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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Forman: My Answer to “I Don’t Like How Complicated WAR Is and How It Is Constantly Changing.”

Forman: Valuemont.

Some of the common critiques of the Wins Above Replacement framework include: 1) Why do FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com have such different numbers, 2) How can we trust it when the numbers change, and 3) How can we trust it when I can’t calculate it?

For the first question, our announcement today of a consistent replacement level between FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com has done a considerable amount to bring our two methodologies into alignment at least on the question of how big of a basket of WAR to hand out to players each year. Previously, FanGraphs allotted nearly 300 additional WAR due to a much lower replacement level. Our meeting in the middle has erased this difference to zero.

For the next two questions, I would point to a very widely quoted and very widely used statistic from economics, Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here is the Wikipedia article on Gross Domestic Product. I’m going to argue that WAR is essentially GDP for baseball.

  8 - The people who compute and create GDP calculations are economic experts who are building on years and years of economic study and research. The people who compute and create WAR or WAR-like frameworks are building on and expanding the years of sabermetric research by experts now employed directly by teams (Sean Smith, Tom Tango, Keith Woolner, Bill James) as advisors or experts in the area of statistics and evaluation (Nate Silver, Pete Palmer).
  9 - The people who use and rely on GDP, news media, politicians, business owners don’t have a prayer of computing it, but rely on subject experts to provide well-reasoned and carefully calculated estimates of economic value. The people using WAR (GM’s, news media, agents) to estimate player value don’t have a prayer of calculating it, but rely on subject experts either publicly or privately to provide well-reasoned and carefully calculated estimates of player value.

I can certainly understand unease with using one-number estimates like WAR, but I would point out that it comes from a long line of research, thought, and process that is common throughout the social sciences.

Repoz Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:33 AM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, site news

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   1. Knock on any Iorg Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:27 PM (#4399695)
Ask your average old school fan how to calculate Batting Average. I mean EXACTLY, including every component. Watch the smoke pour out of his ears when he realizes it aint so simple.
   2. Steve Treder Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4399697)
Ask your average old school fan how to calculate Batting Average. I mean EXACTLY, including every component. Watch the smoke pour out of his ears when he realizes it aint so simple.

Come again?
   3. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:50 PM (#4399699)
Come again?


I do hits divided by number of at bats. I don't know what everyone else is doing.
   4. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4399704)
I think I understand where #1 is coming from, but I might rephrase it a little differently:

If you ask the average baseball fan to calculate BA, OBP, and SLG, and explain while doing it what the differences are, very few will be able to get all three correct...right?
   5. Greg K Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:59 PM (#4399706)
I think he means getting into the finer detail of "what is an at bat?"

As in, knowing how BA takes into account (or doesn't) walks, HBP, errors, sac flies etc.

I don't think the average old school fan would have a problem with that, although "average old school" fan could mean a lot of things itself.
   6. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:13 PM (#4399710)
The fact that WAR is evolving is a strength, not a weakness.

However, people who use WAR in their writing (I included) need to understand that it is a work in progress and not an argument-settler. It can be used, with care, to compare players in the same season. Once you start comparing people across eras/environments/contexts the answer is almost always: we do not know.
   7. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4399721)
I think it's more how at bats and hits are calculated than batting average.
   8.     Hey Gurl Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4399723)
I do hits divided by number of at bats. I don't know what everyone else is doing.


That's like saying WAR is just runs-above-replacement divided by runs-per-win. I don't know what's so complicated about that.

Most of the important metrics that are used every day in life are complicated, can't be calculated easily by even the people using them, and often differ from organization to organization in their implementation. Anyone whining about this really just needs to get over it.
   9. Squash Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:46 PM (#4399724)
As in, knowing how BA takes into account (or doesn't) walks, HBP, errors, sac flies etc.

I think that's what was meant - hand an average fan raw numbers and they're almost surely going to give you some version of Hits/PA, rather than Hits/AB as it should be. And I doubt very many of them could tell you what the definition of SLG actually is.
   10. Bruce Markusen Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:22 PM (#4399737)
The calculation of batting average is one of the simplest things about baseball. At the Hall of Fame, we teach the calculation of batting average to fourth graders as part of our math program, and the kids grasp it with relative ease each time. They understand about at-bats (and that walks don't count) and about hits.

