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Monday, April 05, 2004

You Could Look It Up: Backlash

Steven Goldman from BPro (free piece)

Jon Daly Posted: April 05, 2004 at 08:51 PM | 422 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: April 05, 2004 at 08:58 PM (#489625)
It is a nice piece. I don't agree with everything Goldman says, but he's a fine baseball writer. I'm looking forward to his Stengel bio.
   2. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 05, 2004 at 09:15 PM (#489626)
Goldman might be the best thing ever to happen to BPro.
   3. Steve Treder Posted: April 05, 2004 at 09:30 PM (#489628)
That is a great, great article. Goldman rocks.
   4. Repoz Posted: April 05, 2004 at 09:49 PM (#489630)
Goldman might be the best thing ever to happen to BPro.

Goldman might be the best thing to happen to baseball writing in 25 years.
   5. rlc Posted: April 05, 2004 at 10:45 PM (#489633)
Placing good bats on the right side of the defensive spectrum is one of the keys to winning.

He mistranslated this one. The Old School version is "You gotta be strong up the middle to win." Most people think it refers to defense only, but most people don't win championships.
   6. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 05, 2004 at 10:58 PM (#489634)
I love Goldman's writing as much as anyone, but I don't really understand the point of this rant. Why so defensive? Why take it so personally?

Simply, because so much of the backlash from mainstream columnists has been so ad hominem. Hard not to take that personally.
   7. Steve Treder Posted: April 05, 2004 at 11:00 PM (#489636)
I love Goldman's writing as much as anyone, but I don't really understand the point of this rant. Why so defensive?

I see it as a response to the many, many near-hysterical negative reactions that one reads in the press (and sees in posts on sites like this one) to Moneyball, to Bill James, and to "statheads." Goldman's whole point is to agree with you that none of this stuff represents any kind of a "political movement," much less a revolution. All sabermetrics is or ever was is the recognition of the efficacy of rational, careful, rigorous analytical methods in studying baseball and assessing players and teams. It most certainly wasn't invented by Bill James.

But it is the case that sabermetrics as an identifiable trend among hard-core fans, and as an acknowledged tool in some MLB organizations, has become quite a bit more visible than ever before within the last several years. More than a few observers are reacting quite negatively (indeed, defensively) to this phenomenon. Goldman's article basically explains the silliness of such a reaction.
   8. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 05, 2004 at 11:41 PM (#489638)
OK, what are everyone's picks for the best of the two? I'll go with the Boys of Summer and their 4 HOF up-the-middle performers, and maybe the O's of the early 70's for the antithesis.

Antithesis of strong up the middle? I dunno, I think of the 70's O's (Ellie Hendricks, Davey Johnson, Don Buford, Bobby Grich, Ken Singleton) as mostly strong up the middle.
   9. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:04 AM (#489641)
Good point, I was thinking of Buford as a CF.
   10. Andere Richtingen Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:09 AM (#489642)
Par for the course from Carroll. Most of what he writes doesn't make any sense, and much of the rest is just made up, as far as I can tell. He writes something like, "New parks mean more injuries,"

His comments seem to suggest he's looked into this, and in the case of Petco, he might be right!

That said, I would have liked to have seen some more support for that assertion.
   11. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:17 AM (#489643)
<i>I love Goldman's writing as much as anyone, but I don't really understand the point of this rant. Why so defensive?
   12. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:35 AM (#489644)
Let's fix the page width. Behold!!
   13. rlc Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:39 AM (#489645)
The '76-80 Phillies got even less offense up the middle than the Orioles; in 1980 Boone/Trillo/Bowa/Maddox turned in respective OPS+ of 74/103/70/80. It was not hard to pick the 1980 NL MVP.

The worst year for (Hendricks/Etchebarren)/Johnson/Belanger/Blair was 1970:(92/82)/107/56/114.

The 47-53 Damn Yankees matched the Boys of Summer with 4 HoFers up the middle, but since none of them played 2B the Dodgers still look like the better pick.
   14. Dr. Scott Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:41 AM (#489646)
Im personally just happy to see Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy starting to get its props in sports writing. Granted its still a bit behind the curve, as everyone knows that Mid-IR Tunable Diode Laser Spectroscopy via difference frequency mixing in PPLN waveguides is where the future of infrared spectroscopy is going, until Quantum Cascade Lasers start seriously rolling out the photons that is.

Great column Steve.
   15. The definitely immoral EricEnders Posted: April 06, 2004 at 12:50 AM (#489648)
This is sort of a hijack, but since we're talking about the 1930s Yankees... isn't it odd that the greatest team in baseball history (according to Neyer and others), the 1939 Yankees, had two automatic outs in the lineup? How disgustingly good would they have been if they'd actually had warm bodies at 1B and SS?
   16. Bill Posted: April 06, 2004 at 01:16 AM (#489649)
Yeah, if Gehrig hadn't gotten sick there would be no question.
   17. Cowboy Popup Posted: April 06, 2004 at 04:07 AM (#489652)
"Mickey Mantle used to regret the number of times he struck out, but he also said that if he hit like Pete Rose he would wear a dress."

Did Mantle really say that? If he did, thats just awesome.
   18. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 06, 2004 at 05:23 AM (#489653)
How disgustingly good would they have been if they'd actually had warm bodies at 1B and SS?

It didn't hurt that they had the best second baseman, third baseman, catcher and centerfielder in the league. :-)
   19. Bo Quab Posted: April 06, 2004 at 06:07 AM (#489657)
1. Like everyone here, I thought it was a very well-written piece.
   20. Kevin Cook Posted: April 06, 2004 at 08:09 AM (#489659)
It's odd that Neyer divided the baseball world into Empiricists and Intuitionists with the latter cast as the evil vanguard, as the Colson Whitehead novel he lifted the motif from did precisely the opposite and is, indeed, a meditation on the soul-destroying effects of rationalism
   21. Jonathan Adelman Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:26 AM (#489660)
...does anyone here know what day is the next meeting for the Flat Earth Society?

* * *

The irony is that rationalism as ideology produces just that -- Flatland -- a barren plane upon which only one way of looking at and thinking about reality rules.

This describes just about any ideology taken to extremes.

It reminds me of the old adage about the local map and the globe. Both are tools, and each is optimized under certain conditions (will you use a globe to find your way to the nearest grocer?). Sabermetrics seems the same, to me; it has some excellent uses, but the caveat of misapplication applies.
   22. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 01:07 PM (#489665)
The Old School version is "You gotta be strong up the middle to win." Most people think it refers to defense only, but most people don't win championships.

He doesn't show up often, but rlc has, bar none, the very best signal-to-noise ratio of any poster on Primer. *Everything* he says makes profound and eminent sense.

Good job of working in "Left Behind". Sometimes this site seems like a conservative Christian blog, where non-believers are either mocked or attacked or both.

The idea that people should just give a pass to people who wander in from Neptune and start spouting off random bulls**t in our community is just amazing to me. Yes, people (including me) should be more tolerant of debate, but when the debate consists of "I don't care about the data, I don't care about the results, I just think you're wrong" people tire of it quickly. We've heard all of this an innumerable number of times, and no one bothers to understand the debates that have already occurred, they just want to stir the pot afresh. If they're shouted down (and the hostility to RossCW, who is admirably persistent, is a case in point) it's because no one wants to endure again a debate that most people consider settled. When you add the shrill level at which the debate occurs (particularly where new findings are made -- Tom Tippett's DIPS work a legendary case in point -- the "anti-saber" crowd often piles on trying to twist it into evidence against the received view) it's no wonder that people want to choke this stuff off.

The idea of sabermetricians as some sort of Bolshevist vanguard, ready to choke off contrary points of view, vowing that "heads will roll", and resorting to culture wars to achieve their ends is, I'm sorry to say, a case of hyperbolically delusional nonsense. The most prominent "critics" of the saber community aren't interested in criticism (they wouln't know how!), they're interested in silencing dissent (viz. the hysterical reaction to Michael Lewis, who was really presenting some rather mundane stuff in what was, unfortunately, a somewhat unfriendly package). Frankly, that incident raised the personal quality of the stake considerably, as the deeply personal attacks on those who do the empricial study of baseball have increased.

Now, not everyone in the "anti-" community is to be blamed for this. Far from it. But we often tar those of contrary points of view with the characteristics of their ugliest proponents. So if there's hostility flowing back, not all of it is well-directed, but I for one say it's about damn time.
   23. Steve Treder Posted: April 06, 2004 at 02:21 PM (#489667)
I truly wish that sabermetrics was just about an objective search for the truth for its major proponents, but alas, it's not so.

If this very questionable assertion is true, then the fault lies not with sabermetrics anyway, but with these major proponents. If we want to concern ourselves -- as I would wholeheartedly agree, we should -- not with the heat of the debate, but with the light it creates, then we should focus on the content of the issues rather than their form.

Taking issue with the tone of Goldman's piece is one thing, but what about its content? What of innovative analytical value has been brought forward by the various parties in the past 10 or 20 years, and what are the methodologies they employ? The "backlash" will gain my support when it offers something useful in deepening and sharpening our understanding of baseball. Criticizing sabermatricians for their lack of tact is a silly distraction from the interesting stuff.
   24. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 02:25 PM (#489668)
Yes, Mike, you're right, Statistical analysis is "always" bounded by some error bar (in any field, not just baseball) and we're not very good at admitting it when a player's performance falls outside the realm of what we think we "know".

Is that the type of criticism we typically receive? It seems to me that it isn't. The type of criticism analysts usually receive is "get your head out of the book and watch the damn game".

Now you're right in saying that the community has the most difficulty in responding to its very best criticism. But that's hardly surprising - that's what makes it solid criticism.

as the community as a whole comes to an acceptance of the limitations of what we do, there will be more of an acceptance by the "antis" as well

Would that it were so! I think that in the long term, a real robust acceptance of the limits of analysis will strengthen its position, no question. We're seeing this inside the organizations that people label as "sabermetric" (something of an overdramatization in my view), where the dialogue seems to have improved the quality of analysis, bounded its limits somewhat, and generated a new and possibly quite fruitful approach to traditional analysis.

