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Monday, November 19, 2012

@LadyBatting: Why I Hate Sabermetrics

Sometimes I think this is the real reason why Murray Chass, et. al., dislike analytical approaches to the game:

Shortly after that the Sabermetrics movement began to sprout up around me, but I ignored it. Why? Because it took me back to high school. I could still hear, and can still hear to this day, the words from my geeky classmate: “How could you fail it…?” I still remembered my teacher telling me I wasn’t trying. I still remembered all the academic mysteries I encountered each school term and how I was rarely able to solve them. Hovering my mouse over SLG on Baseball Reference.com and seeing the formula that popped up gave me the same anxiety I felt almost every day in high school.

So I didn’t go back to high school.

Mike Emeigh Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:23 PM | 108 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:33 PM (#4306330)
That's pretty impressive she's able to churn out blog entries on a regular basis with her head plunged so deep into the sand.
   2. dr. scott Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:37 PM (#4306332)
So there are high schools where if you are not smart they make fun of you? I thought that was the only benefit to being closeminded and non analytical... you got to be cool in High School.
   3. The District Attorney Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:41 PM (#4306333)
For me, the reason I like sabermetrics is because it makes the sport something I can appreciate with my post-childhood brain.

But I'm sure it is true that some people think this is essentially a form of math, and they don't like math. The ideal way to disavow someone of that notion would be to get them into it via James. Not all that practical nowadays.

(Seriously, though, lady, graduating high school is a great time to stop talking about "nerds" and "geeks", if not preferably sooner.)
   4. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:52 PM (#4306337)
So there are high schools where if you are not smart they make fun of you? I thought that was the only benefit to being closeminded and non analytical... you got to be cool in High School.


First paragraph of TFA:

"I spent my high school years at what was, at the time, one of the top secondary schools in New York City. After having failed to research the school’s curriculum beforehand, I slipped and fell into a sea of advanced mathematics and college-level science. A lover of words and music, I clung desperately to the few classes that offered those subjects while trying not to drown in formulas and advanced equations."
   5. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4306339)
(Seriously, though, lady, graduating high school is a great time to stop talking about "nerds" and "geeks", if not preferably sooner.)


Hey, you know what will make the nerdist position on the argument more amenable to people not already in the choir? Casually and rudely dismissing anyone who writes an honest accounting of why they're not inclined to enjoy the mathier side of life out of hand.

You kids are such dumbasses sometimes.
   6. vivaelpujols Posted: November 19, 2012 at 09:02 PM (#4306342)
Wow that's pretty dumb.
   7. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: November 19, 2012 at 09:05 PM (#4306345)
Her timeline seems off to me. She says she joined SABR in the mid-80s, but threw away the newsletters, citing this as a reason for why she ignored sabermetric thinking. I suppose that makes enough sense to be plausible; if she threw away the SABR newsletters from the 80s she probably wouldn't have realized that SABR, the organization, didn't really embrace a statistical analysis bent until the late 90s at the earliest.
   8. AndrewJ Posted: November 19, 2012 at 09:46 PM (#4306372)
Her timeline seems off to me. She says she joined SABR in the mid-80s, but threw away the newsletters, citing this as a reason for why she ignored sabermetric thinking. I suppose that makes enough sense to be plausible; if she threw away the SABR newsletters from the 80s she probably wouldn't have realized that SABR, the organization, didn't really embrace a statistical analysis bent until the late 90s at the earliest.

This. SABR newsletters of the mid-1980s (I joined at the end of 1984) were still promoting basic demographic information, such as newly discovered birth dates for particular players, not trafficking in Runs Created or Linear Weights.
   9. Morty Causa Posted: November 19, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4306378)
Wonder if she knows how parse the on and off days in her ovulation cycle? Or would that be too geeky?
   10. OsunaSakata Posted: November 19, 2012 at 09:56 PM (#4306384)
   11. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: November 19, 2012 at 10:05 PM (#4306393)
I love how she describes herself as "boldly" defending Albom's column on Twitter. What feats of heroic daring!

Thinking too hard gives you wrinkles!
   12. Dale Sams Posted: November 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4306404)
But I am sad no more. Two things have helped me feel better. The first is a Twitter attack. Several nerds and their sympathizers on my timeline slammed former Major Leaguer Duane Kuiper


Having just watched The Bunker...every time she says nerd or geek (which she does seven times) I read it as "Jews".
   13. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM (#4306429)
So she went to Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech or one of those types of places?

I dislike math, I guess. I still remember how happy I was the moment I realized that I didn't need to take a single math class in college. But I love what math is capable of, and I love attacking problems with data, and math and baseball seem like good friends to me.
   14. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: November 19, 2012 at 10:56 PM (#4306435)
Having just watched The Bunker...every time she says nerd or geek (which she does seven times) I read it as "Jews".
Gotta hand it to you, that is one of the more creative examples of Godwin's Law.
   15. Esoteric Posted: November 19, 2012 at 10:58 PM (#4306438)
Hey, you know what will make the nerdist position on the argument more amenable to people not already in the choir? Casually and rudely dismissing anyone who writes an honest accounting of why they're not inclined to enjoy the mathier side of life out of hand.

You kids are such dumbasses sometimes.
For perhaps the first time in my life, I'm in 100% agreement with Sam Hutcheson.
   16. OsunaSakata Posted: November 19, 2012 at 10:58 PM (#4306441)
I'm just surprised I haven't seen Hitler Reacts to Cabrera Winning AL MVP.
   17. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:04 PM (#4306451)
I'm just surprised I haven't seen Hitler Reacts to Cabrera Winning AL MVP.


(Forget) that. Has Chavez chimed in?
   18. phredbird Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM (#4306455)
   19. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM (#4306459)


Hey, you know what will make the nerdist position on the argument more amenable to people not already in the choir? Casually and rudely dismissing anyone who writes an honest accounting of why they're not inclined to enjoy the mathier side of life out of hand.

