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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Judge and Altuve | Articles | Bill James Online

I agree with a lot of what Bill James said in this article. WAR is wonderful when it’s used to answer the right questions. “Who is the MVP?” is not one of those questions. This is not a new opinion for me. I wrote the following 18 years ago:

6.Value is context driven: ability is context neutral.

The genesis for this item is the whole MVP debate. Every season people argue about who the Most Valuable Player is. The biggest point of contention is usually whether the player was on a contender or not. Another sore point is whether situationally dependent stats, such as RBI and Runs, should be factored in. To me, people meld together two different questions: “Who is the Most Valuable Player?” and “Who is the best player?” Although sometimes the answer to both questions is the same, they ask two distinctly different things. While the MVP question is about value, the “best player” question is about ability. Value is context driven; ability is context neutral.

If I want to know who’s most valuable, context is important because the value of a player’s contribution changes with context. A home run has more value with the bases loaded than with the bases empty. A steal of second base has more value with nobody on than with two outs (you have more opportunities to drive the player in with less than two outs. A run in a 0-0 game has more value than a run in an 11-0 game.

With the changing value of events, it’s very important to establish the context of the player’s action to properly valuate his performance. Say a player batted with lots of runners on base and drove in an average number of those runners. What would the result be? You guessed it, a lot of RBIs. Say another player batted with relatively few runners on base, but drove in a high percentage of them. What would the result be? Again, a lot of RBIs. Which player’s performance has more value? Well, that depends on the context of the production. We need to factor in team context to properly determine the value.

Wins are the currency of value for teams. Therefore, the team with the most wins has the most value. Since team wins are produced by the combined accomplishments of its players, the players’ value equal the team’s value. This means that two players who make exactly the same contribution do not necessarily have the same value. This greatly complicates answering the whole MVP question.

To illustrate, here’s a word problem for you. Two gentlemen (let’s call them Player A and Player B) play on two nearly identical teams. Each team scored 800 runs. Each team possessed fielders of exactly the same quality. The difference between the two ball clubs is the quality of the pitching staffs. Team A’s pitchers allowed 650 runs, while Team B’s pitchers allowed 700 runs. All this resulted in 96 wins for Team A and 91 wins for Team B. If I tell you both players generated 80 runs for their respective teams, does this mean they were equally valuable players?

Considering this is a baseball book rather than a math test, I’ll just give you the answer: no, Player A was more valuable. Why? Because in the context he operated in, his runs were more valuable–they bought more wins. Using a modified version of Pete Palmers runs to wins formula, I determine it cost 9.97 runs per win in Team As context [(10/3)*SQRT((800+650)/162)] and 10.14 runs per win in Team Bs context [(10/3)*SQRT((800+700)/162)]. Player A’s 80 runs purchased 8.02 wins while Player B’s 80 runs purchased 7.89 wins. Therefore, Player A was more valuable.

Ability, on the other hand, is context neutral. The ability to hit a ball 500 feet is the same whether a player is at Coors Field or at the Astrodome. The fact that the same ball might travel 540 feet at Coors is irrelevant. The change in conditions causes the ball to travel 40 feet farther, not a change in ability. (A non-baseball example of the same concept is weight. Take a 200 pound item on Earth and weigh it on the Moon. What does it weigh? About 32 pounds. The item doesn’t change, the conditions do. The change in conditions, gravity in this example, accounts for the difference.)

Since the best player is the player with the most ability, ability is what we should measure to answer the “best player” question. To measure ability, we must first filter out context. Once that’s done we can directly compare player in a neutral context–we can compare their ability.

To answer the MVP question, we need to incorporate context. Not having context, however, doesn’t prevent WAR from being an extremely valuable statistic. (It’s still great for answering a myriad of other important questions.) Its use just needs to be restricted to the tasks where it’s the appropriate tool. As Lee Panas said to me on Twitter, “I think there is a lot of confusion as to how and when to use it.  I see too many people using it as a hammer.” I certainly agree. We don’t need to get rid of the hammer; we just need to better differentiate between nails, screws, and fasteners so we choose the right tool to compete the task at hand.

Jim Furtado Posted: November 19, 2017 at 06:14 AM | 68 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2017 at 08:50 AM (#5578470)
With respect, Jim, this article is actually more interesting than just the value/ability dichotomy with which we are all familiar. He's in cranky mode but there's some thought-provoking stuff in here.

it is not right to give the Yankee players credit for winning 102 games when in fact they won only 91 games. To give the Yankee players credit for winning 102 games when in fact they won only 91 games is what we would call an "error"
... one way to do that is to say that the Yankee win contributions, rather than being allowed to add up to 102, must add up to 91. That’s a good way to do it, and, of course, if you do that, it reduces Judge’s win contribution by 11% Using WAR, it reduces his win contribution by MORE THAN 11%, because the replacement level remains the same while his win contribution diminishes, so the wins ABOVE THE REPLACEMENT LEVEL are decreased by more like 16%. Judge drops from 8.1 WAR to 6.8.



I have been silent on this issue for more than 20 years, and let me explain why. In the 1990s I developed Win Shares, while younger analysts developed WAR. At that time it was my policy not to argue with younger analysts. I was much more well-known, at that time, than they were, and it’s a one-way street. When you are at the top of a profession, you don’t speak ill of those who coming along behind you. It’s petty, and it’s just not done.


First, we do not, in fact, "know" that there is no such thing as an ability to hit better or worse in a key situation. ... I acknowledge that, in the 1970s and 1980s, sabermetrics reached a consensus on this issue, and I acknowledge that I was part of that consensus. But we wrong. We jumped the gun. We should have remained agnostic on the issue until more convincing analysis is done.


When you sever the connection between wins and statistics, you are no longer doing statistical analysis. What you are doing then the same thing that Maury Allen did in when he said that Johnny Bench was not an all-time great because he never hit .300. You are picking and choosing which stats you will pay attention to and which you will ignore, based not on their connection to wins and losses, but based on your own prejudices. When you do that, it is no longer valid statistical analysis.
   2. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:13 AM (#5578475)
I am not saying that WAR is a bad statistic or a useless statistic, but it is not a perfect statistic, and in this particular case it is just dead wrong. It is dead wrong because the creators of that statistic have severed the connection between performance statistics and wins, thus undermining their analysis.


