Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, March 14, 2013

S.I.: McCarthy: A stathead reconsiders his position on chemistry

Somehow all of these players found more comfort and adapted to Oakland better than anyone expected. A welcoming environment may have made that easier, even if it wasn’t worth nearly as much as McCarthy suggests, or as much as general manager Billy Beane’s modernized Moneyball methods may have contributed.

On the other side of the coin, it’s worth noting that the sabermetrically-minded Red Sox, who spent last season in turmoil under one-and-done manager Bobby Valentine, and who were reputed to have clubhouse problems that carried over from their 2011 collapse, signed Gomes to a two-year deal based not only on his productivity but his reputation as a clubhouse leader. The Diamondbacks’ trade of Justin Upton to the Braves brought back Martin Prado, who has earned a similarly strong reputation in Atlanta and was particularly targeted as the type of player Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson wanted. Granted, I’m among those who scoffed at that deal, but that’s more because of Upton’s tremendous upside and the way that he’s been handled than a judgement on Prado’s value off the field as well as on.

I’m not suggesting that I’m about to trade in my Baseball Abstracts and Excel spreadsheets anytime soon, and I don’t suggest any other stat-minded fans should, either. I’m not going to claim that Miguel Cabrera’s intangibles were enough to outweigh Mike Trout’s tremendous WAR(P) advantage when it came to the AL MVP race, nor am I likely to pick the A’s or Diamondbacks to win their divisions due to harmonious clubhouses.

Even so, amid the tiresomely polarizing war on WAR, I do think it’s important to reiterate the idea that there’s a difference between saying something intangible can’t be quantified versus saying that said intangible has no value. The next time I hear a player talking about good chemistry, instead of waving my hand dismissively, I’ll hope that he’s up to the task of elaborating with insight as to why it might exist.

Thanks to Condo Arlik.

Repoz Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:33 PM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:36 PM (#4388497)
Somehow all of these players found more comfort and adapted to Oakland better than anyone expected. A welcoming environment may have made that easier, even if it wasn’t worth nearly as much as McCarthy suggests, or as much as general manager Billy Beane’s modernized Moneyball methods may have contributed.

There was a long series of players going to Oakland and sucking eggs before 2012; I don't think thy have any secret sauce.
   2. Spectral Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4388501)
The next time I hear a player talking about good chemistry, instead of waving my hand dismissively, I’ll hope that he’s up to the task of elaborating with insight as to why it might exist.


Is the dismissive wave of the hand a common approach in some circles? I haven't really observed it to be the case. When players are reasonably close in value, I'll take the player that's not a pain in the butt. I think the only time I handwave away a player's chemistry value is when the player's actively bad at major league baseball; all the good guyness in the world won't overcome a 5.50 ERA.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:44 PM (#4388502)
But I thought statheads cared about chemistry. I saw "Moneyball", and Billy Beane traded away a good young player in Jeremy Giambi because he was dancing in the clubhouse after a loss. Then Beane drove around in circles. A lot.
   4. Select Storage Device Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:52 PM (#4388506)
Has a losing team ever had "good chemistry?"
   5. bfan Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:54 PM (#4388507)
But don't we have to distinguish the effects of chemistry? If there is good chemistry in the clubhouse which leads to, for example, less sulking and more enthusiastic preparation for games, in the pre-game routine, then all of that shows up in better stats (so Michael Bourne hits .280 in Atlanta for the season, where there is a reason to try and good examples, instead of .265 in Houston, where there is nothing to play for and no role models). That doesn't lead to more wins when compared to the stats in front of us; it just leads to more wins, which is perfectly explainable by the stats in front of us.

But saying that a team's chemistry is helpful, without identifying what it translate into, is much more difficult. Are you a more efficient team (winning more games because you like each other, even when the stats do not support that kind oif success) because of good chemistry? I find that one harder to take.
   6. Swedish Chef Posted: March 14, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4388511)
I find it hard to believe that baseball would be the only place where the work environment doesn't contribute to results.
   7. DL from MN Posted: March 14, 2013 at 06:05 PM (#4388513)
Has a losing team ever had "good chemistry?"