Slugging percentage is a little bit more complex because students are sometimes thrown by the definition of total bases. But once they figure out the meaning of total bases, they again grasp it pretty well.
   11. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:28 PM (#4399744)
There was no need for a summit to work out different ways of measuring AVG, SLG, and OBP.
   12. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4399746)
The calculation of batting average is one of the simplest things about baseball. At the Hall of Fame, we teach the calculation of batting average to fourth graders as part of our math program, and the kids grasp it with relative ease each time. They understand about at-bats (and that walks don't count) and about hits.

Slugging percentage is a little bit more complex because students are sometimes thrown by the definition of total bases. But once they figure out the meaning of total bases, they again grasp it pretty well.


Um, as a 5th grade teacher I'm pretty interested in this. Do you have a curriculum you share with schools?
   13. Bowling Baseball Fan Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4399747)
A very long time ago, there was. When walks were being added with hits for AVG in the 19th century.
   14. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:39 PM (#4399749)
[11] Sac flies have at various times been included as at-bats. And one year (1887) walks counted as hits.

Edit: Coke to Bowling Baseball Fan
   15. Bruce Markusen Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:55 PM (#4399755)
Yes, we can definitely share the info. Just visit the Hall web site at baseballhall.org and click onto the education tab. The Hall does both onsite and videoconference classes.

Or we can arrange to send you a packet of information via regular mail.
   16. OCF Posted: March 30, 2013 at 03:17 PM (#4399767)
As a math teacher, I sometimes lament some of the familiarity with particular numbers that was lost when calculators became common 40 years ago. Not so many people any more recognize decimal approximations like 1.414, .707, .866, 1.618, .142857, etc. as familiar numbers. But there's this question I like about familiar number: ask someone what the decimal approximation, to three places, is of 4/13. Anyone who instantly gives the correct answer to that is (1) probably a baseball fan, and (2) probably a baseball fan from my generation or older.

There's always a tension between "I can compute it myself" versus the methods that give the best accuracy and reliability. One of the appeals of Bill James as a writer - especially Bill James from the 80's - was that he provided so many things that you can compute yourself. Pitchers' Game Score is one of those: all it claims to do is to quantify the "wow" factor you get when reading a pitcher's line score from a game. Its great strength is that you can compute it in your head as you read that line score. Its weakness? It's not really a serious analytic method; it's more of a toy. Another such "you can compute it yourself" toy is Secondary Average. Again, it's not a serious analytical method, but it's fun to compute. (Did you know that Rickey Henderson was the career leader in Secondary Bases for a few days? He passed Babe Ruth just before Barry Bonds passed him.)
   17. flournoy Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:16 PM (#4399788)
I recognize sqrt(2), sqrt(2)/2, sqrt(3)/2, and 1/7, but 1.618 isn't ringing any bells. I do know ln(2) to over 30 decimal places.
   18. JJ1986 Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4399789)
1.618 is the golden ratio, but I don't remember how it's calculated.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:28 PM (#4399792)
However, people who use WAR in their writing (I included) need to understand that it is a work in progress and not an argument-settler. It can be used, with care, to compare players in the same season. Once you start comparing people across eras/environments/contexts the answer is almost always: we do not know.

Well, sometimes we know. It's a margin of error thing. We know a 6 WAR season is better than a 2 WAR one, and an 80 WAR career is better than a 50 WAR one, at any reasonable confidence interval you want. We don't know if 4.5 WAR is better than 4, or a 62 WAR career is better than a 57 WAR one.

It would actually be very nice if the producers gave some sort of SD estimate for their WARs. i.e. a 6 WAR season is 95% certain to be between 5.2 and 6.8 WAR, or whatever.
   20. OCF Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:38 PM (#4399794)
Golden ratio: 1.618 is the approximation of (sqrt(5)+1)/2. If you'd rather express that as its reciprocal, that's (sqrt(5)-1)/2, or approximately 0.618. I only carry ln(2) in my head as .693, but the base 10 logarithm of 2 is .30103. The numbers .707 and .866 for sqrt(2)/2 and sqrt(3)/2 are sines or cosines of special angles.

But my real point was about .308 as 4 for 13. That's a baseball fan's number.
   21. greenback calls it soccer Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:38 PM (#4399795)
1.618 is the golden ratio, but I don't remember how it's calculated.


x - 1/x = 1
   22. flournoy Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:51 PM (#4399799)
Man, the Golden Ratio. Unfortunately that one just fell completely out of my head; I couldn't have given you a reasonable approximation of it if my life had depended on it. I'm not proud of that.

