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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Comparing a Player Outside His Era | Articles | Bill James Online

Very interesting stuff from two of the very best analysts ever.

I’ve always been marginally interested in the HOF debate. One of the biggest reasons is it’s pretty impossible to compare players across eras. I didn’t always believe this to be true. My feeling changed when I was working on my own WAR system, xWins, about 20 years ago. The differences in data and contexts are two HUGE problems which I do not believe can be sufficiently accounted for in the analysis.

On there other hand, if you ask me to evaluate current players or, as Tom describes them, “generational” groups I can an acceptable job (actually even better for today’s players) because I’m not forced to invent a time machine.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 17, 2018 at 03:07 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: evaluating players, history

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

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

   1. BDC Posted: January 17, 2018 at 04:22 PM (#5608334)
They're both right, of course :)

James is right that the extreme conservatism of baseball makes historical comparisons both interesting and unavoidable. I remember James's characterization of Tris Speaker as a center-field version of George Brett. That's very cool. I don't think you can characterize Sammy Baugh or George Mikan that way, to any recent player. Their sports are just different now.

But Tango is right in that the comparisons, to be interesting and valid, have to be grounded in relative contemporary context. You see this most clearly with arguments over starting pitchers. While I think that Speaker could get out of a time machine in 1980, or Brett in 1920, and do just fine after getting over jet lag, you often run into impasses at BBTF comparing, say, Clayton Kershaw to Sandy Koufax. Could Kershaw have started 40 games a year and completed 25 of them? Could Koufax have had an ERA of 1.80 when your average shortstop hits 15 HR a year and it just goes up from there? Who knows or cares? We have to somehow first compare their relative impact on their own eras, and then compare that impact across eras.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: January 17, 2018 at 04:29 PM (#5608342)
I like the point that Tango brings up about first comparing the players to his peers, before looking towards where he ranks at his position all time. But at the same time, I don't think it matters much for the hof discussion, meaning that if a guy is entering the discussion, then it's likely he is pretty good compared to his peers.
   3. Steve Treder Posted: January 17, 2018 at 05:18 PM (#5608381)
I remember James's characterization of Tris Speaker as a center-field version of George Brett. That's very cool.

That was in the section of the BJHBA in which, while profiling an old-time player, he offered an example or two of "comparable recent players." That really is a fun and interesting way to help a modern fan vividly imagine the old-time player in action on the field.

In one of the pieces I co-authored with Matthew Namee at The Hardball Times, we did our best to play "matchmaker" between several modern players and their old-time star counterparts. It's harder than you might think, and in the process I learned a lot about players (both modern and oldie) I thought I already understood.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: January 18, 2018 at 05:41 PM (#5609076)
#2: It's something of an issue with Edgar actually. Compared "historically" he was an outstanding hitter. Within the context of sillyball ... he's still (maybe) the best of the bunch but he's not that far ahead of Sheffield, Giambi, Berkman, Ortiz and some others. I won't go so far as to say that he didn't stand out during his era but he was standing awfully close to some folks that are not getting serious HoF consideration (except Ortiz of course). As somebody (I think AROM) pointed out once, the gap between Edgar and Sheffield is basically that Edgar did manage 3 full seasons as a solid 3B -- so that's a real difference but it's a mighty thin distinction when it comes to the HoF.

Anyway, just trying to say that Edgar is an example of a guy who looks better "historically" than he does in context -- but one might easily still think he's over the HoF border.

There's also some difficulty in comparing any player with heavy DH usage to players from a pre-DH era -- sure, they'd have been pushed out to 1B but would they have been as durable and how long before the defense became so intolerable they would have been let go or reduced to mostly PH duties (back in the day when such things existed). Sort of a minor case of what we have to go through with pitchers.

Quick "example": Stargell -- who of course was in the DH era by then but in the non-DH league. His last season over 600 PA was age 34; his last qualified season was at 35. But he remained a very good hitter from 36-40 but averaged only 375 PA per year. From 36-40, Edgar averaged about 575 PA so he picks up nearly 1000 PA there. Would Edgar with <7700 PA and about 63 WAR be getting much HoF interest? (Maybe, it's arguably better than Vlad.) Would Stargell have been anywhere near as durable as Edgar in his late 30s if he'd been restricted to DH?
   5. The Duke Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:13 PM (#5609259)
So I guess Tango would vote for Jack Morris, best pitcher of the 80s?
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:23 PM (#5609268)
So I guess Tango would vote for Jack Morris, best pitcher of the 80s?


