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Monday, September 17, 2018

Sherman - Statistical Revolution Is Killing The Next Generation Of MLB Fans

Joel Sherman remarked on Twitter:

I realize the pond I am swimming in on Twitter, where columns are so often misstated. For the record, in this piece I point out several times that modern stats are more revelatory and if I ran a team I would use them over the old stats in decision making.

The point is old stats were ligaments that connected generations and were easily digested, thus, tracked thru the course of a season/career. We changed to a better language, but the old language had great value for continuity and keeping fan interest.

Too many treat those who speak the old language like fools, not appreciating that they’re loyal fans who either are resistant to or not capable of embracing new metrics. Plus, the new metrics can often go backward, like someone can lose WAR during the course of the season. If someone reached 100 RBIs, they had 100 RBIs. Period. Or 20 wins. But someone could get to 5 WAR and then go backward or have a 125 in weighted runs created plus and fall back, etc. It is hard to celebrate when it can go away. And fans want to celebrate accomplishments in real time by their favorites.

 

 

Derrick Goold @dgoold
Derrick Goold Retweeted Joel Sherman

There is common ground here if we all embrace, accept the difference between

- Narrative stats (tell a story)
- Qualitative stats (determine value)
- Predictive stats (indicate future performance)

There is room in baseball conversation and coverage for all these things.

Bote Man Posted: September 17, 2018 at 09:05 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: statistics

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   1. Bote Man Posted: September 17, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5745692)
   2. dlf Posted: September 17, 2018 at 02:12 PM (#5745729)
Posnanski had a reply to Sherman's article that I believe is not behind the paywall: Link.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 17, 2018 at 02:13 PM (#5745732)
Too many treat those who speak the old language like fools, not appreciating that they’re loyal fans who either are resistant to or not capable of embracing new metrics.
Saying "look, I don't really understand the new metrics, so I'm not capable of embracing them" is one thing. Being actively resistant is quite another.
   4. McCoy Posted: September 17, 2018 at 04:31 PM (#5745885)
No baseball fan nowadays wants to regale you with a vaudevillian like story of a player. What they want to do is to tell you that this player or that or this team or that is good or bad. When you do that it is a measurable thing. In days of old they would tell you this player or that is good or bad based on batting average and RBI. Realizing those aren’t good ways of measuring players and teams didn’t kill baseball off.

Secondly he next generation loves numbers, trivia, and stats. They love to be able to google something to find out if it is true or false. It is the old dinosaurs that refuse to learn new things or accept new ideas that is dying off and they are dying off because they are getting old.
   5. Bote Man Posted: September 17, 2018 at 05:08 PM (#5745910)
   6. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: September 17, 2018 at 05:25 PM (#5745916)
Too many treat those who speak the old language like fools, not appreciating that they’re loyal fans who either are resistant to or not capable of embracing new metrics. Plus, the new metrics can often go backward, like someone can lose WAR during the course of the season. If someone reached 100 RBIs, they had 100 RBIs. Period. Or 20 wins. But someone could get to 5 WAR and then go backward or have a 125 in weighted runs created plus and fall back, etc. It is hard to celebrate when it can go away. And fans want to celebrate accomplishments in real time by their favorites.



A lot to unpack there but ERA goes up and BA goes down. That's a pretty weak ass argument against WRC and WAR. Also, if you can understand the concept of relative value (without knowing how linear weights work in baseball or the math behind it) you can understand WAR. There should hardly be anybody "not capable" of embracing new metrics.

I do believe that three true outcomes are hurting baseball, but that's a different part of the stats revolution. If you want more MLB players that are 230/300/450 types to go back to being 280/330/370 types you gotta reward them somehow. The lines are about equal in impact but is it even possible for most guys to hit 280, even with a reduction in power, against today's bullpen heavy, power pitchers? Seems to me like "take and rake" is a pretty natural response to increased velocity. You're gonna strikeout a lot anyways, might as well swing hard and try and work deep counts.

