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Monday, October 11, 2010

Will Carroll: Statheads just don’t get it.

In which Will Carroll viciously attacks a strawman.

The Phillies are headed deeper into the playoffs and somewhere in their front office, they have a guy that understands the most advanced numbers, has Fangraphs bookmarked, and will help Ruben Amaro this offseason. The players? They just have their big paychecks, big houses, and might someday sit where Joe Morgan or Mitch Williams is sitting now. The statheads? Unless they find their story or their storyteller, right where they are now.

Bill James was that storyteller for a while, but when he stopped being a thinker and started enjoying being a guru, the movement lost. Me? I was never one that followed and now, Prospectus in my rear view, I can easily reject that false god. I’m not rejecting facts, just the inability to tell a story, see beyond a spreadsheet, or acknowledge that other people have some things to teach me, whether it’s a scout, a Trainer, or a writer who’s been watching ball games since before VORP was a twinkle in Keith Woolner’s eye.

Delicious Cake Posted: October 11, 2010 at 07:23 PM | 120 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Dale Sams Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:11 PM (#3661349)
Will, you keep your embellished stories from soon-to-be-dead scouts, and I'll keep Mickey Mantle's Value Over Replacement Penis stats.
   2. Dirty Tom Rackham Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:13 PM (#3661350)
I think Carroll is just jealous that his pictures to Sterger weren't shown on Deadpsin like Farve's were.
   3. The District Attorney Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:14 PM (#3661352)
Strange post.

Strange man.
   4. andrewberg Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:15 PM (#3661353)
Are we sure Will Carroll wrote this article? I was going to point out some of the horrible arguments in it, but I have a wall nearby that needs some staring at.

Seriously, if you're so in love with watching games, why waste time with vitriol when there are games to watch?
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:20 PM (#3661358)
I'm just delighted to see that Will has been freed from the seven hellish years he was held in captivity.
   6. Steve Treder Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:23 PM (#3661364)
I'm struggling to decide whether this rant is mostly weird or mostly stupid.

Weird? Stupid? Stupid? Weird?

I give up. It's weirpid.
   7. Srul Itza Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:35 PM (#3661372)
I'm struggling to decide whether this rant is mostly weird or mostly stupid.


That's because Will Carroll is a unique blend of weird stupidity and stupid weirdness.

Or as Londo Mollari so nicely put it: Arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you.
   8. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:38 PM (#3661377)
Why would we be surprised to learn that Halladay doesn't know his xFIP or that Moyer doesn't know his BABIP? I wouldn't expect them to know any of that. They're athletes that are supposed to go out there and play the game the best they can. In fact, if I were a manager, I wouldn't want my players worrying about any of that sh*t anyways.
   9. Steve Treder Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:41 PM (#3661380)
Or as Londo Mollari so nicely put it: Arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you.

Or, a great line from the early (you know, as in "good") years of the M*A*S*H TV show:

Frank Burns: "Why does everyone take an immediate disliking to me?"

Trapper John: "It saves time."
   10. Danny Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:52 PM (#3661386)
Too funny.

September 30, 2007, 02:23 PM ET
Open Letter

by Will Carroll

Dear White Sox,

We’re sorry that we were right. Better luck battling through next year.

Your pal,

PECOTA

P.S. Phil Nevin says hi.
   11. GEB4000 Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:52 PM (#3661388)
The players may not know the exact numbers, but I'm sure they know what they're doing right or wrong (the good ones anyway).
   12. Textbook Editor Posted: October 11, 2010 at 08:57 PM (#3661393)
So what does Carroll do now, exactly? Blog like Murray Chass? Consult and blog? I'm always amazed there's any real money to be made in blogging, especially in a niche like sabermetrics or sports injuries.

[Of course, it could be that there's no real money to be made...]
   13. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:04 PM (#3661398)
Wasn't he part of Football Outsiders? If so, is he still there?
   14. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:06 PM (#3661400)
This is a really, really bizarre article.

EDIT: And really petty. I guess the Carroll/BP bridge is burned.
   15. Steve Treder Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:09 PM (#3661406)
I'm always amazed there's any real money to be made in blogging, especially in a niche like sabermetrics or sports injuries.

[Of course, it could be that there's no real money to be made...]


I'm 100% positive that outside of a very, very tiny proportion of exceptionally famous people, there is no real money to be made in blogging.
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:16 PM (#3661411)
Statheads will never let a good story get in the way of a fact, a decimal place, or a holier-than-thou snark.


Why am I not surprised that Will Carroll thinks it's a cutting insult when he says that statheads would rather be right than interesting?