You kids are such dumbasses sometimes.


FTA:

These were the nerds who understood complex formulas and who often scored 100% on state regents (standardized final exams) in subjects like trigonometry and physics. I, myself, was not a nerd. I never scored higher than 79% on any math or science regents.

Though I never failed any regents, I did fail many a test during the school year. One of those failures prompted a nerdy girl to say to me: “How could you fail it? It was so easy!”

analogy development goes here

So there I was, ready to give up and leave the stats to the baseball nerds.



You're absolutely right. A totally good faith exploration of both those she went to high school with and the SABRmetric community. Especially given the innocuousness of the post you quoted, it seems like you're just pushing an agenda here irrespective of the actual discussion going on here.
   20. Dale Sams Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:11 PM (#4306460)
Gotta hand it to you, that is one of the more creative examples of Godwin's Law.


Sorry, it was the whole "..and their sympathizers.." .
   21. Bob Tufts Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:16 PM (#4306467)
I was not a fan of advanced metrics and their application to baseball for a long time. It reminded me of my nefarious Wall Street brethren who hired science and math majors to design equations for black box trading systems that almost destroyed the world's financial structure.

When I left the futures and foreign exchange area and went to the equities side of the business, I was able to see that it was all about determining proper value of an asset and its productive abilities.
   22. zonk Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4306477)
I love how she describes herself as "boldly" defending Albom's column on Twitter. What feats of heroic daring!


The oppressed have become the oppressors!

Weren't we supposed to get villas, dachas, or something? Or at least T-shirts, when this glorious day fulfilling the promise of the revolution came to pass?
   23. andrewberg Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:32 PM (#4306485)
Hey, you know what will make the nerdist position on the argument more amenable to people not already in the choir? Casually and rudely dismissing anyone who writes an honest accounting of why they're not inclined to enjoy the mathier side of life out of hand.

You kids are such dumbasses sometimes.


She is not trying to start a conversation and is not asking to be persuaded. She is using ad hominems toward people she irrationally dislikes due to youthful insecurities she couldn't let go. The article is not a dialogue- she literally says she is scared of long division- so dismissing it as stupid is a response in kind.
   24. LooseCannon Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:38 PM (#4306494)
The "back to high school" sentiment is pretty obviously a motivator. If you didn't realize that, you might have been one of those nerds who is book smart but doesn't understand people at all.
   25. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM (#4306502)
Concur with #23. She's not just saying that she doesn't understand the big math, but that because she doesn't, nobody else should either.
   26. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: November 19, 2012 at 11:46 PM (#4306509)
She is not trying to start a conversation and is not asking to be persuaded. She is using ad hominems toward people she irrationally dislikes due to youthful insecurities she couldn't let go. The article is not a dialogue- she literally says she is scared of long division- so dismissing it as stupid is a response in kind.


Not to mention that it would be redundant, since the main point of the article is that she's stupid, proud of it, doesn't want to be bothered learning anything complex, and people who are smarter than her are mean.

Despite that, she admits she's actually learned a few things (like W-L record not meaning anything). I actually take out of this that if she can manage to make progress, however slight, then it's actually an encouraging sign that people who aren't complete Luddites must be doing even better, and continued progress is inevitable.
   27. djrelays Posted: November 20, 2012 at 12:52 AM (#4306544)
This woman may love music, but it's unlikely she understands it. Harmonic music is absolutely mathematical, and can be understood by the deaf merely by looking at the spacial relationships of one note to another. That's math.

If you can't understand the math--or choose not to--you can't understand the music. You may like the music, but understanding it and having a more richly rewarding appreciation of it is lost.
   28. morineko Posted: November 20, 2012 at 12:54 AM (#4306545)
Wonder if she knows how parse the on and off days in her ovulation cycle? Or would that be too geeky?


There's an app for that.

...anyway, after RTFA, she thinks Duane Kuiper is a journalist. He's one of the few former players who does play-by-play as opposed to commentary, but that's still not journalism. I'll quit feeding the troll now.
   29. theboyqueen Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:06 AM (#4306558)
If you can't understand the math--or choose not to--you can't understand the music. You may like the music, but understanding it and having a more richly rewarding appreciation of it is lost.


This is as stupid as anything in the article (which is pretty stupid). Everything in the universe is "mathematical". Everything in the universe is also other things.
   30. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:42 AM (#4306561)
You know what's weird? I know a fair number of people, of several generations, who were never all that interested in math, and became very mathematical people because of how much they loved baseball and, by extension, how much they got into playing around with baseball stats as kids. I don't mean WAR or something - I mean calculating batting average and on-base percentage on their own, for their own players each day, from the box score or ESPN. I know that baseball's been a positive source of mathematics understanding for a lot of people, for a long time, so it's interesting that the author of this piece never felt that way.
   31. Cooper Nielson Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:53 AM (#4306568)
If you can't understand the math--or choose not to--you can't understand the music. You may like the music, but understanding it and having a more richly rewarding appreciation of it is lost.

Nomination for most pretentious comment of the year.
   32. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 20, 2012 at 05:14 AM (#4306573)
I would say that you can have a more richly rewarding appreciation of anything by understanding aspects of it that you don't already understand. That's why people think it's good to learn stuff, right?
   33. bookbook Posted: November 20, 2012 at 05:27 AM (#4306574)
I like that we managed to throw a bit of sexism into the conversation. Definitely improves the geeky image.
   34. BrianBrianson Posted: November 20, 2012 at 05:53 AM (#4306576)
Is it a right to remain ignorant? I don't know, but I refuse to find out!
   35. vivaelpujols Posted: November 20, 2012 at 06:12 AM (#4306577)
The main problem is that most of sabermetrics is really easy to understand. Don't get me wrong I hated high school math as well and I haven't touched a trig or algebra problem in years. But sabermetrics is not about complex math, its about simple, logical concepts.