My softball team seems to get along pretty well.
   8. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 14, 2013 at 06:05 PM (#4388514)
I firmly believe that the general emphasis on a positive environment under Joe Maddon and the way he handles his players is a factor in the success of the Rays these past five seasons. I have no idea exactly how much it is worth but I think there is something there.
   9. BDC Posted: March 14, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4388517)
As so often, much of this comes down to words. A player's attitude makes a heck of a lot of difference, as everybody from Bill James to Billy Beane ("put a Milo on him") to the vast majority of Primates would readily acknowledge. "Chemistry" connotes, however, a special blend of circumstances and personalities that is "emergent," more than the sum of its parts. Hence the suggestion that Inge and Gomes, two highly generic players at this point in their careers, galvanized the Oakland team in a way that two near-identical but non-chemical guys wouldn't have. It's not only very hard to quantify such chemistry, it's impossible to predict or to replicate it in ways you can with, say, an individual player's slugging percentage.

I'm not skeptical of the "chemistry" argument because it's intangible, I'm skeptical because it's unnecessary. The A's finished two games ahead of their "Pythag." They didn't look to me like a bunch that pulled games out of a hat with dazzling synergy; they looked to me like a team that had fine pitching and defense and added some hitting to match in the second half of the season. The "chemistry" argument in its strongest form (as TFA explores) is that players like Carter and Moss and Cespedes wouldn't have achieved their highly tangible good hitting if Gomes and Inge hadn't been around as catalysts. I don't know how you'd check that. Both Gomes and Inge had been on some good teams and bad teams before, and never seemed to contribute 10 wins apiece to other players' production; or is it that they combined like the perfect binary reagents to add 20 wins as teammates when they'd never added much as individuals? Saying that a team was good because its good players played well seems to require few further explanations.
   10. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 14, 2013 at 06:40 PM (#4388528)
Re chemistry, I adopt the position of Joe Sheehan in a recent newsletter of his:

Despite the best efforts of people in the game to create an aura of mystery, baseball is a fairly simple system. Players do things that create or prevent runs, runs are the building blocks of wins -- in a generally predictable relationship -- and wins are the coin of the realm. For all the concern about soft factors like chemistry or clutch or leadership, a century of baseball games have taught us what is important to winning. If those factors distorted the relationships between performance and runs, between runs and wins, those distortions would show up in the record. (The arguments those factors they have distorted them are all post facto -- "The Orioles' great chemistry is why they won 90 games," and the like -- and generally get causation wrong.)

That's not to say that we can know everything, but that what isn't known is generally not known to anyone, be it inside the game or out.

If you're using the right tools to evaluate performance... you can get a pretty good handle on what a player['s] value is. Know a player's value, and everything flows from there. You have to be able to tune out the stuff that isn't calculable, not because it doesn't matter, but because no one can say what it means to a baseball team. Maybe Michael Young is a super leader...but what does that add? A win? Five wins? 20 wins? This stuff just gets asserted, and the assertions are meaningless. Use data. Use evidence. There's plenty of it out there.
   11. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 14, 2013 at 06:44 PM (#4388531)
If those factors distorted the relationships between performance and runs, between runs and wins, those distortions would show up in the record.

Chemistry would "distort" the relationship between talent and performance; therefore Sheehan is looking in the wrong place.
   12. Swedish Chef Posted: March 14, 2013 at 07:12 PM (#4388546)
Saying that a team was good because its good players played well seems to require few further explanations.

There's a practical question that teams ask: How do you get the most out of the good players that you have?
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: March 14, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4388557)

I find the debate about good chemistry/bad chemistry is pretty ill-defined. Good chemistry is the kind that leads more players on a club to play at or near their best. Bad chemistry is an environment where more players don't do that. Whether they get along is beside the point.

Folks point to the '70s A's and Yankees as counter-examples. But do we know that the chaotic clubhouse environments didn't help bring out the best in the individuals on those teams (or at least a majority of them)? That that collection of individuals that made up the Mustache Gang and the Bronx Zoo didn't actually thrive on the fights and rancor and controversy.