On a related topic, I wonder when Pete Rose is going to be reinstated? Probably happen any day now...
   17. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:19 PM (#3661415)
Or as Londo Mollari so nicely put it: Arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you.


Thanks for that. I always appreciate a good B5 reference.
   18. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:19 PM (#3661417)
Carroll, from the comments:
if you think this is a strawman, it’s not hard to put a little meat on the bones. I just chose not to name names, like those movies where they say “names changed to protect the individuals.”


Elaboration really is not improving his point here.
   19. Jim Wisinski Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:20 PM (#3661418)
The hypocrisy here is pretty thick since Carroll was second at BPro only to Joe Sheehan in sneering arrogance and mindless defense of sabermetrics in the face of those that criticized and questioned it. BPro (and sabermetrics in general) would be better off without either of them polluting the image.

Carroll was, in my opinion, genuinely good at the injury stuff and had carved himself a nice niche that was quite informative. Unfortunately virtually everything he writes that isn't about that specialty is pretty horrible.
   20. Bruce Markusen Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:24 PM (#3661423)
So when did Will Carroll actually leave Prospectus? Anybody know the specific reasons why he left, other than his general (and sudden) dislking of Sabermetric thinking?
   21. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:26 PM (#3661427)
On a related topic, I wonder when Pete Rose is going to be reinstated? Probably happen any day now...

No, don't you remember? Selig cancelled the Rose reinstatement just to spite Will Carroll. That's how powerful he is.
   22. Repoz Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:27 PM (#3661428)
Holy shitbops! Who the hell is going to pick up the hardcore blowhard minutes at those BPro meetings?
   23. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:27 PM (#3661429)
So when did Will Carroll actually leave Prospectus? Anybody know the specific reasons why he left, other than his general (and sudden) dislking of Sabermetric thinking?

Within the past couple of months, and except for BPro employees, no.
   24. andrewberg Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:28 PM (#3661430)
So when did Will Carroll actually leave Prospectus? Anybody know the specific reasons why he left, other than his general (and sudden) dislking of Sabermetric thinking?


It was right after the White Sox won the world series and proved sabermetrics a hoax. After that, all it took was 5 years and BP to stop sending him a paycheck and he was OUTTA THERE!
   25. Repoz Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:28 PM (#3661431)
I just chose not to name names

Just post their phone numbers then (ducks).
   26. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:30 PM (#3661433)
never saw him hate stats
   27. AndrewJ Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:34 PM (#3661437)
Pass.
   28. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:39 PM (#3661440)
It was right after the White Sox won the world series and proved sabermetrics a hoax.

Except, as #10 demonstrates, he took time to bash on White Sox fans after they exactly matched their projected win total in 2007 (72 wins).

Oddly, he forgot to mention the 2008 White Sox (projected to win 78 wins, won 89 games), or the 2009 White Sox (projected to win 73 games, won 79 games) or the 2010 White Sox (projected to win 80 games, won 88 games). I understand why now - the White Sox being bad is a "great story", and the White Sox being decent is not.
   29. Delino DeShields & Yarnell Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:45 PM (#3661444)
"Stories" can be a way to popularize a technical account by greatly simplifying the actors, glossing over complicated cause and effect, and lending some morality - "A did this to B, resulting in C, which was a good thing". "Moneyball" had some of that - guys who get on base score more and somehow should be morally revered for their diligence.

I get some of what Carroll is trying to say but as a way to make the world buy into why a stats 'Story' explains baseball is just too big - too many actors, too many causes/effects, ambiguous moral certitude everywhere.
   30. Matt Welch Posted: October 11, 2010 at 09:45 PM (#3661445)
There's no "stathead orthodoxy." They can't agree enough amongst themselves to get something like park factors or a signature stat right. Even if they did, someone new would pop up with an extra pi or something. They fight their keyboard jihad, barking that the old men don't take the time to understand and then don't grasp that they're the only one's that understand it.


An extra pi?

I liked it better in the original Plaschkean.
   31. Guapo Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:00 PM (#3661451)
This is like the stathead version of George Michael's "Freedom '90"
   32. Jim Wisinski Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:12 PM (#3661459)
Moneyball wasn’t an amazing series of facts; it was an amazing story, told by one of America’s master storytellers.


Yeah, and look how well that has turned out.