Precisely. WAR isn't measuring wins; it's measuring winlets. Judge was not in fact 8.1 "wins" over replacement. It's really that simple.

The degree to which people insist on divorcing these numbers from things that actually happened in actual baseball games played under actual baseball rules remains ... quite odd. There's still likely an underlying psychological or ideological reason(s) at work.
   3. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:16 AM (#5578476)
I am getting ahead of my argument in making this statement now, but it is not right to give the Yankee players credit for winning 102 games when in fact they won only 91 games. To give the Yankee players credit for winning 102 games when in fact they won only 91 games is what we would call an "error". It is not a "choice"; it is not an "option". It is an error.


It's a comical error.
   4. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:20 AM (#5578478)
Second, it doesn’t matter whether it is luck or skill.


Exactly.
   5. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:22 AM (#5578479)
Reality is the baseline for statistical analysis; not what reality should have been, but what it actually was.


Hopefully, James's critics can have some moment of clarity wherein they realize just how absurd it is that such an obvious thing needs to be re-litigated at this late date. Optimism not high on the matter.
   6. Booey Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:52 AM (#5578483)
Are Win Shares still available somewhere? I did always find them interesting and I'd like to compare more instances where they diverge from WAR.

That said, they produce their own questionable results sometimes. In TFA James mentions that Eric Hosmer ranked ahead of Judge. I could believe that Judge wasn't really almost as valuable as Altuve, but I have a very hard time believing that Hosmer was the 2nd best player in the AL.
   7. Adam Starblind Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:54 AM (#5578484)
Value is context driven; ability is context neutral.


Without fail, this debate begins with somebody asserting a fake definition of "value."

Though Jim does deserve credit for not putting the word in italics. E.g.:

It's not the "Best Player" award. It's the Most Valuable Player award!


Tradition is a legitimate reason to prefer a player from a contender. It's also the only legitimate reason. The rest is just the familiar trap of blaming the best player when the team loses.
   8. Jay Z Posted: November 19, 2017 at 10:59 AM (#5578488)
James is right here, and I'm glad he has come back to the topic despite Win Shares largely falling on deaf ears.

The Yankees underachieved in wins by a significant margin. To ignore this fact is unfair. This is to preclude all of the complaints that referring to actual wins are unfair. "It's unfair to penalize Judge for the results of the Yankees." He's one of the Yankees. Barring further evidence, yes, he should get his share of the penalty for underachievement. If it's not him, then one of his teammates needs to get a bigger penalty.

The component related metrics are typically better in predicting future performance. But they shouldn't be the end goal in evaluating present results. Wins should be. Otherwise, we risk ignoring what is actually creating wins. Sometimes the breaks even out over time, but they may not. It's really not my concern. We need to be rewarding results.

I suppose there are people out there who are giving extra credit to hitters who hit a lot of line drives. Maybe a line drive out is more aesthetically pleasing than a bloop hit. But in today's world, the defense may know that this hitter hits 50 line drives a year within five feet of each other, and positions the defense accordingly. So those line drives are not nearly as effective as they seem, particularly if the hitter can't or won't change his approach.

I don't think clutch hitting, clutch pitching exists very much in a larger sense. I think it's more likely that players choke at certain times than they succeed in the clutch. But players should be rewarded for good clutch results, whether things even out or not.
   9. Jay Z Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:13 AM (#5578496)
Are Win Shares still available somewhere? I did always find them interesting and I'd like to compare more instances where they diverge from WAR.

That said, they produce their own questionable results sometimes. In TFA James mentions that Eric Hosmer ranked ahead of Judge. I could believe that Judge wasn't really almost as valuable as Altuve, but I have a very hard time believing that Hosmer was the 2nd best player in the AL.


The Royals overachieved on Pythag by quite a bit. Hosmer was the Royals second best player by WAR, so he'd be getting a lot of the credit for the adjustment up.

Pythag says the Yankees were 28 games better than the Royals. In reality, they were 11 games better. If you're adjusting for actual games won, there are going to be some huge adjustments. Pythag doesn't typically deviate from results so harshly, but for these two teams it did.
   10. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:14 AM (#5578497)
Not to disagree with either James or the previous comments, but ISTM that there is still some work to be done. Otherwise, you're still basically saying that Aaron Judge would have been x% more valuable if Tyler Clippard didn't suck, or that Jose Altuve would have been y% less valuable if the Astros hadn't traded for Justin Verlander. Context needs context too.
   11. Jay Z Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:22 AM (#5578500)
Tradition is a legitimate reason to prefer a player from a contender. It's also the only legitimate reason. The rest is just the familiar trap of blaming the best player when the team loses.


What about Verlander in 2017?

It was known that the Tigers weren't going to get near the playoffs, this year. Verlander got traded to a team headed to the playoffs.

Verlander could have turned down any trade by his 10 and 5 rights. Does he then still get to blame his teammates for not being good enough? He had a chance to get better teammates and he turned it down. I think this should matter. Players are supposed to be trying to win, not just racking up stats and paychecks.
   12. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:23 AM (#5578501)
James is raising the same point I've long made in previous threads about the illusory value of Mickey Mantle's walks in the last years of his career, when they mostly led to little more than his repeatedly being left on base, rather than actual runs. Those walks of his were far more valuable when he was followed by the likes of Yogi Berra and Bill Skowron in the lineup during the prime of their careers than they were when he was waiting for Tom Tresh or the late career Elston Howard to drive him in.

To illustrate this point, compare his 1953 and 1968 seasons.

