermetrics

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.

Page 3 of 3 pages  < 1 2 3
   201. JPWF13 Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:49 PM (#2725237)
five?
   202. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:49 PM (#2725239)
I think you need to reread what he has written recently on the subject because he himself is forcefully promoting the idea that clutch hitting needs to be revisited and he hasn't proven a damned thing about it yet.


There's nothing wrong with more study, but this issue doesn't "need to be revisited" any more than the idea that some hitters choke when it's a full moon "needs to be revisited."
   203. Backlasher Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:50 PM (#2725246)
you have taken what others have referred to as random variation. rephrased it numerous times as "luck"

I don't think I have, at least not to the extent you imply.

Most often, I have taken what people refer to as "luck" and referred to it by the same term, namely "luck".

There are a few people that talk about "random variation" where I offer no objection.

When a person creating a predictive model suggests that effects on performance such as weather, mechanics on certain fields, health, etc. fluctuate wildly and may be considered as random events within their model, that is one thing. I rarely have issue when they refer to that as "random fluctuation"

That is not what usually happens. Usually people say that a win or loss was "luck", or explain their being wrong as "luck". Those that want to sound more erudite, will say the past events WERE CAUSED by random fluctuations. That small group of people I may be substituting the word "luck" for random variation.
   204. JPWF13 Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:52 PM (#2725257)
Those that want to sound more erudite, will say the past events WERE CAUSED by random fluctuations.


If anyone says something was "caused" by random variation they should be forced to endure the college statistics class that I endured 20 years ago- with their eyelids propped open by toothpicks...
   205. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:55 PM (#2725264)
That is not what usually happens. Usually people say that a win or loss was "luck", or explain their being wrong as "luck". Those that want to sound more erudite, will say the past events WERE CAUSED by random fluctuations. That small group of people I may be substituting the word "luck" for random variation.
Come on, that's you picking on inartful phrasing to ignore the point. To say that something is "caused by" luck obviously is a little off-kilter; "luck" (or "random variation") doesn't "cause" a coin to come up heads. Luck (or "random variation," or "chance," all of which are often used interchangeably in these discussions) isn't a force, so it can't "cause" things. But it's clear what the speaker means. When someone sys, "I won the coin toss because of luck," he clearly doesn't mean "The luck fairy made me win." He means the win was not due to the agency of the participants.
   206. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 31, 2008 at 08:55 PM (#2725269)
The example was given to counter your claim that since clutch has not yet been shown to exist it can't be important. Which is a patently false assertion. Clutch may or may not exist. If it does exist it may or may not be that important, but the fact that it has not yet been shown to exist has little if any bearing on whether or not it is "important".


It's not likely to be important if we can't measure it. We know that, say, the ball-strike count is important because we can measure the effect. If we couldn't see that Mike Lowell (et . al.) consistently hits better on 3-0 than 0-2, I'd say that there was no evidence that the count affects a batter's performance, and therefore I'd conclude that the count is probably not very important.
   207. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:03 PM (#2725304)
How can you possibly make that statement? The difficulty of accurately measuring something and the importance of the subject being measured are two distinct and unrelated phenomena.

A current day example. Scientists are now concerned with global warming. But they have had trouble quantitiating how fast it is occurring and how much of it is manmade.


I don't think non-baseball examples (or, more precisely, non major league baseball examples) are very helpful in this discussion.
   208. Backlasher Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:05 PM (#2725313)
They have to say, "X knew that Y had that special quality that champions are made of"


Except they didn't say that. Quality means attribute or property. Prior to the 2003 postseason, Beckett had the attributes to perform at a high level in the 2003 postseason. We know that is true because he actually went out and performed as he did in the 2003 postseason.

that they're the result of probability.

They are not the RESULT OF PROBABILITY. You use a probablistic model to predict the future performance of a hitter. You may use some degree of percentages based on a probablistic model to assign credit or value to the outcome.