Ask any of the millions who saw Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side and try to parse facts about what was and wasn’t true. Michael Oher, the main character of the story, has said it wasn’t all correct, but Michael Lewis, who’s REALLY the main character in all his books, doesn’t let facts get in the way of a legend


Not letting facts get in the way of a legend may not be that big of a deal with something like The Blind Side, a heartwarming and inspirational story that isn't likely to be taken as anything more than that. Moneyball is a different matter altogether though because it was about baseball itself, what goes on in it, and how it works. Lionizing characters, embellishing facts, blowing things out of proportion, and declaring the subjects to be amazing people superior to their peers can be a major problem when done in the wrong arena. As a story Moneyball was great but it has caused one hell of a lot of misconceptions and arguments and for some of them the fault is definitely with the overzealous storyteller and not the subject matter.
   33. Dale Sams Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:14 PM (#3661463)
This is like the stathead version of George Michael's "Freedom '90"


If Will can scrounge together a bunch of hot models to plead his case for him, I'll gladly switch my snark to his side.
   34. robinred Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:30 PM (#3661471)
Any chance this is a set-up, and it's not really Carroll?
   35. andrewberg Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:32 PM (#3661473)
Any chance this is a set-up, and it's not really Carroll?


That's what I said. There is little attribution on the page (almost as though they are trying to hide it). The site is something I have never seen before. The language is absurdly and irrationally hostile. Even the type of anti-intellectual arrogance seems slightly different Carroll's garden variety snobbery.
   36. robinred Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:44 PM (#3661478)
That's what I said.

Well, having gone to the "Who We Are" link on the masthead, it seems legit. Carroll's pic is there. Also, they have Bethlehem Shoals, the Free Darko guy, Zach Harper, a hoops blogger, and a few other people some may have heard of. This is on the homepage:

Welcome to Press Coverage, a site born out of the minds of Dan Levy and some of the smartest and most well-connected sports writers, pundits and blogging All-Stars around.


So, yeah, that DOES sound like something that Will Carroll would want to be a part of.
   37. Jim Wisinski Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:48 PM (#3661480)
Carroll also has several other posts on the site already, including a moronic way to "fix" college football.
   38. Delicious Cake Posted: October 11, 2010 at 10:52 PM (#3661482)
Any chance this is a set-up, and it's not really Carroll?

Carroll linked this piece on his twitter and spent a couple hours there defending it. I can see why you would think that, though.

Edit: The hyper-aggressive tone of this piece leads me to wonder whether BP asked him to check his tone while he worked for them, or whether he's just writing with such anger for the purpose of catharsis. He does say in the comments that he's letting loose some pent-up frustration.
   39. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: October 11, 2010 at 11:06 PM (#3661484)
Carroll linked this piece on his twitter and spent a couple hours there defending it.


Why am I not surprised that Will Carroll enjoys screwing around on Twitter? Seems like the perfect combination of medium and message, in his case.

Garbage in, garbage out.
   40. Autobahn Posted: October 11, 2010 at 11:11 PM (#3661489)
Looks like Carroll took his arrogance and turned it up to 11.

Not letting facts get in the way of a legend may not be that big of a deal with something like The Blind Side, a heartwarming and inspirational story that isn't likely to be taken as anything more than that.


I've not seen the film, but one of the best bits about the book was the history of football tactics because it explained why Michael was such a special talent. Does the film go into that at all?

Plus the lesson I took away from Moneyball was that the popular theory wasn't always right and it told the story of somebody trying to do things differently and how it worked out.
   41. Swedish Chef Posted: October 11, 2010 at 11:18 PM (#3661494)
Moneyball wasn’t an amazing series of facts; it was an amazing story, told by one of America’s master storytellers.

Bah, Lewis stole the plot wholesale from "Revenge of the nerds".
   42. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 11, 2010 at 11:22 PM (#3661497)
Ask any of the millions who saw Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side and try to parse facts about what was and wasn’t true. Michael Oher, the main character of the story, has said it wasn’t all correct, but Michael Lewis, who’s REALLY the main character in all his books, doesn’t let facts get in the way of a legend


This is some incredibly sloppy writing (and thinking), conflating "The Blind Side" the movie with "The Blind Side" the book and hoping no one notices that he's blaming the author of the book for what appeared in the film. Did Michael Oher say the movie wasn't all correct or the book wasn't all correct? There's no way to tell from this.
   43. Accent Shallow Posted: October 11, 2010 at 11:52 PM (#3661525)
Oddly, he forgot to mention the 2008 White Sox (projected to win 78 wins, won 89 games), or the 2009 White Sox (projected to win 73 games, won 79 games) or the 2010 White Sox (projected to win 80 games, won 88 games). I understand why now - the White Sox being bad is a "great story", and the White Sox being decent is not.