So basically the dumb thing about this article is the author kind of stupid and is proud of it. That's kind of like the definition of dumb, right?

I disagree that you need to understand math to understand music.
   36. jyjjy Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:04 AM (#4306580)
Don't get me wrong I hated high school math as well and I haven't touched a trig or algebra problem in years. But sabermetrics is not about complex math, its about simple, logical concepts.

Simple, logical concepts almost exclusively based in algebra.
   37. Lassus Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:22 AM (#4306581)
For perhaps the first time in my life, I'm in 100% agreement with Sam Hutcheson.

Opposite. While I often do, I don't here.

Disagreeing with you is no problem, though, Eso! :-)
   38. vivaelpujols Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:23 AM (#4306582)
Algebra got pretty complicated once you got into pre-calc and trig. I should say I haven't had to use anything above 9th grade math (with the exception of statistics, which isn't really math) while practicing sabermetrics, and I've written many complex research pieces.
   39. Bug Selig Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:34 AM (#4306584)
I would say that you can have a more richly rewarding appreciation of anything by understanding aspects of it that you don't already understand.


Getting an engineering degree (OK, not getting the degree but taking the classes and learning exactly what's going on) made lava lamps no fun at all.

They were very little fun in the first place, but now - zero fun.
   40. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:52 AM (#4306588)
I've been obsessed with numbers since I was a little kid. (Math, especially advanced math, not so much. I've always hated those damn deltas and sigmas.) As I got older, I discovered most other people hated numbers and would do anything to avoid them. (This goes double for my wife, and indeed every woman I've ever met.)

Trying to figure numbers makes most people feel dumb, so they don't do it; people who are good at numbers are (occasionally) envied or (usually) scorned as "nerds" and worse. And using numbers to evaluate a sporting event? That's just wrong.
   41. Lassus Posted: November 20, 2012 at 09:08 AM (#4306589)
I've been obsessed with numbers since I was a little kid.

I was obsessed with numbers AS a little kid, but when literature really got going for me, calculus just started to be annoying.
   42. JJ1986 Posted: November 20, 2012 at 09:13 AM (#4306593)
Even if you only had your eyes and the stats on the back of a baseball card, Trout still seems like the MVP. It doesn't require any calculated stats.
   43. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: November 20, 2012 at 09:35 AM (#4306598)
This woman went to a mediocre high school and an even worse college and she's complaining about the geeky overachieving math nerds she was surrounded by? Say what?
   44. SandyRiver Posted: November 20, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4306618)
I've been obsessed with numbers since I was a little kid. (Math, especially advanced math, not so much. I've always hated those damn deltas and sigmas.) As I got older, I discovered most other people hated numbers and would do anything to avoid them. (This goes double for my wife, and indeed every woman I've ever met.)

Haven't met my daughter, then, or my (now retired) math teacher sister-in-law. Ü
However, the above mirrors my experience - quickness in arithmetic/algebra that became aversion to calculus (even when I got good grades - on my 2nd try at the subject.) I've long realized that I was the weird one, not my friends for whom numbers remain something of a mystery.

Trying to figure numbers makes most people feel dumb, so they don't do it; people who are good at numbers are (occasionally) envied or (usually) scorned as "nerds" and worse. And using numbers to evaluate a sporting event? That's just wrong.

I had occasion to read a book titled "Innumeracy", wordplay on illiteracy, and it aptly described not just folks' dislike of math but their frequent and blatant misuse of it. I think this lady might qualify on both counts.
   45. Tippecanoe Posted: November 20, 2012 at 10:18 AM (#4306619)
The blog says that SLG gave her the heebies. So she's talking about arithmetic, not even any sort of statistical concept. The article is the equivalent of facing the camera and declaring "I am @LadyBatting, and I am not smarter than a 5th grader."

   46. jyjjy Posted: November 20, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4306633)
Yeah, there's so many stats for which that line would have been perfectly reasonable... saying slugging % is beyond you is just sad.
   47. Bug Selig Posted: November 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM (#4306646)
Yeah, there's so many stats for which that line would have been perfectly reasonable... saying slugging % is beyond you is just sad.


But, but...

You have to add AND divide!
   48. Tippecanoe Posted: November 20, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4306693)

But, but...

You have to add AND divide!


When I was starting 4th grade, Joe Torre was in the process of winning the batting title for the local team. I remember the playground discussion taking place about exactly what was meant by 'batting average'. The first theory was that it represented 1 for a single, 2 for a double, etc., and added (i.e., total bases). That was quickly shot down -- at least one smarty-pants recognized that you had to divide by at-bats. Only after consulting the back of a baseball card -- I believe Rod Carew's -- did we recognize it for what it was. So the fourth graders figured out SLG, total bases, and BA right there at the monkey bars. This all took place literally among the chickens in rural southern Illinois (Cardinal's fans, even), quite a ways from some MIT-prep academy like Hunter College Elementary on the Upper East Side.
   49. bachslunch Posted: November 20, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4306701)
If you can't understand the math--or choose not to--you can't understand the music. You may like the music, but understanding it and having a more richly rewarding appreciation of it is lost.

One can listen to and enjoy music on many levels, from analytic (such as: hearing how motivic fragments are used throughout) to not (such as: cool tunes! cool sounds!). I'm not convinced it's a bad thing to experience music on one or several levels, including just non-mathematical, non-analytic ones. Some folks never reach an analytic or mathematical level of appreciating music but love it just the same. I've written music before, and it's equally enjoyable for me to hear someone say they liked the work on a purely visceral level, on a purely analytic level, or a combination of these.
   50. Loren F. Posted: November 20, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4306720)
First, "Innumeracy" is, like illiteracy, a real thing, and it's a real problem in our country. One aspect of this problem is that many people believe that they can't "get" math, and so they don't. That's different from people trying to do math and failing.