In the short term, though, the error bars are blown out of all proportion. It's not unusual to see expected statistical outliers taken up as a cause to prove that the entire discipline is flawed. We know that isn't the case - the existence of the exceptions is entirely consistent with the statistical framework in which analysis is done - but when people's privileged interpretive position is challenged, they won't bother with those niceties.

If there is a confrontation between "old school" analysis and "new school" analysis, it is about the attack on subjectivity. Old school analysis flows from the predicate that there is an elite body of persons that has a privileged interpretive position. New school analysis sets itself agaisnt that by claiming that the truth rest in the data - essentially, that truth about baseball is fundamentally public, not private. Essentially, that you or I can understand a great deal about baseball despite not being "in the club", and that there is no special status required to gain access to baseball truth.

Now regardless if you think that's right or wrong, you have to admit that it's a direct challenge to the old school's privilege.

For "old school" analysts who depend on their privileged position for their livelihood, it's no wonder they are savage in their attacks on new work. That so much of the hostility takes the form of "who are you to say these things" underlines the fundamental inconsistency between these theories of truth.
   25. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 02:34 PM (#489670)
I should hasten to add that just because I see the debate between Old School and New School as a debate between inconsistent "theories of truth", that I'm advocating some sort of philosophical putsch. These sorts of debates occur all the time in all sorts of fields, they are sometimes rancorous, but not always.

It certainly doesn't need to become overtly political, and in fact I don't see it that way. Just because I am derisory about someone making judgments based on "the good face" doesn't mean I'm trying to take his job from him. I'm not trying to do anything but understand the game, express my love for it and trying to share it. Yeah, so I want to democratize knowledge - so what? Does that make me a bloodthirsty revolutionary? Maybe it does...
   26. Backlasher Posted: April 06, 2004 at 03:20 PM (#489673)
Old school analysis flows from the predicate that there is an elite body of persons that has a privileged interpretive position. New school analysis sets itself agaisnt that by claiming that the truth rest in the data - essentially, that truth about baseball is fundamentally public, not private.

Please, you and the rest of "the community" are exact evidence of why there is backlash. Such a statement reveals the utter disdain you have for anyone that doesn't follow your cryptic rituals or subscribe to your alphabet soup of statistics. Amongst you are even those that deny "your community" exists, yet they are quick to throw stones at any supposed heretics.

Post-sabermetric thought realizes that the search for baseball wisdom does not come from some uber-stat, but rather deals with obtaing information from all valuable sources. Post-sabermetric thought values the input from persons that have wisdom gained from experience, and can express expert opinions on subjects that don't reduce themselves to quantification. Post-sabermetric thought recognizes that more value can be gained from a person learning from experience than a person who plugs numbers into a spreadsheet. Post-sabermetric knowledge does not reduce scouts to data gatherers for computer programmers. Post-sabermetric thought recognizes the value of new analytical insight, but dismisses the concept of revolution and worship over a new combinatorial way to present numbers.

For those of you that would dare opine that "this is sabermetrics", I'd say the language has left the station. Sabermetrics has been defined in society, and its representatives are the snarky, extremists like Neyer who have drawn the battle line for you. Its camp includes combinatorists like McCracken, that manage to create new stats, but don't add to the knowledge used for evaluation of personnel. Its practioners are the egotists like Riccardi, who would demote a player just because he doesn't like the level of respect he receives.
   27. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 03:39 PM (#489675)
Its camp includes combinatorists like McCracken, that manage to create new stats, but don't add to the knowledge used for evaluation of personnel.

Huh? DIPS can't be used to evaluate personnel? Are you saying that there are significant differences between major league pitchers on BABIP allowed or that this information is not useful in player evaluation? Please clarify a position and be prepared to defend it.
   28. Steve Treder Posted: April 06, 2004 at 03:48 PM (#489676)
Backlasher,

Your anonymous post is a good illustration of why it is that the "backlash" stimulates little sympathy in me. Your adoption of the conspiratorial pseudonym, your use of pejoratives like "cryptic rituals" and "alphabet soup of statistics," your bitter insults to Neyer, McCracken, and Ricciardi -- all reveal volumes about your anger and ill will, but add nothing to the debate in terms of content.

Some but not all of what you ascribe to "post-sabemetric thought" I would say, as you anticipate, is sabermetrics, but then you conveniently disallow me from saying it. How does this help any of us? What exactly is it you're attempting to have the "backlash" achieve, beyond belittling the efforts of others?
   29. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 04:03 PM (#489679)
"Backlasher" (come out of the closet, we won't hurt you!), there's so much here. I'll take some of your comments in turn.

Please, you and the rest of "the community" are exact evidence of why there is backlash.

That may be. I sometimes rub people the wrong way, and I can be very polemical, and if people react negatively to that they will attack the man and not the ideas (not that many of the ideas are mine, of course). It may be that a great number of the people doing the original "new" work are in the same category, I don't know.

I don't think it's the case. To take just one example, they tend to stand up for what they are saying by attaching their names to it instead of sniping from the cover of anonymity.

Such a statement reveals the utter disdain you have for anyone that doesn't follow your cryptic rituals or subscribe to your alphabet soup of statistics.

But I don't disdain them. I will disdain someone who assigns that work to the garbage can without giving me a reason, yes because I think they're unreflective, not because they're not "one of us". I don't demand that someone follow any sort of ritual.

I assure you, There Is No Cabal.

Amongst you are even those that deny "your community" exists, yet they are quick to throw stones at any supposed heretics.

Well maybe. I'm not sure I'm to blame for their actions. If I am my brother's keeper, let me know and I'll try to exercise more control over the herd.

Post-sabermetric thought realizes that the search for baseball wisdom does not come from some uber-stat, but rather deals with obtaing information from all valuable sources.

Yeah, I agree, though I wouldn't call it "post-sabermetric". That's sabermetrics. The analytical study of baseball. No serious analyst ignores sources of data and information.

Now, they may not be able to do anything with that information. If I want to do a statistical study of minor league pitchers, it's no good telling me that I'm getting Francisco Rosario all wrong because his change isn't convincing enough to make batters lay off the fastball. That may well be true; it certainly isn't important data; but the fact is I'm not working in that direction, and demanding that I do seems a bit misguided, like demanding that a botanist revise his morphological classification system to take account of what color the flowers are.

Post-sabermetric thought values the input from persons that have wisdom gained from experience, and can express expert opinions on subjects that don't reduce themselves to quantification.

OK, fine. Now not everyone has the same take on this. For my part, I value this tremendously though obviously I can't make use of it where I do stat anaylsis per se - because it doesn't reduce to quantification. Others have no use for it at all. But I will say this: where the "expert opinion" reduces itself merely to bafflegab, where the person is incapable of explaining why they hold a particular opinion, I am absolutely not interested.

Post-sabermetric thought recognizes that more value can be gained from a person learning from experience than a person who plugs numbers into a spreadsheet.

I'm not going to bite on "spreadsheets", though I will point out that data is nothing except a record of experience, which you are free to accept or ignore. If you ignore the hard data, you are not embracing experience, you are rejecting it.

But that's exactly what I'm talking about. You're claiming that there's a privileged interpretive position. I am saying it's not so, or if it is, that there's more value to be gained there.

Post-sabermetric knowledge does not reduce scouts to data gatherers for computer programmers.

Neither does sabermetrics, which sees the role of scouts and the role of statistical analysis as complementary, and tries to exploit synergies between them.

Post-sabermetric thought recognizes the value of new analytical insight, but dismisses the concept of revolution and worship over a new combinatorial way to present numbers.

This is name-calling, which I dealt with above.

For those of you that would dare opine that "this is sabermetrics", I'd say the language has left the station.

This isn't even comprehensible.

Sabermetrics has been defined in society,

All words are defined in society. We who do sabermetrics define it as the analytical study of baseball, and we're not going to let you (or anyone else from outside the discipline) define it for us.

and its representatives are the snarky, extremists like Neyer who have drawn the battle line for you.

I don't even read Rob Neyer. He certainly doesn't set any kind of agenda - Rob, at this point in time, is a camp follower, not a leader. He's a very literate camp follower who writes a pretty mean column but to argue that he's some kind of battlefield general is ridiculous.

Its camp includes combinatorists like McCracken,

Combinatorist? I may not have followed you here. Can you explainwhat you mean?

that manage to create new stats, but don't add to the knowledge used for evaluation of personnel.

Well, I don't know he adds to the knowledge used for the evaluation of personnel. You'd have to ask the Boston Red Sox about that, since they're the ones employing him. I do know that the work he did on DIPS is very useful in evaluating pitchers, somethign that's borne out by experience and analysis.

Its practioners are the egotists like Riccardi, who would demote a player just because he doesn't like the level of respect he receives.

The old Orlando Hudson chestnut? Wow, you're reaching back.

Now J.P. Ricciardi doesn't need me to defend him (he'll stand or fall on his own merits) but O-Dog was hitless for the entire spring at the time he was demoted, and had already been sent down when he made his comments. I'm sure he has a large ego, yes, but what GM doesn't?

As for Ricciardi, as a guy with an extensive scouting background he may not be the best example of someone in the "sabermetric community". J.P. is a very smart executive (he's done very good things so far with the Blue Jays, though this coming year will be a bit of a make-or-break season) and is happy to lever the talents of sabermetric types, but he doesn't have a dog in this fight; at least, he's got his feet in both camps.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, if you can successfully integrate "new school" and "old school" into one overarching "post-sabermetric" theory, I am very interested to hear it. You should write a book on the subject. Best of luck.
   30. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 04:14 PM (#489680)
Mike, I think you misunderstand what I mean by "public" versus "private". I am not good at making this sort of thing clear, sorry.

By "public" I mean that a player has a high K/W ratio, or hits 96 on the gun, or that he's got a hard-breaking curve, or that he records a lot of weak groundouts to the right side of the infield, or that he's lackadaisical in his approach to training, or that he's 6'1", or that he confuses hitters with his arm angles, or that his change isn't different enough from his fastball to fool hitters down the road.

This is public knowledge. Anyone who takes the time to learn what this stuff means, and who can get close enough to observe it (particuarly hard when it comes to player's intellect, emotion, approach etc.), can see it for themselves. So many of these things, it's good to have a scout tell us because we can't see it for ourselves.

