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Monday, February 03, 2014

Drooker: Converting Baby Boomers to SABRmetrics

Dunno…after watching the Scarborough/Barnicle tandumb slamming Sabermetrics this morning, this might be tough.

On a previous visit, the effort was made to convince fans who were youngsters in the 50’s and 60’s that advanced metrics are really more telling than just the stats on the back of a baseball card. A good friend of mine, who was born in the 40’s and might be the world’s most avid Willie Mays fan, isn’t quite ready to convert. However, after realizing that WAR (Wins Above Replacement) showed the “Say Hey Kid” as one of the top five players in the game for 13 consecutive seasons, he said, “Willie for sure got screwed out of the MVP Award several times.”

So, now it’s time for the Baby Boomers who found their heroes in and around the 1970’s to feel better or worse about their favorites. To set the table, “Wins Above Replacement” is an attempt by the SABRmetric community to summarize a player’s total contribution to their team in one statistic. The value is expressed in a wins format, so we could determine that player “A” is worth 5 wins to the team over the course of a season. 8+ is usually MVP quality while 5+ is All-Star quality. Mike Trout has led all of baseball each of the last two seasons. We’ll use the top five WAR players from baseball-reference.com for each applicable year.

1973 - Tom Seaver 11.0, Bert Blyleven 9.9, Joe Morgan 9.2, Dwight Evans 9.0 and Bobby Grich/Pete Rose 8.3

Seaver won the NL Cy Young with 19 wins and a 2.08 ERA. Blyleven was the best pitcher in the AL and finished 7th in the Cy Young voting (Jim Palmer won with a WAR of 6.3). Morgan had another amazing season which included 67 SBs and a Gold Glove. Evans and Grich never got their due, as they were both better than AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson, while Rose captured the NL MVP.

1974 - Mike Schmidt 9.7, Jon Matlack 8.7, Joe Morgan 8.6, Gaylord Perry 8.6 and Phil Niekro 8.0

One of those inexplicable seasons where neither Cy Young winner or MVP was in the top ten in WAR. Schmidt led the NL in HRs and Slugging Percentage but finished 6th behind Steve Garvey for the MVP. Matlack had a losing record but pitched seven shutouts for a Mets team that was 71-91. Morgan had another stellar season and led the NL in OBP. Perry won 21 games at age 35. Niekro led the NL with 20 wins and 300+ innings. The AL MVP was Jeff Burroughs while the Cy Young plaques went to Mike Marshall and Catfish Hunter.

Repoz Posted: February 03, 2014 at 08:50 AM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: February 03, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4650623)
Given a choice between having a conversation about Willie Mays with a guy who saw him play, and having a conversation about Willie Mays with a guy who knows his career BB-WAR totals...I'll go with the first guy.
   2. OCF Posted: February 03, 2014 at 10:54 AM (#4650628)
The best way to convert a Baby Boomer to sabermetrics: find a time machine, go back 30 or so years, and introduce him to the works of Bill James, as they were initially published.
   3. BDC Posted: February 03, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4650631)
Given a choice

Hey, some of us fall into both categories :)
   4. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 03, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4650661)
On a previous visit, the effort was made to convince fans who were youngsters in the 50’s and 60’s that advanced metrics are really more telling than just the stats on the back of a baseball card. A good friend of mine, who was born in the 40’s and might be the world’s most avid Willie Mays fan, isn’t quite ready to convert. However, after realizing that WAR (Wins Above Replacement) showed the “Say Hey Kid” as one of the top five players in the game for 13 consecutive seasons, he said, “Willie for sure got screwed out of the MVP Award several times.”

I stopped reading here. If the only reason you like a statistic is because it reaffirms your preconceived notions... well, you're beyond help. That's not sabermetrics. It's the antithesis of sabermetrics.
   5. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4650670)
Didn't Baby Boomers invent sabermetrics? Weren't they the first consumers of sabermetrics?
   6. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4650708)
Didn't Baby Boomers invent sabermetrics? Weren't they the first consumers of sabermetrics?

Nope. Just like everything else, they ripped off stuff from previous generations, then tried to claim credit for it.
   7. ASmitty Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4650712)
My father never had much interest in sabermetrics, but Joey Votto's 2012 start-o-matic card single handedly converted him to the gospel of on-base percentage.
   8. villageidiom Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:58 PM (#4650777)
Didn't Baby Boomers invent sabermetrics? Weren't they the first consumers of sabermetrics?
No. Their only statistical rule: Don't trust anyone over 30 (HR).
   9. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4650789)
I don't think any of you actually know what a Baby Boomer is.
   10. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4650816)
A whiny #########?
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4650826)
Didn't Baby Boomers invent sabermetrics? Weren't they the first consumers of sabermetrics?