Second, I agree with Sam H. I don't think it serves the best interests of BBTF, baseball or statistics to heap scorn on this writer. She might visit this site and then what will have been accomplished? She doesn't sound stoopid, although she holds some positions that I and many of us disagree with. Judging her may be a nice way of amusing oneself, but it serves no practical purpose. I am sure many posters will disagree with my approach. But I thought that, along with a love of baseball, the premise of this site was to understand and explore what really works in baseball -- what scores runs, what prevents runs, how should a roster really be constructed, etc. And the scorn and judging on display here does not meet the standard of "What works?"
   51. Spectral Posted: November 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM (#4306733)
If someone was under the mistaken impression that sabermetrics involved difficult to understand calculus, or other esoteric math, I'd want to try to bring them into the fold by explaining that you don't need to be a particularly mathy person to understand what's going on. The writer of this column, on the other hand, has expressed willful ignorance and a childish, petty, anger at people that don't think basic mathematical concepts are very difficult. I have no particular desire to convince her that sabermetrics is a better approach to understanding value than the "I watched it, damn it!" school of thinking. She is, for lack of a better way of putting it, just plain stupid.
   52. cmd600 Posted: November 20, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4306768)
She doesn't sound stoopid, although she holds some positions that I and many of us disagree with


As has been stated many times already, she can't be bothered to make an attempt to understand SLG%. I'm glad you at least disagree with that.
   53. Swedish Chef Posted: November 20, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4306797)
a childish, petty, anger

It's a pity about the math, she would have fit perfectly into the stats community.
   54. Swedish Chef Posted: November 20, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4306803)
This woman may love music, but it's unlikely she understands it. Harmonic music is absolutely mathematical, and can be understood by the deaf merely by looking at the spacial relationships of one note to another. That's math.

If you can't understand the math--or choose not to--you can't understand the music. You may like the music, but understanding it and having a more richly rewarding appreciation of it is lost.


Shouldn't it be: If you don't understand neurobiology you don't understand music?

But yeah, sure. Exclude 99% of all the world's musicians, and every single one of the best ones, from your music-understanding club if you wish. I bet your little club can be all smugly reductionistic together.
   55. Swedish Chef Posted: November 20, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4306818)
But you know what really saddens me about threads like this? It's that people here using their supposed mastery of math to call other people stupid and morons and whatever is about three magnitudes more common than any actual discussion about math or science. Even sabermetrics threads themselves, including the rare ones at Primate Studies, most often draw a scant couple of comments. Post a pinata thread and it will be packed to the rafters.
   56. Spectral Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4306830)
I think a big part of that is that while many people read and are interested in sabermetrics, math, and science, they often don't really have anything to add to it. By trade, I do immunology; I read a ton of other science, but I'm generally not particularly qualified to comment on it in a useful fashion. Along the same lines, I've spent a tonof time lurking here and other baseball (and football) sites, learning more about how we can use statistics to shape the game. Despite that, I rarely feel that I have anything interesting or useful to add to a well informed conversation about changes in models. As a result, I'd rather just sit back and read what those better informed (or at least more ambitious) than me have to say. I'm mostly a lurker, and tend to only respond to things when there's something fairly specific that I'd want to address, and that's usually not on primary methodology.

I can't speak for others, of course. I think this sort of thing is probably not all that rare though, and might lead to what looks an awful lot like a dogpile in these threads.
   57. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4306833)
But yeah, sure. Exclude 99% of all the world's musicians, and every single one of the best ones, from your music-understanding club if you wish.


I agree with the general point, but I think there are a lot more math-aware musicians, or at least composers, than you think there are.
   58. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4306847)
every single one of the best ones,


Yeah, for sure not every one. Pretty much every one I know, though. Interestingly enough, pretty much every non-musician I know of who has an especially sophisticated appreciation for music is a math-oriented person, or at least involved with a science that uses serious math.
   59. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:36 PM (#4306853)
But you know what really saddens me about threads like this? It's that people here using their supposed mastery of math to call other people stupid and morons and whatever is about three magnitudes more common than any actual discussion about math or science. Even sabermetrics threads themselves, including the rare ones at Primate Studies, most often draw a scant couple of comments. Post a pinata thread and it will be packed to the rafters.

Sabermetrics has become little more than a vehicle to sneer at other people, and people drawn to sabermetrics are drawn to vehicles to sneer at other people. If sabermetrics didn't exist, they'd be clustered around something else with and for the same end.(*)

Baseball kind of gets caught in the middle, but at least it's made money being there.

(*) With, obviously, exceptions.
   60. The Mighty Quintana Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4306874)
SLG%?!? Feels like we are being trolled. If you can grocery shop and use coupons, you can calculate SLG%.

For me, the threat of scorn drives me to try to figure out something in private before I voice a public opinion on the subject. This could be due to the fact that I was raised Catholic and guilt and shame were major motivational techniques!
   61. BDC Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4306886)
To be fair, if any of y'all can quickly calculate SLG in your head, given a stat line that contains just its components (and doesn't compile the hits into TB), you're an even better lot of mental-arithmetic geniuses than I suspected.

To be equally fair, there are almost no such stat lines anymore. SLG is on ballpark scoreboards – and is it on baseball cards? I haven't looked at baseball cards in a while. Who's Who in Baseball doesn't have it, so that's a project: lock yourself in a room with WWiB and see how fast you can calculate SLG :)

The point is less being able to calculate the thing than knowing (in fact, coming to know intuitively) what it represents, and what it might tell you about a player. And I am sure everyone here, and a whole lot of fans for that matter, are very comfortable with that.
   62. SoSH U at work Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4306904)
The point is less being able to calculate the thing than knowing (in fact, coming to know intuitively) what it represents, and what it might tell you about a player. And I am sure everyone here, and a whole lot of fans for that matter, are very comfortable with that.