This is above my pay grade. I would start with lowering the mound slightly and possibly regulating equipment. No skilled IF is going to suddenly go to a 13" glove but I'm not sure your CF needs one.
   7. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 17, 2018 at 05:32 PM (#5745924)
If someone reached 100 RBIs, they had 100 RBIs. Period. Or 20 wins. But someone could get to 5 WAR and then go backward or have a 125 in weighted runs created plus and fall back, etc

ummmm...someone could be hitting .310 for most of the season and end up at .294
   8. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 17, 2018 at 05:42 PM (#5745930)
Sherman - Lack Of Onions On Belts Is Killing The Next Generation Of MLB Fans
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 17, 2018 at 06:20 PM (#5745962)
He's got the right disease, but he's identified the wrong transmission mechanism.

Advanced stats aren't ruining baseball b/c they turn off the casual fan, they're running baseball because they've altered team behavior. The advanced stats have shown that the optimal approach (under the current rules and conditions) is a bastardized, boring form of baseball, focusing on K's, HRs, and shortening pitchers' appearances.

It needs to be fixed, but you can't do it by banning stats. You do it by changing the rules/conditions, as we've discussed 100 times.

Deaden the ball, lower and/or push back the mound, reduce glove size, and strictly limit the number of pitchers on a roster.
   10. Batman Posted: September 17, 2018 at 06:30 PM (#5745971)
I remember the White Sox winning their first two games of the season, so their winning percentage must be well over 1.000 by now. Better order my playoff tickets.
   11. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: September 17, 2018 at 06:50 PM (#5745983)
I remember the White Sox winning their first two games of the season, so their winning percentage must be well over 1.000 by now. Better order my playoff tickets.


I believe at one stage the Mets! were 9-1, obviously after 150 games they are now 135-15, get those World Series addition hats ready!

Snapper has nailed it here. Teams have simply done what is best for them to be competitive...and that makes for rather boring baseball. Less time between pitches, more balls in play are the simple solutions. We have discussed how to proceed with this on numerous occasions without changing the integrity of the game.

   12. Leroy Kincaid Posted: September 17, 2018 at 08:29 PM (#5746045)
A lot to unpack there but ERA goes up and BA goes down.


You can't explain that.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 17, 2018 at 08:42 PM (#5746050)
Less time between pitches, more balls in play are the simple solutions. We have discussed how to proceed with this on numerous occasions without changing the integrity of the game.
Unfortunately, all the proposed solutions implicitly start with "1. Manfred grows a pair."
   14. Walt Davis Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:56 AM (#5746258)
In mild defense of Sherman, rbi and wins are counting stats so comping them to rate stats like ba misses his point. WAR and wRC are also "counting" stats yet war can go down (not 100% sure about wRC but I assume so given the w). Technically that's about the zero point and gets back to Bill James's argument that no player produces genuinely negative value.
   15. QLE Posted: September 18, 2018 at 05:24 AM (#5746263)
Unfortunately, all the proposed solutions implicitly start with "1. Manfred grows a pair."


It further doesn't help that they are all also followed by "2. Manfred has any interest in good ideas, instead of just bad ones."
   16. BDC Posted: September 18, 2018 at 08:53 AM (#5746289)
Bill James's argument that no player produces genuinely negative value


When Bill James made that argument, he had not yet seen the reserve outfielders for the 2018 Texas Rangers.
   17. puck Posted: September 18, 2018 at 10:14 AM (#5746337)

When Bill James made that argument, he had not yet seen the reserve outfielders for the 2018 Texas Rangers.


I was going to write "but he had seen Omar Moreno," but dang, peak Omar Moreno had 2.9 WAR. 10 rbaser runs and some fielding runs.

I guess I never considered what's a lot of baserunning runs but double figures is as lot. Rickey Henderson had 18 in 1985. Willie Wilson had 18 in 1979. Ty Cobb peaked at 11, huh.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: September 18, 2018 at 10:24 AM (#5746345)
Cobb's 11 seems questionable. Baserunning was such a larger part of the game back then, and with many more errors, and lower run environment incentivizing risk-taking, and shoddy scorekeeping, you have to assume that the statistic doesn't cover everything. Although I suppose it's possible that he ran into so many outs that he gave a ton back.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 18, 2018 at 10:41 AM (#5746362)
Cobb's 11 seems questionable. Baserunning was such a larger part of the game back then, and with many more errors, and lower run environment incentivizing risk-taking, and shoddy scorekeeping, you have to assume that the statistic doesn't cover everything. Although I suppose it's possible that he ran into so many outs that he gave a ton back.