Well, was there a common reason that each of these teams was under-projected, or did the White Sox just draw the short straw too many times? From what I recall, PECOTA consistently projects Buerhle poorly, since he's not a strikeout pitcher.
   44. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: October 11, 2010 at 11:52 PM (#3661526)
Hey man, sabrmetrics was just the focus of a ####### Simpsons episode.
   45. plink Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:04 AM (#3661539)
Wow -- I visit BPro daily, and hadn't even noticed Carroll had left. Probably means I'm not going to miss him.

What a weird, weird piece of writing.
   46. Steve Treder Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:10 AM (#3661545)
I've not seen the film, but one of the best bits about the book was the history of football tactics because it explained why Michael was such a special talent. Does the film go into that at all?

Not at all.
   47. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:10 AM (#3661546)
Carroll also has several other posts on the site already, including a moronic way to "fix" college football.


Stop televising it and let us watch real football on Saturdays, instead of just on Sundays and Mondays?
   48. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:18 AM (#3661552)
Stop televising it and let us watch real football on Saturdays, instead of just on Sundays and Mondays?

You, sir, are wrong about this.
   49. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:18 AM (#3661553)
Are there people who didn't understand that Carroll isn't a stathead?

What's revealing here, anyway?
   50. Jim Wisinski Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:32 AM (#3661568)
Are there people who didn't understand that Carroll isn't a stathead?


I think it has been generally understood that Carroll isn't a stathead but while at BPro he sure as hell was always trying to act like one.
   51. DLew On Roids Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:54 AM (#3661588)
Maybe Carroll didn't mention the White Sox' 2008 and 2009 records because he was snarking in 2007.
   52. Mark Armour Posted: October 12, 2010 at 01:09 AM (#3661604)
Oddly, I actually think Carroll's main point is one that, in the hands of a better writer with less anger, could use some airing. Instead, it was likely counterproductive.
   53. Downtown Bookie Posted: October 12, 2010 at 01:41 AM (#3661677)
From TFA:

[S]tatheads might have figured out the right algorithms, but they never figured out the right formula for capturing anyone’s attention....The statheads? Unless they find their story or their storyteller, right where they are now. Bill James was that storyteller for a while, but when he stopped being a thinker and started enjoying being a guru, the movement lost.


From Will Carroll's 9/24 post, previously linked on BBTF:

Until statheads stop worrying about decimal places, litmus tests, and passive-aggressive stands against the status quo, they’ll lose out to good stories, marketing, and simplicity.
Statheads need to “stop making sense” and start making strides. Until then, they’ll be like the indie rock they all seem to listen to.


Maybe it's just me, but Mr. Carroll's last two blog posts that have been linked here (and, I must confess, the excerpts I've chosen really don't do them justice) create the impression of someone with a point of view that equates sabermetrics to a revolutionary movement, or (perhaps a better comparison) a religious cult. The posts read to me almost like the impassioned pleas of a revival leader trying to fire up the congregation with the urgency that the non-enlightened masses need to be evangelized with the wisdom of VORP and OPS+. It's as if Mr. Carroll is admonishing the flock for not doing enough to bring The Word (or, perhaps, The Spreadsheet) to those helpless individuals who have not yet seen the light. The only thing missing from the posts were instructions for statheads to pick up a stack of tracts/Abstracts and then distribute them door-to-door (or, perhaps more fitting, seat-to-seat in the stands at every baseball game).

But, like I said, maybe that's just me. The posts just strike me as having a very weird vibe.

DB
   54. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:01 AM (#3661717)
Joe Posnanski

I mean he exists. Right?

He is certainly pro-stathead. Heck, he even writes articles about why he likes WAR so much, and he writes in an accessible way. His work is featured at a prominent mainstream site. He tells stories brilliantly.

Jon Weismann

Same as Posnanski

Rob Neyer

Same as above.

There are more and more great writers who are becoming bigger voices in the mainstream. So, is Carroll saying statheads lack the one great book that explains the current movement?


A lot of this strikes me as an expression of his anger with BP. There certainly has been a change this past year. It seems like Prospectus is embracing being on the cutting edge of stat analysis now, as opposed to what it was doing just a few years ago when it decides to hire on people with more mainstream inside baseball experience.
   55. Brian Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:55 AM (#3661829)
Ray, I've backed you up in many a thread but that is one hellaciously wrong opinion you got there.
   56. JoeC Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:41 AM (#3661845)
The posts read to me almost like the impassioned pleas of a revival leader trying to fire up the congregation with the urgency that the non-enlightened masses need to be evangelized with the wisdom of VORP and OPS+. It's as if Mr. Carroll is admonishing the flock for not doing enough to bring The Word (or, perhaps, The Spreadsheet) to those helpless individuals who have not yet seen the light.


