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Friday, December 01, 2017

Doesn’t Take Perfect SAT to See We’re Going About Hall of Fame Voting All Wrong

Let us ponder the SATs.

Great scores come in many forms, but they’re not all created equal. If you hit 700 on verbal and math, the resulting 1,400 will qualify you for some pretty good schools. That same 1,400 might get you into MIT, however, if 800 of it comes via math, or Amherst if you similarly crush the verbal.

There’s more to college admissions than test scores, and yeah, yeah, most MIT and Amherst grads aced both halves of the SAT, but for the purposes of this exercise, which student would you prefer? The one who’s solidly above average across the board, or the one whose potential in one area might be limitless?

Give me Mr. 800. After all, Albert Einstein was dyslexic. Charles Darwin couldn’t spell. John Nash’s beautiful mind suffered from schizophrenia. Their brilliance overshadowed their deficiencies.

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: December 01, 2017 at 01:26 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame

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   1. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: December 01, 2017 at 03:07 PM (#5584350)
If we're using the SAT analogy, Sheffield was an 800 offensive force who hit for power (509 HRs), reached base (.393 OBP), and even stole some bases (253). In that context, I'm not particularly interested in his glove, as long as he didn't kill anyone with it.

Rolen, meanwhile, probably rated a 650 offensively and a 750 defensively. He was one of the most complete players of his day, but there's a reason he only finished in the top 20 in MVP voting three times, and it's not simply voter ignorance. We're talking about the Hall of Fame, and that's not good enough.
I noted Rolen's lack of black (complete) and grey (relative) ink in another thread, and this voter at least confirms my suspicions.
   2. Rally Posted: December 01, 2017 at 03:16 PM (#5584359)
Question in case anyone here works/has worked in admissions and has seen a wide range of results.

Are the two parts mostly correlated? If you know someone has a 700 in math, you can safely assume they'll at least be above average on verbal too?

Are there any SAT Sheffields, or SAT Rey Ordonezes? Ever seen someone with a 750 in one part and like a 300 in the other?
   3. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 01, 2017 at 03:31 PM (#5584371)
If Sheffield is Mr. 800 on offense, then what is Pujols? Bonds? I think Sheffield's got a credible case but this is really overstating it for a guy with a 140 OPS+.
   4. BDC Posted: December 01, 2017 at 03:46 PM (#5584388)
I don't know about undergraduate admissions, but when you're looking at GREs of humanities doctoral applicants, particularly people who've been teaching English for a while with MAs, you can see a very substantial gap between verbal and math scores. When you don't use a particular skill for a while, it can atrophy. Whether these tests measure inherent aptitude in the first place is questionable. And even if they do, having been away from using mathematical notation regularly is a big disadvantage, even if you take a crash course to prepare.

This is kind of irrelevant to Gary Sheffield, but there you go :)
   5. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: December 01, 2017 at 03:52 PM (#5584393)
If we're using the SAT analogy, Sheffield was an 800 offensive force who hit for power (509 HRs), reached base (.393 OBP), and even stole some bases (253). In that context, I'm not particularly interested in his glove, as long as he didn't kill anyone with it.

Rolen, meanwhile, probably rated a 650 offensively and a 750 defensively. He was one of the most complete players of his day, but there's a reason he only finished in the top 20 in MVP voting three times, and it's not simply voter ignorance. We're talking about the Hall of Fame, and that's not good enough.


Sheffield was 306 offensive runs ahead of Rolen. Rolen was 488 defensive runs ahead of Sheffield. Assigning them the same composite score makes the argument, but it's based on a flawed premise.
   6. bunyon Posted: December 01, 2017 at 03:59 PM (#5584402)
BDC: You should see the GREs of STEM applicants from abroad (one country in particular). Acing the math is common along with less than a random monkey score on verbal. Of course, we tend not to care too much about the latter. The worry is if the math score was obtained using PEDs (PrintoutsofanswerkeyExpressDelivered).
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:00 PM (#5584404)
I don't know about undergraduate admissions, but when you're looking at GREs of humanities doctoral applicants, particularly people who've been teaching English for a while with MAs, you can see a very substantial gap between verbal and math scores. When you don't use a particular skill for a while, it can atrophy. Whether these tests measure inherent aptitude in the first place is questionable. And even if they do, having been away from using mathematical notation regularly is a big disadvantage, even if you take a crash course to prepare.