I would also guess that a ton of his baserunning value is going to show up as power; stretching singles to doubles, doubles to triples.
   20. villageidiom Posted: September 18, 2018 at 12:53 PM (#5746544)
Advanced stats aren't ruining baseball b/c they turn off the casual fan, they're running baseball because they've altered team behavior. The advanced stats have shown that the optimal approach (under the current rules and conditions) is a bastardized, boring form of baseball, focusing on K's, HRs, and shortening pitchers' appearances.
When would you say baseball was not boring? Because MLB has been focusing on Ks, HRs, and shortening pitchers' appearances for at least 3 decades, if not 10.

I suspect, but cannot confirm, that our perceptions of baseball being boring are a combination of the following two factors:

1. Dead time.

2. How well our favorite team is doing.

We've gone into plenty of discussion on the first point, and there's near universal agreement that it's a bigger problem than it was a decade ago, which in turn was a bigger problem than the decade before. So I'm going to set that aside.

I follow the Red Sox, and I find baseball to be awesome. I can't fathom a world in which I could watch Mookie Betts every day and somehow think baseball is boring. I can't fathom a world in which front offices have started valuing defense and putting positively electric defensive players out there on a daily basis, and somehow think baseball is boring.

At the same time we can lament shifts and launch angles and teams figuring out an optimal approach, we have the A's again building a contender seemingly out of nothing, or the Rays completely changing how a pitching staff is managed. The game is full of changes in approach, each set of conditions prompting an optimal solution, which in turn prompts a change to the conditions, each move seeking to shift the advantage away from the rest of the league. The more shifting that takes place throughout the league, the more a team stands to gain from a focus on shift-busting. I mean, we know that's coming, and it'll be damn exciting when it happens.

If my favorite team were in last place, or out of the hunt since July, or on a pace for 99 wins but 10+ games out of first place, maybe I'd be less enamored with the way the game is played. Maybe I'd even be bored. But there's PLENTY to be excited about in MLB.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5746557)
When would you say baseball was not boring? Because MLB has been focusing on Ks, HRs, and shortening pitchers' appearances for at least 3 decades, if not 10.

Note: I'm only saying it's boring to watch live. I still find the sport very interesting.

It hit the wall for me in the 2004-2008 range. I liked watching baseball from ~1975-2003. I didn't aesthetically love the high scoring of the silly ball era, but the games were fun in their own way.

I got turned off to the Yankees with the procession of stupid, hired gun FA signings (Sheffield, Brown, Randy Johnson), and tuned them out from the beginning of the 2004 season (thank God I didn't watch a minute of the ALCS disaster) until the 2009 team. When I tuned back in, I found I had a terrible time watching a full game. At best I could have it on as background noise.
   22. Sweatpants Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:04 PM (#5746565)
I don't think that we have play-by-play for Cobb's prime, so the estimates for his baserunning value are less precise than those for Henderson and Moreno.
   23. Batman Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:13 PM (#5746575)
Baseball just needs more players named Mookie.
   24. dlf Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:22 PM (#5746584)
I suspect, but cannot confirm, that our perceptions of baseball being boring are a combination of the following two factors:


I'd add a third: nothing is ever going to be as exciting now as it was when you were first aware of it. When I was 19, I over-indulged in drinking, often to the point of stupidity, while planning days and college schedules around the ability to drink more and more often. Now that I'm 50, I enjoy a nice cocktail or glass of wine occasionally but almost never make plans around it. When I was 13, I obsessed about baseball, the cards, the statistics, playing and, when possible, going to see the nearest team. Now that I'm 50, I enjoy watching on tv when I can, and go to see MiLB games, but couldn't tell you who is leading the league in any stat, haven't had a card in decades, and haven't penciled alternative lineups and trade alternatives into my notebooks since the 70s.

I'm going to guess that the average age of the posters here is closer to AARP than Single A.
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5746592)
I'd add a third: nothing is ever going to be as exciting now as it was when you were first aware of it.