Similarly, if everyone gets along swimmingly, and the team's players all play below expectations , then I'd say that wasn't good chemistry. That was bad chemistry.

The trouble, as Sheehan points to, is that detecting this (either before or after) is generally impossible. We don't know what kind of atmosphere will lead the various individuals to perform at their best (in most cases, it's probably a wash - either because it's simply inert or because the atmosphere works well for some guys and not as well for others). Additionally, we can't really know if the individuals performed at their peaks because of the good chemistry or in spite of bad chemistry. Thus, while I believe that it exists and can have an effect on performance, I also believe that trying to produce good chemistry in advance is largely a fool's errand, and attributing past performance to it is a rationalization that generally isn't supported by evidence.

   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 14, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4388558)
#5 hits the nail on the head. What/how would "chemistry" contribute to winning that wouldn't show up in the data somewhere?
   15. Greg K Posted: March 14, 2013 at 07:48 PM (#4388566)
Chemistry's problem is that it is everywhere and yet nowhere, known and yet unknowable.

Or maybe that's masculinity, I always get them mixed up.
   16. JE (Jason) Posted: March 14, 2013 at 07:50 PM (#4388567)
I don't doubt that McCarthy believes that Gomes and Inge strengthened the clubhouse environment in Oakland, but let's remember too that he is now on a team that a clear majority of so-called "statheads" think its front office has its collective head up its ass.

EDIT:
My softball team seems to get along pretty well.

Win or lose, someone on our team is usually yelling at someone else and vice-versa on our team during the game. (And win or lose, afterward all is forgotten and we head to Boeeymonger's for brunch.)
   17. vivaelpujols Posted: March 14, 2013 at 07:55 PM (#4388570)
interesting that good chemistry is always correlated with success. It must really be important!
   18. Dale Sams Posted: March 14, 2013 at 08:20 PM (#4388585)
Kind of related...I absolutely believe it is possible for a player to perform below his true level because he 'doesn't believe in himself' or believes others that tell him so.

I know that sounds like new age bs...but..there ya go.
   19. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 14, 2013 at 09:25 PM (#4388619)
#5 hits the nail on the head. What/how would "chemistry" contribute to winning that wouldn't show up in the data somewhere?

I know I'm repeating a point others have already made, and I'm not saying I buy into this argument, but the argument is that team "chemistry" leads to better individual performances. It will show up in the "data", but credit won't necessarily be apportioned appropriately, and it will look like all your players just had great years. Then you'll trade Inge and Gomes and wonder why your previously shitty players went back to being shitty, and you'll say you were just unlucky. Arguing that we know why the A's were so good--because their guys played well--is ignoring the question of *why* they played well.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 14, 2013 at 09:30 PM (#4388622)
#19,

Fair point - but then couldn't we look to see if there was a pattern of certain players bringing their chemistry goodness (as opposed to their chemical goodness - we've seen how that turns out) to different teams and showing a pattern of other players having better years as their teammates? Obviously you couldn't show causation, but it seems like there should be some measurable correlation. You could even look for interaction effects with different combinations of players.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: March 14, 2013 at 09:33 PM (#4388625)

Well, I don't think that the Red Sox in Francona's last days missed the playoffa due to a series of random results.

When the wheels fall off - they fall off hard, and players do 'quit' to a certain extent. I've seen it firsthand.

The harder thing to claim is the "we get along well, and it makes us outperform."

It's sort of like "clutch" - there are individual players who can't handle a big spot, so having fewer of those players helps your cause. So if you can stand still while the other team goes backwards - that's chemistry, sort of...

   22. cardsfanboy Posted: March 14, 2013 at 09:42 PM (#4388635)
Fair point - but then couldn't we look to see if there was a pattern of certain players bringing their chemistry goodness (as opposed to their chemical goodness - we've seen how that turns out) to different teams and showing a pattern of other players having better years as their teammates? Obviously you couldn't show causation, but it seems like there should be some measurable correlation. You could even look for interaction effects with different combinations of players


Didn't someone once look at Rikcey Henderson for this affect and find that when he comes to a team that some players improve their obp skills?