No, because Morris wasn't close to the best pitcher of the 80's. That is the problem with Morris campaign is that they create an argument that isn't legit. Stieb, Blyelven, Clemens, Welch, Valenzuela, Hershiser, Saberhagen, Gooden, Tudor, Ryan, and Hough were all better pitchers in the 80's than Morris.

And in the article Tango pointed out that a "generation" is the years of the player career plus 10 or so years on either side of it.
   7. TomH Posted: January 19, 2018 at 08:44 AM (#5609351)
I second cfb's point
   8. Palm Beach Pollworker Posted: January 19, 2018 at 10:16 AM (#5609401)
Stieb, Blyelven, Clemens, Welch, Valenzuela, Hershiser, Saberhagen, Gooden, Tudor, Ryan, and Hough were all better pitchers in the 80's than Morris.

I'm not endorsing Morris for the HOF, but I'd really like to see the evidence that all those pitchers were better than Jack Morris during the 1980s.

I'd go along with Stieb, for sure, which invalidates the 'best pitcher of the 80s' argument, which is cardsfanboy's main point. I might go along with some of the others, but Morris has such a massive innings advantage over Tudor (using 1980-90) that it undermines the rate-stat advantage of the latter.

* * * *

Turning to the article, I find it an example of Bill James at his worst. By and large, I seem to evaluate him a bit differently from the Primer consensus, in that I think he is a poor writer.

He has a knack for explaining math problems to Humanities-educated, cultural-studies types like me. His use of concrete examples in the Win Shares book, for example, worked in a way that eluded Tom Tango trying to explain aging curves (which still fox me). That's not the same as being a good writer, though.

One of James' problems is that at times he rambles and digresses to the point that he obscures his argument. But worse, in my book, is his use of unfounded assertion. Eg,:
Your position would not invalidate a certain limited number of Hall of Fame arguments, 15% or 20%; it would invalidate almost all of the central arguments for Hall of Fame selection which have always been made. It would invalidate 80 or 90 or 95% of the Hall of Fame arguments which have always guided selection, and require that people develop new and different approaches in representing their favorite players.

I looked forward to seeing him defend this point, which with its percentages seems to fit the model of 'baseball is 75 per cent pitching' as a topic open to debunking, perhaps even in a footnote.

Sadly, I was disappointed as James just rolled on until we get to
From my standpoint, if I were to study Jones’ WAR compared to a tight cadre of his generational competitors and find that he ranked at or near the front of that group, that would help me to accept that he might be worthy of selection. I doubt that that is what we would find, but I haven’t studied it in that way, so I don’t know.
Well, like what the H--l, Bill? I did something like that before I wrote a post to Baseball Think Factory, when I should have been working, not a web site adorned with my own name for which I charge admission.

I don't have the reference here, but somewhere it was said that James absolutely detests being edited. He gets away with it because he is Bill James, and everybody says he's a good writer.
   9. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: January 19, 2018 at 10:54 AM (#5609418)
James has himself says that he absolutely detests being edited--refuses to be edited without his approval, and by his own admission is hell for an editor to work with.

I think that's fascinating, fra paolo, because I have always thought James has been as successful as he has despite being a mediocre sabermatrician in large part because he's a fantastic writer.
   10. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 19, 2018 at 11:38 AM (#5609446)

I like the point that Tango brings up about first comparing the players to his peers, before looking towards where he ranks at his position all time.


But isn't it this sort of argument that has led to catchers, particularly early catchers, being underrepresented in these rankings? Now, maybe some people are fine if that's the result, but it's not the only approach.
   11. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 19, 2018 at 11:39 AM (#5609447)
I think that's fascinating, fra paolo, because I have always thought James has been as successful as he has despite being a mediocre sabermatrician in large part because he's a fantastic writer.

I'd agree with the latter part of that. As a professional writer and editor, I think that James is a terrific writer.

