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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BPro: Murphy: The Tyranny of Acronyms

Take the two common reactions to the term, “FIP.”

Reaction A

1. Frank reads the word “FIP” in a story about Jonathan Papelbon’s performance.
2. Frank’s eyes feed the term “FIP” to his brain.
3. Frank’s brain processes “FIP” as Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that combines a pitcher’s strikeout, walk, and home run rates.
4. Frank’s brain reacts with a judgment about Jonathan Papelbon’s ability to produce strikeouts and limit walks and home runs.

Reaction B

1. Joe reads the word “FIP” in a story about Jonathan Papelbon’s performance.
2. Joe’s eyes feed the term “FIP” to his brain.
3. Joe’s brain reacts by telling him to write a poorly punctuated and improperly capitalized email telling David Murphy to go bleep himself and that we need to go back to the days where pitchers were judged on the things that actually matter, like striking batters out and limiting runs and walks.

Because we are readers of Baseball Prospectus, most of us are prone to Reaction A.  But that does not mean that we are operating with brains that have evolved to the point where they are immune from Reaction B. For example, how would your brain have reacted if I had started this column off by telling you that, since 2006, no player in the major leagues has more RBIs than Ryan Howard? And what if I told you that I was going to use part of my allotted space to defend the RBI as a legitimate part of a player’s record? If I read those words from another writer, my internal siren would have started flashing, “Fraudulent! Fraudulent! Fraudulent!”

Thanks to Vagts.

Repoz Posted: March 12, 2013 at 06:19 AM | 136 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   101. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:42 PM (#4387303)
Not just that, but if he hits a leadoff single and does score, the single has no real value under your system, because it never produces a real run. Leadoff singles only produce hypothetical runs. They don't change the scoreboard. If the runner scores, it's never the leadoff single doing it: it is separate and distinct events.

I'm not sure what you mean by my "system," but it does have value -- it contributed to the scoring of an actual run which was recorded on the scoreboard as per the rules of baseball.
   102. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:45 PM (#4387304)
so.. this thtead proves that a single is worth $5 (or am I missing something?)
   103. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:46 PM (#4387305)
This is of course basically what WPA does at the wins level, rather than runs level. Doing a linear weights equivalent for runs is trivial, and will distribute the value according to the actual level of contribution, instead of giving it all to the RBI man. There is no need for RBI.

You've set up and now torched a poor, hapless strawman and you keep torching and pummeling for reasons unfathomable.

The RBI does not do what you say it does. It doesn't "give" all of "anything" to the RBI man. It's a method of recording things worth knowing that occur in actual baseball games. A single that doesn't drive in a run is a distinct event from a single that does. The RBI recognizes and records that distinction. Not tabulating would lead to incomplete recordkeeping of actual baseball games, and would be silly and ludicrous.

   104. fra paolo Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:47 PM (#4387307)
Doing a linear weights equivalent for runs is trivial, and will distribute the value according to the actual level of contribution, instead of giving it all to the RBI man. There is no need for RBI.

But it doesn't all go to the RBI man. The RBI appears in the scoring player's tally of Runs. Runs + RBI should just about be double a team's total runs scored.

The RBI hitter deserves credit for driving in a run. Without him, no run scores.

EDIT: Just like Assists and Putouts work.
   105. Nasty Nate Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:53 PM (#4387313)
it contributed to the scoring of an actual run which was recorded on the scoreboard as per the rules of baseball.


It can't "contribute" anything after it is over, it is done contributing. It was a discreet event.

It did the exact same contributing as the leadoff single that was left stranded: it increased the chances of actual scoring - but it (the leadoff single) wasn't actual scoring itself.
   106. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:05 PM (#4387318)
It can't "contribute" anything after it is over, it is done contributing. It was a discreet event.


I'm not sure what the "it" is there.

But what I think you're getting at is the philosophical divide noted above, and improved by Sam's observations. The same "discreet events" can both lead to something of value under the rules of baseball, or not. It's actually worse and more "unfair" than that -- a double on 0-2 up the gap at Dodger Stadium off Koufax in 1965 can ultimately have no value beyond aesthetic or entertainment, while a bloop double down the opposite-field line off a BP fastball from Dooley Womack can have a bunch of real baseball value.