By "private" knowledge I mean stuff like how he has a great makeup, or the good face, or he's got veteran savvy, or that he knows how to win, or that he's a "75" in hitting for average. That's what traditionally has passed for knowledge about baseball, and it's closed to "outsiders". It certainly is knowledge. Whether it's more or less valuable than the public knowledge, or even whether it contributes anything at all of value, I don't know.
   31. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 04:27 PM (#489683)
"Mainstream" is not necessarily synonomous with "valid" or "intelligent" or even, "something you need to concern yourself with."

That was me posting as Fly-over; I'm not defending the books, because I haven't read them, don't want to buy them, and from what little I know I don't think they're theologically sound. Nor did I ever say they were "valid" or "intelligent" - those are your words and your scare quotes; no need to get defensive. I said they were mainstream, and they are. I'm merely pointing out the increasing polarization of Red vs. Blue states (to use somewhat cliched terminology), to the point where there are intelligent, educated, well-read people who have never heard of a book series with 60 million sales (I stand corrected) or thought that Mel Gibson would lose his shirt because no one would see his movie, just like there are people who believe that Fox News is "fair and balanced" and that the liberal media bias is Satanic in nature.
   32. Backlasher Posted: April 06, 2004 at 08:12 PM (#489693)
Some but not all of what you ascribe to "post-sabemetric thought" I would say, as you anticipate, is sabermetrics, but then you conveniently disallow me from saying it.

That's because whether you like or not, Neyer, Sheehan et. al. have stolen your flag, usurped your objective mission, and began the assault versus the heathens. You may have started gnostic, but the movement has gotten away from you. The "statheads" have begun their crusade--Just pray you aren't around for their inquisition.

They call themselves "sabermetricians" and that is how the world will forever see sabermetrics. They have taken nothing from your prophet James except his propensity for belittling wit.

How does this help any of us? What exactly is it you're attempting to have the "backlash" achieve, beyond belittling the efforts of others?

Objectivity, Truth, Justice, Harmony and the exposure of charlatans.

Bill James wrote about this once, using an analogy of being looking at a forest from the inside vs. looking at it from the outside.

Was this in the Old Historical Abstract or the new Historical Abstract. I understand some sects of sabermetrics do not believe in the teachings of the new Historical Abstracts.

If I want to do a statistical study of minor league pitchers, it's no good telling me that I'm getting Francisco Rosario all wrong because his change isn't convincing enough to make batters lay off the fastball. That may well be true; it certainly isn't important data; but the fact is I'm not working in that direction, and demanding that I do seems a bit misguided, like demanding that a botanist revise his morphological classification system to take account of what color the flowers are.

And if the problem with Rosario is his change up, and you can't determine that with your SKLJREEO formula, then dismissing a person that can make that determination would be a foolish personnel decision.

We who do sabermetrics define it as the analytical study of baseball, and we're not going to let you (or anyone else from outside the discipline) define it for us.

Its your own house that you need to clean. Its your representatives who give a public face to your craft by calling people economic illeterate ####### or calling GM's and organizations idiots that rankle feathers. Its you chair-throwing heros with egos the size of Yao Ming who denigrate those who may actually accomplish some things. The best of your lot will eventually tire of these warriors and move into a post-sabermetric revolution.

Combinatorist? I may not have followed you here. Can you explainwhat you mean?

One who combines numbers for the sake of combining numbers. Do you think that pre-Voros that GM's didn't value strikeout pitchers that don't walk batters and keep the ball in the park. If you can look at BB/IP, HR/IP, K/IP and WHIP, why on earth do you create a bunch of variables called $garbage.

I do know that the work he did on DIPS is very useful in evaluating pitchers, somethign that's borne out by experience and analysis.

In what way. Did DIPS help Riccardi pick up Cory Lidle last year. Would the DIPS disciples miss out on Moyer and Maddux. Do I need DIPS to know that Pedro Martinez has had some pretty good years. Do I need DIPS to know that a good pitcher having a bad year can bounce back. No, in fact a better predictor of this phenomena is mechanics, velocity and injury-- something that's missing on the spreadsheet.
   33. Steve Treder Posted: April 06, 2004 at 08:28 PM (#489697)
They call themselves "sabermetricians" and that is how the world will forever see sabermetrics. They have taken nothing from your prophet James except his propensity for belittling wit.

Thanks for adding such calm and rational substance to the discussion ...
   34. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 08:43 PM (#489699)
I think it's really sad that someone would spew so much invective in the nominal cause of tolerance and respect.

Do you think that pre-Voros that GM's didn't value strikeout pitchers that don't walk batters and keep the ball in the park. If you can look at BB/IP, HR/IP, K/IP and WHIP, why on earth do you create a bunch of variables called $garbage.

That's the most absurd interpretation of DIPS I have ever heard.

(DIPS, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a formula that attempts to reconstruct a pitcher's ERA using only those factors which are independent of the defense playing behind him. It has been shown to be a superior predictor of future ERAs than ERA itself. One of the main findings of this project is that major league pitchers appear to have very little control over the number of hits they allow on balls in play.)

The mighty blows you just delivered, with such bravery and fearlessness, to the recumbent body of the straw man have left him bent and broken. Congratulations.
   35. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 08:51 PM (#489700)
One of the main findings of this project is that major league pitchers appear to have very little control over the number of hits they allow on balls in play.

Let me save RossCW the trouble and clarify: there aren't large differences between major league pitchers ability to prevent hits on balls in play.
   36. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 06, 2004 at 08:52 PM (#489701)
Whoops. Yeah, the determinism implied there was too strong. Thanks cheng.
   37. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:07 PM (#489705)
No, it really hasn't. It has been shown that for the 50 or so pitchers who pitch over 160 IP two years in a row that the DIPS formula based on the first year's stats correlates better to the second year's actual ERA than the first year's raw ERA. It is not clear whether this is anything other than a regression effect.

A regression effect? Are you referring to regression to the mean? That would imply that DERA is closer to the "true" population average than ERA, which would indeed make it a better indication of ability than ERA. Ross, I'm not sure you understand what regression is. I can provide more detail if you wish.
   38. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:08 PM (#489706)
Hi-jacking my own thread here: Is there a webpage that has historical DIPS that goes back over the years?
   39. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:13 PM (#489708)
Sorry, I should have been clearer: if the correlation between DERA in year n and ERA in year n+1 was explainable solely by regression to the mean, that would imply that DERA in year n would be a good proxy for regressed ERA in year n. The whole idea of using consecutive years is to minimize the effects of changes in actual ability, which is why you need a large sample - I agree with Ross that there are sample size issues, but he also overstates the problem. Tangotiger and Tom Tippett have published comprehensive results going back over many, many seasons that all confirm the DIPS definition I gave above: there aren't large differences between major league pitchers abilities to prevent hits on balls in play.
   40. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:17 PM (#489709)
Sometimes I wonder why I bother...

Then you must agree the claim that stolen bases aren't valuable is just a statement of personal belief as well unsupported by any analysis.

No one claims that SBs aren't valuable. Many people claim that analysis of SBs must include the cost of CSs, and this is supported by much analysis.
   41. Danny Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:24 PM (#489710)
http://www.futilityinfielder.com/dips03.html

Jay Jaffe ran DIPS 2.0 on the 96 pitchers who had 100 IP in 2002 and 2003 and found that the 2002 dERA was a much better predictor of 2003 ERA than 2002 ERA was.

The correlations:

ERA: .378
   42. cheng Posted: April 06, 2004 at 09:49 PM (#489714)
The effect of all those changes is not clear. It is clear that using components you eliminate some of the chance for random variation that you find in raw ERA's. That is what I meant by regressing to the mean.

OK. So you're saying that the more meaningful test is not whether or not DERA correlates better than ERA, but if DERA correlates better than component ERA. If this year's DERA predicts next year's ERA better than this year's component ERA, then we would have evidence that DERA does capture ability better than both component and regular ERA, because the substitution of league average BABIP rates would bring additional value above and beyond the use of components. Anyone have data for such a test?

BTW, that's still not regression to the mean, but I hope I understand your point better.
   43. Backlasher Posted: April 06, 2004 at 11:29 PM (#489721)
I agree that a lot of SABR stuff isn't new, but that would seem to give it more validity than less.

NO, that would tend to make it numerology. Knowing a prospects batting average, number of home runs, and some insight into his physiology, mechanics, discipline, coachability, maturity etc. is always more valuable than knowing his WARP factor. Dividing the same numbers over and over again will not produce any insight.
   44. Klobedanz Posted: April 07, 2004 at 03:01 AM (#489723)
I may be oversimplifying (I probably am) but am just trying to get a clearer idea of the general argument going on. Is it just that RossCW is saying you have to look at the micro (Vince Coleman is on base, Tommy John is pitching, Vince has a slightly sprained calf, should Tommy Herr bunt, swing away, steal w/ Vince) i.e. each situation is different and you can't make macro statements w/ out also knowing the details?
   45. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 05:48 AM (#489728)
Post-sabermetric thought values the input from persons that have wisdom gained from experience, and can express expert opinions on subjects that don't reduce themselves to quantification.

But that begs the question: which people have gained "wisdom" from experience, and which people haven't? Which of these people have "expert" opinions, and which have wrong opinions? More importantly, how are we to tell? One is to test their statements based on the available evidence. The other is to throw up our hands and say, "They're the experts, so they must be right." The problem with the latter approach -- besides requiring that one turn off one's brain -- is that the "experts" disagree.

.
   46. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:04 AM (#489736)
You've got to love how RossCW writes "Vince Coleman scored more often when he got on base than any player in history." and actually means "Among players with at least 5000 ABs post 1950, Vince Coleman was second in scoring when he got on base." Which wouldn't ordinarily be a big deal, except that he likes to pick on every inartfully phrased comment about DIPS as if he were somehow refuting Voros' actual work, rather than merely semantic imprecision.