I'm not sure Rickey had a good reputation as a provider of positive chemistry.
   23. Moeball Posted: March 14, 2013 at 11:08 PM (#4388727)
Obviously, when we go to work each day, the day goes much better and is more productive if the people we are working with are friendly and helpful. When you absolutely cannot stand the people you are working with...well, that's when it becomes tough to go to work each day and it generally means it's time to look for a better job somewhere else. So I get the idea that good chemistry in a workplace has tangible, measurable benefits.

That being said - I have worked for small businesses where, like it or not, the lifeblood of the business was the CEO or top sales rep - the person who was bringing the $$ in that pay everyone else. Sometimes, that person was a total jerk and almost everyone at the company despised them - but it was so obvious that they were exceptional in their particular skill set - somehow making $$ come in the door - that they were an absolute necessity for the survival of the company. So, everyone put up with them. Call it the Barry Bonds factor, I guess.

As far as the world of sports goes, I can see how you might be able to tangibly measure good or bad chemistry in certain instances. The best examples I can think of are probably someone like Wayne Gretzky in hockey or Magic Johnson in basketball, maybe Lionel Messi in soccer, too. Players who don't just distribute the scoring around the team - they essentially distribute the credit for the team's success as well. There's more of a focus on "you can help contribute to the team's success" and a whole lot less "me, me, me, it's all about me". The net effect often seems to be teams playing better than they originally thought they were capable of, or the whole seemingly being greater than the sum of the parts.

I think baseball is different because of the nature of the game. It's basically one-on-one, all the time, every play. Pitcher vs. batter. I think this leads to more importance being placed on the individual and less reliance on the team aspect. Yes, fielders need to work together to help out the pitcher, and sometimes batters must work in tandem with baserunners to help create runs. But the sport is much more driven by individual performance than other team sports so I don't think the "chemistry" aspect comes into play nearly as much as other sports.

Has a losing team ever had "good chemistry?"


The Padres have pretty happy clubhouses year after year after year. You almost never hear about any dissension or fights.

Similarly, if everyone gets along swimmingly, and the team's players all play below expectations , then I'd say that wasn't good chemistry. That was bad chemistry.


Maybe the expectations aren't realistic. Maybe everyone is trying to help everyone else play at their best, and maybe the players really are putting forth their best effort - but maybe the team just isn't that good to start with. Sometimes the talent just isn't there.
   24. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 14, 2013 at 11:19 PM (#4388731)

Has a losing team ever had "good chemistry?"


The Royals last year were cited as having great chemistry, and went 72-90. Francoeur contributed to both.
   25. SoSH U at work Posted: March 14, 2013 at 11:42 PM (#4388743)
Maybe the expectations aren't realistic. Maybe everyone is trying to help everyone else play at their best, and maybe the players really are putting forth their best effort - but maybe the team just isn't that good to start with. Sometimes the talent just isn't there.


I'm not talking about records - talent will determine that, by and large. I'm talking about work environment and it's effect on individual performance (as measured by projected performance, not compared to individuals from other teams), and how the sum of those individual performances affect the overall results from the team. The Houston Astros could have great chemistry this year. It won't stop them from stinking. In their case, it would mean they stink a little less than expected this year.

Every lockerroom/clubhouse (workplace) has a chemistry. But that chemistry is only good or bad in how it affects the individuals on the team (and as I said, in most cases it's probably neutral or has positive and negative effects in near equal measure).

But its affect on performance is what defines its goodness or badness, not our perception of how well the players get along. There's no hard and fast rule that getting along = good results, which is I think a flaw in most of these discussions. It depends on the personalities within. Despite being constantly embroiled in chaos, the '70s A's and Yankees were quite successful. They may well have had great chemistry, if those roiling environments were conducive to more of their players playing near their best. It's also possible that they had legitimately terrible chemistry, but were so damn talented they were able to overcome it anyway. We really have no way of knowing.