They are the result of the bat hitting the baseball in the manner they did at that time and the runner reaching at least first base without being put out.

But they are not the RESULT OF PROBABILITY. The reason that distinctsion is important is the reduction that often occurs when people devalue or discredit results WITHIN THE CONTROL OF THE ACTOR and dismissing elements within the control of the actor.

There was a time when I'm sure that people thought the amount of the break on a ball was LUCK or RANDOM VARIATION. We nevertheless began and continue to use physical models, change pitching mechanics and change spin on pitches. We do know that some of that break is largely influenced by external factors. It doesn't change the need to maximize what we can control, and having what we can control have non-neglible value on the outcome of the contest.
   209. bunyon Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:07 PM (#2725323)
This has nothing to do with the magnitude of the problem, which most agree would be huge once properly quantified.

No. It would be huge if, when properly quantified, it's as big as some think it might be. If, on the other hand, it's much smaller, they way some think, it isn't a huge problem. How big a problem it actually is is independent of our ability to measure it. Which is what I think you're trying to say.

Contrary to Ray, I actually think it's an excellent analogy.

Does it exist?*
If so, what causes it?
If so, how much of an impact does it have?
If so, how should our behavior be modified to take it into account?


These four questions are excellent regardless of whether we're discussing clutch-hitting or global warming.


* That the earth has gotten warmer recently is beyond dispute. Does it exist means, is it random fluctuation (sorry BL) or something unusual and new?
   210. JPWF13 Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:14 PM (#2725346)
That the earth has gotten warmer recently is beyond dispute.


I see that you are not giving credence to some of the experts that Foxnews has dug up.

Does it exist means, is it random fluctuation (sorry BL) or something unusual and new?

or some of their other experts who dismiss it as random fluctuation...

or caused by the sun...

or caused by volcanoes...
   211. Backlasher Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:14 PM (#2725348)
If anyone says something was "caused" by random variation they should be forced to endure the college statistics class that I endured 20 years ago- with their eyelids propped open by toothpicks...


See this very thread.

Come on, that's you picking on inartful phrasing to ignore the point. ...He means the win was not due to the agency of the participants.

If that was the only time it was used and that was the meaning, then there would not be a need for the distinction.

But that is not what is happening. Luck is being used as an excuse, and is often being used to discount the agency of the participants, when the effect of the participants is the deciding factor.

That has been clearly stated. Moreover, I am using the "luck fairy" to describe that outcome and its others that are acribing meaning to that phrase which is causing the long discussion.

Psychology is determinitive on the outcome of baseball performance. Describing those outcomes or lumping that effect in with externalities is not only dismissive, it is proscribing a casual property to the term luck.

I am use to hearing "nobody does that", but its happening in this thread. Its origin is in the classic reduction of DIPS, from what the numbers state, to "no hits on balls in play", to "hits are just luck", to one argument advanced out her once that stated, "I'd have the same BABIP as a MLB pitcher, the difference would appear in my HR/BB, and K number"

As long as you have the luck fairy around, you are going to be blinded to those outcomes just as much as you would in Bill James Smog. Moreover, there is nothing supernatural about psychology. There is something supernatural about having luck or other non-mental or non-physical force exert impact on the outcome of an event.
   212. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:26 PM (#2725402)
But they are not the RESULT OF PROBABILITY. The reason that distinctsion is important is the reduction that often occurs when people devalue or discredit results WITHIN THE CONTROL OF THE ACTOR and dismissing elements within the control of the actor.


But didn't I cover this, when I said: "Everyone agrees that, generally speaking, Ichiro has a better chance of getting a hit than Adam Dunn does."

IOW Ichiro's ability to get hits is greater than Dunn's. Ichiro certainly has a large amount of control over his ability to get hits.
   213. Backlasher Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:35 PM (#2725436)
Does it exist?*
If so, what causes it?
If so, how much of an impact does it have?
If so, how should our behavior be modified to take it into account?