Nope. Just like everything else, they ripped off stuff from previous generations, then tried to claim credit for it.

Bill James (b. 1949) is a Baby Boomer himself, and when his first Abstract was published in 1977, Baby Boomers were mostly in their 20's and early 30's. And by the time the Abstracts hit the mainstream outlets, the youngest Boomers were 17. Baby Boomers were most definitely James's first marketing targets.

Of course James and many other sabermetricians realize that "sabermetrics" is an evolving science, and that better formulae for calculating player value were being developed 100 years ago. Baseball Magazine of the 1910's and 1920's is full of such articles for anyone who ever would bother to read them.
   12. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4650829)
Bill James (b. 1949) is a Baby Boomer himself, and when his first Abstract was published in 1977


. . . and Branch Rickey (b. 1881) had been dead for twelve years by that point.

Allan Roth (b. 1917) was working in television.

I don't think any of you actually know what a Baby Boomer is.


Aside from the most self-involved, ridiculous, proud-of-nothing generation of asswipes in the world? They're people born between 1945 and 1960.
   13. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4650831)
Nothing like threads like this to make you feel like whatshisname in an Evil Dead movie beating back the zombies to their mothers' basements
   14. villageidiom Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4650857)
I don't think any of you actually know what a Baby Boomer is.
My sister is a Baby Boomer, as was her first husband. They were both very immature and self-absorbed up until age 50 or so, expecting the world to hand them whatever they wanted, and posing as a victim if they didn't get it.

I try not to use those two personal data points to generalize about Baby Boomers. However, their traits are similar to the chief set of complaints I hear about Baby Boomers, from both their elders and their juniors. Still, there are immature people in every generation, so it seems unfair to assign this particular set of traits to just one. (It could easily be that the complaints are associated with Boomers simply because there are more of them, and thus more individual observations of these traits in absolute terms. They could be an exemplary generation on a relative basis, for all I know.)

I look forward to your upcoming attempt to educate us. So far, you haven't attempted this; you've only made yourself out to be a victim in a thread that isn't going the way you want.
   15. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4650875)
We need another Vietnam to thin out their ranks a little.
   16. villageidiom Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4650885)
How educational, Bart.
   17. Moeball Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:55 PM (#4650890)
I'm a Boomer and I absolutely LOVED the 1980s when Bill James, Pete Palmer and Craig Wright were giving me tons of reading material with research I'd never seen or even imagined previously.

Even though much of their early stuff has been surpassed by research and data available today, I still think we all owe a debt of gratitude for the change they helped to bring about.

That organizations like the Phillies still think to this day (2014!!!) that stuff like OBP is some newfangled thing 30 years later is just mind boggling. Heck, people have made such a big deal about Moneyball - there was very little in that book of which Billy Beane speaks that James and Palmer hadn't already dissected ad nauseum 20 years earlier. Get batters who are patient and know how to get on base while having pitchers who throw strikes even if they don't strike everybody out? That's right out of Earl Weaver's playbook. This isn't exactly news, there's just a lot of front offices that think it is.

Finally - I had to comment - in the blurb shown above FTFA, it has the following:

1973 - Tom Seaver 11.0, Bert Blyleven 9.9, Joe Morgan 9.2, Dwight Evans 9.0 and Bobby Grich/Pete Rose 8.3


Bill James has said on occasion that he thinks Darrell Evans is the most underrated player ever. Now I believe it. He's so underrated that he doesn't even get credit for the 1973 season listed above, where the credit for such a great season is being given to his also underrated twin Dwight Evans.
   18. OCF Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:00 PM (#4650895)
And by the time the Abstracts hit the mainstream outlets, the youngest Boomers were 17. Baby Boomers were most definitely James's first marketing targets.

Yeah, I know what a Boomer is because I am one - from the middle cohort. And I first encountered Bill James with the 1982 Abstract.

Or, what Moeball said in #17.
   19. Ron J2 Posted: February 03, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4650948)
#17 In the 70s the Phillies had what we'd now call a sabrmetrician (Steve Mann) on staff for a couple of year. Pete Palmer helped Mann work out the kinks of what was essentially a linear weights system (with an OBP corrector no less) that he developed while working for them.
   20. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4651002)
Back in the late '80s when I was always searching for something that resembled a Bill James take, I latched on to Mann's The Baseball Superstats 1989. Good analysis and very well argued, but I seem to remember that he does a coitus interruptus halfway through and reverting to a straight OPS approach. But it has been a long time and I could be wrong.
   21. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:06 PM (#4651005)
Bill James has said on occasion that he thinks Darrell Evans is the most underrated player ever. Now I believe it. He's so underrated that he doesn't even get credit for the 1973 season listed above, where the credit for such a great season is being given to his also underrated twin Dwight Evans.