But he'd be better if every once in a while he'd listen to someone saying "That example isn't working" or "You need to explain this better" or "This assumption isn't really warranted." Every writer needs to hear that, even the best of them.
   12. Rally Posted: January 19, 2018 at 11:52 AM (#5609456)
I'm not endorsing Morris for the HOF, but I'd really like to see the evidence that all those pitchers were better than Jack Morris during the 1980s.


That is a list of pitchers who had more WAR during the 1980s than Morris, nothing to do with the rest of their careers.
   13. nick swisher hygiene Posted: January 19, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5609484)
James is pretty clearly a good writer, in the ordinary sense of the term; the weaknesses #8 enumerates have to do with being a bad, or lazy, thinker.

Offering unsupported assertions would get him in trouble in a freshman comp class, but (for better or worse) the standards of freshman comp have very little to do with what gets called "good writing" out there in the, uh, real world. He has a recognizable voice and writes readable prose: that's all it takes.
   14. GuyM Posted: January 19, 2018 at 12:41 PM (#5609498)
Turning to the article, I find it an example of Bill James at his worst.

I think it's worth noting that this is an email exchange, not an "article." Yes, James posted it, because he thought his readers would be interested in the exchange of ideas, but I don't think it's fair to evaluate this as representative of James' (or Tango's) "writing."
   15. TomH Posted: January 19, 2018 at 03:46 PM (#5609753)
This exchange seems to center on a player's Hof worthiness; that is, can you put him above or below the line of 200ish best players ever, hence best 40sih over 20 years.

The question turns if we were to build a Hall of Uber Fame of 20ish total; one tenth the size. Because then, greater cross-generational comparisons would be required.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: January 19, 2018 at 04:33 PM (#5609782)
Well, like what the H--l, Bill? I did something like that before I wrote a post to Baseball Think Factory, when I should have been working, not a web site adorned with my own name for which I charge admission.


Him not looking up something is certainly an error but what does that have to do with his skill as a writer? I dont understand how you are conflating the two. There are lots of writers who right stuff that I dont like, say Camille Paglia or George Will. That doesnt mean they dont write well.

Your other example had to do with something eluding Tom Tango. I have no idea what you were trying to say there or what that has to do with good writing. What does "(which still fox me)" mean anyhow?

Your first quote has to do with something about 75% baseball is pitching which I think is wildly in accurate, I dont think James was making anything like that point and I dont know what model of baseball you are referring there that reflects on his writing. if you can elaborate maybe I would understand it.

Not trying to defend James cause his weaknesses are pretty obvious just trying to figure out how you define good writing vs good logic.


He has a recognizable voice and writes readable prose: that's all it takes.




Right, but he also uses analogies quite well and a lot of people wreck those. And he's witty to a point without overdoing it. There's lots of good he's doing in his writing.

i think the basic problem is he's basically working in a vacuum . Even his most refined works are basically Bill James Shower Thoughts. They are just stream of consciousness ramblings, which are fascinating for the most part. And at times just complete batshet.

The same point as being made with respect to his lack of an editor...
   17. Zach Posted: January 19, 2018 at 07:57 PM (#5609889)
I think that's fascinating, fra paolo, because I have always thought James has been as successful as he has despite being a mediocre sabermatrician in large part because he's a fantastic writer.

This seems like an unnecessarily harsh line to take about someone who (with a few others) basically invented the field.

I'd say he's a mediocre mathematician, but an excellent sabermetrician whose interests are more historical than operational. His articles tend to have a lot of hemming and hawing and drawing distinctions, because he's trying to distill the actual question that he wants to answer.

Someone like MGL is interested in operational questions and querying large databases. James isn't that. But MGL's style will never come up with something like the Keltner list. Tango is an interesting blend of the two approaches.
   18. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 19, 2018 at 08:20 PM (#5609898)
This seems like an unnecessarily harsh line to take about someone who (with a few others) basically invented the field.

which by definition means he had a VERY low bar
   19. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: January 19, 2018 at 08:25 PM (#5609901)
Right, but James "invented" the field, that is to say made it a public phenomenon, because he was its first great writer. He presented what we now call sabermetric concepts in a way that common fans enjoyed reading and wanted to read more of.

And yes, it's fair to say I might better have used the word "mathemetician" than "sabermetrician."