Something like that... but you don't (at least I don't) get the impression that he himself believes in it particularly, or more importantly, thinks that it matters particularly whether he believes in it or not. It's a salesman's perspective, a showman's; the point is to "win," and you "win" by being the most-talked-about thing out there, the hottest property, the top of the charts.

This makes sense when it comes to entertainment - it's not relevant to ask "what's better, hip-hop, rock, or jazz?", it only matters what puts butts in the seats. It really doesn't connect with scientists and researchers, though. They'd rather be right, and assume that since "right" is demonstrable, repeatable, and objective, that it has no choice but to win out eventually. Evangelism can save time by keeping good colleagues from wasting time chasing down dead ends, but it's not an end in itself. (Not that scientists are particularly great at ignoring ego and seeing good work unblinded by bias, of course... but it's what they aspire to, anyway.)
   57. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: October 12, 2010 at 04:08 AM (#3661850)
My disdain for this individual is well known but what is truly bizarre is that this community's efforts HAVE infiltrated the mainstream in a number of ways. So what the writer is griping about would be germane in say 2002. Now?

It's inane.
   58. Chicago Joe Posted: October 12, 2010 at 04:32 AM (#3661856)
This article is really about Will Carroll's hatred of Pavement.
He's a big Styx fan.
   59. Steve Treder Posted: October 12, 2010 at 04:41 AM (#3661860)
Oddly, I actually think Carroll's main point is one that, in the hands of a better writer with less anger, could use some airing.

Well, Mark, the only point I can possibly perceive Carroll making is the most banal one of "people should write better." Is there something deeper here?
   60. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: October 12, 2010 at 04:59 AM (#3661868)
Hmmm.

I haven't really followed Carroll/BPro ect in years, did they have a falling out?
I used to really enjoy his columns.

A few weeks ago I saw Carroll had a twitter feed, I subscribed with my google reader.
It was really, really, really freaking awful, instead of injury updates and links to sports med. articles it was like 1000 tweets a day with random conversations with other tweeters.
   61. Xander Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:18 AM (#3661872)
Carroll seems like the type of person who gets promoted through a corporation because no one wants him in their own department. He was the worst thing on the internet for a good two years.

Nothing will top his evangelizing of the gyroball. He would have down and out amateur baseball player come from all around the country so he could teach them the pitch.
   62. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:34 AM (#3661876)
Does he still do that "powered by [lame consumer product]" thing?
   63. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:25 AM (#3661884)
61- this is my experience with almost every person's twitter feed. I have no idea what the appeal is. And you aren't kidding about Carroll's!
   64. CFiJ Posted: October 12, 2010 at 07:41 AM (#3661891)
How's that gyroball working out for Matsuzaka, Carroll?

OH, THAT'S RIGHT! HE DOESN'T ####### THROW ONE!
   65. OsunaSakata Posted: October 12, 2010 at 12:38 PM (#3661939)
The Blind Side movie distilled the stathead elements of the book into a voiceover by Sandra Bullock while Joe Theismann's leg was repeatedly broken by Lawrence Taylor. There were plenty of inaccuracies such as the name of the Christian school and the football coach. The coach was also portrayed as a middle-aged rube when he was actully a 30-something with a future Nick Sabin personality.

Will Carroll thinks Michael Lewis is the main character of all his books? Just because Will Carroll is the main character in all of his books doesn't mean every other non-fiction writer works that way.
   66. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 12, 2010 at 01:32 PM (#3661965)
Blocking the back side pass rush is a "stathead element" in football?
   67. JJ1986 Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:26 PM (#3662009)
Blocking the back side pass rush is a "stathead element" in football?


Picking and choosing left tackles for their skills as a specific position instead of just one of five lineman was an advancement. Of course, everyone in the game had come around on this by the mid-90s or so, but it was at one point a revolution.
   68. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:30 PM (#3662010)
So, since nobody else is doing it: I think Will Carroll is a pretty damn decent guy. Whenever I've bugged him, he's taken the time to respond thoughtfully, and he's under no obligation to do so. Count me among those who doubt the authorship of this article - it's just way meaner than I'd expect.
   69. LargeBill Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:33 PM (#3662012)
In the argument over great stories and statistical analysis I choose both. I don't mind an anecdotal story to relate something from the past to today's game. I don't expect the details to be remembered exactly as the game transpired. A former player or longtime baseball writer or announcer has participated in or watched several thousand games so it is easy to imagine a detail from one game getting into the story about another game. The problem with Carroll's tirade is it falls into the trap of assuming stat heads don't watch the actual games. I just don't believe that to be true. Fans who like better stats than RBI & batting average are still fans of the game. They just want a better understanding of what transpired than what we used to get on the back of a baseball card.
   70. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:40 PM (#3662016)
#69, I've never had a problem with Carroll either. I thought he was very good at what he did -- the injury reports. He was _ok_ in the few podcasts I listened to - nothing special - but I thought the injury reports were a great resource for when I needed them.