This was exactly my experience in preparing for the GRE years ago. I took a practice test, breezed through the verbal, got to the math and realized I hadn't studied high-school trig, etc. since, well, high school (I was a journalism major in undergrad, and was probably 6 years out of undergrad when I was going to take the GRE). I figured grad school was completely out of the picture when I saw my score. Fortunately, the high-school math came back pretty quickly and I ended up doing fine, but yeah, I don't see how being able to remember the properties of a cosine wave is a predictor for success in a humanities grad program.
   8. Baldrick Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:18 PM (#5584432)
Rolen's offensive WAR of 52.1 ranks 140th all-time, between Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane and All-Star Joe Mauer. He trails non-Hall of Famers like Cesar Cedeno, Brian Downing and Willie Randolph.

Sheffield's offensive WAR, however, checks in at 79.9. That's 32nd all-time, between Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Frank Thomas. The 25 men behind him are either already enshrined in Cooperstown or still active and on their way.

Comparing 'offensive' and 'defensive' WAR is a very silly way to approach the question. But even if this is your approach, why isn't it equally relevant that Rolen is #44 all-time in dWAR? That's barely 10 places away from Sheffield's '800 offensive force.'

Especially if you're going to take Vizquel seriously on the basis of his 28.4 dWAR (which is apparently not 'quite high enough to merit a place in Cooperstown'). Sure seems like a dWAR of 20.6 combined with a very good offensive record makes for a perfectly cromulent HOFer.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:24 PM (#5584442)
I may agree with the writer. If you've got two fellows with 60 WAR, and one of them compiled his value in a notable or unusual way, I might be inclined to favor that one. In my opinion the Hall is more about enshrining the memory of our most excellent players, it's not a value calculation, and so I'm very willing to overlook negatives. But Sheffield/Rolen is probably a poor example to use, and this is mostly going to be a tie-breaking exercise anyway.

Sheffield's an archetypal player, all bat, no glove. That's not interesting. Rolen is actually more interesting. If there were a third guy that compiled the same value mostly on the strength of his baserunning or something, well, he'd be my top choice.
   10. TJ Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:28 PM (#5584445)
Comparing Gary Sheffield with Scott Rolen is comparing apples to doorknobs.

You want to vote for Sheffield because he mashed like a HOF corner outfielder/first baseman? Great- that's a solid argument to make, and I would vote for Sheffield if I had room on a HOF ballot. But you simply cannot play defense as badly as Sheffield and play third base. You are that bad with the glove, you are getting moved to first base or right field (if you have any mobility) or left field (if you don't), I don't care if you do mash like Mike Schmidt or Eddie Mathews.

As for Rolen, the BBWAA has inducted six modern-era third basemen (seven if you include Pual Molitor), the VC has inducted one (Ron Santo) and Chipper Jones should join that club this year, All could hit AND field well enough to handle third base. The worst of these selections are probably Brooks Robinson and Santo, both of whom are well-deserving HOFers. They are who Rolen should be compared to.

And Scott Rolen was a "glue guy" for the Phillies? What, he was David Eckstein or something? Rolen was there five+ seasons, was one of the best third basemen in the game, then demanded a trade because he didn't feel like the team was committed to winning. Does that sound like David Eckstein?
   11. Perry Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:47 PM (#5584460)
Are the two parts mostly correlated? If you know someone has a 700 in math, you can safely assume they'll at least be above average on verbal too?


They're highly correlated -- approaching 0.7.
   12. BDC Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:48 PM (#5584461)
Acing the math is common along with less than a random monkey score on verbal

And of course, there you wonder what the verbal score would be in the applicant's native language. Nothing detaches inherent verbal skills from culture quicker than a second language …
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:52 PM (#5584463)
BDC: You should see the GREs of STEM applicants from abroad (one country in particular). Acing the math is common along with less than a random monkey score on verbal. Of course, we tend not to care too much about the latter.

Of course the problem with that is these applicants are then inflicted on undergrads as TAs and lecturers, and they definitely do care than their instructors can't speak a lick of English.
   14. BDC Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:54 PM (#5584467)
And as to Sheffield: he is interesting as a player whose managers judged him (if we believe defensive metrics) just a few steps "off" throughout his career. He came up as a shortstop: guys who truly have no fielding ability rarely start at SS. He went quickly enough to 3B and then to RF and then LF before going back to RF for a while and then DH'ing; played only a few games at first base despite obviously having the bat for the position and plenty of infield experience.

You look at the stat line and say, jeez, the guy should have started in LF, with a stop at 1B before a long spell at DH. But managers did not think so. They were all either trying to get way too much offense into their lineups, or the metrics are a little bit out of whack.

I really don't know. I saw Sheffield mostly when he was a pretty old outfielder for the Yankees, and he was indeed terrible. But if he'd been out there as a kid, instead of playing shortstop, maybe he would have held his own for a while.
   15. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:56 PM (#5584471)
Great scores come in many forms, but they’re not all created equal. If you hit 700 on verbal and math, the resulting 1,400 will qualify you for some pretty good schools. That same 1,400 might get you into MIT, however, if 800 of it comes via math, or Amherst if you similarly crush the verbal.