That's a big thing. I reckon I'm pretty much at the bottom rung of folks here when it comes to mathing, but I'm very rarely called upon to perform any of it, so it doesn't bother me a whole lot. As long as I understand the why, I'll let the rest of you do the heavy lifting on the how.

   63. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4306908)
Pretty much every one I know, though. Interestingly enough, pretty much every non-musician I know of who has an especially sophisticated appreciation for music is a math-oriented person, or at least involved with a science that uses serious math.

"I hate guys that sing serious." (Dean Martin)
   64. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4306909)
To be fair, if any of y'all can quickly calculate SLG in your head, given a stat line that contains just its components (and doesn't compile the hits into TB), you're an even better lot of mental-arithmetic geniuses than I suspected.


Total bases are easy: It's just H + 2B + 2*3B + 3*HR. I used to do that in my head all the time.

Once you have to start dividing, though, you're on your own.
   65. bachslunch Posted: November 20, 2012 at 03:52 PM (#4306918)
I think there are a lot more math-aware musicians, or at least composers, than you think there are.

Depends, at least when it comes to concert or "classical" music. In my experience (and I've actually got a good bit of it here), few performing musicians are especially math-aware, and those I know who are don't flaunt it. Same with musicologists and critics. You'll find this most often among college-based music theorists, and even then there may be limits to how deep their knowledge is in some cases. There used to be a number of composers (mostly college-based) who tended to be acutely math-aware (Milton Babbitt being arguably the best known example -- he was actually a math professor at one time), but that hasn't in my experience been the case for a while now unless they also are heavily involved with erudite upper-level music theory. And even for the most math-aware composer, that sometimes does and sometimes doesn't mean they apply anything especially esoteric math-wise to the music they write.

I haven't routinely found that composers/musicians in other fields (jazz, pop idioms, Broadway, film, etc.) or non-musicians listen to music on a math-heavy level of depth. Some do, though.

I do find that concert musicians tend to listen to music on many levels, normally much more so than non-musicians. But again, I don't think it's a requirement that all listeners should do so. And quite a few of these levels do not involve math much at all (tracking motives or melodic material, focusing on form and structure, focusing on scoring, and critically focusing on performance capacity, for four).

In short, if you are a math-heavy music listener, you will likely discover one or more further levels on which to appreciate a piece. But it's by no means a necessity.
   66. What Zupcic? Posted: November 20, 2012 at 05:37 PM (#4307033)
I think the problem with some of the responses to this article is perfectly summed up by the 'you have to understand math to REALLY appreciate music' statement. Personally, I like advanced statistics but the idea that my appreciation is somehow 'better' than someone watching a team equipped only with some simple stats is absurd. To most people baseball is an isolated, light-hearted diversion. The best players are the ones who create runs with big hits (or prevent them with strikeouts) and 99% of people don't need advanced statistics to appreciate what makes an actual game of baseball awesome (I suspect most of us would agree. Statistics may be fun but data collection sure isn't). How difficult SLG%/WAR/UZR are to calculate isn't really the issue. Stats, regardless of their simplicity, just don't really matter in the context of how most people appreciate baseball.

(the strident tone of this article is obviously pretty silly but I do think the message boils down to the fact that statistics enable an appreciation of a niche offshoot of the game rather than increased appreciation of the actual games... and that not just really seeming worth it to most people)
   67. Moeball Posted: November 20, 2012 at 05:47 PM (#4307047)
So many comments, so little time:

1)I've tutored kids in basic math for years and have tried to emphasize to them that it is really important to get the basics down pat in your head because everything else builds from that. For high school kids I have also used Driver's Ed as a metaphor - when you are first learning to drive, you have to consciously think about checking your mirrors, making sure your turn signal is on, etc. Once you've been doing it for awhile you don't need to think about those things any more, they are almost instinctive to you. You can therefore concentrate on things like looking out for what other drivers are doing. Math often works the same way - if you don't have to think about the basic arithmetic, you can concentrate on more complex tasks. I have often used baseball stats as a way to introduce kids to division, fractions and percentages - it works well for some (it's how I learned these concepts!) but, obviously, the basic interest in sports has to be there for that technique to work. One size does not fit all and I have learned to adapt over the years. I have also emphasized to high school kids one other reason they really need to know this stuff - those who are now 16 years old and getting their first job at McDonalds or some such place - they are getting paychecks and if they don't know how to multiply or subtract properly they can't even be sure they are getting paid as much as they are supposed to! For some that is a motivational tool.

2)I have taken music theory classes (more years ago than I care to admit)and I have to admit they did enhance my appreciation of music. I think a good example of why it helps to understand structure is shown in the scene from the movie "Amadeus" where Mozart is dictating to Salieri in composing the Requiem. The audience along with Salieri can see the piece start to come together, what should follow what, etc. I think it's pretty instructive and enjoyable to see the creative process at work. Modern musicians may have a different take on things from a mathematical approach but I still think a lot of them may be thinking in mathematical terms more intuitively than they realize. I also think it's interesting how songwriting teams focus on different components of composition. Of course, I'm old, so I think of collaborators such as John Lennon/Paul McCartney and Bernie Taupin/Elton John. It was always very clear that Lennon was more focused on lyrics than Paul was, and Paul thought more about the music. Elton John has said in interviews that he hears music in his head all the time for potential songs but he has to get together with Bernie to have any chance of putting decent lyrics together. I guess different people hear different things in their heads, no matter what type of music they're trying to compose. In terms of music appreciation, I don't think you necessarily have to know the math behind it - sometimes it just speaks to you. Composers of film scores know how to elicit emotional responses depending on what is being heard - fear, sadness, joy, anger or exhilaration can all be conveyed from certain chord structures. I think it's quite fascinating, myself.
   68. BDC Posted: November 20, 2012 at 06:07 PM (#4307069)
I also think it's interesting how songwriting teams focus on different components of composition. Of course, I'm old, so I think of collaborators such as John Lennon/Paul McCartney and Bernie Taupin/Elton John. It was always very clear that Lennon was more focused on lyrics than Paul was, and Paul thought more about the music. Elton John has said in interviews that he hears music in his head all the time for potential songs but he has to get together with Bernie to have any chance of putting decent lyrics together