1953: 540 PA, 79 BB, 21 HR, 105 runs

1968: 547 PA, 106 BB, 18 HR, 57 runs

Part of that is due to baseball's declining offense in the last years of Mantle's career, but then look at his numbers in two other years when the overall RS factor was much closer:

1952 (4.18 R/G): 626 PA, 106 BB (0.16 BB/PA), 23 HR, 94 R, .15 R/G

1966 (3.99 R/G): 393 PA, 57 BB (0.15 BB/PA), 23 HR, 40 R, .10 R/G

As I'd written previously, this doesn't mean that it was Mantle's "fault" that the Yankees crashed and baseball's overall offense declined at the same time he did, but it does mean that those walks were of far less value to his team once the surrounding context of those walks changed. This is pretty much the same point that James (and Jim) are making.
   13. Baldrick Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:23 AM (#5578502)
I have no problem with Win Shares or WPA or whatever existing. They help tell a story and that's great. But the fact that WAR measures contributions to RUNS is a feature, not a bug. Even the best player in baseball can help his team by adding runs offensively and subtracting runs defensively. They can't produce 'wins.'

Leverage can also be interesting, in a narrative sense. But baseball isn't a sport where you can run your key plays through your best players at will. The guys up in clutch situations are just the guys who are up. If it were possible to calibrate your performance to situation, I would be more open to this kind of argument. But I just don't see why we should care that (mostly random) chance put one guy's best at bats in higher leverage situations than another. While that may be interesting in a narrative sense, it doesn't strike me that it has much to do with quantitatively assessing ability or production.

So yeah, if others want to lean on a win-based model for their uber-stat, I won't say that's intrinsically wrong. But it doesn't do much for me, and I think it's perfectly understandable why WAR 'beat' Win Shares as a framework of analysis.
   14. Jay Z Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:29 AM (#5578505)
Not to disagree with either James or the previous comments, but ISTM that there is still some work to be done. Otherwise, you're still basically saying that Aaron Judge would have been x% more valuable if Tyler Clippard didn't suck, or that Jose Altuve would have been y% less valuable if the Astros hadn't traded for Justin Verlander. Context needs context too.


I don't disagree. Downgrading all of the Yankees is a starting point. It's possible at the end Judge could even be helped, if he was great in the clutch and all other Yankees were horrible. But I think an across the board downgrade is better than pretending the Yankees won a lot more games than they did win.

If relievers can affect Pythag by that many games, maybe they should be rated differently in metrics.
   15. BDC Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:47 AM (#5578512)
I can't help thinking there's a little bit of circularity in James' argument.

The Yankees underperform their "expected" wins (expected based after the fact on RS/RA), because they win a lot of blowouts and they lose a lot of close games.

Aaron Judge hits like a monster in the blowouts, but fails more than you'd expect in the close games. As Jay Z says, Judge is one of the Yankees, and his pattern of results helps shape their overall pattern of results.*

Meanwhile the Astros win exactly as many as "expected." Altuve is better than Judge close and late, turning the tide in a lot of games for Houston, but he is not as good as Judge in low-leverage situations, which puts Houston in a lot of high-leverage situations to start with.

*************************

The value/ability dichotomy is important, but it is not a pure dichotomy. There's specific contributions to winning actual past games that happened; there's baseball talent (which everyone agrees is more useful for projections and trades).

But then there is also a way of thinking about past value a bit more independently of context. If you have two 2017 players, and, being November, you now know their performance in retrospect: which one would you have drafted first, on the basis of that hindsight, in an open draft last March?

That's a question (if you want to ask it) that clarifies the Judge/Hosmer comparison, if not perhaps Judge/Altuve. Let's say that Hosmer is better by Win Shares than Judge, based on doing a lot of apt and timely little things while Judge was just whaling on the ball, hitting three-run homers in games where New York was four runs ahead, that sort of thing.

But if you could plug Judge's exact performance, PA for PA, into Kansas City's games, and Hosmer's into the Yankees', who would then have been more valuable? Who would you have rather had in March, with perfect foreknowledge? I think nobody in their right mind would choose Hosmer, because that "trade" working out would be contingent on everything breaking exactly right.

But maybe the MVP should go to the player for whom everything breaks exactly right. It's OK, if you agree to define it that way. If I bet solid handicapping choices all day long at the track and come out $300 ahead, and you bet a 50-1 shot in the final race and come out $350 ahead, you do beat me on the day, if we were going by net winnings.

*EDIT: I just noticed that shoewizard makes this point better in the parallel Joe Blogs WAR thread.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: November 19, 2017 at 01:08 PM (#5578526)
Double post
   17. Sunday silence Posted: November 19, 2017 at 01:09 PM (#5578527)

Leverage can also be interesting, in a narrative sense. But baseball isn't a sport where you can run your key plays through your best players at will..


This is not entirely true. There are two situations that readily come to mind stolen bases and relief pitching. You (presumably the manager) can actually choose when to do this ( with exception of runners like Puig). You might also add in pinch hitting or sac hits and stuff like that.

How do you propose we deal with that ? Moreover how is James proposing we deal with that? I didn't RTFA does he propose going to a strict WExpectancy thing?

I doubt it because that's the beauty of James he can readily find any contra argument to suit his purpose but his own arguments can be taken to their logical conclusion lead to reductio ad absurdom ends. Say for instance:

1. Dawson hits 50 HRs and wins 20 games for the expos with GWRBI. The expos finish dead last. Schilling wins game 7 of the world series w 20 KOs. Who has more value? Who helped win more pennants? Do pennants matter in this discussion?

Does it matter if Yankee were closer to a pennant than KCR? To me yes.

2 how does James handle Mike Marshall who I think won an MVP Or came close with his relief efforts? Do we go with strict WAR OR WE Model?

What if hosmer hits all his HRs when his team is up by 4 or more? Or does James not want to go this far? He wants to stop at Pythagorean runs or wins and go further?
   18. Sunday silence Posted: November 19, 2017 at 01:23 PM (#5578530)




The degree to which people insist on divorcing these numbers from things that actually happened in actual baseball games played under actual baseball rules remains ... quite odd. There's still likely an underlying psychological or ideological reason(s) at work.



Really? That what you think is going on here? How about there being something inherent in almost all statistics in sports. The basic dichomy between what are Predictive stats and those that are Outcome based.

Pitchers BABIP might be one GWRBI another.

Fumbles in football are a classic one.