There’s more to college admissions than test scores, and yeah, yeah, most MIT and Amherst grads aced both halves of the SAT, but for the purposes of this exercise, which student would you prefer? The one who’s solidly above average across the board, or the one whose potential in one area might be limitless?

Give me Mr. 800. After all, Albert Einstein was dyslexic. Charles Darwin couldn’t spell. John Nash’s beautiful mind suffered from schizophrenia. Their brilliance overshadowed their deficiencies....

If we're using the SAT analogy, Sheffield was an 800 offensive force who hit for power (509 HRs), reached base (.393 OBP), and even stole some bases (253). In that context, I'm not particularly interested in his glove, as long as he didn't kill anyone with it.

Rolen, meanwhile, probably rated a 650 offensively and a 750 defensively. He was one of the most complete players of his day, but there's a reason he only finished in the top 20 in MVP voting three times, and it's not simply voter ignorance. We're talking about the Hall of Fame, and that's not good enough.
Here's the other place where this falls apart:
Rolen owns the WAR battle by a comfortable 70-60.3 margin.
We aren't comparing two students with 1400 SAT score. We're comparing a 1400 (Rolen) with a 1200 (Sheffield).
   16. BDC Posted: December 01, 2017 at 04:57 PM (#5584472)
Of course the problem with that is these applicants are then inflicted on undergrads as TAs and lecturers, and they definitely do care than their instructors can't speak a lick of English

Quite a few STEM students in the US who are grant-funded don't teach at all. But they still have to write dissertations in English, and then their supervisors definitely care if they can't write in the language. It's a considerable problem.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: December 01, 2017 at 05:08 PM (#5584485)
Rolen owns the WAR battle by a comfortable 70-60.3 margin.
We aren't comparing two students with 1400 SAT score. We're comparing a 1400 (Rolen) with a 1200 (Sheffield).


I see that as more like a 1400 vs a 1350, with most of the difference coming from the new and comparatively poorly-understood essay section.
   18. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 01, 2017 at 05:10 PM (#5584486)
This premise is a 730. composite.
   19. TJ Posted: December 01, 2017 at 05:10 PM (#5584487)
The Tracker just posted another ballot right after Tomase's. This one had a vote for Rolen, but not Sheffield. The Gods of Irony are feeling frisky today...
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 01, 2017 at 05:14 PM (#5584491)
Quite a few STEM students in the US who are grant-funded don't teach at all.

I had an Econ TA in undergrad who was from, I think, Sweden, and he pronounced "marginal costs" exactly like "modern goats." It was a confusing quarter.
   21. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: December 01, 2017 at 06:00 PM (#5584512)
Having spend a number of years at MIT, I would be shocked if the average verbal SAT score for domestic students was below 700. A student who I met through a mutual love of sabermetrics was a hard science major and also one of the top ranked Scrabble players in the country.

At the STEM graduate level, I think getting anything less than the top GRE score in quantitative is a significant impediment to admission.

And I would not at all be shocked if verbal skills were a greater predictor of future success in the science fields (whether research, industry, entrepreneur, or finance). I can't differentiate myself from my brilliant colleagues in brainpower alone, but I can write a pretty good proposal.
   22. Blastin Posted: December 01, 2017 at 06:19 PM (#5584524)
This is very applicable for me, since I got above 700 on both 15 years ago and am now in the process of preparing for a GRE for a doctoral program and haven't thought a single bit about geometry since the Clinton administration. So the math will be fun.

Thankfully the school has told me they aren't super focused on the math score so long as I actually bother to study and take it.
   23. QLE Posted: December 01, 2017 at 06:29 PM (#5584526)
Fortunately, the high-school math came back pretty quickly and I ended up doing fine, but yeah, I don't see how being able to remember the properties of a cosine wave is a predictor for success in a humanities grad program.


I recall discovering when I was hunting for graduate programs that most in my field consider the GRE as a relatively marginal part of the process, as only the sections concerning analytical writing were considered especially relevant to their concerns- and, since that was a decade ago at this point, I have to suspect that the trend has continued since then.
   24. Sweatpants Posted: December 01, 2017 at 06:38 PM (#5584529)
Having spend a number of years at MIT, I would be shocked if the average verbal SAT score for domestic students was below 700.
Having look at this post, I'm not going to deem it out of the question.

(Sorry. I know it was just a typo.)
   25. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: December 01, 2017 at 06:41 PM (#5584530)
24: I deserve to be mocked for that.
   26. OCF Posted: December 01, 2017 at 07:14 PM (#5584538)
I have some knowledge of what SAT scores look like for real students. I know this both from my own institution and from my involvement in the math contest work.