But it's true that some people like stability and getting along with minimal fuss and need that to perform at their best, while others might need an atmosphere with an edge to do the same. The buttondown approach that seemed to characterize the Braves teams that won 143 straight division titles under Bobby Cox was likely (but, even then, that's just speculative) good chemistry for that group of players. Make a few changes to the personalities in that situation and that work environment may produce less impressive results. It's very difficult to predict (I'd say impossible, but in situations of tremendous stability like you had in Atlanta, you may be able to get a feel for how things will shake out).

Moreover, there are probably plenty of athletes where it really doesn't matter. They're going to perform at their expected level (give or take normal variance) regardless of the environment around them.

To me, good chemistry is simply an environment where more performers play at or near their peak level. Bad chemistry is when few do. That's it. That they like to play cards and send each other Christmas cards may happen more frequently on good chemistry teams, but it's not what defines good chemistry, at least as I see it.

   26. Howie Menckel Posted: March 14, 2013 at 11:56 PM (#4388744)
fyi,

The most charismatic athlete I've ever dealt with, in terms of how clearly you can picture him getting teammates to be willing to walk through a wall as needed - was Mark Messier.

It would not be unfair to place a "park factor" adjustment given the intensity of hockey.

But he would still win.

   27. Walt Davis Posted: March 15, 2013 at 01:25 AM (#4388760)
it’s worth noting that the sabermetrically-minded Red Sox, who spent last season in turmoil under one-and-done manager Bobby Valentine

Oh for f's sake, is sabermetrics getting blamed for Valentine now?

Every lockerroom/clubhouse (workplace) has a chemistry.

I'd say this is wrong and it showcases one of the challenges with "chemistry." Every locker room/clubhouse (workplace) has SEVERAL "chemistries." Whether it's Latin (or southern or Christian or whatever) players hanging together; whether it's the wacky bullpen culture; whether it's the fact that some guys will respond positively to a hard ass like Billy Martin and some won't. Heck I can imagine that Palmeiro sleeping with Sandberg's wife wasn't good for chemistry but it had nothing to do with team chemistry and how is a manager or a stat model gonna control for Cindy Sandberg?

Players aren't necessarily any better than fans. Everybody loves the star player when things are going good, as soon as things turn the star gets the blame. Everybody loves having the hard ass on the team when he's playing well, nobody wants him around when he's not.

Of course sometimes you hit on the right combo and the whole is greater than the sum ... and you bring back the same players the next year and you are introduced to the plexiglass principle.

   28. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2013 at 02:03 AM (#4388769)

Oh for f's sake, is sabermetrics getting blamed for Valentine now?


We had a thread last year where Bobby V chimed in on about his love for the advanced metrics. When I expressed some skepticism about how meaningful that really was for a manager, I received quite the Primer shaming. So yeah, he's got to be stathead sympathetic for at least a little while.

Every locker room/clubhouse (workplace) has SEVERAL "chemistries." Whether it's Latin (or southern or Christian or whatever) players hanging together; whether it's the wacky bullpen culture; whether it's the fact that some guys will respond positively to a hard ass like Billy Martin and some won't.


And I wouldn't disagree with that. I'd say that all of these various forces combine to create the team's chemistry. As I've said, in most cases, it's usually either a nonfactor or has both positive and negative effects (which is ultimately the same thing), depending on the disparate individuals that populate a clubhouse. Occasionally, you'll find a clubhouse mix and atmosphere that results in better performances (the 'right combo where the whole is greater than the sum'), and occasionally you'll find the wrong combo that sucks the performance out of everyone. But it is neither predictable, or as you note, necessarily repeatable. But ultimately, I do believe the environment within the clubhouse (just as the case with any other workplace) can affect productivity.