I may be even older, so I think of Richard Rodgers. A fascinating thing to me is that with Lorenz Hart, Rodgers would write music first and then give it to Hart for the lyric. Oscar Hammerstein, by contrast, would write a libretto for a show and then give it to Rodgers. At times you can imagine Hammerstein compelling the music: could "Hello, Young Lovers" have any other tune? By contrast, when the lyric comes later, the music rarely seems to suggest much of a direction for it, though a single title or refrain phrase might come first, suggested by the rhythm.
   69. phatj Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:23 PM (#4307159)
I am far from math-phobic (I went to college for engineering, and did well in math right through Calc III, when partying caught up to me :) ), and I have studied some music theory in the course of years of piano lessons, but I have never cared to listen to music on any but a visceral level.
   70. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: November 20, 2012 at 09:43 PM (#4307197)
But I'm sure it is true that some people think this is essentially a form of math, and they don't like math. The ideal way to disavow someone of that notion would be to get them into it via James. Not all that practical nowadays.
Handing them the first eight Baseball Abstracts, though, should help. There's some great writing in them, not just great baseball writing. They teach how to think, and not just about baseball, either, but how to find and weigh evidence. How to acknowledge prejudices and move forward.

I can reread one every few years and still enjoy the heck out of it while marveling at how good James was.
   71. zenbitz Posted: November 20, 2012 at 09:45 PM (#4307198)
Math should not be taught as a discipline independent from real world applications. At least not until upper division university courses for math majors.
   72. Ladybatting Posted: November 22, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4308003)
As the author of the piece you are all commenting about I want to say thank you VERY much for taking the time to read it. I appreciate all the opinions expressed and I hope that you will all go back and read the other great articles on the site, written by some very talented people.

Thanks again, and, Happy Holidays!
   73. Ron J2 Posted: November 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4308017)
To be fair, if any of y'all can quickly calculate SLG in your head, given a stat line that contains just its components (and doesn't compile the hits into TB), you're an even better lot of mental-arithmetic geniuses than I suspected.


Danny Cater had the rep of being able to recalculate his batting average while running to first. Doesn't seem like he'd have had too much trouble with SLG.
   74. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: November 22, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4308027)
As the author of the piece you are all commenting about I want to say thank you VERY much for taking the time to read it. I appreciate all the opinions expressed and I hope that you will all go back and read the other great articles on the site, written by some very talented people.

Thanks again, and, Happy Holidays!


Whatever I may think of the article, that's a classy response to the heat she's taken.

I should also add that the website on her member's page features the piece below, posted above her own. It's hardly a hotbed of anti-saberism, but more like a site where a great variety of POVs get expressed:

Clutch, WPA and What RBI Gets Right

...Timing matters. Specifically, the timing of plays in baseball matters. If overall season statistics were all that mattered, no one would care which team won each game. But that’s not how baseball works. The fact is, some hits are more important than other hits, and some outs are more important than other outs. This shouldn’t be controversial. Even the most saber of all sabermetricians should agree that timing matters in baseball.

With that established, there are two questions we must now ask. One, what do we mean by timing, and how do we measure the relative importance of plays? Two, to what extent should we reward players for the timing of the plays in which they are involved?

In this article, I’m going to concentrate on the first question. Historically, it has been measured by Runs Batted In for batters, and a combination of wins and ERA for pitchers. This makes sense intuitively – the two most important parts of baseball are scoring (or preventing) runs and winning games. RBI measures how many runs a batter drives in, ERA measures how many runs a pitcher prevents (roughly), and Wins measures how many games the pitcher’s team wins (again, roughly).

Of course, you and I know that none of these stats perfectly measure the timing aspect of baseball, and some are much worse than others. Luckily, we have these new-fangled “sabermetric” thingamajigs that can measure timing and the clutch factor more accurately.

One of those is Win Probability Added, or WPA. WPA is actually fairly simple; it looks at the chances that a team has of winning the game before the play, and subtracts that number from the chances of the team winning the game after the play. The result is the WPA of the play, which is assigned to the batter and the pitcher (inversely of course)....


Of course....
   75. BDC Posted: November 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4308028)
Danny Cater had the rep of being able to recalculate his batting average while running to first. Doesn't seem like he'd have had too much trouble with SLG

Given Danny Cater's power, his very occasional extra-base hit (not to mention the extra time needed to reach the extra bases) would probably not have posed him much problem, I agree :)

I will grant that most everybody here is better at quick calculations than I am, but y'all still need to realize you're at the 99th+ percentile.
   76. JimPratt Posted: November 22, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4308053)
Whatever I may think of the article, that's a classy response to the heat she's taken.

I should also add that the website on her member's page features the piece below, posted above her own. It's hardly a hotbed of anti-saberism, but more like a site where a great variety of POVs get expressed:


As the founder of Big Leagues Monthly's online magazine and site, I appreciate everyone's passion/comments on this topic ... specifically the comment mentioning that the site is "where a great variety of POVs get expressed".