EDIT: By reasonable, I mean no better than "One point something or other..."
   23. 'Spos Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:52 PM (#4399800)
There was no need for a summit to work out different ways of measuring saves.

FTFY
   24. Walt Davis Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:13 PM (#4399808)
sqrt(2)/2, sqrt(3)/2

Better known as the sqrt(.5) and sqrt(.75) ... although I don't recall ever needing sqrt(.75) in the pre-calculator era.

There was no need for a summit to work out different ways of measuring AVG, SLG, and OBP.

Which is a shame because we could have easily ended up with more useful stats like hit/PA. Or at least it wouldn't have taken, what, 90-100 years for OBP to become an official stat.

But, as folks have pointed out, the official stat definitions in baseball have changed over time. The very existence of sac flies and caught stealings (caughts stealing?) and saves are all relatively "recent." 5 innings for a starter win but "scorer's discretion" when the starter doesn't go 5. The definition of earned and unearned runs. This weren't handed down by God they were (eventually) handed down by official committees charged with making arbitrary decisions on how to measure stuff. MLB hasn't deemed to have the official scorer's committee decide the official formula for WAR.

Dumbest. Snark. Ever.

   25. Squash Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:31 PM (#4399817)
The calculation of batting average is one of the simplest things about baseball. At the Hall of Fame, we teach the calculation of batting average to fourth graders as part of our math program, and the kids grasp it with relative ease each time. They understand about at-bats (and that walks don't count) and about hits.

I don't think anyone's saying it's hard - just that the average fan, who thinks he could calculate it very easily or define it perfectly no problem, would actually probably get it wrong without instruction via being unsure what exactly is subtracted from PA to get AB. Many/most would probably not be aware there is a difference between the two at all. I think we very often/almost always forget that the vast majority of baseball fans are casual. They watch the game but don't really know the numbers beyond .300 and maybe 30.

EDIT: Hell, I don't think I would get it right off the top of my head. I'd almost definitely forget sacrifices.
   26. tfbg9 Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4399820)
Sac flies have at various times been included as at-bats.


IIRC, they were NOT in 1941. The year Ted hit .406, he really hit .412 or something.
   27. Greg K Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4399825)
Many/most would probably not be aware there is a difference between the two at all. I think we very often/almost always forget that the vast majority of baseball fans are casual. They watch the game but don't really know the numbers beyond .300 and maybe 30.

To someone entirely new to baseball, the difference between "at bat" and "plate appearance" must be pretty hard to grasp. And even if you get the rather arbitrary distinction between the two, you can easily get them mixed up. Taken literally they both seem to mean "amount of times a player batted".

EDIT: The ambiguity is even built into the language of the game. A guy can have a "good at bat" and draw a walk.
   28. flournoy Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:57 PM (#4399834)
Better known as the sqrt(.5) and sqrt(.75) ... although I don't recall ever needing sqrt(.75) in the pre-calculator era.


Equivalent, sure, but better known as? I've never heard anyone refer to .707... as anything but "root two over two."
   29. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:13 PM (#4399845)
"We agreed to start saying that it's halfway between what we each used to say" doesn't strike me as a particularly good response to "If it's real, why aren't your answers nearly the same". It seems like a somewhat poor response, actually.

This is not to say that I think WAR is poor. But if I had the objection that they were purporting to address through this "let's meet halfway" agreement, I think it would seem farcical to me.
   30. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4399888)
Well, sometimes we know. It's a margin of error thing. We know a 6 WAR season is better than a 2 WAR one, and an 80 WAR career is better than a 50 WAR one, at any reasonable confidence interval you want. We don't know if 4.5 WAR is better than 4, or a 62 WAR career is better than a 57 WAR one.


We know much less than that. Even if WAR did not include (necessarily) very crude park adjustments and crude estimates for defense, there are no adjustments for league and there are no adjustments for era. Note: I am glad there are no such adjustments. Using WAR across history assumes (like Win Shares) that all leagues are of equal quality. I do not believe this.

   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:09 PM (#4399905)
Using WAR across history assumes (like Win Shares) that all leagues are of equal quality. I do not believe this.

Why does this matter? A baseball team's goal is to win its league. WAR is trying to tell us how much a given player contribute to that. League strength is pretty much wholely irrelevant.