   29. Publius Publicola Posted: March 15, 2013 at 08:33 AM (#4388808)
I think baseball is different because of the nature of the game. It's basically one-on-one, all the time, every play. Pitcher vs. batter. I think this leads to more importance being placed on the individual and less reliance on the team aspect. Yes, fielders need to work together to help out the pitcher, and sometimes batters must work in tandem with baserunners to help create runs. But the sport is much more driven by individual performance than other team sports so I don't think the "chemistry" aspect comes into play nearly as much as other sports.



Well, there's two aspects to this. There's the onfield stuff that is visible and can be measured, like bunting a guy over, taking s trike when you know a steal is on, hitting the cutoff man, pitcher/catcher dynamics. But there's also the off-the-field stuuf, like hitting the weight room, not carousing, being mentally prepared. Baseball is such a mental game, a player has to be in control of his emotions. If the players are all ####### around, not paying attention to their conditioning, not making mental notes of their failures so they correct them later, grousing all the time to teammates about how the manager hates them or doesn't know #### or isn't starting so-and-so instead of so-and-so, or complaining about the pitching coach and how he's trying to ruin their arm during a contract year, it eats at a team over the long haul of the season. They start focusing on stuff not related to getting the job done on the field. They are distracted at the plate, where any distraction at all is fatal to performing well. They forget to execute signals from the dugout. Slumps begin to settle in.

These things are refractory to objectification. When a guy has a bad year, the statheads are not well equipped to identify why they had a bad year, if the reason is not due to injury. Sure, through zone charts you can say he had trouble picking up the low and away breaking pitch. But you can't describe why he had trouble in that area. A lot of this spills into the area of politics, of interpersonal skills. And politics is an art, not a science.

As an aside, I'm amused that Ray is again handwaving away the chemistry angle, after virtually everyone on this board predicted the 2011 Red Sox collapse by the middle of September except him. You have to give him credit for one thing. Once he makes up his mind about something, it remains made up no matter how much countervailing evidence is dropped on his head.
   30. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 15, 2013 at 08:42 AM (#4388812)
Has a losing team ever had "good chemistry?


Everyone likes to win, so winning teams have little friction between players that like to win and players that need to win. On a losing team, the players that need to win will clearly be frustrated by the players that merely like to win, but don't give every ounce of effort to do so. It seems pretty simple to me.
   31. Sean Forman Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:20 AM (#4388820)
The question to me is whether this is entirely after the fact justification of unexpected the results that are random variance or is it actually meaningful.

One way to get at this, would be to have the beat writers covering the team fill out surveys (monthly?) regarding 1) the quality of the management of the players by the team staff, 2) the clubhouse mood and environment and 3) the identity of particular good and bad actors on the team.

That would give us a lot of evidence whether this is after the fact bs, or meaningful observations.
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:23 AM (#4388822)
As an aside, I'm amused that Ray is again handwaving away the chemistry angle, after virtually everyone on this board predicted the 2011 Red Sox collapse by the middle of September except him.

But....you don't understand....coolstandings.com said it was OVER!!!
   33. Howie Menckel Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:31 AM (#4388828)

"One way to get at this, would be to have the beat writers covering the team fill out surveys (monthly?)"

I once had a boss whose claim to fame/infamy was to be the only 1969 Mets bets guy who never caught on to the whole Miracle thing. He was the only one surprised, it was said, when the Mets knocked off the unbeatable Orioles in the World Series that year.

   34. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:32 AM (#4388829)
The question to me is whether this is entirely after the fact justification of unexpected the results that are random variance or is it actually meaningful.

One way to get at this, would be to have the beat writers covering the team fill out surveys (monthly?) regarding 1) the quality of the management of the players by the team staff, 2) the clubhouse mood and environment and 3) the identity of particular good and bad actors on the team.

That would give us a lot of evidence whether this is after the fact bs, or meaningful observations.


That'd be a good idea, until the writer started naming those good and bad actors and started becoming part of the story himself. It'd probably be better if the beat writer were going to be reassigned to another beat the next season.

