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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RLP: Q & A with Tom Tango

The unwritten Interview is about to be written!

Q: Do you see an ethical difference between the players of the 90’s who used steroids and the players of the 50’s who used amphetamines?

Tango: I don’t think players today or players from 50 years ago and players from 100 years ago are of any different moral character, relative to the time period they lived in.  And I don’t think that baseball players are of a
different moral character than engineers, plumbers, and accountants. It’s more accurate to say the choices that players make are a product of their environment than to say that the players set their environment.

It’s here that I think the MLPA failed: they should have treated this as a workplace safety issue, to protect those members who didn’t want to do something illicit or otherwise unhealthy or unsafe to keep up with the
risk-takers. Rick Helling was a lone voice in what should have been a booming chorus.

Q: Defensive metrics are often criticized, how can they be improved upon? What’s wrong with the current metrics like UZR & DRS?

Tango: We are limited to the data.  This is true of everything.  To improve a metric, you simply improve the data.  So, instead of having a single person from a single vantage point tell us where a ball was hit, you can have several people from several vantage points.  Or, you have an automated system like FIELDf/x that will do that.

The other is knowing the starting point of the fielder, so we can split up the valuation between positioning and range.  Some people want to credit positioning to the fielder and other to the manager.  Well, split it up
and let each person decide for himself.

Q: I feel like BABIP can be valuable statistic to look at; however I also think it’s overused and misused at times. What are your feelings on BABIP? Is there a metric that you feel isn’t being used properly?

Tango: BABIP is a valuable metric because it breaks down something into a specific component.  Anything that gives you more perspective is good.

As for metrics that are improperly used: RBIs are still being misused. And FIP is being misused.  Basically, everything is getting misused.

Repoz Posted: December 11, 2012 at 07:21 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Bob Tufts Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4321656)
I'd like to have heard the lead question rephrased to include cocaine users of the 80's and abusers of alcohol throughout baseball history. I feel that those that used amps (sometimes to counteract the effects of the use/abuse of alcohol)and illegal PED's were at least trying to put on a better show for the fans, whereas cocaine and alcohol negatively impact performance and fans - and teams - receive less value.

"You have to be willing to be educated in order to receive an education. " Great line!

   2. TomH Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM (#4321748)
It is very, very good to see sabermetric people, like Tango, who can come across coherently and slice through questions to address basic issues. Bill James became a household word because he thought clearly and wrote well. He could hav ebeen smarter but a poorer presenter and few would have followed.
   3. Cabbage Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:24 PM (#4321750)
It’s here that I think the MLPA failed: they should have treated this as a workplace safety issue, to protect those members who didn’t want to do something illicit or otherwise unhealthy or unsafe to keep up with the risk-takers.

I think this is an especially important perspective in light of the very powerful economic motivations for steroid use. It makes very little sense to crucify a young player from a developing country who saw steroids as a tool to help break into the majors (and consequently *out* of the minors and poverty).
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:31 PM (#4321753)
It’s here that I think the MLPA failed: they should have treated this as a workplace safety issue, to protect those members who didn’t want to do something illicit or otherwise unhealthy or unsafe to keep up with the risk-takers.


I've long said the same thing. MLBPA was the only group that really had the incentive to stop the juicing. The owners were (at least it was presumed) getting increased productivity/speedier injury recovery at no cost or risk to themselves. Why the hell would they want to put a stop to that?

The players were the ones who were taking the health/legal risks, with no obvious benefit to the union as a whole (while it could the individual player's value, it didn't do anything to increase the pie).
   5. dlf Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4321763)
(while it could the individual player's value, it didn't do anything to increase the pie).


I'm not sure that is a given. It is tricky to measure because of the timing coming immediately following the '94 strike, but it seems that the "steroid era" was one of explosive growth in the popularity of the game. Certainly the excitement of the '98 homer chase brought fans to the parks. I think a good argument can be made that increased PED use directly improved the financial bottom line for the industry as a whole.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:40 PM (#4321768)
The owners were (at least it was presumed) getting increased productivity/speedier injury recovery at no cost or risk to themselves.


They were at risk for the bad publicity that comes with steroid (or other drugs) scandals in a sport.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:42 PM (#4321769)

I'm not sure that is a given. It is tricky to measure because of the timing coming immediately following the '94 strike, but it seems that the "steroid era" was one of explosive growth in the popularity of the game. Certainly the excitement of the '98 homer chase brought fans to the parks. I think a good argument can be made that increased PED use directly improved the financial bottom line for the industry as a whole.