So could you address this aspect before wandering off into Sigmund Freud land?
   19. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 19, 2017 at 01:53 PM (#5578540)
The Yankees underachieved in wins by a significant margin. To ignore this fact is unfair. This is to preclude all of the complaints that referring to actual wins are unfair. "It's unfair to penalize Judge for the results of the Yankees." He's one of the Yankees. Barring further evidence, yes, he should get his share of the penalty for underachievement.

A lot of that underperformance, IIRC, came from far too many rather galling blown saves. Like the overall pitching performance, it seems a bit unfair to blame Judge, or position players generally for pitching lapses. Sure, you can make an argument that offensive contributions that lead to actual wins are more valuable, but doesn't that put you on a slippery slope that leads to evaluating a player by what his teammates do, as was done when RBI was King of Stats?
   20. Jay Z Posted: November 19, 2017 at 02:06 PM (#5578545)
How do you propose we deal with that ? Moreover how is James proposing we deal with that? I didn't RTFA does he propose going to a strict WExpectancy thing?


The problem I have with WExpectancy is it's based on a .500 framework. You wind up with a pinch hitter being the World Series MVP because he isn't being penalized for not actually playing. Has anyone come up with WExpectancy that is combined with replacement value?
   21. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 19, 2017 at 02:56 PM (#5578558)
   22. nick swisher hygiene Posted: November 19, 2017 at 03:00 PM (#5578559)
6, 9: This particular Yankees/Royals juxtaposition must have been immensely satisfying for James, the chip on whose shoulder I still remember even though I've barely read the man this millennium.

13: "Even the best player in baseball can help his team by adding runs offensively and subtracting runs defensively. They can't produce 'wins.' "--This is also my take.


   23. rconn23 Posted: November 19, 2017 at 07:19 PM (#5578602)
Glad he clarified he'd take Judge over Hosmer. How decent of him.
   24. QLE Posted: November 19, 2017 at 07:42 PM (#5578603)
Anyone else note the irony that the guy who, almost a quarter of a century ago, wrote a book that to a heavy degree focused on arguing (correctly) that Phil Rizzuto didn't belong in the HOF has now devolved into making arguments on player merit that, in many regards, are similar to those made by fans of Rizzuto and a large number of other players of dubious HOF merit?

Tying player value heavily to win-loss record strikes me as something that, to a heavy degree, wipes away a lot of the essential context of player performance, rather than adds to it- it ignores such matters as league strength, strength of schedule, the nature of the wins in question, and (at least in Win Shares) how the players actually performed in wins versus losses. Moreover, a couple of us (in both threads on the subject) have noted an even bigger issue- often, performance in pythag win-loss records versus actual win-loss records are heavily reflected of the quality of relief pitching. Are we willing to suggest that this makes relief pitchers among the most valuable in the game, especially given all the critiques we have about how relief pitching is currently used?

Overall, while I see certain limitations in WAR, both in terms of it as formulated (I'm not convinced of its full reliability with pitching, compared to position players) and in terms of its use (I feel that a focus on career WAR, especially in terms of position players with between 50 and 70 career WAR, has certain flaws in calculating historical value given changes in the game on and off the field), I consider it far more useful in terms of analysis- at the least, it doesn't reward players for who their teammates are.
   25. Howie Menckel Posted: November 19, 2017 at 07:50 PM (#5578606)
arguing (correctly) that Phil Rizzuto didn't belong in the HOF

not only does Rizzuto belong in the HOF once war credit and decades as a beloved broadcaster are factored in, the guy came within a whisker of getting elected to the Hall of Merit (he came in 4th in a year of 3 electees, iirc, just before a barrage of superior newcomers buried him. and that's with zero post-playing consideration).

there are dozens of rock-solid clear-blunder HOF players who should be mocked before we start arguing Rizzuto's case (which is debatable but that's a step up).
   26. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2017 at 08:06 PM (#5578612)
Anyone else note the irony that the guy who, almost a quarter of a century ago, wrote a book that to a heavy degree focused on arguing (correctly) that Phil Rizzuto didn't belong in the HOF has now devolved into making arguments on player merit that, in many regards, are similar to those made by fans of Rizzuto and a large number of other players of dubious HOF merit?


I don't know if that's fair or not. But anyone that's been participating in the stathead community over that time has been humbled many times. James and his immediate descendants were right about a lot of things, but were also flamboyantly wrong about others.
   27. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 19, 2017 at 08:33 PM (#5578616)
Tying player value heavily to win-loss record strikes me as something that, to a heavy degree, wipes away a lot of the essential context of player performance,


The essential context of the value the Yankee players generated was that it resulted in 91 wins.
   28. Walt Davis Posted: November 19, 2017 at 11:25 PM (#5578640)
Yanks by month ... actual wins, wins according to simple pythag (RS^2 / (RS^2 + RA^2)) for that month

Apr 15 15.96
May 15 14.81
Jun 13 19.08
Jul 14 13.84
Aug 14 15.64
Sep 20 21.48

So for the most part, the mystery is a weird June. In June they had wins of 12-2, 7-0, 8-0, 9-1, 8-2, 16-3, 14-3, 12-3 and 13-4 with just one 1-8 loss. That's +74 runs and 9 of 10 wins. They couldn't really do better than that. Now that also means they "should" have gone about 7-11 in their other 18 games that month but instead went 4-14. Why? As "luck" would have it, they went 2-9 in 1-run games in those other 18 games. They had 3 walk-off losses and one walk-off win. Or in total

Jun 4 -- gave up winner in b8
jun 6 -- closed to 1
Jun 13 -- b11
Jun 15 -- b10
Jun 16 -- b8 (tie and lead)
Jun 18 -- early, closed to 1
Jun 25 -- early, closed to 1
Jun 27 -- b9
Jun 29 -- early, closed to 1

In their two 1-run wins, they won b10 and nearly blew a 5-run lead in the 9th. So in that stretch, they had 6 games where they were tied late and lost 5 of them. They had 3 more where the starters didn't really do their job but the bullpen did and the offense closed some but not enough.