If you don't hit a homerun and drive yourself in, you're dependent on other people for the value your "discreet event" generates. You can do something great and accomplished, and somebody else -- some guy who got wasted chasing skirt the night before and who doesn't give a #### -- can completely wipe out the potential within that accomplishment and render it effectively worthless. That's really what's troubling people. But, hey -- that's life.
   107. Nasty Nate Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:13 PM (#4387326)
I'm not sure what the "it" is there.


the leadoff single (and how can you not be sure considering you initially used "it" as the subject of the sentence in #101?)

If you don't hit a homerun and drive yourself in, you're dependent on other people for the value your "discreet event" generates.


No, it can't generate any more value once it is over. It is done. The run itself is generated by a completely different and separate play. The leadoff single's only value is making it easier for subsequent events to produce real runs - but this value is the same whether or not the subsequent runs happen.
   108. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:17 PM (#4387330)
The leadoff single's only value is making it easier for subsequent events to produce real runs - but this value is the same whether or not the subsequent runs happen.

And again, this is inaccurate. The single holds within it the potential for value. The value may or may not be realized. The single whose potential value is realized is more valuable than the single whose potential isn't.



   109. Nasty Nate Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:27 PM (#4387335)
The value may or may not be realized.


But this is dependent solely on events separate from the single and unaffected by the single itself, and therefore reflects nothing about the single itself. Once it is over, it can't add any more value or lose any value - it can't do anything.

If you have 2 $5 bills in your pocket right now, they have the exact same value no matter what happens to them in the future.
   110. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:36 PM (#4387349)
But this is dependent solely on events separate from the single and unaffected by the single itself, and therefore reflects nothing about the single itself.

Of course, and already noted. Realization of the potential of the single is dependent on other events.

Once it is over, it can't add any more value or lose any value - it can't do anything.


Not itself. But its stored potential can be either unleashed or lost forever. It doesn't have any value standing alone.
   111. Nasty Nate Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:47 PM (#4387361)
Not itself.


Therefore it (the leadoff single) doesn't get credit for the subsequent events that can add or lose value.

But its stored potential can be either unleashed or lost forever. It doesn't have any value standing alone.


Whether or not the subsequent events unleash or lose that potential is only dependent on those subsequent events (and not the single), and therefore the value realized or lost is assigned to those subsequent events (and not the single).

The value in the leadoff single is creating that stored potential, and therefore is the same no matter what happens afterward.
   112. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:00 PM (#4387392)
The RBI hitter deserves credit for driving in a run. Without him, no run scores.

It might.
   113. Ron J2 Posted: March 13, 2013 at 10:31 AM (#4387544)
#112 That was the tentative conclusion in the discussion of the rbi vulture study I mentioned. I suppose you could figure rbis by base/out situation (even Tom Ruane's method doesn't really address this) but it's a boatload of work and I'm doubtful that it's worth it.

Incidentally, since the discussion is about runs and rbi, it's worth noting that one of the earliest stathead work was by Steve Mann (with the help of Pete Palmer) on runs, rbis, batting order position -- pretty much what we're discussing.

What they eventually realized is that there's a value in simply not making outs even if you neither score or drive in a run. They ended up giving a credit for obp > .330

A point I've made successfully to some in the past is that you could take a good sim, take a team with Joe Carter on it, replace him with a typical Rickey Henderson season and bat Henderson in the same spot (typically 5th). Yeah, you're costing yourself runs by batting Henderson 5th. Even so, the rbis from the #5 spot will go down but the team runs scored will go up.
   114. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: March 13, 2013 at 10:34 AM (#4387547)
It might.


Yes. It might. Until it either does or it doesn't. Baseball is not a game of probability matrices. It's a game of events in the real world. What "might" happen is only relevant until something actually does happen. At that point, might is moot. A leadoff single that doesn't score is worthless outside of the margins of "pitcher fatigue" or some such.
   115. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 10:43 AM (#4387556)
leadoff single that doesn't score is worthless outside of the margins of "pitcher fatigue" or some such.