Until we have a time machine, or can clone Babe Ruth, I don't know why we'd care what the relative league strength between his era and today is? Most of the components of that strength are factors which would make the players of old much, much better if they had been born in our era.
   32. Greg K Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:22 PM (#4399912)
One element that's probably worth looking into is the distribution of value in a league. If in one league the best are way better than their peers, and in the other they are much more closely bunched together, it may indicate that the level of competition is different between the two leagues. Of course, it all depends on what it is you're looking for.

A discussion that ends up with either most of the best players in history having played in the past 20 years, or most of the best players having played before 1950 doesn't seem like a particularly interesting discussion to me, (even if you could somehow definitively "prove" the conclusion).
   33. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:34 PM (#4399913)
Until we have a time machine, or can clone Babe Ruth, I don't know why we'd care what the relative league strength between his era and today is?

You don't care, and I do. I am OK with that.
   34. Howie Menckel Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:48 PM (#4399917)

agree with 29 that "we met halfway" doesn't really solve the issue for me.

seems more like an attempt to quiet the critics than an actual newfound recognition of why each side was partly right, so let's narrow the difference.

but I'm open to hearing that I'm misunderstanding that...
   35. shoewizard Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:21 PM (#4399924)
Using WAR across history assumes (like Win Shares) that all leagues are of equal quality. I do not believe this.


Why does this matter? A baseball team's goal is to win its league. WAR is trying to tell us how much a given player contribute to that. League strength is pretty much wholely irrelevant.

Until we have a time machine, or can clone Babe Ruth, I don't know why we'd care what the relative league strength between his era and today is? Most of the components of that strength are factors which would make the players of old much, much better if they had been born in our era.


I tend to fall on Snappers side off this debate, because I believe that for the most part players that were great 75 years ago would be great today, all things being equal, and vice versa.

For me I simply look at the dividing line of 1947 and figure that other than the huge issue of race segregation in the sport, the nutrition and medicine pre WW2 was so inferior to what came after that comparing athletes is almost impossible. So relative to their own time and league is what works best.

It's why if you try to make an all time greatest team by position it's almost impossible, but if you make two teams and split by 1947, it's very easy and there will only be a couple of points of debate.....for example.....

1901-1946

C- Bill Dickey
1b- Lou Gehrig
2b- Rogers Hornsby
3b- Homerun Baker
SS- Honus Wagner
LF- Ted Williams
CF- Ty Cobb
RF- Babe Ruth
SP-1 Walter Johnson
SP-2 Cy Young
SP-3 Grover Cleveland Alexander
SP-4 Christy Mathewson
SP-5 Lefty Grove

1947- Present

C- Johnny Bench
1b- Albert Pujols
2b- Joe Morgan
3b- Mike Schmidt
SS- Alex Rodriguez
LF- Barry Bonds
CF- Willie Mays
RF- Hank Aaron
SP-1 Roger Clemens
SP-2 Tom Seaver
SP-3 Greg Maddux
SP-4 Randy Johnson
SP-5 Bob Gibson

You could argue Williams based on so few years pre ww2, but if you make the adjustment for the lost 3 years he'd have 5000 PA, and you can't not have him. You could argue a place for Pedro on the post WW2. And of course Steroids if you are so inclined. But other then that, it slots up pretty well.

   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:38 PM (#4399930)
It's why if you try to make an all time greatest team by position it's almost impossible, but if you make two teams and split by 1947, it's very easy and there will only be a couple of points of debate.....for example.....


You gotta get Mantle in there somewhere. He's 5th all-time in OPS+.

Either bump Aaron or Bonds. I'd bump Bonds; I discount his steroids years almost entirely.
   37. shoewizard Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:47 PM (#4399935)
Interestngly, Bonds thru 1998, age 33 had 99.62 war, and mantle thru age 33 had 99.67 WAR

Even without Steroids Bonds is going to put up at least another 15-20 WAR in his career before he is done. Mickey was finished 3 years later at 36 and ended up at 110. WAR

And somehow Mickey gets a pass for drinking himself out of baseball a few years early, but Bonds gets crucified for trying to get better. Just sayin.....

Anyway, it's by position, and Mantle was a CF, and while Mickey had a couple of seasons that were unbelievable, Willie had 6 double digit WAR seasons to Mickey's 3. Willie's peak was equally high as Mickey's and his peak was LONGER, and of course his career was longer too. Willie> Mickey. Can't really argue it.
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:53 PM (#4399938)
Anyway, it's by position, and Mantle was a CF

But any CF can play RF or LF.