I never read him beyond that, and never operated under the illusion that he was a stathead or that he was good at performance analysis.

As to the Pete Rose story, I don't know what happened - whether Carroll had his facts right and MLB reversed course, or whether his facts were wrong to begin with.
   71. JJ1986 Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:43 PM (#3662017)
It sounds to me like Carroll is frustrated by years of wanting to print "stories" and being told that he couldn't. I don't think it's anything more than that.
   72. SoSH U at work Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:51 PM (#3662027)
I never read him beyond that, and never operated under the illusion that he was a stathead or that he was good at performance analysis.


Sure, but the same can be said for a lot of us here. Many of us aren't statheads in the sense we don't develop metrics or are even that conversant in some of the newest metrics. But for all but the occasional drive-by poster and a few contrarians, we're open to the pursuit by the practitioners. So after working for seven years for BPro, even as someone not involved in performance analysis, it's kind of peculiar that Carroll is demonstrating such hostility to the metrics and their creators.
   73. Zach Posted: October 12, 2010 at 02:51 PM (#3662029)
How's that gyroball working out for Matsuzaka, Carroll?

OH, THAT'S RIGHT! HE DOESN'T ####### THROW ONE!


The greatest trick the demon mystery pitch ever played was convincing the world it didn't exist.
   74. Zach Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:02 PM (#3662039)
Maybe it's just me, but Mr. Carroll's last two blog posts that have been linked here (and, I must confess, the excerpts I've chosen really don't do them justice) create the impression of someone with a point of view that equates sabermetrics to a revolutionary movement, or (perhaps a better comparison) a religious cult.


...what is truly bizarre is that this community's efforts HAVE infiltrated the mainstream in a number of ways. So what the writer is griping about would be germane in say 2002. Now?

Maybe the issue is that sabermetrics never ended up being mass market? There are saber-friendly writers in prominent places, but they're all writers first. I always got the impression that BPro wanted a piece of the bigtime.
   75. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:04 PM (#3662041)
A good story like, say, Pete Rose's reinstatement?
   76. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:05 PM (#3662042)
It sounds to me like Carroll is frustrated by years of wanting to print "stories" and being told that he couldn't. I don't think it's anything more than that.

That sounds about right. I think Carroll wanted BPro to be a journalistic endeavor, instead of a place for statheads and people looking for an edge in their fantasy leagues.
   77. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:07 PM (#3662045)
I'm not a huge follower of Carroll's, but this piece doesn't strike me as surprising. He's always seemed very big at creating "buzz," and a heel turn away from a target audience is an excellent way to do that. (It's not like he's well-known enough to have much of a mainstream following at this point, anyway.)
   78. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:12 PM (#3662050)
Maybe it's just me, but Mr. Carroll's last two blog posts that have been linked here (and, I must confess, the excerpts I've chosen really don't do them justice) create the impression of someone with a point of view that equates sabermetrics to a revolutionary movement, or (perhaps a better comparison) a religious cult.


Sabermetrics _has_ been equated to a revolutionary movement. That's precisely the theme of Rob Neyer's foreward to the 2000 edition of BPro. I believe that was the year; at any rate, it was a long time ago, and well past its expiration date.
   79. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:20 PM (#3662062)
71. I basically agree, with the caveat that Carroll really *is* good at PED coverage. The Juice is an evenhanded, fair look at rise and existence of PED's in baseball circa 2006ish. I think a big part of Carroll's gift is that he is very good at translating things from technical to layman. He's not a particularly keen stathead, but he's certainly more accepting than most members of the MSM. I took this piece to be one of the many arguing against the sort of dismissive, MGL-type of sabermetrician. But then, not everybody can be a Tango or Pos, no?
   80. Zoppity Zoop Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:22 PM (#3662068)

There are saber-friendly writers in prominent places, but they're all writers first.


I can see Jonah Keri and Dayn Perry being writers first. Aaron Gleeman, too.