These four questions are excellent regardless of whether we're discussing clutch-hitting or global warming.


* That the earth has gotten warmer recently is beyond dispute. Does it exist means, is it random fluctuation (sorry BL) or something unusual and new?


Bunyon,

Why the distinction in the asterisk. Why does it matter if its unusual? If it has an effect you can control, what does it matter. Why do you care if its new. Moreover, unless you just want to be dismissive, why not investigate cause. If you determine that the cause is due to a volcano or a weather pattern or some other event that is difficult or external to your control, I understand. But just because its an event that you have previously modeled as random (e.g. weather) why just dismiss it IF THE UPPER BOUND OF YOUR RANGE OF OUTCOMES IS MEANINGFUL TO PERFORMANCE. Even something like weather can be subject to control. That is especially true in Baseball Stadiums.

You have created a linear set of questions, that I don't think are linear. Its usually a good idea to determine impact with cause.

You have a lot of saberists tell you that their error is a so many wins or so much OPS+ or so many runs etc. You can usually reduce some randomness by projecting over smaller intervals (less entropy) and by establishing control over other events.

You should be able to observe that CONCENTRATION is non-neglible, and that stress can have non-neglible impact on CONCENTRATION. It would seem that is enough information to make decisions based on psychological factors.

Saying that psychology is RANDOM FLUCTUATION is true to a modeler trying to predict a seasons worth of games. Its not true to a field manager making a decision over a small interval of time, when they have exact information about the player's psychology.

It may have some long range impact if incorporated into one of the statsy models.

One of the problems with any of the statsy arguments regarding luck is they always presume that a decision at time x is only made with the information known at the beginning of the season with many items treated as external and random. That is because that is what many of their models predict.
   214. JPWF13 Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:40 PM (#2725450)
Like the founder the The Weather Channel?


Yes, like John Coleman
   215. Backlasher Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:42 PM (#2725454)
IOW Ichiro's ability to get hits is greater than Dunn's. Ichiro certainly has a large amount of control over his ability to get hits.

Yes, when taken over the course of an entire season WITH NO ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, this statement would be a reasonable one (although not TRUE pursuant to your earlier argument, but merely plausible with a high likelihood to be true in some context).

But its likely not true if:

Ichiro has a broken arm, migrane headache and facing peak Pedro Martinez and trying to hit a homer; while a healthy, well rested and focused Adam Dunn is facing Joey Devine in his first year in the majors and Dunn is trying to just get a hit.

It is also likely not true in even less extreme examples. It may also be not true in certain fact situations where the facts are the same for both players.

Attributing something to luck, ignores the impact those factors have on the outcome. One of the factors it ignores is very basic elements of psychology. We should be able to see that those elements are meaningful, and we can attempt to make decisions on those factors, or exert the maximum amount of control over those factors.
   216. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: March 31, 2008 at 09:55 PM (#2725491)
I share with you the word of John Updike:

"Insofar as the clutch hitter is not a sportswriter’s myth, he is a vulgarity, like a writer who writes only for money."
   217. bunyon Posted: March 31, 2008 at 10:03 PM (#2725523)
That the earth has gotten warmer recently is beyond dispute.



I see that you are not giving credence to some of the experts that Foxnews has dug up.

Does it exist means, is it random fluctuation (sorry BL) or something unusual and new?


or some of their other experts who dismiss it as random fluctuation...

or caused by the sun...

or caused by volcanoes...



I was trying to avoid undue discussion of the subject. It seems pretty clear, but not absolute, that the average temperature of the earth increased 1900-2000. How much is hard, probably impossible, to get and why is, as well. Lots of good, plausible theories but we don't know yet. However, saying that tends to generate a storm of discussion and, unlike Davidson v. KU, I'm not in the mood to get into it. I just thought it was a better analogy than Ray gave it credit for.