But if you could relate those findings to teams that outperformed or underperformed preseason expectations, taking injuries and unexpected contributions from rookies and midseason acquisitions into consideration, you might be onto something.
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4388832)
I once had a boss whose claim to fame/infamy was to be the only 1969 Mets bets guy who never caught on to the whole Miracle thing. He was the only one surprised, it was said, when the Mets knocked off the unbeatable Orioles in the World Series that year.

Given the number of young power pitchers the Mets had that the Orioles were seeing for the first time, I don't see where it required hindsight to suspect that the Orioles were a huge overlay in that Series. The 1969 Orioles also had great team chemistry, but chemistry didn't provide them a way to hit Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry.
   36. tfbg9 Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4388874)
Orioles were a huge overlay in that Series.


Not to nitpick, but you have your gambling terms wrong here. The O's were an underlay, or a bad favorite, that's what you're trying to say.
The Mets were the overlay in the 1969 WS. You're suggesting, and correctly I think, that the real chances of the Mets winning were a good deal greater
than what linesmakers set them at.

Hell, I mean, perhaps I'm wrong, but one might be inclined to think that a "former pool hustler" would know basic gambling language.
   37. Howie Menckel Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:21 AM (#4388891)

hilarious typo

"the only 1969 Mets bets guy" was supposed to be "the only 1969 Mets BEAT guy"

#pagingdrfreud
   38. BDC Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4388893)
As a casual horseplayer, I've run into diametrically opposite definitions of "overlay" and "underlay" in common parlance. My instinct is to say that "overlay" is often used for a horse that has had too much money bet on it (hence the Orioles in '69 would indeed qualify), but yes, I've seen it used the other way too, and both ways with "underlay" as well.
   39. tfbg9 Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4388897)
As a casual horseplayer, I've run into diametrically opposite definitions of "overlay" and "underlay" in common parlance. My instinct is to say that "overlay" is often used for a horse that has had too much money bet on it (hence the Orioles in '69 would indeed qualify), but yes, I've seen it used the other way too, and both ways with "underlay" as well.


The correct way to use the terms, and the way the real, dedicated horseplayers and other types of serious gamblers use them, is as I described.
   40. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4388898)
#36 (tfbg9), of course you're right about that. I was conflating underdog with underlay and overrated favorite with overlay. It's been awhile since I've bet on any team sports, and I've never been to the track.
   41. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM (#4388899)
As an aside, I'm amused that Ray is again handwaving away the chemistry angle, after virtually everyone on this board predicted the 2011 Red Sox collapse by the middle of September except him.


? So it's been proven that they collapsed because of chemistry?
   42. BDC Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4388901)
Oh hell, I'm not dedicated to anything except reading detective novels :-D
   43. tfbg9 Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4388903)
BTW, anyone who asserts that something cannot "be", because it cannot be firmly established by the scientific method, is not only (probably) unwittingly subscribing to a self-contradicting 19th century philosophy, he is also immeasurably wrongheaded.
   44. BDC Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:51 AM (#4388912)
Back to chemistry for a moment: as a casual, undedicated, and non-serious (therefore not "real") home cook, I experiment with chemistry several times a week. Sometimes a recipe turns out markedly better than other times, and one assumes that there really is an unforeseen synergy between two ingredients (those exact shallots and that precise bottle of wine) that made something good into something really special.

If I were America's Test Kitchen, or was a real, dedicated, serious chef, I would hammer out just what ####### chemistry was at work there by repeated trials, and then order my shallots only from a certain acre at René's Shallot Creche, and lay in several cases of Plonk de Plonk at controlled cellar temperatures, and proceed to crank out the exact dish hundreds of subsequent times.

Chemistry might very well exist in baseball in that sense of very special synergy of elements, but I do wonder how you'd make plans for it. You have to get Gomes and Inge in the right mood, everything going well at home, not pissed off about their last release or their current contract, still young enough to contribute on the field, but old enough to use their experience authoritatively in the clubhouse … and then meld them with precisely the most talented, receptive rookies.

I reckon teams try to do this all the time, for sure, and succeed or don't, but it's necessarily more like my unique recipe trials than like a science. It boils down to looking for good players with good attitudes and trusting that they'll foster one another's success.
   45. shoewizard Posted: March 16, 2013 at 05:24 AM (#4389368)
That's not to say that we can know everything, but that what isn't known is generally not known to anyone, be it inside the game or out.