And Mantle played his whole career with a serious injury that would have probably been fixed in 45 minutes if he played in the '90s.

If we were time-machining 16 y.o.'s into a given environment, Mantle would be even higher on the all-time rankings.

And somehow Mickey gets a pass for drinking himself out of baseball a few years early, but Bonds gets crucified for trying to get better. Just sayin.....

Mantle thought he'd be dead by 40, like every male in his family, and played in severe pain his whole career. I'll give him a pass on the drinking.

And if we're judging talent, rather than results, it makes perfect sense. Bonds enhanced his natural talent by illegal means, Mantle (like Ruth) suppressed his natural talent.
   39. Cblau Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:59 PM (#4399942)
#30- Baseball-Reference.com's WAR does include an adjustment for league strength. It's built into the difference between average and replacement level.
   40. shoewizard Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:59 PM (#4399943)
Sure, any CF can play the corners....but there are position adjustments in WAR, so thats pretty much accounted for.

Bonds Rpos is -110, Aaron's is -143, and Mantles is -35

So thats already accounted for. Unless you are arguing that the positional adjustments are not enough. You would have to then make the case as to why.
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:02 PM (#4399946)

I've never understood why anyone would continue segregation and rank 'best players' without considering Negro Leaguers.

Does anyone really think that Bill Dickey was better than Josh Gibson? I doubt even Dickey himself thought that, in the late 1930s...


   42. shoewizard Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:07 PM (#4399948)
And if we're judging talent, rather than results, it makes perfect sense. Bonds enhanced his natural talent by illegal means, Mantle (like Ruth) suppressed his natural talent.


Who said we are judging talent, rather than results ? That does not make "perfect sense". You have to use convoluted, subjective logic to get around the results. "Mantle thought he would die young, and he got hurt, ergo he is excused for being mentally weak and turning himself into an addict and womanizer that suppressed his natural talent as he stayed out at all hours of the night and hurt his team in the process by often showing up unfit for play"

So IF you excuse all that......you then have to magically "adjust" for all that and come up with a measure in your mind that somehow vaults him above the actual results.

You may as well do that same for Josh Hamilton right ?

Maybe we should put an adjustment in WAR "rAddiction"

I guess we will just have to disagree. Results matter. Mickey at his best was as good as anyone who played the game, no doubt, He just wasn't at his best quite enough to rank above these other players. It's close, but the actual results and playing record don't support you.
   43. shoewizard Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:10 PM (#4399950)
I've never understood why anyone would continue segregation and rank 'best players' without considering Negro Leaguers.

Does anyone really think that Bill Dickey was better than Josh Gibson? I doubt even Dickey himself thought that, in the late 1930s...


I confess an inadequate knowledge of the level of play in the Negro leagues, as well as an acceptable way to compare playing results.

I should probably qualify the "GOAT" as an MLB player.
   44. Booey Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:21 PM (#4399958)
I've never understood why anyone would continue segregation and rank 'best players' without considering Negro Leaguers.


I'd assume it's because there's just too much guess work involved. We really don't know with any kind of certainty where the Gibson's and Charleston's would've ranked in a fair world.
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:23 PM (#4399961)

So thats already accounted for. Unless you are arguing that the positional adjustments are not enough. You would have to then make the case as to why.


No, I'm not judging by WAR. When you get to all-time greats, I think peak matters a lot.

Mantle was a better hitter than non-roided Bonds or Aaron, and if he could play CF in old Yankee Stadium, he would be a fine RF or LF.

If I was picking an "all-time" team, I'd take 3 CFs for the OF (Mays, Cobb and Mantle).

If we're doing post-segregation, I'd take 2 (Mays and Mantle), with Ted Williams in LF.
   46. Booey Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:28 PM (#4399966)
And if we're judging talent, rather than results, it makes perfect sense.


Who has ever ranked players based on talent rather than actual results? Someone like Eric Davis may have had as much ability as anyone. I've never seen him crack an All-Time list.

And if you're not in favor of adjusting for league strength/era related issues, wouldn't steroids fall into that category too? Bonds dominated the league he played in using the same means that were available to everyone else of his era.



   47. Howie Menckel Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:10 PM (#4399980)

"I'd assume it's because there's just too much guess work involved. We really don't know with any kind of certainty where the Gibson's and Charleston's would've ranked in a fair world."