How much of that was poor clutch hitting, how much poor clutch pitching? But it's certainly a recipe for a pythag mis-match -- win a bunch of massive blow-outs, lose a bunch of coin flips. Obviously they'd win more games if they could gerrymander their runs more efficiently but it mostly affected them just in that month. That sure looks more like a short run of weird luck than some fundamental under-performance by players or team. If somebody wants to dig in and find crappy bullpen or clutch hitting performances, be my guest.

They did follow a somewhat similar pattern with the Astros in the regular season going 2-5 despite just a 41-43 run differential, losing two 1-run games. Then of course 3-4 in the playoffs, losing two 1-run games with a +3 run differential. In three of those 1-run losses, the offense didn't do its job; in the other one, the bullpen blew a 3-run lead in the bottom of the 8th. They lost ALCS G2 on a walk-off.
   29. Sunday silence Posted: November 20, 2017 at 12:45 AM (#5578649)

But it's certainly a recipe for a pythag mis-match -- win a bunch of massive blow-outs, lose a bunch of coin flips.


I'm curious as to why you included blow outs in this sentence. They went 9/1 in blowouts which is exactly what the run differential would predict. It's the unbalanced 1 run games that messes it up. At least that's my understanding. Did misunderstand you??
   30. Sunday silence Posted: November 20, 2017 at 12:54 AM (#5578652)

. If somebody wants to dig in and find crappy bullpen or clutch hitting performances, be my guest.



In blow outs in June judge went 13 for 39 hit 3 doubles and 4 HRs. Slug about .743 so nothing really unusual there.
   31. QLE Posted: November 20, 2017 at 06:47 AM (#5578667)
#25- Really questionable, in three different regards:

1) In terms of war credit, the issue I see is that, by my preferred methodology, he'd need the assumption that he would have accumulated 5 WAR or so a season- something he actually did in his career only thrice, and (rather importantly, by my considerations) something he only once came within 1 WAR of doing his first four years back from the service. There are players who I push over the line with war credit (Bobby Doerr and Enos Slaughter, for instance), and others who my approach means they don't need the credit (Hank Greenberg), but I tend to be rather conservative in issuing it, based on previous and future performance levels.

2) Let us leave aside for the moment questions about the merits of Rizzuto as a broadcaster, and instead simply note that that is what the Ford C. Frick Award is for.

3) My tastes, while similar to the Hall of Merit's, are not identical- and, in any event, I'm inclined to think that the mandatory need to induct a certain number of people in their balloting system has led to some questionable picks, especially at times when they had more of those picks to make than fresh players to make them from.

(And, with your main point- true, there have been a hell of a lot worse picks than Rizzuto, but he was one of two that James focused on The Politics of Glory, and Drysdale's induction is clearly justified once we use anything other than win-loss record.)

#26- Oh, agreed, agreed, and certainly the book I've cited has at least three things that could be used as a pinata if one wishes. I certainly hope that that happens to me with my day job- if it doesn't, it has several meanings, none of them positive....

#27- That's simply restating the original premise- why it meant that matters, and I did list (shortly after you cut the quote) several points to keep in mind.
   32. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 20, 2017 at 07:26 AM (#5578669)
That's simply restating the original premise


And it's critical that it be restated. So let's restate it again:

The "value" the Yankee players generated in 2017 resulted in 91 wins.

It's also critical to restate that, as James quite correctly noted, it doesn't matter whether the things that make pythag and actual wins diverge are skill or luck. (More broadly and philosophically, but also in the narrower sense of value generated.)

I'd actually call these two things the Fundamental Laws of Baseball Analysis. Any system of measurement or analysis that doesn't recognize them is badly flawed.
   33. shoewizard Posted: November 20, 2017 at 08:29 AM (#5578677)
It's also critical to restate that, as James quite correctly noted, it doesn't matter whether the things that make pythag and actual wins diverge are skill or luck. (More broadly and philosophically, but also in the narrower sense of value generated.)

I'd actually call these two things the Fundamental Laws of Baseball Analysis. Any system of measurement or analysis that doesn't recognize them is badly flawed.


On a team level, sure.

On an individual level, it's much more debatable than you or BJ wish to recognize.
   34. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 20, 2017 at 09:33 AM (#5578687)
On an individual level, it's much more debatable than you or BJ wish to recognize.


Not really. The only point of Aaron Judge hitting a double for the New York Yankees is that it would help the New York Yankees win baseball games. Standing alone, it's a meaningless accomplishment.
   35. John DiFool2 Posted: November 20, 2017 at 10:43 AM (#5578719)
3) My tastes, while similar to the Hall of Merit's, are not identical- and, in any event, I'm inclined to think that the mandatory need to induct a certain number of people in their balloting system has led to some questionable picks, especially at times when they had more of those picks to make than fresh players to make them from.


OT query, but this is probably the one thing that has bugged me about the HoM the most. Why not let the voters decide how many to induct each year? Why must that specific parameter be server side, not user side (so to speak)?
   36. shoewizard Posted: November 20, 2017 at 10:54 AM (#5578727)
I posted this in the other thread as well.

Win shares
33 Votto
29 Stanton
29 GoldSchmidt


Based on Bill's articles, I can understand why Goldschmidt would close the gap on Stanton.

Interesting though that Votto, who played on a 68 win team that was 2 wins below it's Pythag maintains a large lead over Goldschmidt.

Maybe this would have been a more interesting debate if Bill gave the same amount of scrutiny to the NL MVP situation. Because the explanation does not seem to apply as well to the this set of players.

(I'm not being a homer or trying to suggest Goldy should have been the MVP, I didn't think he should be, I'm just trying to understand what on the surface looks like a contradiction)
   37. Jay Z Posted: November 20, 2017 at 11:23 AM (#5578739)

OT query, but this is probably the one thing that has bugged me about the HoM the most. Why not let the voters decide how many to induct each year? Why must that specific parameter be server side, not user side (so to speak)?


Because it would be like the regular HOF then, and you'd have endless Big Hall/Small Hall debates. The intent was to avoid that. I think it was the right move.