Now, as for the statistic itself, I don't exactly find it surprising. Obviously _given that a player is on base_, he's more likely to score if he's fast and/or if he successfully steals bases. Was this ever in question? Not to mention the built-in advantage which comes from being a leadoff hitter, which basestealers disproportionately are. (I would point out, however, that the specific statistics you cite are wrong; Nixon did not score that frequently. You're miscounting the number of times he was on base, because, I think, you're ignoring pinch running opportunities. (And this would likely be a problem causing you to overrate most of the top basestealers, as they would tend to be players most likely to be used as pinch runners.) Per Retrosheet, you're missing ~200 (actually 198) times on base from Nixon's denominator. Once you factor that in, I think you'll find that in fact Nixon wasn't quite so special at all, though still significantly ahead of Boggs, who was unusually inefficient at run-scoring, though it's a little misleading to compare him to these guys since he spent significant amounts of time out of the leadoff spot.)

.
   47. Jack of Arcades Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:34 AM (#489737)
<i>Posted 3:06 a.m., April 7, 2004 (#109) - Cortez
   48. Backlasher Posted: April 07, 2004 at 12:02 PM (#489738)
I'm really not interested in the primitive dividing into "us" vs. "them", or taking either side. Obviously, you feel committed to this battle, whether you admit it or not. For you, Goldman's piece rocked not because it offered anything useful in deepening or sharpening our understanding of baseball, but because you saw it as an effective shot across the bow of the other side.

I am curious about this too. Has Goldman or Neyer ever offered anything that deepens our understanding of baseball? Does writing "Goldman rocks!" add anything to this discussion, this thread or our understanding of baseball?

Are these the standards we will hold columnists too for criticism? Are these the standards, the new baseball primer will hold posters too before allowing a comment?

I guess if you tell Voros, he forgot to divide by pi in step 4.7, that's fair criticism, but pointing out that you can look at BB/IP, K/IP, HR/IP and get the same information much easier for talent evaluation is ad hominem. After we get rid of all the disclaimers, what are we really saying, "If you perform all these operations, you can predict the ERA of about 100 pitchers, if and only if, you can get them to throw 160 IP. Of those 100, a few which I can't tell, might have some ability that I can measure." So, I can slightly better predict the ERA of a handful of pitchers, but I don't know which pitchers it will apply to.

Well, couldn't an "old school" manager have said, "John still strikes out a lot of batters, and keeps the ball in the park, I think he'll bounce back." or "Jay was having arm problems, the velocity will return." Can DIPS predict the season Chris Hammond had 2 years ago? If not, how does an organization find Chris Hammonds (or Jose Limas). Do the number crunchers that so disdain scouts and baseball men have any answer. If not, then eliminating people that do have an answer is an unwise personnel decision.

And that "Its just one tool" mantra is a complete red herring. When that "just one tool" replaces another tool, it should provide more overall value. At best, it provides neglible value to personnel decisions, and I'm not sure it provides any value to a historical context. A pitcher that is 16-4 2.12 ERA 3.25 DIPS ERA has had a better season than someone who is 11-11 3.54 ERA 3.12 DIPS ERA. Improving DIPS ERA is not an objective. Reducing home runs, increasing strikeouts, and reducing walks are and have always been reasonable objectives with or without DIPS.

For years, self-styled sabermetricians, many of whom have produced nothing of value, have called people and organizations idiots or illeterate #######. They have proclaimed intellectual superiority over any person that has spent thier entire life and career on trying to understand and improve baseball. They have cheerleaded their friends accomplishments, by telling them they "rock" or they are "cool."

Yet on these vary threads, they deny such behavior ever exists. Treder's classic lines, "This doesn't happen." or "your issue is with x." Well, Steve, you cheerlead in this vary thread. Also, if you deny this behavior exists, then to use a primate line: "It isn't worth having a discussion with someone who displays no conceptual understanding of the subject at hand. The opinions expressed by such a person are properly dismissed for what they are: worthless. If you want and expect to be listened to and taken seriously, here or anywhere else, be prepared to present cogent and rational observations. Otherwise, forget it." because you are obviously ignoring evidence and fail to see how you also participate in the cheerleading.

If you call Voros to task for saying, "Pitchers have no control over the number of hits they allow on balls in play.", this is not fair, but it is fair for calling someone to task for using scouting metrics, or flambay someone because they say "Billy Beane wrote Moneyball". Who is cherry picking statements. If you make this statement, its an ad hominem attack, but saying "Griffin is an idiot." is fair because he makes idiotic statements.

Its ok to look at the behavior of Milton Bradley, but not ok to look at the behavior of Rob Neyer. I am curious, what classifies useful discussion, "[Saber hero] rocks."
   49. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 01:28 PM (#489739)
I do have a problem with reducing the game to only that which is quantifiable and dismissing the rest as unimportant, as Craig does several times above

Not quantifiable. *Objective*. It's different. Something can be objectively knowable without being quantifiable.

I can't use unquantifiable information to do quantitative analysis, and the quantitative analysis doesn't suffer as a result.

That doesn't mean the unquantifiable information isn't important. I think it is. Very. But of course, no one's going to listen to what I have to say because it's easier to set me up as a straw man.

(Also, I think I may have made a typo earlier... whoops.)
   50. JC in DC Posted: April 07, 2004 at 01:37 PM (#489740)
This thread has provided a fascinating read. I have no stake in the Kulturkampf, but it's clear it exists, and it takes two to Kampf, that's for sure. I think Cortez in particular has made his case well, and the snide attacks of his views confirm his (and Ross's) points. If one reads Goldman's article w/o the commitment to sabermetrics of many people here, you can see quite clearly that Goldman provided a very well-written partisan attack on the opposition, whom he name-calls throughout. His DiMaggio example is silly and certainly too small a sample to prove his point. It doesn't illuminate the scouting issue at all to show that (apparently) someone judged incorrectly about a single player's knee injury anymore than if someone else misjudged another player's ability to hit ML pitching based on his minor league record.

And here's the deal. Treder above wrote the following: "Criticizing sabermatricians for their lack of tact is a silly distraction from the interesting stuff." There's a sense in which that's true, but largely it's false. The "lack of tact" seems actually to stem from the ideological commitment to the self-evidence of the statistical approach. Sabermetric proponents (and I'm thinking here of Neyer and teh BPro crowd, largely) write as though disagreeing w/them is a function simply of ignorance or ideological commitment. How could any idiot not see that Youkilis (sp?) is gonna be great? How could any idiot not continue to carry Dunston on his roster? How could any idiot not prefer Choi to Karros? To disagree w/sabermetrics is not to hold a reasonable counter-position, but instead to be irrational (and thus subject to ridicule). So the stridence and name-calling and arrogance appears to be of a piece w/the analysis. That Sabean or Schuerholz or Baker has been successful despite making moves that appear anti-sabermetric, or that Beane continues to fail in the playoffs, routinely gets dismissed as though not being material for objective analysis. Maybe "clubhouse presence" does matter? Maybe teams do have chemistry? Maybe the playoffs are not a crapshoot?

Whether or not there's actually a revolution occurring in baseball analysis is one issue. That Goldman thinks there is one (and here I disagree w/Treder above) is clear: you can't have a "counter revolution" (his term) w/o a revolution. And remember, a revolution is like Saturn, it devours its own children. (And if you've seen Goya's painting, you'll know this looks rather painful!)

One final point: many people here continue to make snide posts against Ross as though it's self-evident he's a dick. I have asked why people think this, but now I've read enough of his posts to see that this seems a clear misjudgment. All I ever see Ross do is respond to other people's questions or comments. He doesn't name call, unlike Treder he doesn't pout, pick up his ball and run home with righteous self-satisfaction, he just expresses his opinion.
   51. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2004 at 02:21 PM (#489741)
Maybe "clubhouse presence" does matter? Maybe teams do have chemistry?

I've asserted both of these points many times on this site. IMO "clubhouse presence" does matter, and teams do have clubhouse chemistry. (I do think that the playoffs are largely a crapshoot.)

I have never encountered anything resembling strident arrogant name-calling when I have asserted these opinions. What I've found is that reasonable people can disagree about these and a lot of other matters, and that there is a genuine flow of rational argument back and forth on questions such as these all the time.

Is everyone reasonable and civil all the time? Of course not; in what realm of human existence is that the case? But to characterize the situation as one in which sabermetics is some kind of monolithic "camp" in which no rational dissent is tolerated is to not describe reality at all, at least as I've experienced it.
   52. JC in DC Posted: April 07, 2004 at 02:50 PM (#489743)
Steve: Actually, I do recall you acknowledging both presence and chemistry. But you must also recall many people on this site ripping Dusty Baker (for instance) for his player preferences, often doing so w/o argument, simply asserting sabermetric self-evidence, even as Baker's teams go on to relative success. [I think also the Jeter at SS issue applies here as well; for some it's simply "self-evident" that Jeter sux, and is a dick for not moving, and Torre and Cashman are complicit, and so on, when I think (as I've argued) there's a reasonable defense for keeping Jeter where he is.] Cortez's original point, which was a good one, I thought, is that people here did not recognize how Goldman's fine article was nonetheless an essay of partisan sniping at the "conservative" (Goldman's term) opposition; at how the DiMaggio example really showed NOTHING, other than Cortez's sociological point (and mine from the quotation- the revolution will devour its children). Good statistical and other analysis of the sport must stand or fall on its own merits, and I know you agree with that. A site like this, with its very able and critical minds, must resist the temptation which ensnared some of the posters in this thread: to think of the opposition as another (and ludicrous) camp, rather than as the dulling of our minds.

Example: There are certainly "crapshoot" elements in the playoffs. And there are some in the regular season too (your stud pitcher blows out his arm, your stud RF decides to join the war effort). But there are non-crapshoot elements in each as well. And Beane's job is to minimize his team's exposure to the crapshoot by girding them against it. It's his job to find a way to protect them against it. It's our job, and Neyer's job, to criticize him for failing adequately to do so. It lets him off the hook simply to throw up our hands and say, "Oh that inscrutable postseason! Anything can happen!" Instead the brilliant minds here and his brilliance ought to apply themselves to the problem.
   53. Danny Posted: April 07, 2004 at 03:32 PM (#489748)
Example: There are certainly "crapshoot" elements in the playoffs. And there are some in the regular season too (your stud pitcher blows out his arm, your stud RF decides to join the war effort). But there are non-crapshoot elements in each as well. And Beane's job is to minimize his team's exposure to the crapshoot by girding them against it. It's his job to find a way to protect them against it. It's our job, and Neyer's job, to criticize him for failing adequately to do so. It lets him off the hook simply to throw up our hands and say, "Oh that inscrutable postseason! Anything can happen!" Instead the brilliant minds here and his brilliance ought to apply themselves to the problem.