One thing: the SAT was changed and essentially re-scaled just last year. A 680 now might mean about what a 650 meant before last year. The top end is a little more compressed than it was. And of course there's also random noise.

I have known students whose SAT-M was 400 or more points higher than their SAT-V. These are typically students whose first language is not only not English, it's not even Indo-European - and they haven't had an easy time adjusting to English. For those students, holding the SAT-M score up that high is a significant accomplishment, as the struggles with reading can leak back into the math score, because of the somewhat verbal nature of some of the questions on that segment. As for what was said in #21: these are not MIT students; they're our students. They wouldn't have gotten into MIT (or probably UCLA).

For us, the correlation between SAT-M and performance in lower division math and science courses is extremely weak. Someone with a 520 SAT-M can ace calculus; someone with a 730 can fail that course. And one study I did a few years ago actually found a slight negative correlation between SAT-V and calculus grades. (For several reasons, one of which was that once you selected for students we were willing to allow into calculus, the verbal SAT served at least in part as a marker for ethnicity.)

Through the math contest involvement, I've known many students who have gone on to MIT, Harvard, Caltech, Stanford, and so on. I've seen enough from the outside to know that I understand very little about how such admissions actually work. But I will say this: trying to use the SAT-M as a criterion for admission to MIT is roughly like trying to judge a major league pitching prospect by high school ERA. Of course, a serious prospect should blow away that level - and many who aren't serious prospects will also blow away that level. So the prospective student has an 800 (or 770 or whatever - that few points doesn't really matter). To the admissions officer that has to be, "So what? Now tell me what you've really got to show." For the students that I know, an 800 isn't that high or that impressive a score - but the SAT is unable to register anything higher.

At the STEM graduate level, I think getting anything less than the top GRE score in quantitative is a significant impediment to admission.

Math departments might not even bother looking at the quantitative score on GRE proper; what those departments care about is the math subject test.
   27. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 01, 2017 at 07:25 PM (#5584542)
If Sheffield is Mr. 800 on offense, then what is Pujols? Bonds?


>3 sigma

It's been a long time since I was at MIT, but there were a LOT of sub-650 SAT-V students in my class. I was one of the few people there with V > M. Probably should have gone to Hopkins, but then I never would have met Srul.
   28. Zach Posted: December 01, 2017 at 07:26 PM (#5584543)
And I would not at all be shocked if verbal skills were a greater predictor of future success in the science fields (whether research, industry, entrepreneur, or finance). I can't differentiate myself from my brilliant colleagues in brainpower alone, but I can write a pretty good proposal.

Certainly if you go by GRE scores. As you say, the math scores are going to be crowding against the top score minus a few random errors, while the verbal scores are going to have a lot more range.
   29. Zach Posted: December 01, 2017 at 07:36 PM (#5584548)
But I will say this: trying to use the SAT-M as a criterion for admission to MIT is roughly like trying to judge a major league pitching prospect by high school ERA.

I agree completely, but there's an interesting angle to this: getting a top score as a seventh grader is ridiculously predictive. For several decades, Duke has done a 7th grade talent search by having 7th graders sit for the SAT. If I recall correctly, getting a top score at that age is about as predictive of becoming a professional scientist, getting a patent, etc, as being currently enrolled as a first year graduate student in a good program. Which kind of blew my mind when I read about it.
   30. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 01, 2017 at 07:38 PM (#5584549)
Couple other random observations...

There is most definitely a subset of students who have big V/M splits without the ESOL excuse. My son had a 150 point difference -- very high V, very ordinary M. So he decided to major in Economics in a very quantitative department. Go figure. But hey, he got a job, so what do I know.

The chair of my grad department seemed to care ONLY about GRE-V scores. Non-native English speakers were admitted only on the recommendation of trusted foreign professors. He had a very large network of such trusted colleagues since he edited several journals. Guess you could get away with that kind of admissions process in a small department back in the 70s and 80s.
   31. Athletic Supporter wants to move your money around Posted: December 01, 2017 at 08:28 PM (#5584572)
Having spend a number of years at MIT, I would be shocked if the average verbal SAT score for domestic students was below 700. A student who I met through a mutual love of sabermetrics was a hard science major and also one of the top ranked Scrabble players in the country.


This is very much tangential of course, but having played some competitive scrabble, verbal ability has very little to do with it. It's memorizing word lists (esp short words), seeing combinations to overlay 3 or 4 letter words, and anticipating what your opponent might have and not setting them up. It's a lot more like chess than it is a vocabulary competition.