It's interesting that James' two true crime books--both of which I immensely enjoyed--have a ton of one- of two-out-of-five reviews online, and the majority of those reviews harp on how the material was occasionally interesting but terminally disorganized, hard to follow, and James desperately needed an editor. I personally didn't perceive any such problem at all, and I personally suspect too many people took their high school English and undergrad Lit teachers too seriously.

(A minority of the negative reviews came from reviewers who were outraged that James presents himself as an authority in the True Crime field with no credentials whatsoever.)
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: January 19, 2018 at 08:57 PM (#5609907)
I'd really like to see the evidence that all those pitchers were better than Jack Morris during the 1980s.


I did a quick war only to create that list. It was based upon 1980-1989...

Here is the list of war for the 80's... (1980-1989) It wasn't actual hard core analysis, but a quick point being that "here are a few guys that by at least one metric is better than Morris".

Rk                Player WAA/pitch  WAR ERA+   W   L W-L%     IP  ERA  FIP
1             Dave Stieb      28.1 48.6  126 140 109 .562 2328.2 3.32 3.78
2          Bert Blyleven      20.0 38.2  113 123 103 .544 2078.1 3.64 3.56
3          Roger Clemens      24.5 35.7  139  95  45 .679 1284.2 3.06 2.79
4              Bob Welch      16.9 35.2  113 137  93 .596 2082.1 3.21 3.35
5    Fernando Valenzuela      14.5 33.2  111 128 103 .554 2144.2 3.19 3.21
6         Orel Hershiser      20.2 32.9  132  98  64 .605 1457.0 2.69 3.01
7        Bret Saberhagen      20.5 32.2  128  92  61 .601 1329.0 3.23 3.11
8             John Tudor      17.1 31.3  124 104  66 .612 1622.2 3.13 3.63
9          Dwight Gooden      19.5 30.7  132 100  39 .719 1291.0 2.64 2.53
10         Charlie Hough      12.0 30.7  112 128 114 .529 2121.2 3.67 4.15
11            Nolan Ryan      12.1 30.5  111 122 104 .540 2094.0 3.14 2.83
12           Jack Morris       9.0 30.4  109 162 119 .577 2443.2 3.66 3.90
13         Teddy Higuera      19.7 29.2  129  78  44 .639 1085.0 3.28 3.31
14           Frank Viola      11.6 27.9  110 117  98 .544 1858.0 3.84 3.84
15        Rick Sutcliffe      11.8 27.4  103 116  93 .555 1860.0 3.87 3.75
16            Ron Guidry      12.8 27.2  108 111  72 .607 1639.2 3.66 3.57
17            Mario Soto      13.0 27.1  111  94  84 .528 1614.1 3.37 3.44
18         Steve Carlton      11.7 26.9  109 104  84 .553 1732.1 3.48 3.19
19         Rick Reuschel      12.4 26.6  113  97  82 .542 1616.1 3.27 3.30
20       Doyle Alexander       8.9 26.6  104 112  98 .533 2004.1 3.85 3.97
21          Mark Gubicza      14.9 26.4  118  84  67 .556 1313.1 3.51 3.43 
   21. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 20, 2018 at 09:10 AM (#5610006)
This seems like an unnecessarily harsh line to take about someone who (with a few others) basically invented the field.


which by definition means he had a VERY low bar


Interesting. The same argument arises with respect to Marvin Miller's role in the game.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: January 20, 2018 at 01:16 PM (#5610046)
Addenum to that list I made in 20, Morris has the most innings pitched in the 1980's(Stieb is second) that and the win total(162 next is Stieb with 140) and complete games (133 to Valenzuela 102) is the three categories he wins for the 80's--all of which are related (oops, and games started 332 beating out Stieb's 331) In a similar vein, Dale Murphy has the most pa for the 80's
   23. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 20, 2018 at 01:24 PM (#5610050)
It's interesting that James' two true crime books--both of which I immensely enjoyed--have a ton of one- of two-out-of-five reviews online, and the majority of those reviews harp on how the material was occasionally interesting but terminally disorganized, hard to follow, and James desperately needed an editor. I personally didn't perceive any such problem at all, and I personally suspect too many people took their high school English and undergrad Lit teachers too seriously.