I would also encourage everyone to check out our monthly magazine edition ... http://bigleaguesmonthly.com/

And our BLM Staff page, we feel like we are building a talented staff of writers ... http://blmdailyedition.com/blm-staff/

I hope it's ok to post these links, if not please remove accordingly.
   77. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: November 22, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4308076)
Danny Cater had the rep of being able to recalculate his batting average while running to first.


It seems like it'd be easier to do that in the dugout before you go up to bat. Just figure out what your new BA would be if you got a hit.
   78. Ron J2 Posted: November 22, 2012 at 04:36 PM (#4308128)
#77 Sure, but Cater took hitting seriously and didn't have time before the at bat. After he'd put the ball in play though he had all the time he needed.

Or something like that. For all I know he did them at home the night before and was just showing off.

I recall somebody challenging him. This Week in Baseball or something similar. Cater had no problem doing it live.

Oh yeah. He'd do the BA to 4 decimal places.
   79. BDC Posted: November 22, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4308137)
It seems like it'd be easier to do that in the dugout before you go up to bat

That's like saying the drink was pre-stirred before Reggie Jackson got there.
   80. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 22, 2012 at 09:10 PM (#4308173)
H + 2B + 2*3B + 3*HR


The only way this should send panic into someone is if they were so ignorant of baseball that they thought H, B and R were variables. She has no excuses. I'm not going to heap scorn and I don't think we should, but if I was a supposed lifelong baseball fan and didn't know what even went into calculating slugging %, I wouldn't admit it. Its like saying you've been a Rolling Stones fan for 40 years but only ever listen to Start Me Up and Satisfaction.
   81. Morty Causa Posted: November 22, 2012 at 09:40 PM (#4308176)
I also think it's interesting how songwriting teams focus on different components of composition. Of course, I'm old, so I think of collaborators such as John Lennon/Paul McCartney and Bernie Taupin/Elton John. It was always very clear that Lennon was more focused on lyrics than Paul was, and Paul thought more about the music. Elton John has said in interviews that he hears music in his head all the time for potential songs but he has to get together with Bernie to have any chance of putting decent lyrics together


I don't think this is so. They both had their ways and methods of approaching the instrumental part of song. McCartney was more conventional musically generally, Lennon more intuitive, but their separate composition show that they both took the music part very seriously, but ultimately differently. Lennon,of course, was the more accomplished, more inspired, lyricist. Like Dylan, Lennon had a real feel for words. The lyrics of Come Together and I Am the Walrus (the entire composition), to name just two, could haved been written by no one else. McCartney's best lyrical productions mostly came when he was pushed by Lennon to be better.
   82. The Keith Law Blog Blah Blah (battlekow) Posted: November 22, 2012 at 11:54 PM (#4308186)
The lyrics of Come Together...could haved been written by no one else.

Well, except for the line that was written by Chuck Berry.
   83. base ball chick Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:39 AM (#4308220)
happy thanksgiving boyz

the reason so many people hate sabermetrics is because too many stat sorts can't wait to sneer at people and call them stupid. it doesn't hardly win you admiration.

there are many things about the way numbers are calculated that don't make logical sense. not everyone is good at math. spitting on people who really can't do math or understand math is like justin verlander spitting on you because you can't throw a baseball 75 MPH let alone 95 MPH. why the **** can't you do it you lazy worthless weakling wimps? it's easy. you just throw the ball. not having an ability to do advanced math does not equal stupid.

lots of baseball numbers are not difficult to figure out - like BA or ERA or WHIP or SLG. but anything that has a linear regression or a weighted something - you are supposed to be able to figure out how to linearly weight something? you ever take a look at those formulas? how many people out there do you think can understand what the marcel the monkey formula IS, let alone calculate it? i would bet that if you took any random group of 100 people with am advanced college degree that is not math/engineering and asked them to define "multiple linear regression" and calculate one, they wouldn't even know what those words mean.

take a look at this batting runs formula
BR = .47S + .85D + 1.02T + 1.40HR + .33(W + HB) - ABF*(AB - H)
Where ABF is the coefficient calculated so that the Batting Runs for a league is equal to zero


and you seriously think that anyone who can't easily and immediately figure out this ABF is stoopid? I bet that plenty of you couldn't figure it out in even an hour if you had the league's compete stats for the year.

and when you tell people that they can't understand or appreciate baseball unless they have a tangotiger intellect and understanding of these numbers and that they are stupid to boot - well, people are going to hate you and think of some way to put you down. AND reject whatever numbers you come up with along with anything you say, just because you are unpleasant and rude.
   84. Ron J2 Posted: November 23, 2012 at 10:27 AM (#4308262)
#83 First of all, anything more complicated than OPS (with SLG and OBP calculated for you) is a job for a computer.

But I think you have things exactly backwards. I can't think of a stathead who says you need to understand how linear weights are put together to enjoy baseball. There are however plenty of people who have asserted that understanding advanced metrics interferes with the enjoyment of the game.

Or to put it more simply, that you can't be a fan if you do understand linear weights (or whatever batting stat beyond the traditional ones)
   85. cmd600 Posted: November 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4308283)
I get that the author was pleasant and all when commenting here, but she did no more than plug her site. "I wrote a poorly informed anti-intellect rant, which I don't intend to defend against any critiques, but come read more of the nonsense I write anyway."
   86. vivaelpujols Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:19 PM (#4308303)
Lisa, there's a difference between calculating and understanding a stat. I doubt I've ever calculated slugging, but as a concept it's incredibly easy. I'd bet the average 10 year old could understand what slugging is and what its practical value is. Maybe it is hard to find a succinct definition of WAR, but I kind of doubt it:

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=les;edymh&gs_nf=3&cp=7&gs_id=w&xhr=t&q=war+sabermetrics&pf=p&safe=off&tbo=d&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&oq=war+sab&gs;_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=775112e853595b1e&bpcl=38897761&biw=1366&bih=667
   87. vivaelpujols Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4308311)
I can't edit the last post for some reason. Please ignore it.
   88. Morty Causa Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM (#4308313)
The stupid always assume the position that their stupidity is divinely ordained. That way they can be assertive, resting their judgment on ad hominem, without justifiying their assertions by rigorous critical thinking.
   89. Swedish Chef Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM (#4308320)
That way they can be assertive, resting their judgment on ad hominem, without justifiying their assertions by rigorous critical thinking.

