I started this as a reply (and posted my reply) to a blog post and then it took on a life of it’s on into it’s own post. I hope you take it objectively and understand I’m not trying to come up with some perfectly eloquent retort. Just trying to explain my perspective.
According to some people nerds are the people ruining sports. Specifically those people are responsible for end of all things beautiful and mysterious to a game we love.
I don’t even know where to start.
It makes such a large assumtion upon how I view the game and my experience, not to mention relationship, with this game. Sure, I know people and I’ve seen people that have leverage index memorized so that specific situations arise they are cringing at how the manager may decide how to proceed.
That’s how they choose to be. It’s not how I watch a game and even if I did have all that stuff in my head, how exactly does that affect how any of you out there watch a game. There are so many issues here I don’t know where to start.
Does this all mean because of the stats I’m not screaming at the top of my lungs in the bottom of the 9th in 1-2 count with the game winning run at second? Of course it doesn’t not.
The first thing that we need to realize is this. Fans are fans. We are going to argue. Whether you “believe” in Wins Above Replacement or you do not. There are always going to be arguments or if you will discussions. The statistics we use just give us a context in which to argue.
You think LA Dodger fans are going to just say that CC Sabathia is a better pitcher than Clayton Kershaw because of the 0.3 WAR he leads him by? No way, it’s not going to happen. And you know what I think Clayton Kershaw is quiet possibly the third best pitcher in baseball right now behind Halladay and Verlander. But that’s just me, it’s just my opinion.
I love his slider. I love his curve ball. I love that he’s basically the left handed version of Felix (God don’t strike me down).
more beyond the jump…
Secondly, lets talk chemistry.
I mean we talked about it on the live chat with Larry Stone. I like Larry a lot, as a person, as a writer, as a baseball guy. I know we all picked on him the other day on twitter with his birthday, but I don’t think he’d take offense to me calling him an “old school” guy.
Larry has been around the game for awhile and he has a very deserved hall-of-fame vote. Guys like that have earned their stripes and while I don’t agree with him on every subject but what he said was so on spot. Larry said it simply:
"“I’ve always been of the belief that chemistry stems from the success of the team; losing teams have bad chemistry, rather than bad chemistry leading to defeats (and vice versa). I’ve rarely been around a last-place team that didn’t have all sorts of infighting and issues — and rarely been around a winning team that wasn’t happy as clams. Improve the talent, and you’ll improve the chemistry.”"
Winning clubs –usually– have good chemistry. There are of course exceptions (the late 70’s Yankee clubs??) to this rule. But, when do you see 25 guys absolutely love to play together and sit in the cellar year after year. It doesn’t happen. Losing sucks and no one likes losing year after year.
You win 90+ games a year, your locker room is going to be filled with guys that generally get a long and enjoy being around each other. Again there are exceptions to that rule but it’s the rule.
Third, onto the much malignant term “clutch”.
Believe or not there is a statistic for it too. Stats are like an Apple Application Store. They have everything you need.
But what the Clutch statistic does is measures performance based upon the leverage (importance) of each situation with points being assessed based upon performance (good or bad).
I’m not saying that it’s the end all and be all of quantifying “clutch”, honestly I just think it’s really humorous and if we are going to talk about being “clutch” we should at least mention the stat.
Getting to the the so called “beauty” of clutch, some guys perform well under pressure. Their mind just clear and they can concentrate on what they do and just generally perform better. I truly believe that.
But supposing that this is infact the case it’s still hard to distinguish between those people that thrive under duress and people that just end up getting lucky– or unlucky for that matter.
Do you believe that the pressure of the situation just absolutely overwhelmed Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs when he played in Seattle? I know we all hate the guy but let’s rewind a bit. There was time that we all liked him. I know some people didn’t love him. But still we could respect him. We were generally disappointed but we never questioned his ability.
Then after one season in New York he is automatically labeled as a guy that couldn’t perform in the “clutch”. We’re talking about one of the best hitters in baseball over the last twenty years.
I’m not saying he’s better than Junior or Bonds. I’m not comparing here. I’m just saying he was in the upper echelon of the elite hitters that the past three decades produced. People actually criticized his hitting and cited him as a goat because he didn’t get a hit at what someone considered to be the “right” time.
Then two years later he helps lead that same team to a World Championship. What changed? Did he finally earn his clutch badge? Or maybe he just was unlucky in those situations. He actually in the “+” range of clutch in the playoffs.