The next paragraph shows the author never caught his mistake:

"Evans and Grich never got their due, as they were both better than AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson". Darrell Evans of course was in the NL.

And a bit of a nitpick here. Jackson was 7.8. Now, 8.3 is higher than 7.8, but that doesn't necessarily mean Grich was better/more valuable than Jackson. Any winner who is within say 2 WAR of the league leader is an OK vote in my book. Nothing will turn off the audience you are trying to convince more than by applying a false precision to the stat. Channeling Gregory Peck in "MacArthur", "How do you win half a game?"
   22. Hysterical & Useless Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:23 PM (#4651016)
I don't at all mind people saying nasty things about boomers (yes, I'm one of them) because my god there are so many of us and so many of us are just eejits. According to all the propaganda back in the 60s, we were all peace-lovers committed to defending the environment, but then we passionately supported invading countries with no connection to the terrorist attacks that made us sh!t our pants and insisted on buying bigger and bigger gas-guzzling SUVs. On average. But the sample size was always so large relative to the rest of the population that we just overwhelmed all the other averages.

I very much look forward to the time when nobody from my age cohort is in a position of authority. Our kids will still be able to blame us for handing them a fvcked-up mess, but at least they won't have a legitimate gripe when they #### up, and nobody will be handing us credit for their successes.

   23. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: February 03, 2014 at 08:12 PM (#4651066)
You know what publication I miss from the Eighties (besides the Abstracts"? Allen Barra and George Ignatin used to have an annual called Football By The Numbers. I think I liked it better than the Football Outsiders books that followed twenty years later. Less stats, but I think that the writing was better.
   24. Hank G. Posted: February 03, 2014 at 08:26 PM (#4651069)
I stopped reading here. If the only reason you like a statistic is because it reaffirms your preconceived notions... well, you're beyond help. That's not sabermetrics. It's the antithesis of sabermetrics.


On the other hand, if someone presented a method for rating players that said that Willie Mays wasn’t very good, you would be justified in ignoring it. Finding that advanced statistics say that players like Mays, Ruth, and Mantle were great helps give confidence that the methods have validity. Then when it says that a player like Evans (take your pick) was much better than people understood, it gives us better understanding.
   25. haggard Posted: February 03, 2014 at 09:00 PM (#4651093)
I'm a baby boomer. I started reading Bill James early on. He didn't change my way of thinking, because I already agreed with most
of what he said and had since almost the time I started following baseball. But I think this idea of going back and looking at MVP
and Cy Young awards. To me it shows a lack of understanding of why people give awards rather than a superior knowledge of baseball.
   26. Moeball Posted: February 03, 2014 at 09:23 PM (#4651109)
Although I didn't have a term such as "on-base percentage" or "OPS" at the time to represent my thinking, I do remember when my older brother got his first Strat-O-Matic set for the 1965 season, I was forced to admit that some players were way better or worse than I previously thought.

I remember the first one that really jumped out at me was Bob Allison of the Twins. "Only" had a .233 BA or something like that, so the announcers and publications like The Sporting News or Baseball Digest always said he was a crummy hitter. But when I looked at his card it was full of WALKS and HOMERUNS (he actually had a .233/.342/.445 slash line that year, good for a 118 OPS+. 1965 was truly a good time to be a pitcher. Context is everything!). Whenever I used Allison in my lineup in games against my brother it seemed he always did a lot of damage and my brother couldn't understand why since this hitter had such a poor batting average.

So even though I didn't have the familiar terminology of James or Palmer, I did have some concept before they came along that something in the traditional stats wasn't telling the whole story.

Question for those who've played various versions of games over the years such as STRAT:

Have you found the defensive ratings to be effective in showing you that the best fielders don't necessarily make the fewest errors but are the best at eliminating hits? If so, which games have you found to be the best at showing this?
   27. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 03, 2014 at 09:32 PM (#4651114)
Bill James (b. 1949) is a Baby Boomer himself, and when his first Abstract was published in 1977

. . . and Branch Rickey (b. 1881) had been dead for twelve years by that point.

Allan Roth (b. 1917) was working in television.