If so, a leadoff single that DOES score is also worthless. Both singles have only contributed to a "might happen." Both singles are done when the next batter steps into the box - at that moment you can stop and describe/estimate the value of the single (except for retrospective narrative or emotional meaning.)

Picture the last game of the season - if you win you make the playoffs and if you lose you go home. It's a tie game in the bottom of the 9th and your hitter starts off with a triple and then you remove him for a pinch-hitter. He is done. He will be playing no more plays, innings, or games that season. Are you trying to say that he, while on the bench, is still adding or taking away from his team's chances of winning the game and the pennant? That's ludicrous - he is done, he can't help or hurt his team anymore.
   116. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4387572)
If so, a leadoff single that DOES score is also worthless. Both singles have only contributed to a "might happen."


See, it's stuff like this that makes people mock you lot. Neither single is valuable in and of itself. It is only valuable in combination with other events. In the absence of other events, the single has no value. You don't score a run by standing on 1B.
   117. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4387573)
If so, a leadoff single that DOES score is also worthless. Both singles have only contributed to a "might happen."

The single that contributed to an actual run scored contributed to a "did happen." That's the critical distinction. If you want to give the single "credit" for a fractional contribution to the actual run having scored, knock yourself out.
   118. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:12 AM (#4387579)
Neither single is valuable in and of itself.


Exactly. And they are equal in this regard. Or in my triple/pinch-runner example, do you think the player is still adding/subtracting value from the bench?

   119. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:16 AM (#4387584)
The single that contributed to an actual run scored contributed to a "did happen." That's the critical distinction.


This is a distinction between an inning in which a run scored and an inning in which a run didn't score, or a distinction between the various possible events after the single, but it is not a distinction between the 2 leadoff singles.
   120. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4387588)
Exactly. And they are equal in this regard. Or in my triple/pinch-runner example, do you think the player is still adding/subtracting value from the bench?


Players don't create value. Teams do.
   121. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4387593)
Players don't create value. Teams do.


oh my god what a pathetic cop out.

You had no problem assigning value to players and individual plays in #71 and elsewhere in this thread.
   122. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4387603)
If you have 2 $5 bills in your pocket right now, they have the exact same value no matter what happens to them in the future.


Actually, the value of $5 bills changes over time depending on changes in the overall price level and/or the price of the specific goods and services one wishes to exchange those bills for. If gasoline costs $2 a gallon, then the value of your 2 $5 bills is 5 gallons of gas; if the price of gasoline rises to $2.50, then the value of your 2 $5 bills has fallen to 4 gallons of gas.
   123. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM (#4387608)
Yes, but right now (or at any one time) they have the same value as each other.
   124. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4387641)
Yes, but right now (or at any one time) they have the same value as each other.

Which is zero until they're converted into something else -- much like the leadoff single.
   125. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:02 PM (#4387665)
I'm confused by the money analogy because the value of money is always potential value -- I could exchange it for a gallon of milk. Value is not instantiated by the actual transaction. In fact, if I exchange $5 for a gallon of milk, I no longer have the $5, so it makes no sense to ask what its value to me is. Nevertheless, if someone offers to give me a gallon of milk for $5, that offer in itself is sufficient to indicate the value of the $5, whether or not the exchange is consummated.
   126. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:10 PM (#4387670)
I'm confused by the money analogy because the value of money is always potential value -- I could exchange it for a gallon of milk. Value is not instantiated by the actual transaction. In fact, if I exchange $5 for a gallon of milk, I no longer have the $5, so it makes no sense to ask what its value to me is. Nevertheless, if someone offers to give me a gallon of milk for $5, that offer in itself is sufficient to indicate the value of the $5, whether or not the exchange is consummated.

True, but you can't exchange a single for its "linear weights" value. Money is both a store of value and a medium of exchange; a leadoff single is neither. Its value can be dissipated upon subsequent events, and there is no mechanism by which it can be exchanged for something else.
   127. zenbitz Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:11 PM (#4387671)
Can we debate what the V means in MVP next?