Well, since we have such absolute certainty about white players born decades apart with differing league strengths, let's plow ahead with that. But hey, the Negro Leaguers are used to getting screwed over, so why not stay consistent?

Geesh, and I'm not even a bleeding heart...

   48. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:29 PM (#4399989)
Who has ever ranked players based on talent rather than actual results? Someone like Eric Davis may have had as much ability as anyone. I've never seen him crack an All-Time list.

It's always been both. All peak arguments are essentially talent arguments. Koufax isn't in the HoF or on "all-time" team lists because of his career production. It's because he showed absolutely phenomenal talent in four seasons.

And if you're not in favor of adjusting for league strength/era related issues, wouldn't steroids fall into that category too? Bonds dominated the league he played in using the same means that were available to everyone else of his era.

No, because we know it helped him more than anyone else. We know exactly what Barry Bonds was. He was an all-time top-20 player: 163 OPS+ through age 34. If he doesn't cheat, and has a best case Aaron-like decline, he ends up in the mid 150s for OPS+, right around Mays and Aaron.

But what he did after 34 is simply unprecedented. No great player has ever gotten better in his late 30's, much less entered a whole nother stratosphere.
   49. Booey Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:45 PM (#4400004)
Well, since we have such absolute certainty about white players born decades apart with differing league strengths, let's plow ahead with that. But hey, the Negro Leaguers are used to getting screwed over, so why not stay consistent?

Geesh, and I'm not even a bleeding heart...


Not at all the same thing. At least we have complete stats for the early MLB players. Come on, man. Look, I hate that the Negro Leagues were screwed too, but in making our personal All Time lists, I don't think people should feel obligated to throw a few NeLers a token spot just to appear politically correct. If people think Josh Gibson or whoever belongs on the team, then that's great. It's a perfectly valid opinion. But if others decide they just don't have enough stats to know for sure, then that's understandable as well. It's not a deliberate attempt to screw over anyone.
   50. Booey Posted: March 31, 2013 at 12:10 AM (#4400011)
No, because we know it helped him more than anyone else. We know exactly what Barry Bonds was. He was an all-time top-20 player: 163 OPS+ through age 34. If he doesn't cheat, and has a best case Aaron-like decline, he ends up in the mid 150s for OPS+, right around Mays and Aaron.


Sure, but by the same token, couldn't we say that maybe pre-roid Barry's OPS+ was LOWERED because he was facing juiced up pitchers, and juiced up hitters were raising the league averages, while Bonds at the time was competing clean? Maybe in a world with no steroids Bonds would have been a 180 OPS+ guy all along, just with a more normal career shape.

In 1992 Bonds posted a 204 OPS+ with a .311/.456/.624 line. He posted similar lines in 1994 (.312/.426/.647) and 1996 (.308/.461/.615), but "only" had an OPS+ of 183 and 188. Why? Cuz league averages had risen, so those same numbers weren't quite as dominant relative to the league as they were before. If increased steroid use league wide was a big reason for the jump in offense in the mid 90's, then it's certainly possible that clean Barry's 1994 and 1996 seasons were "true" 200 OPS+ seasons in a steroid free environment. So yeah, deduct points from his late career surge numbers if you want. But if you do, doesn't it make just as much sense to ADD points to his pre-juice seasons?
   51. Mark Armour Posted: March 31, 2013 at 12:13 AM (#4400012)
If you are going to split at 1947, which is reasonable enough, I would suggest that the best pre-1947 team (assuming major leaguers only) is equivalent in talent to the best white players post-1947. I am not trying to be a pain, I think this is likely close to the truth. So, redo the post-1947 team and take out all of the players who could not have played pre-1947. Someone else can make the team, if you wish. Schmidt, Ripken, Killebrew, Yaz, Mantle. Those are your Ruth/Gehrig/Cobb equivalents.

It is ridiculous, in my opinion, to conclude that the best five white players of the 2000-2009 period (according to WAR: Helton, Chipper, Rolen, Berkman, Utley) are not at least as good (I suggest better) as the best five white players of the 1920s (Ruth, Hornsby, Heilmann, Frisch, Speaker). Extend the color line to the present day -- the players you would see in the major leagues would be playing a great brand of ball as far as you could tell. Just like people thought in the 1920s. Take the black Americans, black Latinos and Asians out of today's game. Welcome to 1946, or 1936, or 1926.