I got a 710 math and a 430 verbal the first time I took the SAT.
   32. Greg K Posted: December 01, 2017 at 08:38 PM (#5584574)
My TA (currently an MA) is applying to a variety of different grad schools in Canada, the US, and Europe.

She described writing the GRE as one of the more bizarre experiences she's had as a student. I think I felt the same way back when I was applying to US grad schools. If you've never taken a standardized test in your academic career, it can be a bit of a trip.
   33. Hysterical & Useless Posted: December 01, 2017 at 08:48 PM (#5584576)
It saddens me that almost 50 years later I still remember my SAT V and M scores, but have never been able to remember the dates of my younger brothers' birthdays.

No clue re: SAT subject matter or GRE scores. Though I remember my Spanish score was good enough to get my out of taking any Spanish classes in grad school. Must've been a very low bar.
   34. Hysterical & Useless Posted: December 01, 2017 at 08:50 PM (#5584577)
If you've never taken a standardized test in your academic career


OMG, you didn't grow up with the Iowa Test of Basic Skills? I thought Ontario was civilized!!!!
   35. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 01, 2017 at 09:04 PM (#5584581)
I had an Econ TA in undergrad who was from, I think, Sweden, and he pronounced "marginal costs" exactly like "modern goats." It was a confusing quarter.


I had a Pakistani TA for some intermediate Math course whose content I can't remember, which had a very common exponent of n*pi*x/l. He pronounced it n-by-x-by-ell. It took several classes before we figured out what he meant. He couldn't say pi correctly and said "by" instead of "over". Of course, we could understand very little else he said. Whenever someone asked for a re-explanation, he said, "You do by yourself at home, you learn better that way." It was a horribly confusing course that was a waste of time.
   36. Omineca Greg Posted: December 01, 2017 at 09:26 PM (#5584586)
This is very much tangential of course, but having played some competitive scrabble, verbal ability has very little to do with it. It's memorizing word lists (esp short words), seeing combinations to overlay 3 or 4 letter words, and anticipating what your opponent might have and not setting them up. It's a lot more like chess than it is a vocabulary competition.

My Mom and my maternal grandmother were serious Scrabble players. My Grandmother eventually got dementia and died in her mid-seventies, but from her mid-fifties on, she swore she was losing her faculties. Everyone hushed her and told her it was fine, that she was imagining things.

My mother was the first one to believe her.

They would play their Scrabble, and even if her everyday regular life seemed fine, when she played Scrabble, Grandma's average score was starting to drop. Month after month. Slowly, imperceptibly to less experienced players perhaps, but my mother could tell things weren't quite right. She said if you were graphing it, it would have been a straight line, slowly dropping...never improving. At the family dinners, the rest of my aunts and uncles would still be saying, "Oh Mom, you're fine, you're fine." But my mother... she wasn't saying that anymore.

Of course, eventually Grandma couldn't play at all. And a long time after that, she died. My Mom has kept on Scrabbling all those years, right up until this very day. Now with online play, she's never short of people to play with. My mother is now 71. Well, you can see where this story is going...

"Greg, Greg...my score is dropping, my score is dropping."

I would never be so foolish as to contradict my mother and tell her she's doing fine.

"Just like my Mom's score dropped."

"I know, Mom."

And the weird thing to think about is...even now...is how much better her game is than mine. To see her so frustrated with herself, but still doing things with the rack and tiles that I couldn't dream of, I don't know what to make of it. I've never really learned to play, not properly anyway. My mother certainly held it to together much longer than my grandmother did, she's maybe 15 years behind her own mother on the line of slow decline.

Still. It's not going to end happily.

Anybody ever got drunk on homemade eggnog while listening to Sergio Mendes?

No, me either.
   37. Greg K Posted: December 01, 2017 at 09:27 PM (#5584587)
It's a lot more like chess than it is a vocabulary competition.

This rings true to me.

I have never in my life won a game of either chess or Scrabble.
   38. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: December 02, 2017 at 12:35 AM (#5584626)
But I will say this: trying to use the SAT-M as a criterion for admission to MIT is roughly like trying to judge a major league pitching prospect by high school ERA.


This is a great analogy. Many years ago when I was in high school, I attended an informational session for prospective MIT applicants. The admission officer asked how many students had an 800 SAT math. More than half of the hands went up. This was the applicant pool, not admitted students. Of course my <800 score was insufficient for admission. Years later, as a grad student, I would joke with the undergrads that I didn't get in when I was their age, so how come I understood the material and they didn't? (I was a jerk.)
   39. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: December 02, 2017 at 12:36 AM (#5584627)
36: thanks for sharing that sad but beautiful story
   40. stevegamer Posted: December 02, 2017 at 05:30 AM (#5584646)
I agree completely, but there's an interesting angle to this: getting a top score as a seventh grader is ridiculously predictive. For several decades, Duke has done a 7th grade talent search by having 7th graders sit for the SAT. If I recall correctly, getting a top score at that age is about as predictive of becoming a professional scientist, getting a patent, etc, as being currently enrolled as a first year graduate student in a good program. Which kind of blew my mind when I read about it.