Maybe. But I'm comparing 47 y.o. me to 32 y.o. me, not 13 y.o. me. Usually old guys are the biggest fans because they have time to watch.

When I was 32 I was spending a lot more time on dates, going out with friends, etc. Now, I'm home 6 nights out of 7, but still don't find baseball a compelling viewing option.
   26. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 18, 2018 at 01:43 PM (#5746612)

Maybe. But I'm comparing 47 y.o. me to 32 y.o. me, not 13 y.o. me. Usually old guys are the biggest fans because they have time to watch.

My 33 to 39 year old me watched about 20 to 25 games a year in person, while my 70 to 74 year old me may make it to 1 or 2 games a year when the Orioles are competitive.

But my 33 to 39 year old me watched about 20 more regular season games on TV, while my 70 to 74 year old me has watched well over 100 a year. And it would be more than that if I didn't live in the Eastern time zone.

Bottom line for me is that good baseball teams are fun to watch, but bad baseball teams are unwatchable. And baseball on TV or streamed is an infinitely better value these days than baseball in person, especially when you factor in the time to and from the ballpark.
   27. JAHV Posted: September 18, 2018 at 06:36 PM (#5746888)
I just explained the concept of WAR to my 8- and 10-year-old sons this last weekend. They seemed to grasp the concept pretty well and it led them down a new way of looking at players.

I think stats are more interesting than ever, but I agree with snapper that using those stats to optimize roster-building has led to a more boring game. Three true outcomes baseball is not aesthetically pleasing baseball to me.
   28. Howie Menckel Posted: September 18, 2018 at 09:12 PM (#5747007)
I believe at one stage the Mets! were 9-1

yes. then they won their next two games as well.

then they went on a 33-62 stretch.

since then, 26-17.
   29. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 18, 2018 at 10:18 PM (#5747057)
So, except for that 95-game stretch, the Mets had a really strong season.
   30. JL72 Posted: September 19, 2018 at 12:02 PM (#5747350)
I liked watching baseball from ~1975-2003.


I enjoyed the 1980s because of (what I perceived at the time to be) the multiple approaches teams would take to win. The Royals and Cardinals with their emphasis on speed and base-running appeared very different to teams like the Tigers who hit many more homeruns. Not sure it was as stark as I thought as a kid, but definitely something I would like to see return. Just not sure how to do it.

   31. Master of the Horse Posted: September 19, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5747376)
Bill Simmons talks about how baseball stats have ruined having baseball arguments as a fan because everything is solved. Along with the pace of play he says this is the reason he only follows the Red Sox and stopped following the rest of baseball. Simmons is hugely successful so I don't want this to read like I am taking petty shots, but when he spoke his comments were understood by me as something like hey I used to make dumb arguments and nobody could really prove me wrong and now they can prove me wrong so I have to make good arguments and that is a lot of work so #### it and #### baseball.
   32. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 19, 2018 at 01:16 PM (#5747428)
Just not sure how to do it.

Bring back AstroTurf fields. Not today's "artificial surfaces" where black rubber (?) pellets go flying with each step but the carpeted concrete fields where fly balls would often bounce over outfielders' heads. That puts a premium on fast outfielders to cut off singles before they scoot to the wall and become triples.
   33. JL72 Posted: September 19, 2018 at 02:03 PM (#5747482)
Bring back AstroTurf fields. Not today's "artificial surfaces" where black rubber (?) pellets go flying with each step but the carpeted concrete fields where fly balls would often bounce over outfielders' heads. That puts a premium on fast outfielders to cut off singles before they scoot to the wall and become triples.


Perhaps I should have said "Just not sure how to do it in a way that would be accepted." Because while of course you are right, the harshness of those old-style "artificial surfaces" means they are almost certainly never coming back.

But could you create one that provides the give for the players legs, while still adding speed to bouncing balls? That would be interesting.
   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 19, 2018 at 02:38 PM (#5747530)
Because while of course you are right, the harshness of those old-style "artificial surfaces" means they are almost certainly never coming back.
That and, since we're talking about aesthetics here, which would be uglier: TTO baseball, or the return of a bunch of artificial turf parks? I think I'd say the latter.

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