Edit: I have been on record in preferring the HOFs for other sports because the number of enshrinees is basically fixed each year.
   38. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 20, 2017 at 11:25 AM (#5578740)
This is some weird ####. He wants to twist the context so that Judge's contributions are less than Altuve's, yet ignores context that benefits Judge.

How about Judge with a league-leading 128 runs, and a runner-up (four off the lead) at 114 RBI?

Altuve was 2nd in runs but 16 behind Judge at 112. His RBI total of 81 was well off the leaderboards.

Were Judge's teammates, who underachieved on the season (according to James), particularly productive when Judge was on base?

"RISP" and "high leverage" have their own isolated problems and contextual twists. Presenting them as some sort of proof is problematic.
   39. bookbook Posted: November 20, 2017 at 12:09 PM (#5578768)
I’m a layman, but I recall reading about a phenomenon called overfitting your model to the data, such that it perfectly “explains” the past but is inaccurate as a forecasting tool. This would be called an “error” and is one of the flaws for many with win shares, and that approach in general.
   40. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 20, 2017 at 12:25 PM (#5578780)
I’m a layman, but I recall reading about a phenomenon called overfitting your model to the data, such that it perfectly “explains” the past but is inaccurate as a forecasting tool.


Measuring value generated has nothing to do with forecasting.

They're two entirely different things.
   41. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 20, 2017 at 01:39 PM (#5578838)

... one way to do that is to say that the Yankee win contributions, rather than being allowed to add up to 102, must add up to 91. That’s a good way to do it, and, of course, if you do that, it reduces Judge’s win contribution by 11% Using WAR, it reduces his win contribution by MORE THAN 11%, because the replacement level remains the same while his win contribution diminishes, so the wins ABOVE THE REPLACEMENT LEVEL are decreased by more like 16%. Judge drops from 8.1 WAR to 6.8.

I remember having this same discussion like 10 years ago. It never made sense to simply assume that the "stuff" you can't explain gets equally apportioned among the players in proportion to their contribution to the team without doing more work around the specifics. I can see using something like this as a tiebreaker when two guys are very close, like Judge and Altuve, basically acknowledging that we have more confidence around Altuve's contribution than Judge's.

Pretending that we can quantify it beyond that seems like false precision. There's no perfect way to translate individual stats to a team measurement like wins, but adding fudge factors to admittedly imperfect metrics like WS or WAR makes them worse, in my opinion, not better.
   42. GuyM Posted: November 20, 2017 at 02:02 PM (#5578862)
... one way to do that is to say that the Yankee win contributions, rather than being allowed to add up to 102, must add up to 91. That’s a good way to do it, and, of course, if you do that, it reduces Judge’s win contribution by 11% Using WAR, it reduces his win contribution by MORE THAN 11%, because the replacement level remains the same while his win contribution diminishes, so the wins ABOVE THE REPLACEMENT LEVEL are decreased by more like 16%. Judge drops from 8.1 WAR to 6.8.

Even if you buy Bill's logic about linking WAR to actual team wins, he's made a basic math error here. If NYY won fewer games than they "should" have, then we need to reduce the win value of *all* the runs they scored (and prevented). In the real world there are no identifiable "runs above replacement," but just runs. So if the NYY offense produced 6 fewer wins than expected, and had 858 RS, then the penalty is -0.007 wins per run created. So Judge loses 149*.007 = 1.0 wins, not 1.3 wins.

Bill would limit the adjustment to each player's RAR. But that means Matt Holliday -- zero WAR in 400+ PA -- gets no penalty at all. Why should we assume Holliday's runs could not possibly have been created at bad (or good) times? That makes no sense. So Holliday should also be debited 60*.007 = .4 wins, and ends up a sub-replacement player.

Now, this still assumes that the penalty should be proportional to Runs Created, rather than playing time, a claim Bill has provided exactly zero evidence for. But even if you accept all of that, the penalty for Judge is smaller than Bill suggests.
   43. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 20, 2017 at 02:20 PM (#5578871)
They went 9/1 in blowouts which is exactly what the run differential would predict.


The problem is that all those runs they scored in the blowouts "predict" additional wins in the other games.
   44. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 20, 2017 at 02:34 PM (#5578881)
It never made sense to simply assume that the "stuff" you can't explain gets equally apportioned among the players in proportion to their contribution to the team without doing more work around the specifics.


Right; there's an imperative to make the metrics workable all the way into the ethers of baseball history when there wasn't enough data to do the requisite work around the specifics. At that point, the imperative always outweighs the lack of data and so the specifics are dispensed with.

In point of fact, we very much know why Jose Altuve was actually more valuable than Aaron Judge -- but we don't have the same data to see the same things from, say, the 1920 season -- so the WAR devotees wind up pretending the things we can't see from 1920 didn't matter anyway or were "random" or the product of "luck."

There's no perfect way to translate individual stats to a team measurement like wins,


Individual stats -- probably not. Individual events -- very much so.

If someone made the effort, they could easily figure out why the Astros won significantly more games despite the same superficial inputs as the Yankees -- and then come up with a sensible way to apportion the reasons among the various players on the two teams. They just wouldn't be able to do it from easily obtainable sources, and they very much wouldn't be able to do the same work for earlier seasons.
   45. Jay Z Posted: November 20, 2017 at 02:37 PM (#5578885)
Bill would limit the adjustment to each player's RAR. But that means Matt Holliday -- zero WAR in 400+ PA -- gets no penalty at all. Why should we assume Holliday's runs could not possibly have been created at bad (or good) times? That makes no sense. So Holliday should also be debited 60*.007 = .4 wins, and ends up a sub-replacement player.


FWIW, Holliday had a higher OPS in High Leverage and Late and Close than Judge in 2017.
   46. GuyM Posted: November 20, 2017 at 02:41 PM (#5578887)
#45: The point isn't that Holliday specifically should get dinged. It's that if you are going to start dinging NYY hitters, you shouldn't ignore the large number of sub-replacement runs they created.
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 20, 2017 at 03:05 PM (#5578905)
If someone made the effort, they could easily figure out why the Astros won significantly more games despite the same superficial inputs as the Yankees -- and then come up with a sensible way to apportion the reasons among the various players on the two teams. They just wouldn't be able to do it from easily obtainable sources, and they very much wouldn't be able to do the same work for earlier seasons.