THIS,. For the love of God....THIS

With my perspective from from both inside the process and from without....I am absolutely unconvinced there is any organization in the game that has a good handle on how to identify not only players with the right chemistry or intangibles on a consistent basis, but how they can possiblly all interact with one another in a positive way to influence wins and losses.

It's the holy grail, and idiots that sacrifice talent in the name of intangibles are chasing an elusive ghost. The ghost may exist. But they can't detect it.....so they are doomed to running down hallways in the dark with stupid looking green back lighting.

   46. Russ Posted: March 16, 2013 at 06:55 AM (#4389372)
To be fair, a reasonable chemistry argument is that good chemistry leads to good performance leads to wins. Just because there is nothing left for chemistry to explain after post hoc good performance is accounted for does not mean that chemistry wasn't a significant cause of good performance (and therefore an important component of winning).

A reliable measure of chemistry would be to look at players who come to teams and the team reliably over performs (or under performs) their expected level of performance coming into the season. Sean's idea of getting reporters to give a priori measurements of chemistry before the games used to model are even played would also be helpful. However, there is also an issue in that good chemistry at time t-1 may lead to good performance at time t, good performance at time t leads to wins which leads to good chemistry at time t+1 which leads to good performance at time t+1 which leads to wins at time t+1. In other words, statistically speaking, this is a very hard time-varying confounding problem. So even if it is true, you would need really high-quality data to analyze it.

   47. jyjjy Posted: March 16, 2013 at 07:35 AM (#4389376)
A reliable measure of chemistry would be to look at players who come to teams and the team reliably over performs (or under performs) their expected level of performance coming into the season

How would his be distinguishable from something like having a great pitching/hitting coach, a manager that plays percentages/platoons better than others(in general uses the right players at the right time), a great medical or training staff that keeps the players generally in peak health/condition, etc, etc?

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Don Malcolm
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT: NBC.news: Valve isn’t making one gaming console, but multiple ‘Steam machines’
(996 - 3:18pm, Oct 30)
Last: DJS and the Infinite Sadness

NewsblogNewest Hall of Fame Candidates Announced
(22 - 3:18pm, Oct 30)
Last: bachslunch

NewsblogMadison Bumgarner, World Series legend - McCovey Chronicles
(77 - 3:17pm, Oct 30)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(4707 - 3:16pm, Oct 30)
Last: Merton Muffley

NewsblogSan Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals - October 29, 2014 | MLB.com Box
(82 - 3:15pm, Oct 30)
Last: McCoy

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(595 - 3:09pm, Oct 30)
Last: kpelton

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 10-30-2014
(18 - 2:52pm, Oct 30)
Last: SoSHially Unacceptable

Newsblog2014 Japan Series ends on runner’s interference call
(7 - 2:46pm, Oct 30)
Last: SoSHially Unacceptable

NewsblogJoe Maddon is to become Cubs manager, sources say
(100 - 2:28pm, Oct 30)
Last: McCoy

Newsblog2014 WORLD SERIES GAME 7 OMNICHATTER
(1439 - 2:27pm, Oct 30)
Last: Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos

NewsblogBumgarner extraordinary as Giants claim decade | CSN Bay Area
(1 - 2:07pm, Oct 30)
Last: Gamingboy

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1959 Ballot
(11 - 1:05pm, Oct 30)
Last: neilsen

NewsblogHeyman: Pablo Sandoval is on Boston's 3B wish list, but so is Chase Headley
(30 - 1:05pm, Oct 30)
Last: villageidiom

NewsblogRoad maps to pitching success in Game 7 | FOX Sports
(10 - 12:39pm, Oct 30)
Last: The Chronicles of Reddick

NewsblogVanguard after the Revolution | NBC SportsWorld
(52 - 12:13pm, Oct 30)
Last: McCoy

Page rendered in 0.7361 seconds
52 querie(s) executed