But here is an illustration:

Imagine a baseball-like game where batters are not allowed to swing (if it blows your mind less, make the strike zone very small and have walks and Ks both be 1 pitch each).
There are only 3 possible outcomes
K,
BB,
HBP.
(plus WP/PB, but if you want we can ban running too)

Some batters will lead the team in Runs scored. Some will lead the team in RBI. None of them have any "value" whatsoever. They are cardboard cutouts.

RBIs and Runs Scored (modulo HRs or singling and stealing 2nd/3rd/Home, or what have you) are team statistics. It's bad math to partition them to individual players. Just as it is bad math to partition wins to starting pitchers who go 5 innings with a lead that is never relinquished.

But you all know this and are just trolling (since I am an SDCN and cannot post without insulting people)
   128. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4387675)
RBIs and Runs Scored (modulo HRs or singling and stealing 2nd/3rd/Home, or what have you) are team statistics. It's bad math to partition them to individual players.

This is simply wrong on its own terms. An RBI doesn't "partition" anything. It tabulates the number of runs scored as part of the game event involving a player's hit (or sac fly or FC). That's all it does.

That remains the fundamental flaw emanating from the complaint section.
   129. zenbitz Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4387680)
This is simply wrong on its own terms. An RBI doesn't "partition" anything. It tabulates the number of runs scored as part of the game event involving a player's hit (or sac fly or FC). That's all it does.


Stop being obtuse, o King of BBTF Trolls.

If I go to ESPN I can get a list of PLAYERS and their RBI totals. That is what "partitioning the RBI to an individual means". But you know that.

And yes, I realize that the literal event of 'run scored while player X was at bat' is a valid event. So is 'run scored while I was drinking beer' but I don't get paid based on the latter.
   130. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4387691)
Which is zero until they're converted into something else -- much like the leadoff single.


No, because as pointed out in 125, once the $5 is converted you no longer have it and so it has no value to you anymore. And if its value was zero, you would not bother to keep it.

For baseball, you are always urging context - which is fine. We should judge events in the context in which they occur (e.g. a 9th inning leadoff single in a tie game is more valuable than a 9th inning leadoff single when trailing 17-0). But what happens after the leadoff single is not happening in the context that the leadoff single did, nor is what happens afterward the leadoff single itself, and so it doesn't reflect on the leadoff single (which was a different event occurring in a different context).

Money is both a store of value and a medium of exchange; a leadoff single is neither.


It IS a temporary store of value, whether or not you "spend" that value by subsequently creating runs with it. Stranding the runner is like losing the $5 bill down the sewer - just because you lost it doesn't mean that at the time you had the $5 bill (and at the time you had a man on first with no outs), it had no value. There are no time machines that go backwards.
   131. BDC Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4387692)
run scored while I was drinking beer

At least we've finally found a way to quantify my enjoyment of baseball.
   132. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 13, 2013 at 01:56 PM (#4387705)
That is what "partitioning the RBI to an individual means". But you know that.

Yes, partitioning the RBI.(*) The other "side," by harping on "credit" and other things, is objecting to the run itself being credited to the guy who gets the RBI and that is not happening.

(*) "Partiioning" isn't even the right word, since an RBI by definition is indivisible. "Allocating" is the word being sought.
   133. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 13, 2013 at 02:48 PM (#4387756)
There are no time machines that go backwards.

Sure there are. What about options and time decay? Options have value then very often expire worthless. Time decay.

Same thing in baseball. The single has value which can decay to zero with the passage of baseball time.

Of course an option's time value, unlike the "value" in a leadoff single, is obtainable through exchange. But the analogy is still spot-on.
   134. bjhanke Posted: March 13, 2013 at 02:55 PM (#4387765)
This has been a dangerous thread to enter, but someone mentioned the term "RBI Vulture." I was using that one back in the 1980s or even earlier, as part of a larger point I was trying to make. I wasn't on rec.bb, but Don Malcolm was on there a lot, and the term could have come to me from rec.bb or gone the other way, through Don. I have NO objection to anyone else's using the term. It's public domain to me.