I enjoyed both of the true crime books immensely, but I can see that argument. The great stuff in each book is really great, but he gets sidetracked into irrelevant discursions in both of them. "Popular Crime" has a couple of digressions into sabermetric-style evaluations of crime or detection methods that don't work at all. "The Man From the Train" has a long slog through the politics of a town where one of the killings take place, which had me paging ahead to see how much longer I had to put up with this.

Neither of those things ruined the books for me, but as an editor, it had me wishing I could pick up a pen and cross out huge swaths of text. Each book would be much stronger if a skilled, judicious editor had worked on them. I don't think that's arguable at all.

It still boggles my mind that he solved a series of crimes that happened a century ago.
   24. Palm Beach Pollworker Posted: January 20, 2018 at 01:37 PM (#5610055)
Here is the list of war for the 80's... (1980-1989)

Just for comparison purposes, this is the comparable list of Win Shares Above Bench

1 Dave Stieb (104.1)
2 Dan Quisenberry (94)

That's it. Jack Morris is third at 75.3. (I used WSAB as opposed to straight Win Shares because WSAB implements a 'replacement level' for players, whereas straight Win Shares could only be said to have a 'replacement level' for teams.)
   25. McCoy Posted: January 20, 2018 at 03:27 PM (#5610131)
Bill James didn't invent sabermetrics he popularized it.
   26. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 20, 2018 at 11:18 PM (#5610323)

This seems like an unnecessarily harsh line to take about someone who (with a few others) basically invented the field.

which by definition means he had a VERY low bar
There's some truth to that. If you go back and look at his early abstracts, so much of his early work just involved compiling information that few if any had bothered to collect -- and certainly not to publish -- before. It's hard to remember in the age of bbref (and hard to believe for people who weren't alive back then), but even something as basic as batter walk totals were difficult to find. Maybe at the end of the year there were some publications -- some, not most -- that published that data, but during a season, forgetaboutit.
   27. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 21, 2018 at 08:42 AM (#5610350)
I'm amazed that USA Today's Baseball Weekly only came out in 1991. I'm guessing that they had the extended stats in the regular sports section well before that?

   28. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2018 at 08:55 AM (#5610354)
I'm amazed that USA Today's Baseball Weekly only came out in 1991. I'm guessing that they had the extended stats in the regular sports section well before that?


Yes, they did one league on Tuesday, and the other on Wednesday. (or something like that) Before them, the Sporting News also had the extended stats but not nearly as well organized.
   29. Rally Posted: January 21, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5610372)
#24, looking at that link shows a huge difference in how WAR vs Win shares values relievers. I was surprised to see Quis so high for the 80's, as great as he was up to 1985, he wasn't a closer after that and his workload was greatly reduced. Not just a one time thing, WS and WSAB put Mariano Rivera as the most valuable pitcher for the 2000-2009 period.

Bill James likes to take his shots at WAR, but that is ground I would not want to be standing on.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2018 at 11:05 AM (#5610374)

Yes, they did one league on Tuesday, and the other on Wednesday. (or something like that) Before them, the Sporting News also had the extended stats but not nearly as well organized.


That's right. Roto league stats were done every 2 weeks by hand from USA Today. They had it at least as early as 1985.
   31. Leroy Kincaid Posted: January 21, 2018 at 11:08 AM (#5610376)
Baseball Weekly had pretty good stats, and then not so much before it turned all it's attention to car racing or something. I recall wondering why Steve Sax had more assists than Roberto Alomar and was able to see that the White Sox pitchers struck out less batters and allowed more ground balls.
   32. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 21, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5610415)
Baseball Weekly was the first time that there were really great stats readily available, but that was around 1990. The abstracts were the early 1980s.
   33. Mefisto Posted: January 21, 2018 at 04:37 PM (#5610465)
The very first abstracts were late 70s, the first one appearing in 1977. It was #3 which first came to my attention and I had to write Bill to get copies of the first 2. Back then, the only source I know of for more comprehensive stats was TSN.
   34. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2018 at 04:45 PM (#5610469)
Very similar to how I latched on the Bill James, Mefisto. I think it was in 1978 that Bill wrote a piece for Esquire magazine, I believe, and it was noted that he had written the abstract. I liked that Esquire piece so I sent off for the abstract. I liked it, so I asked for the back issue.
   35. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 21, 2018 at 07:13 PM (#5610615)
The very first abstracts were late 70s, the first one appearing in 1977.
Right; those were the self-published ones, though.
   36. dlf Posted: January 21, 2018 at 07:38 PM (#5610623)
The first of the ones published by Ballentine was in 1982 (the one with the Thinker sitting on a baseball on the cover). The first I saw was the next year when my cousin shared his copy with me. The first I bought was in '84 (the one with the grass cover with peanuts and popcorn).