Why the distinction in the asterisk. Why does it matter if its unusual? If it has an effect you can control, what does it matter. Why do you care if its new. Moreover, unless you just want to be dismissive, why not investigate cause. If you determine that the cause is due to a volcano or a weather pattern or some other event that is difficult or external to your control, I understand. But just because its an event that you have previously modeled as random (e.g. weather) why just dismiss it IF THE UPPER BOUND OF YOUR RANGE OF OUTCOMES IS MEANINGFUL TO PERFORMANCE. Even something like weather can be subject to control. That is especially true in Baseball Stadiums.

I'm not dismissing anything nor arguing no investigation should go on. You like to insist that if someone says, "I don't know," that they mean, "I don't want to know." I just mean, really and truly, "I don't know." I'd like to know, I think it is very much worth studying but that isn't sufficient to conclude that I know anything nor does it mean, just because I want it to be so, that it is possible to know.

I'd also say it's important in regard to warming that we know it isn't just a natural fluctuation before we take action. If it is a natural phenomenon, it will most likely correct itself. If we take serious action to cool the planet off just as a cooling trend starts we'd be as bad off, if not worse, than if we do nothing and let warming take off. In any event, the solution isn't to scream louder at those who disagree with you but to work with everyone to honestly figure out what the hell is going on. There are enough obvious holes in our understanding of climate to make concrete plans useless and, perhaps, dangerous. While not dangerous, there are enough holes in our understanding of psychology and human behavior to make any concrete declarations in regard to "clutch" equally useless.

What I don't get is why you insist on saying to those that say we don't know that they are wrong for not wanting to know. I have no argument, and agree with you, on saying to those who say we know that we don't.

That is because that is what many of their models predict.

Another good analogy with global warming: assuming the model is the reality.

I think BL makes some good points re: luck. I think, though, you very often assume meaning where it isn't. Do you really not think "luck" plays a role in any sporting event? I agree with you that maybe folks overstate it and that most of us, faced with a losing event, would like to blame luck or the fates, but luck really does happen. I don't see how saying that ignores all the factors that you rightly point out as having an impact.
   218. bunyon Posted: March 31, 2008 at 10:03 PM (#2725524)
Hawk, quit channeling Poz. :)
   219. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: March 31, 2008 at 10:06 PM (#2725538)
Does Posnaski like that line, too? I was just re-reading "Hub Fans Big the Kid Adieu" the other day. It's really a wonderful piece.
   220. bunyon Posted: March 31, 2008 at 10:07 PM (#2725543)
I think, could be wrong, that Poz quoted that piece in his blog today. It's a good one and I'd link to it if I knew how to do that sort of thing.

EDIT: I can do this: http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/
   221. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: April 01, 2008 at 02:10 AM (#2725932)
On a related note, the Science Channel is showing a program called "Baseball's Secret Formula." I just checked it out and it is talking about Bill James. I set my TV to record a later showing so I can see the whole thing.

Some may want to check it out.
   222. scotto Posted: April 01, 2008 at 02:42 AM (#2725960)
I don't think non-baseball examples (or, more precisely, non major league baseball examples) are very helpful in this discussion.

Wow. I'd think that reducing measurement error, eliminating noise in models using the new measurements, and drawing parallels among phenomena drawn from different fields - in other words, improving methodology using pertinent examples rather than reinventing the wheel - would be a good way at improving how we view the world.
   223. Gaelan Posted: April 01, 2008 at 03:07 AM (#2725984)
When someone sys, "I won the coin toss because of luck," he clearly doesn't mean "The luck fairy made me win." He means the win was not due to the agency of the participants.


I agree that's what they mean and that's precisely the problem. Saying that "the win was not due to the agency of the participants" makes nonsense of our experience and robs sport of its most integral element--the agency of its participants.