I don't think you understand what "crapshoot" means. It does not mean 50/50 entirely random. It means that in a short series, the better team will still lose fairly often. If you want to criticize Beane for his roster construction, do so. We've had dozens of threads where this takes place, and it always comes back to the same point: the A's have had remarkably different styles of rosters over their 4 playoff appearances so it's impossible to pin one lacking attribute on them.

[I think also the Jeter at SS issue applies here as well; for some it's simply "self-evident" that Jeter sux, and is a dick for not moving, and Torre and Cashman are complicit, and so on, when I think (as I've argued) there's a reasonable defense for keeping Jeter where he is.]

No one says that Jeter sucks. People say that he's a bad defensive SS while A-Rod is a good one. If you don't believe what every single defensive metric says, then tell us why. No one says he's a dick for not moving. I probably wouldn't voluntarily move if I was him. People argue that he should be moved by his manager. The argument that gets you and J#1F so upset is that there is all the evidence of him being a great leader is speculative.

One final point: many people here continue to make snide posts against Ross as though it's self-evident he's a dick. I have asked why people think this, but now I've read enough of his posts to see that this seems a clear misjudgment. All I ever see Ross do is respond to other people's questions or comments. He doesn't name call, unlike Treder he doesn't pout, pick up his ball and run home with righteous self-satisfaction, he just expresses his opinion.

Ross's game generally isn't namecalling, it's refusing to participate in an honest dialogue. Instead, he obfustates arguments, intentionally misinterprets people, ignores solid criticisms, and repeats the same arguments over and over despite the fact that they have been proven wrong to him dozens of times. As he has admitted in the past, his main purpose on this site is to agitate people. He's obviously a pretty smart guy, but that doesn't make him worth responding to.

Case in point: Vince Coleman. He's brought this up before and people have countered that Coleman's numbers are inflated by 1) batting leadoff generally means coming up with fewer outs, which leads to scoring more runs and 2) batting leadoff means hitting directly in front of your team's best hitters.

His main point is always that we can't accurately measure anything. He's right, in a sense, that we'll never know the whole truth. However, most of us would like to get as close as we can while recognizing the limitations. Ross gets himself into trouble by saying we can't accurately measure anything and then stating that Rivas is clearly better than Ellis. He's left with nothing to back that up because he won't let others use stats to prove their points.

A pitcher that is 16-4 2.12 ERA 3.25 DIPS ERA has had a better season than someone who is 11-11 3.54 ERA 3.12 DIPS ERA. Improving DIPS ERA is not an objective. Reducing home runs, increasing strikeouts, and reducing walks are and have always been reasonable objectives with or without DIPS.

Pitcher A relied on his defense more, which means the pitchers are of roughly equal quality but pitcher A's defense has more value. You can't entirely credit a pitcher's ERA to the pitcher, defense matters too. I thought that was obvious, though, right?

If you call Voros to task for saying, "Pitchers have no control over the number of hits they allow on balls in play.", this is not fair, but it is fair for calling someone to task for using scouting metrics, or flambay someone because they say "Billy Beane wrote Moneyball". Who is cherry picking statements. If you make this statement, its an ad hominem attack, but saying "Griffin is an idiot." is fair because he makes idiotic statements.

People who still criticize Voros for that are ignorant because they haven't read his new work. If Morgan had come out the next day and said, "I was wrong that Beane wrote Moneyball" instead of repeating his ignorance, he would be absolved of much criticism.

How could any idiot not see that Youkilis (sp?) is gonna be great?

Strawmen like this are hilarious. Youkilis wasn't even among BPro's top 50 prospects this year.

I guess if you tell Voros, he forgot to divide by pi in step 4.7, that's fair criticism, but pointing out that you can look at BB/IP, K/IP, HR/IP and get the same information much easier for talent evaluation is ad hominem.

Ad hominem? Are you serious? No one would ever criticize you for looking at those stats to judge a pitcher. But of course you already knew that you get a better view of a pitcher's future performance by ignoring BABIP, right? This reminds me of a line by Michael Lewis in his SI article, I believe. Someone asked him how long the backlash would continue. He responded that it would stop shortly when the backlashers stop their criticism to claim that all of the SABR arguments were always obvious to them and add nothing new.

My basic objective is to offer criticism of the methods and tactics of those promoting sabermetrics as an alternative. I believe it is both valid and warranted, or at least deserving of honest rebuttal and not mere dismissal because it's offered by an outsider. If sabermetrics is truly what it claims to be, my criticisms shouldn't be seen as a threat.

If you want to offer criticism, please do. Criticize specific stathead "beliefs." Don't criticize the tone unless you note that your criticism is purel aesthitic in nature. There is no reason to use all of the religious imagery; it is neither honest criticism nor rebuttal.
   54. JC in DC Posted: April 07, 2004 at 03:50 PM (#489749)
Uh, Danny, are you intentionally merging my post w/someone else's? And what makes you think I don't understand what a crapshoot is? You quit erecting strawmen (control yourself Piazza!). You completely missed the point of my ILLUSTRATIONS. I don't care if Youkilis isn't the best example, the point is this site SKEWERS people who disagree w/whatever's become sabermetric CW. D. Baker gets mocked, Morgan shredded, RossCW racked, and on and on. I am trying to point out, the more that occurs, the more likely this "revolution" will devour itself. Take for instance your remark that the argument Jeter's a great leader is "speculative." That's untrue. THere's evidence for this, but it's not evidence you apparently accept. Such evidence includes: (1) His manager, teammates, general manager, etc saying "He's a great leader"; (2) His being named captain of a team that is precious in handing out that designation; (3) His team being led (and winning); (4) his never engaging in "star" behavior that often characterizes the behavior of "stars"; (5) His clear calm and poise in difficult and pressure-filled situations [you ever seen Jeter 'flapped?']. Actually, Danny, I've never claimed Jeter was a great leader. I don't even know if I would. But there is some evidence he is. I've never denied his defense is below average; I accept that. But your quick defense of the establishment against my questions just proves the point I was trying to make. Thanks.
   55. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2004 at 03:54 PM (#489750)
I made a post here a few minutes ago that apparently didn't "take," so I apologize if this ends up as a duplicate ...

But you must also recall many people on this site ripping Dusty Baker (for instance) for his player preferences, often doing so w/o argument, simply asserting sabermetric self-evidence, even as Baker's teams go on to relative succss.

I do recall that. I have asserted on this site many times that I think Baker is a terrific manager, and to fail to perceive this is to miss something very important.

Others disagree. We share many different viewpoints, of varying knowledge, insight, and validity.

You're sharing here the fact that you see the Goldman piece differently than I do. We disgree on this. Maybe we'll agree on something else, or maybe we never will.

My experience, on this site and others, is that sensible ideas, rationally presented, will be heard and acknowledged. Rants and polemics won't, and those (like you know who) who have no interest in sincere dialogue at all will be ignored.
   56. Danny Posted: April 07, 2004 at 03:55 PM (#489751)
But your quick defense of the establishment against my questions just proves the point I was trying to make. Thanks.

If your point was that I disagree with much of what you said, then you're welcome.
   57. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 07:57 PM (#489760)
A few points:

JC in DC (#126):

1) WRT Jeter-as-leader, whether he is isn't what's speculative. What's speculative is what that means. Few people say, "Jeter is a leader" in the abstract; what they say is, in so many words, "Jeter is better than his numbers because he is a leader." That's what's speculative, no matter how many quotes one piles up saying he's a leader.

2) You invent an imaginary quote about Youkilis and then in the same paragraph you have the audacity to complain about "strawmen"?

JC in DC (#120):

1) And Beane's job is to minimize his team's exposure to the crapshoot by girding them against it. It's his job to find a way to protect them against it. It's our job, and Neyer's job, to criticize him for failing adequately to do so. It lets him off the hook simply to throw up our hands and say, "Oh that inscrutable postseason! Anything can happen!" Instead the brilliant minds here and his brilliance ought to apply themselves to the problem.

First, it seems to me to make more sense to say, "Oh that inscrutable postseason" than to pretend to have knowledge one doesn't have.

Second, if you're going to "criticize [Beane] for failing adequately" to "protect them against it," shouldn't you actually demonstrate that he has done so? Shouldn't you actually identify what he supposedly failed to do? The mere fact that they lost cannot be conclusive evidence that he did something wrong -- after all, there are two good teams in any postseason game, and one of them has to lose, even if it did everything right.

.
   58. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 08:13 PM (#489761)
RossCW:

I have never claimed "we can't accurately measure anything". But MLE's, WARP, VORP, PECOTA, OPS, EQa, ballpark effects, win shares ... are not objective measures of anything. They are mostly theoretical constructs that can't be tested against the real world.

If someone says a person is 72 inches tall that is a measurement,if they say they weigh 200 pounds we know what has been measured. But if we say they are bodysize 272 (with bodysize defined as height in inches plus weight in pounds) it tells us nothing. And if we say their bodysize is 416 (with bodysize defined as 3 X height plus weight) it still doesn't tell us anything.

No, Ross. You don't quite get how it works. One doesn't get to decide before looking what tells us something. First one examines it, and THEN one decides whether that's useful. That you don't understand what has been measured in each of these cases doesn't mean that "we don't know what has been measured." It means you don't, because you're not interested in finding out, because your mind is closed. Of course theoretical constructs can be tested against the real world.
   59. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 08:37 PM (#489764)
Is it OK if I lead the cheers for DMN?

Or does that make me a fascist thug grinding my boot in the face of poor but honest baseball insiders? (Or maybe a snotty elitist cruelly disdaining the toil and effort of my wise and benevolent baseball elders? Have I captured just the right mix of arrogance, naivete, disrespect and obfuscation? Show me the way!)