In the Spring of 1986 I was in my first APBA league and didn't really know how to read the cards yet. So for our draft I tried to find seasonal stats to build my rankings. The best I could come up with was the NYT's year end listing of players by batting average with HR and SB. So while, as a several year reader of James, I knew that walks were hugely important, I still ended up with a bunch of guys like Frank White who wouldn't ever draw a walk.

I haven't read the crime books. I'm just not interested in the subject. I do find James to be informative and entertaining. He is one of the first that impart on me the importance of asking, if X is true, how would that manifest itself in observable information? Don't rely on 'trust me, I'm an expert' but instead, show me step by step the provable information leading to the conclusions. I'd like to think that has helped shape my last four decades. Because of that, I am troubled by his recent postings about defense, WAR, and other things where his public statements have just been the converse, conclusions without the data.
   37. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2018 at 07:48 PM (#5610626)
Yeah,I remember picking up the abstracts back in the mid 00's via eBay and reading them thinking I was going to find some really great stuff. Alas, it was filled with stuff that has become pretty humdrum by the mid 2000's. At one point Bill send to have been obsessed with Astroturf and provided a ton of stats on how teams and players performed on and off turf. By the mid 00's the abstracts were pretty primitive stuff. I found the hidden game of baseball to be a better but then again it wasn't as topical as a yearly publication.
   38. Palm Beach Pollworker Posted: January 22, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5610828)
#24, looking at that link shows a huge difference in how WAR vs Win shares values relievers. I was surprised to see Quis so high for the 80's, as great as he was up to 1985, he wasn't a closer after that and his workload was greatly reduced. Not just a one time thing, WS and WSAB put Mariano Rivera as the most valuable pitcher for the 2000-2009 period.

Bill James likes to take his shots at WAR, but that is ground I would not want to be standing on.


I took a cursory look at this. We can assume that Quisenberry pitched 500 higher-leverage innings over four seasons during 1982-5.

Win Shares assigns extra value to account for the higher leverage. I couldn't begin to explain the underlying math, but the mechanism is described in the Win Shares book.

I don't know how WAR accounts for the higher leverage.

I would find it awkward to argue against the idea that an inning pitched by firemen/closers in particular, and non-mop-up relievers in general, has more value than one pitched by a starter.

So now we are on the ground of talking about 'how much more value'. Does Win Shares assign too much? Does WAR assign too little?

And how is one to do this in a system that is 'fair to all eras' so we can make cross-era comparisons?
   39. Zach Posted: January 22, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5610895)
This seems like an unnecessarily harsh line to take about someone who (with a few others) basically invented the field.


which by definition means he had a VERY low bar


In my experience, excellence in a research field is less about technical proficiency and more about vision and originality. The area I did my Ph.D. in was really unlocked by a Canadian physicist who showed that some puzzling experimental results could be about 80% explained by a simple theory that an undergraduate could work out in a couple of hours.

It still takes a lot of work to nail down the last 20%, but his lab has been using the basic insights from the "simple man's model" (his words) to drive the field for decades now.

James is really good at finding interesting topics to write about, then developing a simple system that zeroes in on the exact question he wants to answer.
   40. Zach Posted: January 22, 2018 at 12:30 PM (#5610904)
It still boggles my mind that he solved a series of crimes that happened a century ago.

This.

In my experience, if you find yourself saying "I never even would have thought to try that!", you are in the presence of a very good researcher.
   41. Rally Posted: January 22, 2018 at 01:43 PM (#5611031)
So now we are on the ground of talking about 'how much more value'. Does Win Shares assign too much? Does WAR assign too little?