Which is a pretty ironic thing for a libertarian to say.
   224. robinred Posted: April 01, 2008 at 03:12 AM (#2725986)
U clap clap clap
C clap clap clap
L clap clap clap
A clap clap clap
U C L A fight! fight! fight!
   225. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 01, 2008 at 03:26 AM (#2725993)
Wow. I'd think that reducing measurement error, eliminating noise in models using the new measurements, and drawing parallels among phenomena drawn from different fields - in other words, improving methodology using pertinent examples rather than reinventing the wheel - would be a good way at improving how we view the world.


Well, if people think I discarded the global warming analogy too hastily, so be it; maybe they're right.

I do think global warming and clutch ability have one thing in common: both theories are based on faith rather than evidence. There's some evidence for the global warming theory, but there's also a hell of a lot of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. What I love is how people obsess over a one-century warming period and pretend that it's meaningful in the face of many other warming and cooling cycles in the planet's history. Kind of like how people obsess over ARod's 2006 ALDS while ignoring his 2004 ALDS.

So both theories suffer from sample size issues. Both theories also represent religion, not science. Hmm. You guys are right: global warming does provide a useful analogy.
   226. scotto Posted: April 01, 2008 at 03:31 AM (#2725996)
Ray, there are huge sample size differences in the two, and vastly different ways in which things are modeled, analyzed, and the amount of noise.

But I suspect you're bringing ideology into analysis, much as you criticize those who disagree with you. Except in your POV, it's not ideology on your side.

There's not much point to discussing an issue with someone who is so dismissive of those who disagree, and I say this as someone who has read your comments on a variety of topics.
   227. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 01, 2008 at 03:37 AM (#2726004)
That's another reason the analogy isn't very practical, Scotto: the discussion gets bogged down as people argue over global warming.

Hey - I tried to avoid discussing it.
   228. scotto Posted: April 01, 2008 at 03:45 AM (#2726018)
It's got nothing to do with the analogy, and everything to do with ideological blinkers, which you ascribe to those you disagree with.

It's also got a lot to do with the points I make at 260, which you fail to address. But I'm probably expecting too much there. Forest, trees, etc.
   229. Mattbert Posted: April 01, 2008 at 07:11 AM (#2726100)
I do think global warming and clutch ability have one thing in common: both theories are based on faith rather than evidence. There's some evidence for the global warming theory, but there's also a hell of a lot of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. What I love is how people obsess over a one-century warming period and pretend that it's meaningful in the face of many other warming and cooling cycles in the planet's history.

This is a gross mischaracterization, as you appear to be ignoring two important distinctions between our current situation and past warming events. The first is, unsurprisingly, the presence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at very high concentrations. This is new because, again unsurprisingly, there weren't anthropos around to genic these gases at the soaring rates we have managed.

The second is timescale. Yes, climate has changed throughout Earth's history, often dramatically. However, all but a handful of those changes occurred over much longer periods of time than what we are observing at present. And the handful that didn't, the really rapid changes, were uniformly catastrophic (note that I use that word in the scientific sense, not the OMG! sense). Therefore, I don't think it's responsible to dismiss the probability of an impending catastrophe because "it's happened before." It has happened before, but not while we were around and almost never this quickly.

So it's context that makes that one-century warming period meaningful, just as it's context that makes our subjective observations about ballplayers meaningful. As Backlasher was kind enough to give me a good closing sentence: "We should be able to see that those elements [e.g. source, timescale -Ed.] are meaningful, and we can attempt to make decisions on those factors, or exert the maximum amount of control over those factors."
   230. bunyon Posted: April 01, 2008 at 12:09 PM (#2726124)
Global warming; the new Hitler.
   231. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 01, 2008 at 02:57 PM (#2726213)
I agree that's what they mean and that's precisely the problem. Saying that "the win was not due to the agency of the participants" makes nonsense of our experience and robs sport of its most integral element--the agency of its participants.
Please don't pull statements out of context. What I said was that when someone says that they won a coin toss because of luck, they meant it wasn't due to the agency of the participants. Of course the agency of the participants has an effect on the outcome of a sporting event. But only an effect; it isn't determinative.
Which is a pretty ironic thing for a libertarian to say.
Why? Retardoians may have this caricature of libertarianism as a sort of mutant Calvinistic belief that material success is a sign that one is one of God's elect, and hence evidence of personal virtue untempered by chance, but that isn't accurate. Libertarians don't deny that success and failure are due in part to chance (or "causes outside one's control," if BL prefers); we do deny that this fact has significance as far as government policy is concerned, however.
   232. Backlasher Posted: April 01, 2008 at 04:26 PM (#2726331)
You like to insist that if someone says, "I don't know," that they mean, "I don't want to know."

