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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chaz Scoggins: Baseball’s stat geeks have gone too far

There we were - me and Davey Crockett Peter Gammons - shoulder to shoulder and backs to the wall Green Monster.

I’m resigning from the frater-nutty of sabermetricians, effective immediately.

As a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) since 1979, I like to think I was among the first devotees of sabermetrics, a term that had not yet been created for the math wizards who claim they have devised formulae that can reveal to you everything a major-league team needs to know about a ballplayer and (gasp!) essentially predict his future.

...Other statistics categories Gammons and I helped pioneer were quality starts for pitchers and catchers’ earned run averages. We also kept stats on how successful batters were at getting runners home from third with less than two outs.

Gammons and I were among the first to emphasize on-base percentage and slugging percentage over batting average. There are some other statistics he and I developed, either together or by ourselves after Gammons moved on to TV work. A couple of the ones I developed have, to the best of my knowledge, never caught on. But I still keep them because I believe they are revelant.

...Here in the office the other night we had a real verbal donnybrook going between David Pevear, Matt Langone and me about who should be the MVP in the AL, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera or rookie sensation Mike Trout. Pevear kept spouting sabermetrics in support of Trout, noting that Trout had a higher WAR (Wins Above Replacement) than Cabrera.

Well, here’s what I think of WAR: As dreadful a year as the Red Sox had, they were 47-43 before David Ortiz got hurt on July 16. They were 22-50 without him in the second half. Ergo, for the Red Sox to be four games above .500, in that stretch, their replacement designated hitters would have had to come up 16 more wins than they did.

Yes, Ortiz was worth 16 more wins to the Red Sox than his replacements, easily outdistancing both Cabrera and Trout in that department. So David Ortiz is the true MVP of the American League.

Repoz Posted: October 14, 2012 at 07:35 AM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:05 AM (#4269270)
I'm pretty sure that Scoggins was the primary official scorer at Fenway for many years. Not sure if he still does it.
   2. BDC Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:13 AM (#4269273)
Well, here’s what I think of WAR: As dreadful a year as the Red Sox had, they were 47-43 before David Ortiz got hurt on July 16. They were 22-50 without him in the second half. Ergo, for the Red Sox to be four games above .500, in that stretch, their replacement designated hitters would have had to come up 16 more wins than they did


On my way from Dallas to Atlanta, I got 35 miles per gallon through Jackson, Mississippi. In Jackson, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated and threw it in the backseat. The rest of the trip, I got 22 MPG. Hence, that copy of SI must have weighed 300 pounds!
   3. villageidiom Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:30 AM (#4269279)
As dreadful a year as the Red Sox had, they were 47-43 before David Ortiz got hurt on July 16. They were 22-50 without him in the second half. Ergo, for the Red Sox to be four games above .500, in that stretch, their replacement designated hitters would have had to come up 16 more wins than they did.
The Red Sox were 28-26 before Daniel Bard was removed from the rotation in June. They were 41-67 after that. For the team to have a .519 win pct. in that stretch, they would have had to win 15 more games than they did. Ergo, David Ortiz is only slightly more valuable than Daniel Bard.

See, Mr. Scoggins, sabermetricians don't stop playing around with the numbers once they get an answer they like. They check to see if their methods make any sense, thus avoiding embarrassing moments like this.
   4. catomi01 Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:33 AM (#4269281)
As a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) since 1979,


Maybe SABR needs a stricter entrance exam....
   5. Lassus Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:48 AM (#4269282)
MAN MAKE WAR, THINK AM LIKE GODS
   6. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:13 AM (#4269286)
Ergo, David Ortiz is only slightly more valuable than Daniel Bard.


Ergo, David Ortiz is a duck, and Daniel Bard is made of wood.
   7. John DiFool2 Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:25 AM (#4269289)
DH's on the Red Sox not named Ortiz hit 3 home runs in 268 PA's.
   8. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4269310)
Well, here’s what I think of WAR: As dreadful a year as the Red Sox had, they were 47-43 before David Ortiz got hurt on July 16. They were 22-50 without him in the second half. Ergo, for the Red Sox to be four games above .500, in that stretch, their replacement designated hitters would have had to come up 16 more wins than they did


When Mike trout came to the Angels, they were 7-14. Had they continued to play at that pace, they would have won 54 games. They actually won 89, so Mike Trout was worth 35 games above replacement, more that twice Ortiz.
   9. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:47 AM (#4269325)
Baseball’s stat geeks have gone too far

I say we have not gone far enough!
   10. PreservedFish Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM (#4269330)
Oh my god. Is this a real person and a real argument?
   11. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4269341)
Daniel Bard is made of wood.