Anyway, thanks David.
   60. JC in DC Posted: April 07, 2004 at 08:39 PM (#489765)
David N: I fear that you misunderstood the place of Youkilis in my argument. It is no strawman. I have no commitment to whether Youkilis is the right example of Neyerish stridency. I was instead asking about:

The "lack of tact" seems actually to stem from the ideological commitment to the self-evidence of the statistical approach. Sabermetric proponents (and I'm thinking here of Neyer and teh BPro crowd, largely) write as though disagreeing w/them is a function simply of ignorance or ideological commitment. How could any idiot not see that Youkilis (sp?) is gonna be great?

Youkilis was a illustration of the point. You'll notice it's not a "made up quotation." You have never heard (on this site or in Neyer's columns, or at BPro) this type of statement? That someone is a fool for not seeing what sabermetrics says? If not, read one of those BPro transactions columns.

In fairness to Treder, his comments are NOT characterized by this arrogance.

Regarding Beane's postseason failures: Imagine you own the As, and Beane provides you w/a very successful team, but keeps failing in the playoffs. Would you accept his coming to you and saying, "Well, all I can do is get them there, I can't win it for them"? Or, would you be looking for answers? I am not saying and did not say the alternative is to pretend to have answers you don't have. I'm saying instead that you don't give him a pass; you reply, "Well, you're smart like Fredo, try to figure out why we keep failing and other teams succeed." Beane is rightly not satisfied with the excuse that the other teams outspend him. He thinks he's smarter than they are, and that's what he should think. And then he should work on the problem, we should see that it's a problem, and try to figure out what things can be done to maximize one's postseason chances.
   61. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 07, 2004 at 08:52 PM (#489766)
The "lack of tact" seems actually to stem from the ideological commitment to the self-evidence of the statistical approach. Sabermetric proponents (and I'm thinking here of Neyer and teh BPro crowd, largely) write as though disagreeing w/them is a function simply of ignorance or ideological commitment.

If this is true, then it's a reaction to the crap that the Elias boys and mainstream sportswriters were throwing at Bill James, Pete Palmer and the rest of the sabermetric crowd for their "heretical teachings" during the eighties. If you want to find out who drew "first blood," that's the place to look.
   62. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2004 at 08:57 PM (#489767)
In fairness to Treder, his comments are NOT characterized by this arrogance.

Thank you, JC. Sincerely.

This probably would be a good time for me to say something that I'm pretty sure I've said on this site before: I agree that the BPro books and website sometimes adopt a snotty arrogant tone, and it's very off-putting. I guess where I have the big disagreement with others in this thread is that I don't interpret that sour tone I sometimes detect on BPro to be descriptive of BPro generally, nor do I interpret BPro to be entirely representative of sabermetrics generally. BPro is just a few guys among a very large and dynamic community.

And maybe it's just me, but I don't find Neyer's writing to be arrogant at all. In fact sometimes he comes across as a little bit too nice, I think. I certainly don't always agree with him; his quality (like everyone's) is sometimes spotty, but in general I find his style to be kind of cheery and inoffensive. Maybe I'm missing something.
   63. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:07 PM (#489770)
this constant harping on the A's lack of success in the playoffs is unfair. People don't draw the same conclusions from the Braves' long history of playoff failure.

One thing that seems to characterize the critique of the Beane A's postseason struggles is a lack of historical perspective.

Not just the Braves, but lots of excellent teams historically have done quite a bit more poorly in the post-season than was expected: the Earl Weaver Orioles, the "Boys of Summer" Dodgers, the John McGraw Giants. It isn't as though this is an unprecedented phenomenon. I've always found the very simple explanation that it's really impossible to draw much conclusion about the quality of a team (and particularly the quality of its GM) from any handful of its games to be quite satisfactory.
   64. cheng Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:17 PM (#489771)
Right - one first weighs, then measures then decides to add them and then sees that people with big numbers tend to be larger than ones with small numbers and we have "bodysize". And then we see that major league players with a larger "bodysize" tend to hit more home runs. Therefore its very likely David McCarty will hit more home runs than Kirby Puckett ... and I would guess that there are some people here who see nothing wrong with this kind of analysis.

JC in DC, this is why people take shots at Ross. I've never posted as RossCWXYZ or any variant, and I don't condone those who do, because it's immature. But do you think the above paragraph has anything to do with sabermetrics, or a position that any non-troll has ever taken on this board? I've found that RossCW is an obviously intelligent person who has shown no interest in honest intellectual discourse. I've often wondered if it's the most elaborate Mark Garber strategy I've ever seen. I don't know, and it doesn't matter, but even though I addressed posts to him just yesterday, I think I'll stop for the sake of my own sanity.
   65. JC in DC Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:23 PM (#489772)
dp: I laughed out loud at the Norsemen line. No, Beane hasn't eaten any of my children (yet!). I'm just sayin' is all. I don't get how a community so devoted to reason and science etc can simply throw up their hands at postseason failure. This is ALL about winning the trophy, isn't it? That is what these guys want, and I grant (as I did earlier) there are more "crap" elements in the postseason than the regular. I'm just sayin' is all, that I would think the scientific response would not be, "Oh well," but "Goddammit, we're gonna fix this ######!" Isn't the latter response the engine of progress?
   66. JC in DC Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:26 PM (#489773)
Fair enough, Cheng. To be honest, I have very little idea what Ross is talking about in that post.
   67. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:34 PM (#489775)
Regarding Beane's postseason failures: Imagine you own the As, and Beane provides you w/a very successful team, but keeps failing in the playoffs. Would you accept his coming to you and saying, "Well, all I can do is get them there, I can't win it for them"?

Well, I'm part of the borg collective, so of course I would accept it. ;)

Or, would you be looking for answers? I am not saying and did not say the alternative is to pretend to have answers you don't have. I'm saying instead that you don't give him a pass; you reply, "Well, you're smart like Fredo, try to figure out why we keep failing and other teams succeed." Beane is rightly not satisfied with the excuse that the other teams outspend him. He thinks he's smarter than they are, and that's what he should think. And then he should work on the problem, we should see that it's a problem, and try to figure out what things can be done to maximize one's postseason chances.

I would certainly hope people would always look for new answers to questions (as well as look for new questions to ask.) But I would not assume that there is an "answer" here. That is, we cannot assume merely because Oakland lost that Beane hasn't maximized Oakland's postseason chances.

After all, the _conventional_ wisdom is that what's needed in the postseason is a few dominant starting pitchers -- that's pretty logical, and I don't think that any stathead would dispute it -- and a good closer. Didn't Oakland have that? What measurable ingredient was missing from their repertoire? Speed, I suppose. (Then again, they lost last year to Boston and in 2002 to Minnesota, neither of whom had speed as a major asset.)
   68. xian Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:36 PM (#489776)
I loved the article. I don't always get all of the references in Goldman's work, but it's nevertheless fun to boogle around and try. I started to read the comments, but I got bored reading people trolling around, so I just decided to write something while ignoring the discussion. Does that make me a bad human being? Incidentally, whoever brought up the "public v. private knowledge" point, big props to you--I imagine that is the strongest reason for any backlash against Sabermetrics. People are always threatened by any dynamic that could threaten their monopoly on "truth".
   69. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:38 PM (#489778)
I don't get how a community so devoted to reason and science etc can simply throw up their hands at postseason failure.

I don't see this "throwing up the hands" response at all. I've read (and participated in) about a gazillion threads thrashing through the ins and outs of postseason success and failure, by the A's and the Braves and the Yankees and all kinds of other teams, past and present. It's a subject that has generated lots of inquiry and discussion.

As far as I can see, the conclusion that short-series results are highly a function of chance is not an unexamined assumption: it is based on careful study of the problem.

I grant (as I did earlier) there are more "crap" elements in the postseason than the regular.

Let's think through just how much more "crap" there is. We're talking about a best-of-seven, or even a best-of-five, series of games as compared with a best-of-one-hundred-and-sixty-two. The difference between these two tests of team quality is huge, enormous, vast. The influence of random chance in explaining the outcome of any short series is very, very large.

Players may not realize this. Broadcasters may not realize it. It sure wouldn't make sense for those who have an interest in marketing these events (the teams, MLB, the media) to admit it even if they do realize it. But that doesn't mean it isn't true.
   70. cheng Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:45 PM (#489779)
I don't get how a community so devoted to reason and science etc can simply throw up their hands at postseason failure. This is ALL about winning the trophy, isn't it?

I don't think it's just a matter of throwing up hands and giving up. I recall several studies (can't find them right now) done over the last few years that tried to find specific types of teams that overperform or underperform in the postseason. Do teams with high numbers of SB attempts do better than station-to-station teams? Do teams with value concentrated in top-line talent do better than teams built around depth? Do 900 RS 800 RA teams do worse than 600/500 teams? No one could find a characteristic to explain these things. Doesn't mean that there isn't one, or that people have stopped trying to figure it out. It just means that, given the available information, a lot of it really does come down to luck, particularly when you have to win three series to get a ring. Even if you had a league where the top team played .750 ball and the three other playoff teams were around .520, the dominant team, looking at log5 results, would make it to the WS less than half the time.

I'm not saying that it has to be luck, or that there aren't factors that make certain teams do better than others in the playoffs. I'm just saying that the lack of concrete answers to date doesn't mean everyone has just thrown up their hands.
   71. cheng Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:48 PM (#489780)
Darn, took too long to do the log5 math and got beaten by two more concise, better written posts. Well said, David and Steve.
   72. Danny Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:54 PM (#489782)
Just 3 of the A's 9 opening day starters were on the team last year, so it's not as if Beane is just sitting there doing nothing. He's changed his team from a slow, defensively challenged, slugging juggernaut to a very well balanced team to one reliant on excellent pitching. The 4 Oakland playoff teams have looked drastically different from each other, so it's not likely you'd ever find a common trait in all 4 that would lead you to believe they'd have an inherent relative weakness in the postseason.

As mentioned above, virtually every possibility has been discussed and researched.
   73. Backlasher Posted: April 07, 2004 at 09:54 PM (#489783)
Mr. Nieporent,

Thank you for the dialogue rather than just asserting false motives.