And that's why I made the point that James was building on the efforts of statisticians from previous generations. Not sure why you didn't notice that.

I don't think any of you actually know what a Baby Boomer is.


Aside from the most self-involved, ridiculous, proud-of-nothing generation of asswipes in the world? They're people born between 1945 and 1960.

Couldn't agree more, since I was born in 1944 and didn't have any of that #### rub off on me. We war babies were all humble and knew our places.
   28. ASmitty Posted: February 03, 2014 at 09:36 PM (#4651115)
Have you found the defensive ratings to be effective in showing you that the best fielders don't necessarily make the fewest errors but are the best at eliminating hits? If so, which games have you found to be the best at showing this?


Depends on how advanced you are going with strat. At the basic level, players are given a single defensive grade that incorporates both range and errors. So fielders have their aggregate effect over the season, but perhaps in incorrect ways.

If you play advanced or above, strat divides the defensive rating into a range rating and and error rating, so you get players with great range but a propensity for errors, or players who are sure handed but have a limited range. For a simulation, I doubt you could do much better.
   29. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 09:50 PM (#4651120)
State of the art sabermetrics allows for the slicing of the baloney really fine, and by a quantifiable, hence more justifiable, method, which method is always subject to refinement and does not depend so much on subjectivity. The more it becomes like a science, the greater the likelihood the final judgment is correct. Science works, #######. This is particularly fruitful when comparing players that seem on first impression, looking only at those gross stats as a superficial basis to support assessment, to be similar. And in many instances, if you are honest and dispassionate, you have to change your mind about which player was better.
   30. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 04, 2014 at 12:23 AM (#4651196)
I don't think any of you actually know what a Baby Boomer is.


The generation that refuses to go away? The generation that continues to ply it's culture on an unsuspecting 21st century through the continuous loop of love child celebration and greed is good mantras? How many reincarnations of Forrest Gump do the rest of us have to suffer through?
   31. Morty Causa Posted: February 04, 2014 at 12:32 AM (#4651198)
I never before conceived of an entire generational underclass needing to undergo therapy. Check your listings, you young wienies, maybe there's a support group near you. Seriously. We don't need any more beserkism displays in this country.
   32. vivaelpujols Posted: February 04, 2014 at 03:00 AM (#4651218)
Given a choice between having a conversation about Willie Mays with a guy who saw him play, and having a conversation about Willie Mays with a guy who knows his career BB-WAR totals...I'll go with the first guy.


Given a choice between a straw man and a real argument, I'll go with the real argument.
   33. BDC Posted: February 04, 2014 at 10:36 AM (#4651295)
Have you found the defensive ratings to be effective in showing you that the best fielders don't necessarily make the fewest errors but are the best at eliminating hits? If so, which games have you found to be the best at showing this?

The game I was fascinated with in the early 70s was the Sports Illustrated game with the 10-39 dice – short-lived in production, but people still make updated sheets for it, so it has a cult following.

Anyway, the SI game gave each player a defensive rating at a given position, and depending on how great the sum of the ratings was, a certain number of outs were added to the pitcher's chart. (One always rolled on the pitcher's chart first, unlike Strat.) So defensive value was expressed entirely as the ability to generate more outs.

Meanwhile, ROE was entirely a function of the batter's chart. 39 was the standard roll for ROE for most batters, but some (faster runners, I guess) would have better chances at ROE. That was a very interesting concept in the early '70s, when in real life we all assumed Larry Bowa was a great fielder because he rarely made errors. Errors instead became just background noise, and great fielders helped prevent runs.
   34. Mefisto Posted: February 04, 2014 at 04:57 PM (#4651595)
Given a choice between having a conversation about Willie Mays with a guy who saw him play, and having a conversation about Willie Mays with a guy who knows his career BB-WAR totals...I'll go with the first guy.


The day's going to come when you're going to run out of choice on that.
   35. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 04, 2014 at 05:45 PM (#4651645)
They're people born between 1945 and 1960.

The most common definition of Baby Boomer includes those born from the end of WWII through 1964.
   36. God Posted: February 04, 2014 at 05:49 PM (#4651650)
So then the kids of some Baby Boomers are considered Baby Boomers themselves? That doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.
   37. Mefisto Posted: February 04, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4651670)
Not really. The boomer period runs from 1946-64. It's barely possible for a boomer to have a boomer child, but it can't have happened very often.
   38. God Posted: February 04, 2014 at 06:16 PM (#4651675)
Bobby Bonds was born in 1946. Barry Bonds was born in 1964. (And the Boomer nickname got wasted on David Wells...)

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