Johns Hopkins does this as well. That program has been around in some form or another since the early 1980's, probably earlier. I was in it back then, and got a very solid score, but we had some people with crazy scores in my school.

   41. stevegamer Posted: December 02, 2017 at 05:31 AM (#5584647)
Re 36: Greg, that's touching, and I am beginning to feel that sort of decline, and my mom had dementia. It hits home.
   42. shoewizard Posted: December 02, 2017 at 09:45 AM (#5584672)
I noted Rolen's lack of black (complete) and grey (relative) ink in another thread, and this voter at least confirms my suspicions.


TDF, not sure if you are using black and grey ink to support any argument about Rolen's worthiness for a HOF vote, and if you're not, please accept my apology in advance.

But Bill James purpose and intent was never for the Ink tests to be used as anything other than a predictor of how the voters might vote, NOT as a measure to evaluate how good or great that player was.

From BB Ref Glossary


These are metrics designed by Bill James to measure how likely a player is to get into the HOF, and not necessarily how good they were.


To use the ink tests in support of arguments on a players value is therefore circular reasoning.

In addition, these "ink tests" are sorely in need of updating. For example, look at the categories:

Batting Statistics
Four Points for home runs, runs batted in or batting average
Three Points for runs scored, hits or slugging percentage
Two Points for doubles, walks or stolen bases
One Point for games, at bats or triples

See anything missing here ? There are no black or gray ink points for fielding. In 2004 Rolen lead all MLB 3rd basemen in fielding runs and was top 10 in a bunch of other seasons. No black or grey ink credited to him in the "HOF STATS" section.

I see a lot of people using the grey and black ink stats to support (or deny) a player's case. But thats not the intended use at all. And as times change, and modern voters gradually become more aware of modern analysis, that particular little toy is a relic of 30 years ago that probably should not have such a prominent space on BB-Ref. But I'm not about to criticize Sean for this. He's dealt with enough lately.



   43. DavidFoss Posted: December 02, 2017 at 10:21 AM (#5584679)
But Bill James purpose and intent was never for the Ink tests to be used as anything other than a predictor of how the voters might vote, NOT as a measure to evaluate how good or great that player was.

Yes. Same with Similarity Scores, HOF Standards and HOF Monitor. All devised in the late 80s or early 90s and designed to bake in all the voter biases that he perceived at the time. Using them 25-30 years later is a bit anachronistic, but I don't know of anyone who has the gravitas to tweak them.
   44. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: December 02, 2017 at 10:32 AM (#5584681)
TDF, not sure if you are using black and grey ink to support any argument about Rolen's worthiness for a HOF vote, and if you're not, please accept my apology in advance.
I was going to link to my original point, but was at work and didn't feel like taking the time.

The gist is this: Rolen may not be seen as a HOFer because he never once lead the league in any offensive category, and was only in the top-10 enough to accumulate 27 Gray Ink points. The top-1000 on BBRef goes down to 22; the only listed HOFer voted in by the writers with fewer than 50 gray ink is IRod at 37. This might also be the problem with Lou Whitaker; he has 1 black ink (games in '81) and 31 gray ink.

I see a lot of people using the grey and black ink stats to support (or deny) a player's case. But thats not the intended use at all. And as times change, and modern voters gradually become more aware of modern analysis, that particular little toy is a relic of 30 years ago that probably should not have such a prominent space on BB-Ref.
My point wasn't/isn't that these guys aren't or shouldn't be HOFers because of the low scores, but that it could be why so many voters don't see them as HOFers.
   45. DJS, the Digital Dandy Posted: December 02, 2017 at 10:46 AM (#5584687)
I'm not sure the vote is *that* much better. The BBWAA Hall electorate has changed much more slowly than the postseason award electorate since in the latter, there's no requirement for 10 years and the local chapter chairman nominates the voters, so there are a lot more newer voters. None of the internet nerd gang are Hall voters yet - for example, Law/Kahrl get to vote next year, Forman the year after, and only the year after that, starting with Jaffe, do the floodgates start to open. Right now, there are eight FanGraphs writers that are in the BBWAA and none can vote yet (though they've voted on postseason awards).