That is not true. I think that when someone dismisses things, such as attributing the cause to "luck", then they are incorrect.

I'd also say it's important in regard to warming that we know it isn't just a natural fluctuation before we take action.

I do not agree generally, but I offer no specific opinion on global warming.

First, what you want to know is whether or not the output is in tolerable bounds, and whether or not the bound is a limit. If so, it may not require action.

Second, you generally do want to know cause.

This is why I say there is a problem with the term "luck". Some people use it to mean externalities. Some people use it to mean acceptable bounds. Some people use it to describe misfortune. Those things are generally understood, and while not really accurate, fall into the category of inartful phrasing.

Nevertheless, some people use it to mean a causal agent, or use it for excuse mongering. Some people conflate the use of luck as an initial bound into meaning something that is outside the control of the actors. Some use it to mean that which is randomized in a long range projection model as something that is outside a players current control. Those are not only improper and inartful, they are incorrect and dangerous.

For instance, look at your latest post. YOu have changed "random fluctuation" to "natural fluctuation" Whether or not you can pinpoint cause, you are at least isolating a set of causes.
Page 3 of 3 pages  < 1 2 3

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Adam S
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogCameron: Numbers don't lie: The decline of Pujols is stunning
(212 - 8:31am, Apr 23)
Last: Random Transaction Generator

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for APRIL 22, 2014
(92 - 8:23am, Apr 23)
Last: Sunday silence

NewsblogThe Baseball Equivalent of Hitting on 16 | FanGraphs Baseball
(28 - 8:14am, Apr 23)
Last: Sunday silence

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread March, 2014
(1049 - 8:11am, Apr 23)
Last: Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14!

NewsblogRoyals G.M. Dayton Moore believes hitting will come around
(8 - 8:10am, Apr 23)
Last: TRBMB

NewsblogJosh Lueke Is A Rapist, You Say? Keep Saying It.
(14 - 8:07am, Apr 23)
Last: Long Time Listener, First Time Caller

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-23-2014
(1 - 8:06am, Apr 23)
Last: Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings

NewsblogESPN: W. P. Kinsella: Where It Began: “Shoeless Joe”
(83 - 7:57am, Apr 23)
Last: Bitter Mouse

NewsblogJ.R. Gamble: Albert Pujols' 500-Homer Chase Is A Bore, But That's Baseball's Fault
(29 - 7:39am, Apr 23)
Last: JE (Jason Epstein)

NewsblogOTP April 2014: BurstNET Sued for Not Making Equipment Lease Payments
(2055 - 7:37am, Apr 23)
Last: You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR)

NewsblogOT: The NHL is finally back thread, part 2
(191 - 7:20am, Apr 23)
Last: Flynn

NewsblogDaniel Bryan's 'YES!' chant has spread to the Pirates' dugout
(177 - 6:30am, Apr 23)
Last: SouthSideRyan

NewsblogMartin Maldonado suspended
(34 - 5:19am, Apr 23)
Last: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad)

NewsblogMike Trout And Bryce Harper Are Baseball’s Best Young Position-Player Duo Ever
(9 - 2:57am, Apr 23)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogOT: NBA Monthly Thread - April 2014
(468 - 1:05am, Apr 23)
Last: robinred

Demarini, Easton and TPX Baseball Bats

 

 

 

 

Page rendered in 0.5468 seconds
52 querie(s) executed