Ha, someone attacking the "stupid" for using ad hominem. Physician, heal thyself.
   90. Morty Causa Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4308324)
Chef, eat thyself.

I'm perfectly willing, as I've demonstrated many times, to go to great lengths to discuss most any matter--unlike many here.

And you don't know what ad hominem means. That isn't ad hominem.
   91. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4308326)
That way they can be assertive, resting their judgment on ad hominem, without justifiying their assertions by rigorous critical thinking.

You mean the kind of "rigorous critical thinking" that pronounced Mike Trout the MVP because of WAR, without knowing any of the other criteria the writers are asked to use when voting -- like games played?

Reducing the MVP vote to a WAR contest, when "value" is but one of the delineated voting factors, practically defines "stupid." Calling the other side "stupid" while parading and wallowing in such abject idiocy borders on Orwellian.

As Lisa noted, much of the stats crowd is drawn to "stats" because it's a useful vehicle to sneer at other people. The urge to sneer precedes the attraction to stats.
   92. Morty Causa Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4308328)
Many may be drawn to stats for the reason you state. So what? That's not where the argument or criticism should start. If you start it with stats, you have something to objectively discuss. If you start and end with impressions and sensibilities....you got nothing but one upmanship. Which has its appeal. Let's just note the distinction.
   93. vivaelpujols Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:09 PM (#4308332)
WAR is a counting stat which gives more credit to players with more games played. If you're making a games played adjustment on top of that then you're double counting games played.

WAR is likely the best framework we have for evaluating on field value. That doesn't mean you take the fangraphs/B-R numbers as gospel, but you need to take into account offense, defense, baserunning and position at the very least, however you choose to do so. Once you have your judgement of on field value then, yeah, you add leadership, etc. However, since no one knows how much leadership really matters (or how to determine which player is more of a leader than others), on field value should make up the bulk of your analysis.

Also this isn't actually a fact:

"As Lisa noted, much of the stats crowd is drawn to "stats" because it's a useful vehicle to sneer at other people."
   94. Morty Causa Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:09 PM (#4308333)
Problems can be approached like Bill James or Nate Silver approaches them and they can be approached like Joe "It's A Toss-up" Scarborough. One, I submit, is quite a bit better than the other. Unless you first are willing to admit the error of your ways you don't get to complain about not being treated with respect.
   95. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:16 PM (#4308335)
WAR is a counting stat which gives more credit to players with more games played. If you're making a games played adjustment on top of that then you're double counting games played.

WAR is likely the best framework we have for evaluating on field value. That doesn't mean you take the fangraphs/B-R numbers as gospel, but you need to take into account offense, defense, baserunning and position at the very least, however you choose to do so. Once you have your judgement of on field value then, yeah, you add leadership, etc. However, since no one knows how much leadership really matters (or how to determine which player is more of a leader than others), on field value should make up the bulk of your analysis.


Games played is a separate criterion in the MVP voting, and has been since 1931. It is entirely distinct, by rule, from WAR or "value."

"General character, disposition, loyalty and effort" is yet another set of explicit criteria that is to guide votes for MVP.

The MVP vote, by its very rules, is not supposed to be a WAR or even a pure "value" contest. Insisting otherwise is profoundly and irredeemibly stupid.
   96. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:16 PM (#4308337)
Problems can be approached like Bill James or Nate Silver approaches them and they can be approached like Joe "It's A Toss-up" Scarborough. One, I submit, is quite a bit better than the other. Unless you first are willing to admit the error you ways you don't get to complain about not being treated with respect.


Well, the only way to approach the MVP "problem" is to know and use the actual voting criteria.
   97. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:17 PM (#4308339)
I can't believe the Red Sox traded Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater.
   98. vivaelpujols Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4308342)
The Id of SugarBear Blanks
is
profoundly and irredeemibly stupid.


Quotes are awesome.
   99. phredbird Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:28 PM (#4308347)
Its like saying you've been a Rolling Stones fan for 40 years but only ever listen to Start Me Up and Satisfaction.


anyboy knows real stones fans only ever listen to 'can't you hear me knockin' and 'torn and frayed'.
   100. BDC Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4308349)
Games played is a separate criteria in the MVP voting, and has been since 1931. It is entirely distinct, by rule, from WAR or "value."

"General character, disposition, loyalty and effort" is yet another set of explicit criteria that is to guide votes for MVP


Well, the product of the first two voting criteria is like WAR in spirit:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2. Number of games played.


When you look at the 1931 NL MVP vote, players like Jim Bottomley and Rogers Hornsby, with excellent rate stats (strength of offense, at least) but only about 2/3 of a season in games played, finished well behind the players with similar rate stats but more playing time. That's a proto-WAR-like calculation that analysts have implicitly been making since Chadwick, I'd imagine.

As to "general character, disposition, loyalty and effort," these things are very important and should be considered. But unless you're talking about Derek Bell in deep shutdown mode, there tend to be only the tiniest relevant differences on this factor among major-league players. The guys you'd disqualify on the character clause here are the Milton Bradleys of the world, but the one year Bradley got MVP votes (for Texas in 2008), he straightened up and played his ### off. Perhaps not the sweetest disposition in the world, but loyalty and effort, that year, he gave.
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