The only thing that will change this quicker is if the proposal floating around the BBWAA to start the membership clock when writers would have first qualified for the BBWAA rather than when they actually enter the BBWAA ever passes (and the Hall doesn't fuss). Suffice it to say I'm biased in favor of this since it would mean I get to vote in two years rather than wait several more.
   46. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: December 02, 2017 at 11:00 AM (#5584696)
And to be absolutely clear - I think Whitaker and Rolen should both be HOFers. I don't agree with those that say "but they never hit well enough to be among the league leaders in any stat", but I can see voters using that logic.
   47. cardsfanboy Posted: December 02, 2017 at 11:54 AM (#5584729)
(Here's my full ballot, by the way: Bonds, Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Sheffield. Manny remains a no because how many times does one idiot have to get busted for PEDs before we conclude that if he didn't care, we shouldn't care?)


I'm fine with that ballot, mostly I'll be fine with any ballot that contains at least 8 names....and if the ballot contains Vizquel it should have 10 names... that is the criteria I'm going for here. Just to reiterate... there is no rule you have to vote for the best in order, just name up to ten players you think are worthy. If you think Vizquel is worthy along with 15 others, you are not obligated to vote for the 10 best.

Rolen owns the WAR battle by a comfortable 70-60.3 margin.
We aren't comparing two students with 1400 SAT score. We're comparing a 1400 (Rolen) with a 1200 (Sheffield).
k

Maybe, but some of that 1400 for Rolen is essay and subjective grading is involved, it's possible a different grader might have given him a 1300. (Note: I support Rolen more than I do Sheffield, Rolen is just barely over the line for me, and Sheff is a borderline argument that I'm willing to hear every year....just pointing out that there is a confidence difference on accuracy of testing between defense and offense) Or as Preserved Fish said in post 17(I'm reading as I'm replying)

I see that as more like a 1400 vs a 1350, with most of the difference coming from the new and comparatively poorly-understood essay section.


Okay, just read a bunch of crap didn't care about, then got to post 42...


To use the ink tests in support of arguments on a players value is therefore circular reasoning.


Not exactly. It can be argued that the prediction aspect is things that are hof criteria.. Not defending using black ink or gray ink standards, just pointing out that if they are predictive, they probably indicate a level of skill that the voters think are important, and therefore are skills that make a player an MVP. It's a bit of arrogance(which I fully admit to) to assume the voters are wrong by relying on these type of standards. (they are wrong, but it is a precedent setter of course)

   48. Mike Webber Posted: December 02, 2017 at 12:21 PM (#5584740)
@36 - and others - if you do see the early signs of this, be ahead of the curve in finding insurance for long term care. You can be ahead of the doctors that don't know you/your family as well as you do, and thus eligible for that type of insurance, but not if you wait around too long. Especially with a family history.
   49. shoewizard Posted: December 02, 2017 at 12:22 PM (#5584741)
TDF, thanks for clarification. Well understood.

DJS, as you point out in 45, change has been slow, for the very reasons you mention. I think the needle has moved, just not a lot. And it will accelerate over the next 5-10. Getting rid of the inactive voters was a good start, and some of the 40-50 year old writers are much more open minded than their predecessors. (Although not nearly enough yet)

Maybe we have wait for it to reach a tipping point, and then the voting quality will take off in 5-10 years sort of like the annual awards voting has improved the last few years

   50. Omineca Greg Posted: December 02, 2017 at 12:33 PM (#5584749)
... if you do see the early signs of this, be ahead of the curve in finding insurance for long term care...

Thanks, that's great advice.
   51. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: December 02, 2017 at 02:07 PM (#5584808)
I see that as more like a 1400 vs a 1350, with most of the difference coming from the new and comparatively poorly-understood essay section.
This is both (a) wrong and (b) double counting.

(a) We know that Sheffield was a better hitter than Rolen, and we're confident that the numbers (Rbat) are pretty accurate. We also know that Rolen generally played a much tougher position, and can be pretty confident in the position adjustment. Put those things together, and we're very confident that without considering defensive ability Sheffield was much more valuable (as the article notes) - but we also know just by watching that Rolen was excellent as a defender, and Sheffield was anything but. The numbers show that the fielding difference (not defensive, we've already addressed position, just fielding) was massive - on the order of 370 runs.

Now you can take the numbers at face value, and that would show a 1400-1200 gap (70 bWAR vs. 60; 70 fWAR vs. 62). Or, you can say that the difference in fielding is out of whack, and is more like 250-300 runs - but you have to agree that it's huge just by watching each, and that Rolen is certainly more valuable overall: Great+awful <<< very good+great.

(b) But even if you think the difference is smaller than the numbers suggest, you can't then also say that it's completely subjective and "poorly understood" - because you've already made that adjustment once.
   52. Rally Posted: December 02, 2017 at 06:12 PM (#5584939)
He came up as a shortstop: guys who truly have no fielding ability rarely start at SS.