It's more than just the timing. There are numerous equally or more plausible explanations for the homer explosion of the late 1990s (peppier ball, thinner bats, new ballparks, weight training in general {the clean kind}, change in hitting philosophy, etc.) that whatever effect steroids had on the overall increase in revenue (and how that increase funneled down to the players) is too far removed to be considered meaningful.

They were at risk for the bad publicity that comes with steroid (or other drugs) scandals in a sport.


I think they've gotten off pretty much scott free on that one.
   8. cmd600 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4321784)
They were at risk for the bad publicity that comes with steroid (or other drugs) scandals in a sport.


Sure there's a risk, but owners, as a group, rarely get bad publicity. In almost every single CBA negotiation (across all sports), the message always seems to be that those greedy players just want more, more, more and the generous owners are barely breaking even. Some people know this is not the case, but the majority go with that story.
   9. Bob Tufts Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4321799)
It’s here that I think the MLPA failed: they should have treated this as a workplace safety issue, to protect those members who didn’t want to do something illicit or otherwise unhealthy or unsafe to keep up with the risk-takers.


It was a multifaceted problem which required a process to be developed - and takes time and trust.

First, determining how widespread was the problem? We still do not know despite rampant speculation by all constituencies. Unlike the open use of amphetamines (which I saw and players openly discussed), steroid users were not as vocal.

Second, when it was deemed a problem, the imposition of any testing program to reduce/eliminate use requires solid scientific procedures and inputs to be chosen. This is a topic suited for collective bargaining where it is the duty of the union to make sure a fair and accurate system is implemented (and leaks of tests to the media are not allowed - one of Fehr's biggest mistakes re: Quest/CDT).

Third is the development of the punishment and treatment stage (sportswriters usually start here without using the previous steps).

Fourth is revisiting the issue at regular intervals to update as new scientific discoveries warrant. (Remember - Bonds was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for taking a substance that was not deemed illegal at the time under federal law!)

This was all in place in the 80's due to the cocaine scandals but MLB decided to change it (One of their biggest mistakes, followed by collusion and their instigation of the '94/'95 strike which shredded trust. Without trust, no agreement on such a sensitive subject as testing can occur, and the owner's desire to roll back the clock on player's gains was a key delaying factor.
   10. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: December 11, 2012 at 06:35 PM (#4322311)
Am I the only one that finds the continued usage of the pseudonym somewhat bizarre? Is he the #2 man in al-Qaeda? An FBI informant? Mr. Wrestling II?
   11. JJ1986 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 06:42 PM (#4322314)
Am I the only one that finds the continued usage of the pseudonym somewhat bizarre? Is he the #2 man in al-Qaeda? An FBI informant? Mr. Wrestling II?


He's Bill Bavasi.
   12. canadian shield Posted: December 11, 2012 at 07:05 PM (#4322332)
I believe his real name is TangoTiger
   13. dlf Posted: December 11, 2012 at 07:21 PM (#4322345)
Am I the only one that finds the continued usage of the pseudonym somewhat bizarre?


Coming from someone whose parents probably did not name their child Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond, I find the question odd, but I'm sure that Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, and George Elliot join you in seeing this as bizarre.
   14. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: December 11, 2012 at 07:32 PM (#4322357)
I don't see anything unusual with it. He's established a repututation in the saber world as Tango. If he were to suddenly start using his real name, he would have to rebuild that identity, and I'm not sure why he'd want to.
   15. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: December 11, 2012 at 08:05 PM (#4322400)
Coming from someone whose parents probably did not name their child Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond, I find the question odd, but I'm sure that Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, and George Elliot join you in seeing this as bizarre.


And yet you also know their real names, right? The guy can do what he wants, but I do find it curious - all jokes aside.

Not that you care, but my name is Ricky Cobb. Pseudonyms at BTF are the norm. If I wrote a book, I'd use my real name.
   16. bobm Posted: December 11, 2012 at 08:14 PM (#4322411)
"You have to be willing to be educated in order to receive an education. " Great line!

It sure beats, "Consider this email as an opportunity for dialogue and education."
   17. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 11, 2012 at 09:02 PM (#4322458)
"You have to be willing to be educated in order to receive an education. " Great line!

It sure beats, "Consider this email as an opportunity for dialogue and education."


Glad he's not exhibiting his above-it-all mien.

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