1) You misunderstand basic elements of DIPS. There's nothing magic about DIPS which makes it only apply to pitchers who throw 160 innings. Rather, it's just that the smaller the sample size, the larger the error in projection by *any* method (statistical or nonstatistical, traditional or nontraditional.)

I may or may not misunderstand DIPS; however, the important question is what value does it bring to the table. Are we able to find diamonds in the rough using DIPS, that we could not find before DIPS? (or do we just get last year's Red Sox Bullpen, and JP signing Lidle) Do we miss anything if we use DIPS to the exclusion of other evaluative methods? (which does appear to happen when a club goes SABR).

2) Couldn't an "old school" manager have said, "John still strikes out a lot of batters, and keeps the ball in the park, I think he'll bounce back"? Sure. An "old school" physicist could say, "Release an object from a height and it falls," too. Does that mean that Newton's work on gravitation was meaningless? Of course not.

It doesn't say that Newton's work is meaningless; however, depending on the context of the situation, what is its relative value. If you have finite resources, you must make choices between items. Had you rather teach a public works laborer Newtonian physics or how to operate a jackhammer. Moreover, your counter example is a bit absurd. Obviously anything that is gained by DIPS is minimal--you don't need the new number to come up with the conclusion. I could take OBP multiply it by 10 and divide by 3 and show that its a better indicator of next year's runs created than batting average. I haven't run the numbers but I bet I'm right. In the grand scheme of things has DIPS given you anything much more than this. If you are going to exclude 70% of your population for "sample size" and 20% of your population for luck and 5% of your population for "undetected skill" what are you really left with. If you can't determine which population is going to be excluded (particularly in the upper 25%), what have you added.

Can *anybody* predict the season Chris Hammond had two years ago? Who said scouts did have an answer? Why did Hammond get a mere $450K contract if these people knew that? Why wasn't he eagerly bid upon by every team, driving his contract way up?

To the level of success he did have, probably not. Yet their are some teams that don't use sabermetrics that seem to find bullpen gems from nowhere on a consistent basis. Sabr-s say its luck, and call you a fool if you look for the skill.

DIPS methodology isn't merely saying that those three things are important statistics; it (a) quantifies their relative importance, and (b) says that H/IP *isn't* important.

I don't understand your statement in (a). In what way is the importance being quantified except in relation to H/IP? And (b) has been the subject of much backtracking. What's Voros' current line: "its not a significant difference for a few major league pitchers except for outliers, except for knuckleballers, except for wherever somebody proves me wrong next." That's a long way from "Pitchers have no effect on balls in play, and H/IP is important in some contexts.

If you take away the disclaimers, you are left with:
   74. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:01 PM (#489784)
We were challenged to name one thing of value that SABR produced/taught, so thought I'd throw this in...

I think the notion that BA is as good or better than OBP, SL% or OPS is another. If you were to take the best team each year since 1876, they more likely would have led in the latter three categories (especially OPS, of course) than BA. This shouldn't really surprise anyone since OBP and SL% are BAPLUS.
   75. Danny Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:07 PM (#489787)
The Rangers and Astros both lost in the 1st round 3 out of 4 years. They didn't make the playoffs the other year, so they must be better than the A's.
   76. Backlasher Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:13 PM (#489789)
Hi everyone! The "first round of the playoffs" has been around since 1995. Can you believe, in 9 whole years, no team has made the playoffs 4 times in a row and lost in the first round?! AMAZING!

Its Treder that brought up history--where are your barbs for him. That's the whole point, Oakland's disastrous run is not comparable to anybody. They have done worse than the Buffalo Bills. They aren't just losing to great teams, They are losing to teams that lose to other teams, that lose to other teams.

Two teams cited by Steve, the Earl Weaver Orioles and the Atlanta Braves have not only won playoff series, but they also won world championships. So go back to 1969, measure world series, measure anything you want, the run of futility is pretty bad.
   77. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:15 PM (#489791)
We were challenged to name one thing of value that SABR produced/taught, so thought I'd throw this in...

Just correcting my last post:

I think the notion that BA is as good or better than OBP, SL% or OPS is another. If you were to take the best team each year since 1876, they more than likely would have led in the latter three categories (especially OPS, of course) over BA. This shouldn't really surprise anyone since OBP and SL% are BAPLUS.
   78. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:24 PM (#489795)
The A's unprecedented, disastrous playoff run consists of 20 games, against other playoff teams, in which the A's have won 8 games and lost 12. If ANY ONE of those 12 losses had gone the other way and resulted in a win (bringing the A's record all the way up to 9-11), the A's would have NOT lost in the first round that year, and we quite possibly wouldn't be having this discussion right now.

How one can conclude that such a result is beyond the bounds of random chance eludes me.
   79. Backlasher Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:39 PM (#489797)
If ANY ONE of those 12 losses had gone the other way and resulted in a win (bringing the A's record all the way up to 9-11), the A's would have NOT lost in the first round that year, and we quite possibly wouldn't be having this discussion right now.

We wouldn't, because then the A's wouldn't have LOST FOUR STRAIGHT PLAYOFF SERIES. That's the whole point, the A's have tanked the playoffs. Do you need 162 playoff series before you start seeing a trend. One of the reason's they only have 20 games is because they keep losing. If its a crapshoot, then what do you think there is complete parity-- OK what are the Odds of losing 4 in a row.

If the A's are so gosh darn good, then maybe it shouldn't be considered parity. Doesn't that reduce the odds of this happening.
   80. Mike F Posted: April 07, 2004 at 10:56 PM (#489798)
I'm sure the Pirates or the Tigers would love to fail like the A's fail.
   81. JC in DC Posted: April 08, 2004 at 12:38 AM (#489800)
Oh, Good Lord, I hadn't considered that backlash could be Brennan. Now THIS is the side of the road even I don't want to be on!
   82. JC in DC Posted: April 08, 2004 at 12:45 AM (#489801)
Surfer: My continued reference to Youkilis? Can you read? I explicitly stated I had NO commitment to whether he was the right example. I pulled him out of my ass. I admit that.
   83. JC in DC Posted: April 08, 2004 at 02:33 AM (#489804)
Cortez: Thanks for the thanks, and I thought the exact same thing. I'm sure everyone would still want the games, b/c they're fun to watch, but apparently the outcome IS no different than tumbling dice on a table.
   84. cheng Posted: April 08, 2004 at 02:54 AM (#489806)
Even if the point was to come up with a better postseason, it seems to want to, for lack of a better analogy, strip the icing off the cake of the baseball season, the part that makes it a truly delicious experience. Would 2003 been better just to declare the Braves and Yankees co-champs and forgotten about October baseball?

Nobody's claimed that, but that's the undeniable direction of the "crapshoot" argument.


I don't think it's undeniable, in fact I deny it :) I watched the series games last year, and though I would have been excited beyond comprehension for a Sox/Cubs series, the real series was just fine too. I enjoyed watching Torre lose a WS game with his worst pitcher on the mound, and watching Beckett dominate in game 6. Even though I "knew" the Braves were a better team than both the Marlins and the Cubs, I didn't begrudge either team its postseason performance, and it certainly didn't detract from the excitement of the playoffs. I don't think you can be a baseball fan and not get excited about the World Series, regardless of whether you're an "insider" or an "outside" or "conventional wisdom" or "stathead" or what have you. If we didn't care about the game so much, we wouldn't spend so much time thinking about it, discussing it, learning about it, etc. The knowledge that the playoffs are a "crapshoot" doesn't make the games themselves any less fun to follow. For me, at least. YMMV.
   85. VoiceOfUnreason Posted: April 08, 2004 at 03:15 AM (#489807)
"OK what are the Odds of losing 4 in a row."

Well, if you assume that the probability of winning a single series is 1/2, then the probability of losing 4 straight is 1/16. It's going to happen from time to time.

If you assume a good team - say one that ought to win 55% of its series against playoff competitors, the probability of losing 4 straight is roughly 1/25.

If you assume a borderline team - say one that ought to win 45% of its series against playoff competitors, the probability of losing 4 straight is roughly 1/11.

In short, it is going to happen, if you have enough teams reaching the playoffs four years in a row. It's going to happen in just the same way that a weaker team can sweep a stronger team in the world series.

[Obviously, if you define strong vs weaker a posteriori, then this never happens, and the analogy goes right out the window.]

My feeling is that the playoffs really are a crapshoot, by which I mean a coin toss (true coin). The evidence that lead me to this stance certainly isn't conclusive, but it may be of interest.

Consider a playoff series at game two. If you assume the the stronger team is more likely to win any specific game, then you would expect them to win game one more often than not. Thus, you would expect that, after two games, 2-0 is more likely than 1-1. Historically, the opposite is the case (or was, when I researched world series results three years ago).

The results for each of the different uneven records (1-0,2-0,2-1,3-1) were right around the 50% mark. 3-0 had an extreme split favoring the leading team (2.98 stdev - assuming the teams evenly matched), 3-2 had a reverse split (1.78 stdev).

The point being, that this data is (with the possible exception of 3-0) indistinguishable from coin flips. Which suggests (though does not confirm) that a short series really is a crap shoot.

Disclaimer: Sample size. The probability of a series going 2-0 is .5 + 2 a ^ 2, where a = (probability of stronger team winning one game) -.5. For instance, if team A has a 60% chance of beating team B in a single game, the probability that the series goes 2-0 would be .5 + 2 * (.6-.5)^2 = .52 [check .6^2 + .4^2 = .36 + .16 = .52] So the expected value (assuming .6 is a reasonable win probability to use) would be 45.76/88, rather than the observed 43/88 (-.59 stdev).

Other Disclaimer: this was World Series data only.
   86. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: April 08, 2004 at 03:15 AM (#489808)
<i>Posted 10:26 p.m., April 7, 2004 (#180) - Cortez
   87. Steve Treder Posted: April 08, 2004 at 03:52 AM (#489811)
Cortez,

I apologize. I really overlooked your post #102 overnight last night; I didn't check in until later and just didn't see it. Your thoughtful posts truly deserve a reply, and it's my error in not replying.

That said: I'm sorry, but the content (sorry!) of your critiques of sabermetric analysis and conclusions are just not compelling in the least.