WAR does assign more value to higher leverage innings. It looks to me like WS is going overboard with that, or maybe it isn’t accounting for the fact that pitching in relief is easier than starting. Looking at career numbers, Mariano Rivera has a similar WS total to Mike Mussina, and if you go by WS above bench, Mariano comes out very close to Randy Johnson, and ahead of any other contemporary except Clemens and Maddux,

To me that’s a non-starter as a value metric, considering Johnson pitched more than 3x as many innings as Rivera.
   42. Palm Beach Pollworker Posted: January 22, 2018 at 08:04 PM (#5611364)
WAR does assign more value to higher leverage innings. It looks to me like WS is going overboard with that,

Using 2000-9 as a basis, according to my understanding of the method described on this BB-Ref page, Rivera gets about a 40 per cent bonus to his WAA ((1 + a gmLI of 1.82)/2) for that period.

It's much harder for me to calculate the effect in Win Shares, but 2000-9 Mariano Rivera has 164 claim points from his won/loss/save record, and I would guesstimate an additional 200 claim points based on his 'Save Equivalent Innings'. So Win Shares might give a bonus in the vicinity of 120 per cent, or three times what BB-Ref WAR does.

His WAA would go from 19.1 to something like 30, on a Win Shares bonus basis.

By way of comparison, second on the 2000-9 Win Shares (not WSAB) ranking to Rivera is the late Roy Halladay. His WAA during that time was 27.5.

So that kind of fits with what Win Shares is telling us (Rivera 160.3 vs Halladay 158.2 -- which assuming the same ratio would give Rivera 27.8 WAA, not far off my guesstimate of 30).
   43. cardsfanboy Posted: January 22, 2018 at 09:51 PM (#5611433)
or maybe it isn’t accounting for the fact that pitching in relief is easier than starting.


That is very much a likely concept. Bill James is about a decade behind in research, so his system would have missed that little tidbit. For the most part, prior to the 1980's it wouldn't really matter that much, but after about 1977 or so, relief ace became a real thing for most teams and it of course has been amplified since then. You really cannot use the same math for 1960 pitchers as you do 1980 pitchers and definitely not 1990 and later.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

News

All News | Prime News

Old-School Newsstand


BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Phil Birnbaum
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogSale of Baseball Prospectus
(315 - 10:55pm, Nov 16)
Last: ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick

NewsblogOT - NBA Thread (2018-19 season kickoff edition)
(2463 - 10:53pm, Nov 16)
Last: maccoach57

NewsblogMichael Wilbon Weighs In On Jacob deGrom With Worst Baseball Take Of Year | MLB | NESN.com
(8 - 10:45pm, Nov 16)
Last: ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick

Sox TherapyLet’s Get Off-Seasoning!
(5 - 10:40pm, Nov 16)
Last: Jay Seaver

NewsblogOT - Catch-All Pop Culture Extravaganza (November 2018)
(433 - 10:09pm, Nov 16)
Last: Morty Causa

NewsblogMarlins get rid of orange, cite South Florida cultures with new look
(28 - 8:57pm, Nov 16)
Last: You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR)

NewsblogHow Kevin Brown Became Baseball's First $100 Million Man
(9 - 8:46pm, Nov 16)
Last: TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky"

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-16-2018
(10 - 8:30pm, Nov 16)
Last: crict

NewsblogIndians' Trevor Bauer pleads his own Cy Young case using a spreadsheet on Twitter
(24 - 8:01pm, Nov 16)
Last: the Hugh Jorgan returns

NewsblogFox Sports inks multi-year rights agreement with Major League Baseball
(30 - 8:00pm, Nov 16)
Last: QLE

NewsblogJoe Mauer Retires After 15 Seasons
(84 - 6:44pm, Nov 16)
Last: Never Give an Inge (Dave)

NewsblogOT: Soccer Thread (2018-19 season begins!)
(1216 - 5:35pm, Nov 16)
Last: AuntBea calls himself Sky Panther

NewsblogYelich, Betts Win MVPs
(54 - 5:28pm, Nov 16)
Last: The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott)

NewsblogHow Mets, deGrom could get their contract extension done
(4 - 5:18pm, Nov 16)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogAL Central Offseason Preview
(16 - 4:51pm, Nov 16)
Last: Walt Davis

Page rendered in 0.4528 seconds
46 querie(s) executed