Not common, but not extremely rare either. Kevin Mitchell and Michael Morse came ups as shortstops. Danny Tartbaill was a second baseman. Miguel Cabrera reached MLB as a 3B, but I think he was a minor league SS the year before he was called up.
   53. Adam Starblind Posted: December 02, 2017 at 06:57 PM (#5584949)
Are the two parts mostly correlated? If you know someone has a 700 in math, you can safely assume they'll at least be above average on verbal too?


Isn't there a third part now for, like, feelings or something?
   54. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 02, 2017 at 07:34 PM (#5584956)
Isn't there a third part now for, like, feelings or something?


Not any more. Now you just get to write an essay about your feelings, but it gets scored on a different scale and doesn't get added in with the real tests.
   55. Walt Davis Posted: December 02, 2017 at 07:58 PM (#5584960)
I think black and gray ink can be somewhat useful in support of a peak/prime/dominance argument for a player, regardless of James's original intent. But will agree that the weighting system would need to be changed to truly capture ever that.

A key problem with black/gray ink is that it rewards sluggers. Not only is there no defensive ink, it makes no attempt to adjust for position (I think Monitor and Standards do). You don't reach a post-war 2B/SS/3B on the gray ink likst until Schmidt at #32 (ARod #35) ... although both have black ink and obviously we'd want to combine the two somehow.

The gray ink post-war 3B list:

Schmidt 224 (32)
Mathews 183 (53)
Brett 159 (77)
Santo 147 (97)
Boggs 138 (119)
Boyer 138 (119)
Brooks 133 (136)
Chipper 107 (206)
Beltre 98 (236)

Rolen still doesn't look good but you start getting to some pretty ordinary sluggers by the time you're getting to this level of gray ink.

Like I said, not fair to exclude black ink obviously. Beltre has just 9 points (HR, hits, doubles), Chipper only 4 (BA at age 36!). Brooks has 10 somehow but I think it's almost all for games played (he did lead in RBI once). Andre Dawson, for example, beats them all with 11 black and 164 gray.

A player potentially hurt by this line of argument is Edgar with 20 black and 107 gray -- hardly embarrassing but for a bat-only HoF candidate, we might expect more.

On Rolen vs Sheff: While I disagree, I'm reasonably sympathetic to the argument. The single most important position player skill is, by far, being able to hit. I also find it hard to believe Sheff was THAT bad defensively -- certainly it's odd how long teams continued to play him in the field if he was. But I don't find Rolen's numbers hard to believe nor do I find it hard to believe that Sheffield was at least bad enough to fall behind Rolen's overall WAR level ... plus Sheffield picks up several wins in playing time.
   56. shoewizard Posted: December 03, 2017 at 01:28 AM (#5585032)
If Sheffield were not such a terrible defender he would not have been traded so much.
   57. John Reynard Posted: December 04, 2017 at 11:46 PM (#5586148)
I agree completely, but there's an interesting angle to this: getting a top score as a seventh grader is ridiculously predictive. For several decades, Duke has done a 7th grade talent search by having 7th graders sit for the SAT. If I recall correctly, getting a top score at that age is about as predictive of becoming a professional scientist, getting a patent, etc, as being currently enrolled as a first year graduate student in a good program. Which kind of blew my mind when I read about it.


I am one of those kids who scored 800 on math in 7th grade (and scored lower in 11th when I took it again, so much for HS math eh? my verbal score was 200+ points higher in 11th grade though despite the fact I had drunk about a fifth of tequila the night before and only came to cause my friend woke me up saying "dude, don't you have the SAT this morning?"). I took a meandering route to success but run my own investment fund now with more than $100M in assets in it. I certainly didn't do any of the "success" things the study listed and honestly in my 20s wasted my natural gifts to some degree doing dumb ####. But, I was eventually goaded into taking the GMAT because the admissions director at the very fine school my wife was in grad school getting her PhD at dared me to be their high score that year and guaranteed me a spot in the grad business program if I did, no other questions asked. So.....I did....and then a kid came and I got my #### together and made my own success. But, I don't know that measuring success by awards and the like is the best methodology. Not everyone sets the same goals because we all have different marginal utilities for things. I'm not sure the SAT even at 7th grade is predictive of anything except potential and plenty waste that the whole way.
   58. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:43 AM (#5586315)
Miguel Cabrera reached MLB as a 3B, but I think he was a minor league SS the year before he was called up.


Miggy was a SS in low A but was switched off the position when he went to the FSL; he was called up the following year from AA.

I saw him play a lot in AA - as a 20-YO kid he was a lot more athletic than he became later, in a way very much like the young A-Rod. I think he'd have been adequate at SS for a year or two.

-- MWE

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