Vince Coleman? Good heavens. Coleman was not anything close to a good major league baseball player. It doesn't require any kind of sophisticated "sabermetric" approach to deduce this. A leadoff hitter who isn't good at getting on base is just the start of his problems; not only was he not a good hitter for average and not good at drawing walks, he had zilch power, and on top of it all wasn't an especially good defensive left fielder. Damn straight he was a brilliant baserunner; he had better be, given that he did nothing else at all well. Vince Coleman was not good. Whitey Herzog was generally a brilliant guy, but his blind spot on Coleman was glaring. If you want to convince anyone of the weaknesses of sabermetrics, you're going to have to do a whole lot better than making a case on behalf of Vince Coleman.

And, I'm also sorry, but this tired case that there's some weakness about sabermetrics because it can't explain the Oakland A's recent struggles in the post-season is just a non-starter. This isn't all that tough a question. It's been examined aud nauseum. There is no secret knowledge here that Billy Beane or BPro or statheads have been somehow unable to unearth. Luck is a huge explanatory force in all sports, including baseball. As Dave correctly points out in #182, a lot of complete season results are fundamentally random, and in short series such as the postseason, randomness is just a fact. We can choose to be disillusioned or dismayed or depressed by this if we want, but it doesn't change the factual nature of the circumstance.

I'm sorry if this is getting old on my part, but for me it still comes down to this: the "backlash" argument against sabermetrics offers up no substantive power. There are no compelling refutations of any of the fundamental insights and conclusions of the body of work generally referred to as sabermetrics. (RossCW's crusade against DIPS is less than weightless.) Presenting criticisms of the form or style or sensitivity of Goldman or BPro or Neyer or even such a nonentity as me is quite likely justified, though I still maintain not especially interesting. But there is nothing that I'm aware of that offers up anything resembling a fundamental reason to doubt the substantive validity of the basic body of knowledge that sabermetrics has created.
   88. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 04:40 AM (#489813)
Coleman was not anything close to a good major league baseball player. It doesn't require any kind of sophisticated "sabermetric" approach to deduce this. A leadoff hitter who isn't good at getting on base is just the start of his problems; not only was he not a good hitter for average and not good at drawing walks, he had zilch power, and on top of it all wasn't an especially good defensive left fielder. Damn straight he was a brilliant baserunner; he had better be, given that he did nothing else at all well. Vince Coleman was not good.

Vince Coleman, 1985-1995
   89. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 04:50 AM (#489814)
Coleman's EQAs over the same period were:

1985 .270
   90. Steve Treder Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:04 AM (#489816)
The actual record suggests that Coleman was an inconsistent on-base threat, usually slightly below average but in his best seasons well above average.

Except that it doesn't.

In his best OBP season he was less than 25 points above the league average. More than half of his seasons he was below league average. For his career he was 8 points below league average.

And this is as a leadoff hitter. The league average OBP of leadoff hitters is way above the overall league average. Coleman not only got on base less often than the league average batter, he got on base far less often than the league average leadoff hitter.

his phenomenal base stealing abilities compensated at least in part for his lack of power to make him, in a typical season, an average or slightly below average player (that is, a useful one in the right role), and in his better seasons a good player.

Except that it didn't.

His phenomenal base stealing abilities are the only thing in his favor, period. Of course they work in his favor, but the fact is they are not sufficient to make him, in a typical season, an average player. He was not useful in the role he was allowed to fill, that is regular left fielder and leadoff hitter. He would have been useful as a utility player, kind of in the role that a Tom Goodwin has played for the past few years. Coleman's teams surrendered a lot of runs by deploying him as they did; there were unquestionably almost always better options for them to use in left field than Coleman.

To comprehend these facts as "ideological" is just baffling. Runs win baseball games. Vince Coleman did not produce runs at the rate that good major league left fielders produced runs. To state this is not to make an ideological value judgment, it's to state an objective truth.
   91. Steve Treder Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:10 AM (#489818)
Coleman's lifetime EQA was .263. The league average EQA is .260, which means that the league average EQA for left fielders is quite a bit better than .260 (somebody smarter than me will have to specify what it is), and certainly the league average EQA for leadoff hitters is better than .263.
   92. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:17 AM (#489819)
The actual record suggests that Coleman was an inconsistent on-base threat, usually slightly below average but in his best seasons well above average.

Except that it doesn't.


This is beyond parody. Did you look at the numbers?

11 seasons. 5 within 10 points of league average OBA either way. 3 seasons more than 10 points above. 3 seasons more than 10 below. IE, inconsistent, usually around league average, sometimes well above.

Coleman's lifetime EQA was .263. The league average EQA is .260, which means that the league average EQA for left fielders is quite a bit better than .260

As I said, his bat was not impressive for his position. So what? You don't bat as a left fielder; you bat as a hitter. He was an above average hitter. A team with strength at other positions would not hurt and might help themselves by putting him in the lineup. Why the refusal to acknowledge this? I can only conclude that ideology is preventing you from seeing obvious facts. Any other conclusion would be far more unflattering, frankly.
   93. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:19 AM (#489820)
I did, it is true, leave Coleman's last two seasons, when he had 94 and 15 at bats, off my chart. Perhaps his poor showing in these two seasons would alter some people's appraisal of my claims.
   94. APNY Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:38 AM (#489823)
A team with strength at other positions would not hurt and might help themselves by putting him in the lineup.

I'm wondering how they could help themselves by having a well below average player in the linup (Avg LF EQA in 2003 was .283, doubt it's changed much over time).

If your a fan of EqA, and since you brought it up im guessing you are, then you know that it includes his stolen bases. Therefore Coleman is a well below average player even including the value of his speed.

If a position has an average EqA of .283, it means there are a lot of good hitters available at the position, and therefore there is no good reason to run out a player like Coleman who was below average in 9 of the 12 years you listed.

You don't bat as a left fielder; you bat as a hitter.

Except you only have nine linup spots, and they all have to play a position. If you put 8 guys with a league average EqA (.260) in your lineup, you will (based on 2003 numbers) be well below average (by 22, 23, and 19 points) at three position , below average at one (by 8 points), average at two, and above average at two (by 8 and 6 points). That equates to a lot of losses.
   95. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:46 AM (#489824)
That's absurd. If the league's EQA is .260 and all your PAs go to .260 EQA hitters you will (unless EQA is voodoo, the position I incline towards) by definition have an average offense.

Let me ask you this: would the pennant chances of this year's Cardinals- a team with strength at shortstop, center and third, but weak at the corners- be improved or weakened by adding Vince Coleman in his prime? Not compared to a theoretical and nonexistent left fielder, but compared to the real left fielders they really have now?

I also note that Coleman is criticized for having a low OBA for a leadoff hitter. I thought that lineup slots didn't matter...
   96. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 05:48 AM (#489825)
Pujols, Sanders and Rolen are of course not weak- I should say "weak in left field." Unless there are Cedeno fans about.

(I cannot contrive an argument to prove that Cedeno is an average player.)
   97. Mike F Posted: April 08, 2004 at 06:04 AM (#489826)
If poor coaching led the A's to make mistakes in the playoffs, then how come Eric Chavez just gave his gold glove to one of his coaches, because of how much the coach helped him? This "A's fail in the playoffs for such and such reason" stuff has been hashed over about a million times. It's too bad you guys weren't around here back then, but some people have made some amazingly detailed posts pinpointing game by game what led to the A's winning and losing. There really is no consistent fault. Try the archives or google it. It's good stuff.
   98. APNY Posted: April 08, 2004 at 06:05 AM (#489827)
Not all leadoff hitters score that often and neither did Coleman's teammates.

Why does it matter what % of time he scores when he gets on base? Do you think this somehow makes up for all the times he's not on base at all? In 1986 Coleman went .232/301/280 and scored 94 runs in 660 PA's.

Would a league average LF (280/356/466 in 2003) not have scored as many runs in the same linup? And would the huge difference in slugging not make the average player even more valuable?

That's absurd.

Call it what you want, it's the facts. Even if it does somehow add up to an average offense, you then need average pitching and defence just to be an average team (say 78-84 wins).

would the pennant chances of this year's Cardinals- a team with strength at shortstop, center and third, but weak at the corners- be improved or weakened by adding Vince Coleman in his prime Not compared to a theoretical and nonexistent left fielder, but compared to the real left fielders they really have now?

If you can show that Coleman is a more valuable player than Cendeno, then of course you should take him if those are the only two choices. But, even if you don't want to hear it, the best answer is none of the above, especially if you believe both players defensive reputations.
   99. APNY Posted: April 08, 2004 at 06:08 AM (#489828)
If the league's EQA is .260 and all your PAs go to .260 EQA hitters you will (unless EQA is voodoo, the position I incline towards) by definition have an average offense.

Looking at the numbers again, it appears the pitchers putting up a .016 EqA in over 5200 pa's drags downs the overall average EqA.
   100. Kevin Cook Posted: April 08, 2004 at 06:33 AM (#489831)
That's absurd.

Call it what you want, it's the facts.


Color me incredulous.

If .260 is league average and a team that hits .260 isn't a league average offense do you think there's a possibility that EQA is voodoo? No, I suppose not- EQA works. It's a "fact."

Here's a fact: the fact that you were not only wrong, but wrong in a way that defied all logic and common sense, didn't prevent you from asserting your criticizing me for pointing out you were wrong.

Only a minute later you figured out why you were wrong.

This sequence doesn't show clear thinking to me; it shows blind acceptance of dogma.

the best answer is none of the above

In life we cannot pout and say, "none of the above" when presented with real choices. If this were the case the Cardinals would have no one in left field.

The point was made that Vince Coleman was a useless player who did nothing well but steal bases. I disputed that and pointed out that he was in fact an average hitter.

Now the point is made that he's not as good a hitter as some theoretical player.

It's a lot of nonsense. Someone has to play the games. Vince Coleman had flaws and he wasn't a great player. But he was a useful one, better than plenty of other players, and he helped some of his teams win.

I have yet to see anyone acknowledge this simple fact, and I assert that this is because to do so would be to contradict ideological beliefs, some of which have little to no basis in reality and some of which are held in direct opposition to evidence.
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