I'd be OK with burning him.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4269342)
Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a
charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
   13. Swedish Chef Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4269353)
But we haven't even set up the reeducation camps yet!
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4269368)
The Royals were 4-8 in games I attended this year - what does that make my WAR?
   15. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:41 AM (#4269372)
Maybe SABR needs a stricter entrance exam....


SABR isn't about stats. The stat geek crowd are the new blood in SABR.
   16. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4269375)
At keast we keep the chatters posted on time
   17. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM (#4269380)
Daniel Bard is made of wood.

I'd be OK with burning him.


Throw Storen in with him. He weighs way more than a duck.
   18. Downtown Bookie Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4269382)
Baseball’s stat geeks have gone too far


But they were OK in the beginning.

DB
   19. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4269396)
I was good at the beginning but then I went too far.
   20. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4269398)
Heck, Hitler got Germany out of a recession...

Too soon?
   21. flournoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM (#4269418)
The Royals were 4-8 in games I attended this year - what does that make my WAR?


From 2002 to 2004, including playoffs, the Braves were 304-180 in games I did not attend, and 0-15 in games I did attend. I wish I were making this up. I am not.

EDIT: Also, no, I did not attend the Wild Card game last week, so nobody blame me.
   22. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4269431)
The Royals were 4-8 in games I attended this year - what does that make my WAR?

Slightly better than Frenchy's.
   23. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4269441)
But we haven't even set up the reeducation camps yet!

Actually, we did, but a bunch of kids yelling "Wolverines!" busted them up!
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4269461)
Oh my god. Is this a real person and a real argument?


I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking this.
   25. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4269472)
The Royals were 4-8 in games I attended this year - what does that make my WAR?

You're still ahead of France.
   26. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:50 PM (#4269562)
The Royals were 4-8 in games I attended this year - what does that make my WAR?

4. /Royals cheap shot
   27.   Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4269568)
Silly as this seems, this is often how I see MVP arguments made around sports. The way I describe it is that a lot of people don't vote for the player who is the most valuable, but for the player whose value is most easily observed. Joe Thornton won an MVP thanks to this line of reasoning.
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:04 PM (#4269571)
Peter Forsberg won an MVP thanks to this line of reasoning.

Who's Peter Forsberg, a wrestler? :)

   29. Walt Davis Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4269680)
Who's Peter Forsberg, a wrestler? :)

No, he's Joe Thornton.

I think the author is being satirical. He thinks WAR is a silly made-up stat because it says that a guy who hits really well, runs really well and plays really good defense is more valuable that one who hits even better but runs much worse and fields much worse. So he's intentionally made up an "equally" silly stat that leads to an "equally" absurd answer about who was most valuable.

Which is to say that the guy was probably about 15 when Robinson and Yaz won their triple crowns so he knows what's most valuable.

But I'll admit I'm not sure. If he's proud of tracking bringing the run home from 3rd and other stats that are apparently even more embarrassing to bring to light, he might believe in this.
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:51 PM (#4269809)
As I've said before, I understand not agreeing with War, but it's not necessary for this argument anyway. The argument boils down to whether or not a good fielding centerfielder with excellent(elite) baserunning who produces nearly equivalent offensive numbers as an average fielding(being optimistic) third baseman with poor baserunning, and more games. People like to point out the triple crown, but that isn't really the argument, substitute runs for rbi and that argument doesn't exist anymore, and there is not really a good argument that rbi is more important than runs.

To be honest from a non-park adjusted number, there is a pretty good argument for Cabrera. To put trout ahead you have to really trust the hard to see numbers, such as park adjustments, positional adjustments and defensive ratings. Along with baserunning numbers.

I always like to start the conversation with raw runs created, this shows that even by traditional numbers,(It's a formula using easy to comprehend numbers) that Cabrera and Trout are equal offensively without allowing park adjustments, even with the difference in games played. It includes double plays, stolen bases and caught stolen in a fairly logical framework. It of course doesn't deal with opportunities, but again neither does RBI.

   31.   Posted: October 14, 2012 at 06:10 PM (#4269859)
Yeah, I misremembered and of course someone cought it. I was thinking the year Thornton won the MVP because he got traded mid-season and his new team (SJ) had a much better record after acquiring him. For some reason I originally wrote Forsberg, who won in 2003 and I THINK a part of that was the Av's record being terrible in the games he missed, but looking at the stats he only missed 7 games so maybe not.
   32. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: October 14, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4269873)
One thing I don't see talked about a lot is the additional opportunities to hit guys at the top of the order get. Trout played 22 less games than Cabrera but only had 58 less PAs. As such Trout had an environmental advantage per game over Cabrera by getting more hitting opportunities. Of course _why_ Trout got fewer games had nothing to do with his playing ability and everything to do with financial shenanigans, so I'm not sure that argument matters much in this case.
   33. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: October 14, 2012 at 06:41 PM (#4269931)
Stat Geeks: Just Like Hitler.

edit...ya know, I really ought to skim the comments a little better than I just did.
   34. cardsfanboy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 07:10 PM (#4270012)
One thing I don't see talked about a lot is the additional opportunities to hit guys at the top of the order get.