But there's no reason to since it's highly likely to be just the random confluence of events. There's zero evidence that any "clutch" or "sequencing" good fortune is repeatable or at all under the players control.

If you try to make your model perfectly fit a data set that has tons of random variation, you make your model worse.

We already have WPA, we don't need to add it to WAR.

   48. bunyon Posted: November 20, 2017 at 04:15 PM (#5578947)
Measuring value generated has nothing to do with forecasting.

They're two entirely different things.


This goes too far. A valuable player this year is more like to be a valuable player next year than one who had no value. I certainly agree that looking back is done for two reasons: to determine who was better and to determine who WILL be better and they can be two different answers. But they two lists should basically have the same names on them but in, perhaps, different order.
   49. bookbook Posted: November 20, 2017 at 04:27 PM (#5578954)
If you’re overfitting the data to measure value generated, you’re assuming a false precision that may get you further from truth rather than closer.
   50. Zach Posted: November 20, 2017 at 04:29 PM (#5578955)
There are many problems with WAR (personally, I'm suspicious of all "hero stats" that try to measure everything, as well as any stat that mixes offense and defense), but I think James is onto something here.

WAR is a run-denominated stat that claims to be a win denominated stat. For all intents and purposes, a "win" is just a unit of ten runs, in the same way that a dollar is a unit of ten dimes.

If you want to call something a "win," it seems like you have to have some accounting for the relationship between runs and wins that goes beyond a simple historical average.
   51. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 20, 2017 at 05:03 PM (#5578982)

But there's no reason to since it's highly likely to be just the random confluence of events. There's zero evidence that any "clutch" or "sequencing" good fortune is repeatable or at all under the players control.


Does it matter if it's under a player's control? A HR hitter traded to a team with a cavernous outfield might find both his OBP and SLG drastically reduced. Doesn't that reduce his value even though he is the same person and his change of scenery wasn't his choice?
   52. Blanks for Nothing, Larvell Posted: November 20, 2017 at 05:04 PM (#5578985)
I certainly agree that looking back is done for two reasons: to determine who was better and to determine who WILL be better and they can be two different answers.


I actually don't agree with that, and didn't mean to imply that I did. I don't in any way look back to, say, 1959 data to try to determine who will be better in 1960 or the 1960s. And it's pretty much inconceivable that anyone else really does either.
   53. bunyon Posted: November 20, 2017 at 05:32 PM (#5579019)
I actually don't agree with that, and didn't mean to imply that I did. I don't in any way look back to, say, 1959 data to try to determine who will be better in 1960 or the 1960s. And it's pretty much inconceivable that anyone else really does either.

No ####. It seems obvious to me that when someone says "looking forward" they mean from that point. That is, we can look, now, at 2017 both to see what happened and predict what will happen in 2018 (and beyond).

However, if you want to validate your predictive model is SHOULD be able to look at 1959 and give a fairly accurate look at 1960. If a model can't reliably predict what did happen next with the data we have, why would you believe it is reliable for what happens next year?
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 20, 2017 at 05:55 PM (#5579040)
Does it matter if it's under a player's control? A HR hitter traded to a team with a cavernous outfield might find both his OBP and SLG drastically reduced. Doesn't that reduce his value even though he is the same person and his change of scenery wasn't his choice?

Well, theoretically the park adjustment should reflect that. But, the key thing there is the effect is repeatable. All hitters will do worse in aggregate in that park and will do worse every year.

   55. Sunday silence Posted: November 20, 2017 at 06:19 PM (#5579058)

The problem is that all those runs they scored in the blowouts "predict" additional wins in the other games.


You're right. I realized that after I went to bed...
   56. Sunday silence Posted: November 20, 2017 at 06:37 PM (#5579068)
For all intents and purposes, a "win" is just a unit of ten runs, in the same way that a dollar is a unit of ten dimes.


its not that simple in most systems, its adjusted to fit the offensive environment. IN a high run environment might me be more like 11 runs/win in a low offense environment, it might be more like 9.5. its close to 10 right now, and so just dividing by 10 is simple, but a run in WAR is not simply 0.1 wins, it is adjusted within context. So its different than a dime/dollar analogy.
   57. Jay Z Posted: November 20, 2017 at 06:47 PM (#5579072)
Well, theoretically the park adjustment should reflect that. But, the key thing there is the effect is repeatable. All hitters will do worse in aggregate in that park and will do worse every year.


But that's not always true. Monte Irvin's HR totals were hurt by the Polo Grounds. Eddie Stanky's were helped. What of it? The park was a legal MLB park for the time.
   58. Zach Posted: November 20, 2017 at 07:00 PM (#5579078)
So its different than a dime/dollar analogy.

It's a little different, but not in not in any way that rigorously translates to wins. It's still runs divided by run context, rather than runs translated to wins.

I'll put it this way: I think that right now, given the current state of research in sabermetrics and knowing what's been written already, you could do an interesting research project on "How do runs translate to wins?" and present it at a SABR conference to a nice reception. Whereas if you tried to do the same thing with "How do home runs translate to runs?", everyone would just go "Duh, linear weights says about 1.4 runs per home run."

So my position (and I think James's position) is that, given the current state of knowledge about the game, there might be some contexts when runs per win is dramatically different from 10 runs plus or minus a little. If that's true, you should keep WAR denominated in runs and do the translation from runs to wins separately.
   59. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 21, 2017 at 10:25 AM (#5579306)

If you're talking about translating runs to wins in a way that actually explains the deviation from Pythagorean wins, then you're talking about getting into PBP data. And if you're doing that to translate runs into wins, then you should be doing that for translating individual stats into runs as well (practically speaking, I think you have to), since teams under- and over-perform when it comes to those models, too.
   60. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 21, 2017 at 10:30 AM (#5579309)
But that's not always true. Monte Irvin's HR totals were hurt by the Polo Grounds. Eddie Stanky's were helped. What of it? The park was a legal MLB park for the time.