If you ask me to compare Lou Gehrig to Jim Thome, the first step is to consider what Jim Thome's WAR would be if all the blacks and Asians were gone.
   52. Mark Armour Posted: March 31, 2013 at 12:54 AM (#4400025)
OK, here is the post-1947 White team, per WAR:

Bench
Bagwell
Grich
Schmidt
Ripken
Yastrzemski
Mantle
Kaline
Clemens
Maddux
Seaver

In my opinion, this team is as good, likely better, than the pre-1947 team.
   53. Steve Treder Posted: March 31, 2013 at 01:44 AM (#4400033)
If you ask me to compare Lou Gehrig to Jim Thome, the first step is to consider what Jim Thome's WAR would be if all the blacks and Asians were gone.

Very true and almost always overlooked fundamental point.
   54. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 31, 2013 at 01:51 AM (#4400036)
"We agreed to start saying that it's halfway between what we each used to say" doesn't strike me as a particularly good response to "If it's real, why aren't your answers nearly the same". It seems like a somewhat poor response, actually.

This is not to say that I think WAR is poor. But if I had the objection that they were purporting to address through this "let's meet halfway" agreement, I think it would seem farcical to me.
Likewise. It's wholly unpersuasive.

Until we have a time machine, or can clone Babe Ruth, I don't know why we'd care what the relative league strength between his era and today is?

You don't care, and I do. I am OK with that.


I'm trying to think on what basis someone might decide it's better not to have than to have this information. If relative league strength info was available, it would be fascinating to know.

   55. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 31, 2013 at 01:59 AM (#4400038)
SP-4 Randy Johnson
I remember RJ so well in his 20s that I'm still startled by what he became. Strangely, I can't him being associated with PEDs.

Who said we are judging talent, rather than results ? That does not make "perfect sense". You have to use convoluted, subjective logic to get around the results. "Mantle thought he would die young, and he got hurt, ergo he is excused for being mentally weak and turning himself into an addict and womanizer that suppressed his natural talent as he stayed out at all hours of the night and hurt his team in the process by often showing up unfit for play"


Clearly you've never been a serious drinker. I wouldn't discount at all the possibility that Mantle's drinking allowed him to play the last year or two of his career. It might have been the only thing that numbed the pain enough to let him go on.
   56. shoewizard Posted: March 31, 2013 at 02:11 AM (#4400039)
Clearly you've never been a serious drinker.


I wish that were true.
   57. shoewizard Posted: March 31, 2013 at 02:18 AM (#4400040)
Well, since we have such absolute certainty about white players born decades apart with differing league strengths, let's plow ahead with that. But hey, the Negro Leaguers are used to getting screwed over, so why not stay consistent?

Geesh, and I'm not even a bleeding heart...


Howie, You realize the NEXT leap of logical fallacy from this one you just put forth is to just call anyone who can't figure out how to insert Negro league players in the list a racist, right ?

It's a matter of degree. There is certainly MORE uncertainty, a good deal more, in trying to parse Negro league records and stats and come up with a way to compare to MLB players in general then there is in trying compare MLB players from pre and post WW2.

That degree is great enough to make it Apples to Oranges

Anyway, I was using data readily available on BB-REF for MAJOR LEAGUE players. I can't change the fact that the great African American players from Pre 1947, (pre 1960 really if we are talking completely integrated) don't appear in the records on that site. I'm not smart enough to do the work. If Sean ever comes up with a way to put in Negro league stats, make all the necessary adjustments to playing time, and league level, and filling in the blanks, and have it stand up to peer review, then I'm all in.

Until then, when using DATA to create a list, I'll stick with whats available, and leave it to the very excellent writers and historians to highlight the accomplishments of players that were so unfairly discriminated against.




   58. shoewizard Posted: March 31, 2013 at 02:48 AM (#4400043)
No, I'm not judging by WAR. When you get to all-time greats, I think peak matters a lot.

Mantle was a better hitter than non-roided Bonds or Aaron, and if he could play CF in old Yankee Stadium, he would be a fine RF or LF.

If I was picking an "all-time" team, I'd take 3 CFs for the OF (Mays, Cobb and Mantle).


I know you said you aren't using WAR, but then how are you measuring Peak. In your other posts you only refer to OPS+, but the other points of the game matter too.

Anyway, just for your consideration, if you look at Peak 7 years, Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle have the same WAR total, (63), and of course Musial beats Mantle pretty handily in total career value as well. And again, position adjustments are part of that calculation.


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