What about Sean Forman and Dan Szymborski? They're both in prominent places and if I close my eyes and play word association, I get baseball-reference and ZIPS, not writing. Or do people consider them writers first? I guess I can see that with Szym, but not so much with Sean. So are those two saber writers or writers with mathematical chops?
   81. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:38 PM (#3662087)
I think Will Carroll is a pretty damn decent guy. Whenever I've bugged him, he's taken the time to respond thoughtfully, and he's under no obligation to do so.

The one time I sent him an e-mail, he was a complete and utter #######. And I didn't take issue with anything he'd written; just asked a simple question.

I guess I can see that with Szym, but not so much with Sean.

Hey, Sean's been published in the New York Times!
   82. Ron Johnson Posted: October 12, 2010 at 03:47 PM (#3662097)
#81 I think Dan was brought in to write. He's demonstrated that he can be funny, imaginative, confrontational and that he can grind out content. (To be clear I'd say his best stuff graded out as professional quality and the rest at a -- we can work with this -- level)

Sean? unless the blogging at bb-ref really impressed somebody (possible) I'd guess he got the shot because of the quality of bb-ref. There are worse reasons to select somebody than demonstrated competence in a different field.

Who knows, maybe there's somebody who remembers Sean's work on the Iowa Farm League.
   83. Zach Posted: October 12, 2010 at 04:14 PM (#3662117)
I guess I can see that with Szym, but not so much with Sean. So are those two saber writers or writers with mathematical chops?

I guess I thought of them as other things, with a sideline in sabermetrics.
   84. asinwreck Posted: October 12, 2010 at 04:54 PM (#3662159)
I have only met Will Carroll once, at a BP Pizza Feed a few years ago. He is exactly the same in person as he is in print -- a blowhard with no attention span and an ego well out of proportion to any wisdom, humor, or perspective he might possess. Ever since that day, I struggled with my decision on renewing to BP because I didn't want to subsidize him in any way (although I greatly value many other writers on that site, including the Goldman/Goldstein types who are far better storytellers than Carroll will ever be). I am pleased that he is no longer in danger of being paid by me.
   85.   Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:05 PM (#3662168)

EDIT: And really petty. I guess the Carroll/BP bridge is burned.


I think Carroll is living under the bridge at this point.
   86. RJ in TO Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:11 PM (#3662178)
I have only met Will Carroll once, at a BP Pizza Feed a few years ago. He is exactly the same in person as he is in print -- a blowhard with no attention span and an ego well out of proportion to any wisdom, humor, or perspective he might possess.

I've also only met him once, at a BP Pizza Feed, although it was probably close to a decade ago. At that time, he was definitely on the loud side, but I found him to be pleasant and entertaining enough in my limited interactions. That would have been not too long after he joined BP, and I have no idea if he's changed since then.
   87. The District Attorney Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:15 PM (#3662184)
Does he still do that "powered by [lame consumer product]" thing?
I think this desire to "monetize" hits on one of the motivations for Carroll's schtick. For example:
More people will read this tweet than will listen to BOTH top sports stations in Indy. Yet I can't get a sponsor.
He has about 11,000 followers now (it was more like 8,000 when he wrote that.) Ignoring how delusional that is, let's move on to this...
The Phillies are headed deeper into the playoffs and somewhere in their front office, they have a guy that understands the most advanced numbers, has Fangraphs bookmarked, and will help Ruben Amaro this offseason. The players? They just have their big paychecks, big houses, and might someday sit where Joe Morgan or Mitch Williams is sitting now. The statheads? Unless they find their story or their storyteller, right where they are now.
I honestly don't know what that paragraph is even intended to mean, but as far as I can tell, he's actually claiming that the goal of sabermetrics is not to add to enjoyment of baseball... not to explain baseball... not even to help executives run teams... but rather, to channel money and influence to the sabermetrician, and if it doesn't do that for you, then as far as you're concerned, sabermetrics is a failure.

Even given that wacko definition, what I still don't get is why neither a front office job nor a job at BPro would qualify as using sabermetrics to make money and gain influence. But to me, he does seem to be trying to get to that goal, some other way...
   88. Xander Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:38 PM (#3662209)
That sounds about right. I think Carroll wanted BPro to be a journalistic endeavor, instead of a place for statheads and people looking for an edge in their fantasy leagues.
Yea, he never intended his red light/yellow light/green light injury report to get into the hands of fantasy players.
   89. VK_Ratliff Posted: October 12, 2010 at 05:55 PM (#3662230)
I think this desire to "monetize" hits on one of the motivations for Carroll's schtick. For example:

More people will read this tweet than will listen to BOTH top sports stations in Indy. Yet I can't get a sponsor.