Ideally, we would have more specific park factors. It's just a game, but DMB has park factors specific to singles, doubles, triples, and HRs for RHB and LHB. That's probably how park factors should be done.
   61. Rally Posted: November 21, 2017 at 11:10 AM (#5579348)
Ideally, we would have more specific park factors. It's just a game, but DMB has park factors specific to singles, doubles, triples, and HRs for RHB and LHB. That's probably how park factors should be done.


That's how park factors should be done, and are done, in projection systems where you are trying to predict what a given player will do if moved into a new park. If you are trying to measure the value of what happened though, you need a single park effect modifier. It does not matter if it was harder for Joe DiMaggio to hit 30 homers in Yankee stadium than it was for Lou Gehrig or Bill Dickey. A homerun by any of those guys has the exact same value to the Yankees winning a game.
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 21, 2017 at 03:00 PM (#5579604)

That's how park factors should be done, and are done, in projection systems where you are trying to predict what a given player will do if moved into a new park. If you are trying to measure the value of what happened though, you need a single park effect modifier. It does not matter if it was harder for Joe DiMaggio to hit 30 homers in Yankee stadium than it was for Lou Gehrig or Bill Dickey. A homerun by any of those guys has the exact same value to the Yankees winning a game.


I guess I just don't care at all how much exactly an individual contributed to his team wins. Wins are a team phenomenon to me. I care how good the player was.

If Mel Ott contributed an extra 10 wins b/c of Polo Ground effects, that (to me) should be stripped from his "value".

It's just like RP leverage. I don't give a reliever any credit mentally for what innings he is given to pitch. That's the team's doing.

60 IP of a 3.00 RA/9 should be worth exactly the same in terms of player value if you're a closer or mop up man.
   63. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 21, 2017 at 03:27 PM (#5579638)
I guess I just don't care at all how much exactly an individual contributed to his team wins. Wins are a team phenomenon to me. I care how good the player was.

If Mel Ott contributed an extra 10 wins b/c of Polo Ground effects, that (to me) should be stripped from his "value".


But Mel Ott knew that he was playing in the Polo Grounds and likely tailored his game to that ballpark to some extent.

For example, in an average context, assuming normal infielder positioning, Kyle Schwarber bunting down the third-base line is an incredibly foolish and unvaluable thing to do. He's pretty slow and he's much better trying to rifle a line drive into right field. But in the context in which Kyle Schwarber finds himself on a regular basis, with nobody playing to the left of the shortstop and with the third baseman stationed in shallow right field, the calculus changes. A good bunt down the third-base line is an easy single. A line drive to the edge of the outfield grass in right field is almost certainly a ground out to the "third baseman".

Or, more broadly, you may not care about "how much exactly an individual contributed to his team wins" but at the time of his at bats, that's almost certainly what Mel Ott and Kyle Schwarber and anybody else cared about.
   64. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: November 21, 2017 at 03:37 PM (#5579644)
If you're talking about translating runs to wins in a way that actually explains the deviation from Pythagorean wins, then you're talking about getting into PBP data.
And at some point in the process of making it more accurate, you're going to find that you're just reproducing the games themselves. Which is sort of the opposite of what stats are supposed to do, which is aggregate the games.
   65. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 21, 2017 at 03:43 PM (#5579646)
And at some point in the process of making it more accurate, you're going to find that you're just reproducing the games themselves. Which is sort of the opposite of what stats are supposed to do, which is aggregate the games.


I don't understand what you're getting at here. Currently, WAR (and Win Shares) starts by summing up the underlying data (walks, homeruns, stolen bases, etc.) into seasonal totals and converts it into win units. Shifting to the game level (as I do in my Player won-lost records) essentially just does the reverse. It converts the underlying data (singles, doubles, strikeouts, etc.) into win units at the game level and then adds those win units up to produce season totals.
   66. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 21, 2017 at 03:52 PM (#5579654)
Or, more broadly, you may not care about "how much exactly an individual contributed to his team wins" but at the time of his at bats, that's almost certainly what Mel Ott and Kyle Schwarber and anybody else cared about.

Yeah, but the players ability to change their game to suit the situation is limited. Most hitters and pitchers hit and pitch the same way in every stadium, and the results fall out where they fall.

I think the reality is that Ott and Gehrig just happened to benefit from favorable environments, like DiMaggio suffered from an unfavorable one. I doubt their adjustments had much to do with their performance.

In any case, Schwarber would get full credit for the single on a successful bunt in any accounting. There's no adjustment on that.
   67. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 21, 2017 at 04:14 PM (#5579676)
Judge may not have been at his best in 2017 - Judge Has Shoulder Surgery, Should Be OK For Spring Training:
American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Aaron Judge underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder on Monday, the Yankees announced Tuesday. Judge is expected to complete his recovery before the start of Spring Training.

Judge, 25, traveled to Los Angeles for the treatment, where Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the surgery. The procedure involved a loose-body removal and cartilage cleanup.

Let's see what he can do when fully healthy.
   68. Zach Posted: November 21, 2017 at 04:48 PM (#5579729)
If you're talking about translating runs to wins in a way that actually explains the deviation from Pythagorean wins, then you're talking about getting into PBP data. And if you're doing that to translate runs into wins, then you should be doing that for translating individual stats into runs as well (practically speaking, I think you have to), since teams under- and over-perform when it comes to those models, too.

What I'm saying is, the stat should be denominated in the unit that it actually measures, which is runs.

Put it this way: suppose I have a bank account containing $10,000 USD. Canadian dollars are usually about 80 US cents, so I could say that I have the equivalent of $12,500 CAN. But that's not a hard and fast conversion -- today the exchange rate is 78 cents to the Canadian dollar, so the account is actually worth $12,820 CAN.

For some purposes, it's fine to say I have $12,500 CAN. But that's not actually what I have. If I want to be rigorous about it, I have to track the exchange rate in effect on the day I make the trade (PBP data, or at least per game data), or else the average exchange rate over many trades (balance up total team wins at the end of the year, a la Win Shares). Otherwise, you end up with an account that has the wrong balance.

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