Anyway, the point wasn't about claiming a term. It was about the implications of RBI Vultures. As I use the term, it applies to guys who don't walk, but have power, even if they have good batting averages. The concept is this: That kind of hitter has a better-than-normal chance of removing any baserunners already on base, either by hitting a homer or ending the inning with an out. He has a low chance of being on base himself, because he doesn't walk to add to his hits. With no walks, he will have a lot of hits, including power hits, with men on base. He gets all those RBI. Then, he puts the next batter in the position of seeing few men on base, and so getting fewer RBI chances. The Vulture is Vulturing RBI from the next guy in the batting order.

When I was growing up, that was the basic definition of a #5 hitter. Ted Kluzsewski I remember as the prototype, but it's Tony "Poosh 'em up" Lazzeri who is the historical icon of this, But, then, Tony batted behind Ruth AND Gehrig, both of whom took boatloads of walks. Modern Vultures would include Joe Carter, but also Vlad Guerrero and Juan Gone, who were better overall hitters than Carter. I pretty much agree with this as where you should hit such a guy, unless you're in a DH league, in which case, you might need to hit him 6th, because your offensive sequence is long.

But it also put me on this trail: If the Vulture ends a high percentage of innings by making the third out, and he's the last good hitter you have, it might pay to split your lineup in the following way. Put together your real "offensive sequence guys" with The Vulture (not Phil Regan) hitting last in that sequence. Then take a speedster who doesn't get on base enough to hit leadoff (let's name an old guy - Luis Aparicio. Vince Coleman was the same thing except at his absolute peak), but who you have to play anyway because of defense, and hit him right after The Vulture. Give him the Green Light to steal all the bases he can. Set up the bottom of your order to play for a one-run offense, since they don't have real good hitters coming up behind the Stealer anyway. Essentially, you have your good hitters playing for the Big Inning, and your weakest hitters playing one-run ball. At the very least, it gives the bottom of your lineup a real mission, rather than, "just don't make any outs." At best, you have the guys who can really hit playing for the type of inning they should be aimed at, and the bottom of the order with instructions that maximize their abilities, because they are low-scoring one-run guys to start with. Everyone has a role, and everyone's skills are designed to fit than role.

I suspect that, if you did this, you'd score more runs than with a different lineup. Lineup differences don't amount to a whole lot, but still, they can be worth a game or two. Whitey Herzog did something like that, and would have done more except that Willie McGee could not get it out of his head that he was a top-of-the-order guy, and would sulk and not hit when slotted in the #5 hole. It took two years of Whitey trying to get the fans behind him on this before he just had to give up. But in 1985, When the cleanup hitter was Jack Clark, and Andy Van Slyke was hitting 5th, the Cards had Terry Pendelton, who didn't walk, hit for about league average and, in that ballpark, had no power, hitting sixth and encouraged to steal if he could (I don't remember Terry being particularly good at that). Tony LaRussa's experiments with hitting the pitcher 8th works to help this plan. In a non-DH league, Tony's offensive sequences often ended at five big bats, sometime six. Hitting the pitcher 8th meant that Tony could get a good bunter in the right slot to help move over the Pendelton-type guy with sac bunts. If the pitcher ended the inning by making out 3, that meant that the next inning would see a much better leadoff man than the pitcher was going to be.

I am aware that this "second leadoff man hitting 9th" concept is very popular in the AL, where the DH is and the pitcher does not bat.

Anyway, that's how I use the term. I can't answer for anyone else. - Brock Hanke
   135. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4387781)
There are no time machines that go backwards.

Sure there are.


Pick me up - I have some stock tips for my grandfather.
   136. Nasty Nate Posted: March 13, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4387783)
The single has value which can decay to zero with the passage of baseball time.


Well, pretty much all baseball events decay to zero in value if that's how you think about it.

But at least you are acknowledging that all leadoff singles creates value.
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