He'll never get a sponsor with that picture of Uncle Fester next to his name.
   90. Walt Davis Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:15 PM (#3662261)
"Oddly", BPro has always been the most commercialized of the sabermetric ventures. B-r is one of the few non-porn sites on the internet that might have actually been able to make money as a subscriber-service but Sean gave it away for free. Dan, Tango, MGL, Dial, etc. all pretty much made their stats and writing publicly available at least until some team or publisher came along and hired them (possibly for money!).

BPro was the one that tried to keep their methods as secret as possible. They were the ones who (consciously I assume) pursued a snarky style of writing. They were the ones publishing a book and the first to scramble behind a pay wall. Still not enough for Carroll apparently. (Fair enough, it wouldn't surprise me if BPro's "era of influence" is coming to a close and Carroll is just a rat off a sinking ship. Just look around here -- you don't hear much of VORP and even less EQA these days; it's all WAR all the time.)

Now, from a financial standpoint, that tradition of public license was probably silly as can be. But the horse done left. Still, at least at the moment, if your stat ain't on b-r, it ain't gonna matter.

To the extent Carroll seems to have any other rational point, it seems he's trying to say this to budding young sabermetricians out there: if you want to make a career out of sabermetrics, you have two options. First, get hired by a team -- there are somewhere between 30 and 60 such positions in the world, good luck with that. Second, create a market for yourself by being a good writer. Of course I'd point out there probably aren't more than 100 such positions in the world so good luck with that.

But, as with Carroll's earlier article we discussed, I don't know what he's on about with this "movement" and revolution stuff. As HW points out, the "revolution" already happened. Teams now pay people for this stuff. The NY Times publishes Forman and Rosenheck and that other guy. ESPN grabbed Szym of all people. Bill Conlin used OPS the other week. I don't have a clue what Carroll thinks the post-sabermetric movement world is supposed to look like. What does this glorious future hold for us other than possibly winning bar bets about who had the higher career WPA/LI, Rusty Staub or Jim "teh fear" Rice?

Of course such bar bets will soon be useless as we'll all immediately look up the answer on b-r via our IBrains.

Anyway, tell us that story Will. Paint us the picture of the future under your leadership. Promise us a glorious technocratic but not boring future where rational decisions are made but sold to the public with flare, all because a brave cadre of baseball stat nerds had the guts and smarts to outwit the mainstream media and eradicated public ignorance through thrilling and occasionally fact-based stories. And two chickens in every pot.
   91. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:20 PM (#3662263)
Finally RTFA. It's the equivalent of a child's tantrum.
   92. robinred Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:27 PM (#3662267)
He has about 11,000 followers now


Neyer, by way of comparison, has 17,470.

Bill Simmons, BTW, has 1,268,234.
   93. robinred Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:32 PM (#3662272)
don't have a clue what Carroll thinks the post-sabermetric movement world is supposed to look like.


Maybe he won't be happy until Bill James is on The Simpsons.
   94. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:43 PM (#3662279)
Hmmm. I wonder how many followers I would get if I started tweeting. Who among you have the courage to follow me?
   95. Randy Jones Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:49 PM (#3662283)
Something tells me Shooty's twitter feed would be something like this.
   96. The District Attorney Posted: October 12, 2010 at 06:56 PM (#3662292)
Who among you have the courage to follow me?
To freedom?
   97. Ron Johnson Posted: October 12, 2010 at 07:04 PM (#3662299)
They were the ones who (consciously I assume) pursued a snarky style of writing.


That's the natural writing style of both Gary Huckabay and Chris(tina) Kahrl. Two of the most important figures in the early days of BP. They had an awful lot to do with setting the tone.
   98. Ron Johnson Posted: October 12, 2010 at 07:10 PM (#3662305)
#96 Well I know I won't. Nothing personal though. I just can't imagine following the feed of anybody. I just don't need to know how Lady Gaga's cat is doing right now. I can wait for the nightly news.
   99. RJ in TO Posted: October 12, 2010 at 07:19 PM (#3662312)
Hmmm. I wonder how many followers I would get if I started tweeting. Who among you have the courage to follow me?

I picture your tweets as being very similar to those of DRUNK HULK!
   100. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: October 12, 2010 at 07:26 PM (#3662315)
Naw. I'd probably tweet a couple of times, get bored with it immediately, and then let my account go dormant. This was how facebook worked for me. I think I was active for two days.
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