I think you haven't been on many of the threads on here then, it's mentioned almost every time. SBB and Ray both like to bring it up.
   35. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: October 14, 2012 at 07:48 PM (#4270072)
I think you haven't been on many of the threads on here then, it's mentioned almost every time. SBB and Ray both like to bring it up.

Guilty as charged. :)
   36. Josh1 Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:19 PM (#4270438)
One thing I don't see talked about a lot is the additional opportunities to hit guys at the top of the order get.


The issue is not only of opportunity but also of value. We know teams derive approximately equal value from a hitter batting in the #1 and #4 slots. In the #1 slot, the player gets more PA, but in the cleanup spot the player hits in better base-out situations, so each PA is more valuable. Overall according to "The Book," the effects of more PA wash out against the alternative of hitting in better situations with more runners on base. I expect the Angels would score approximately the same number of runs with Trout hitting 1st or 4th, but due to the way WAR is calculated, Trout accumulates more WAR batting leadoff than he would hitting 4th.
   37. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4270444)

Silly as this seems, this is often how I see MVP arguments made around sports. The way I describe it is that a lot of people don't vote for the player who is the most valuable, but for the player whose value is most easily observed. Joe Thornton won an MVP thanks to this line of reasoning.


Or the Shannon Stewart for MVP campaign led by Jayson Stark.
   38. SandyRiver Posted: October 15, 2012 at 08:47 AM (#4270752)
Very lukewarm defense of the Ortiz "stat": The author followed this somewhat specious discussion with "Yeah. Right", which seemed to show low regard of his own cherrypicking.

related to #36: A week or so back, I saw numbers showing that Cabrera had about 2X the "dp opportunities" (PA with 1st occupied and less than 2 outs) than Trout, so that Miggy's true "dp rate" was twice that of Trout - still a big discrepancy - rather than the counting stat 4X.
   39. Sean Forman Posted: October 15, 2012 at 08:57 AM (#4270759)
The positional adjustment and replacement level actually favor Cabrera due to his higher playing time and since Trout played more corner outfield.

To put trout ahead you have to really trust the hard to see numbers, such as park adjustments, positional adjustments and defensive ratings.
   40. JJ1986 Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:14 AM (#4270764)
All you really need to put Trout ahead offensively are non-SB baserunning numbers and park effects. And those are two of the numbers with the least error in them.
   41. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4270798)
and park effects. And those are two of the numbers with the least error in them.

Hmmm? I'm much more comfortable with the ease of computing a meaningful positional adjustment than I am an 'accurate' park effect, particularly when you consider that the value kind of depends on the question you're answering.
(Obviously, I still believe in using them.)
   42. AROM Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:02 AM (#4270803)
". Of course _why_ Trout got fewer games had nothing to do with his playing ability and everything to do with financial shenanigans, so I'm not sure that argument matters much in this case."

In this case, the finance doesn't matter. Trout got around 40 games last year, so he'll be a free agent eligible after the 2017 season. This would not differ if he started the season with the Angels. The reason he wasn't there in game 1 was because A) he was sick last spring and barely got any spring training time and B) Angels, like everyone else, did not know he'd be this good this quickly. In addition to his 2011 play, Trout also had an underwhelming performance in the AZ fall league.

I'm pretty sure starting 2012 with him doesn't even make a difference to his super 2 status after 2013.
   43. JJ1986 Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4270816)
I'm much more comfortable with the ease of computing a meaningful positional adjustment than I am an 'accurate' park effect, particularly when you consider that the value kind of depends on the question you're answering.


You might be right. I feel like positional adjustment includes more of the calculator's philosophy (Do you use 1 year? Rolling averages? A "close enough" approximation that fits a span of multiple years?) while everyone is using park effects the same way.
   44. bigglou115 Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:21 AM (#4270822)
Seems like an odd line to draw in the sand. WARs been around for a while now, and liking a player over the traditional choice is hardly new for mathmatical unchallenged. This leads to believe this guy has kept a SABR membership for the expressed purpose of denouncing it at a key moment so he could write this very article. Pretty sneaky.
   45. AROM Posted: October 15, 2012 at 12:45 PM (#4270986)
You might be right. I feel like positional adjustment includes more of the calculator's philosophy (Do you use 1 year? Rolling averages? A "close enough" approximation that fits a span of multiple years?) while everyone is using park effects the same way.


Nope. Park factors can be every bit as variable depending on what you use. One year? If multi-year, how many? Should recent years be weighted more heavily? If so, by how much?
   46. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: October 15, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4271218)
What about the guy that punched Gary Sheffield at Fenway.

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