What I’m getting at is that there are scenarios or those “beautiful mysteries” as people call them that use it has a security blanket to stand in ignorance and have the opportunity to say “it’s your fault”.
How many times this season has Dustin Ackely driven the ball hard and all over the field only to comes up 0-4. Heck, we’ve seen Ichiro do it in his quest for 200 hits every year for nearly a decade. Sometimes no matter what you do it just doesn’t go your way.
Was it because he wasn’t doing his job as the hitter? Sometimes not. That’s not to say that there aren’t guys that you can’t stand to see in certain situations (i.e. Miguel Olivo or Wily Mo Pena).
I am sadden that people still resort to throwing labels such as “stat geek” or “nerd” at people because of their opinion and how they gathered that opinion. I feel like people have this lame perception that I’m still stuck in my mom’s basement (I assure you, I am no longer there). They follow that up with the assume that I never played baseball (in which I did and mom had to throw away all those jackets and trophies…actually I think I have one or two of them still left somewhere).
All these assumptions while they take taking cheap jabs at people that seek to have a deeper knowledge about subject in which they enjoy. But, no we’re the ones ruining the sport. We’re the ones that are stuck in the 1960’s watching balls on a live ESPN pitch f/x tracker called strikes, despite them being 6′ outside the zone.
Then you have people that want to throwing out winning Championships as if it’s a singular accomplishment. Sure, it’s partially a reflection of your contributions to a team effort. Should it be a deciding or maybe a contributing factor for being selected as one of the greatest to play the game. I really am not sure, but let me ask you this.
Do you think the Yankees would be in the same position in the American League East with Felix Hernandez on the mound instead of CC Sabathia? Not to continue picking on the Yankees but do you think the Yankees would be the same team with Howie Kendrick at second base as with Robinson Cano?
One day we are going to hear arguments for the players that are playing now, just as we’ve had in times past, and the fact they don’t have a ring(s) is going to be a factor for some people. While others threw up all their numbers without having any sort of supporting cast.
Had Ichiro been on the Yankees instead of Matsui don’t you think he would be considered an automatic hall-of-famer? Instead it’s going to be intensley debated and that’s stupid.
People have forever sought for the best ways to quantify accomplishments. Ever since the start of this great game. This was partly in effort to derive who was the best player out there– who was the best. Sure, you knew who the best athlete most of the time. But baseball is a funny sport and it’s not about always been about athletes. Because of that we’ve always desired an exact way to track those accomplishments.
Henry Chadwick birthed baseball statistics. Not that one person out there would dare call Mr. Chadwick a nerd. No his methods were about credit. Credit for accomplishments. Now, 130 years later people are taking that information, in which he devised and creating for more reaching formula’s to understand situations, probabilities and outcomes.
I for one think Henry Chadwick would be thrilled.
Instead of mocking and just talk about the beauty being destroyed why not take just a moment understand what the value is in measuring WAR. How does it calculate a players worth? Why does it say that Joey Votto is that much better than Ryan Howard? How did we come up with it?
How about trying to understand why people believe FIP a better run measurement index than ERA? What is the point of using FIP if you use xFIP?
Looking at Michael Saunders you didn’t need to know that the guy just couldn’t make contact. He just wasn’t very good. You saw that. I saw that. It was pretty pretty obvious. But, what about guys like Casper Wells? Is he good? How good?
Oh, but no using stats. We are only going to go off of what we saw with out own eyes. I mean, sure I’ve only see him play in about 20 selected games. Oh and you’ve only seen him in 15 games. Lord only knows if any of those games are the same being that he’s played in 96.
Maybe, you saw him strike out at least once in ever game. Maybe one or two hits that whole time. That would possibly give you a pretty lousy outlook on him. You might think he sucks. I might have seen him hit an extra base hit in nearly every game I watched. I might think he’s a stud.
All because we are taking a limited amount of information and using that to make a decision. What about Josh Reddick? How do we compare the two. We might have seen Reddick twice all season. Based off those limited chances who would one make a comparison?
Eventually we have to find something that gives us a common context in which to compare the two.
Everyone looks at batting average, even the most hard core anti stats baseball guy looks at it from time to time. Who in the world can calculate batting average without a calculator–and I don’t mean going 2-5- 528 at bats and 143 hits… what’s the average? Is that good or bad?
So then what makes that statistic okay or not okay?
At what point does a statistic start making things boring?
The fact is baseball isn’t boring now, to me, because I understand a few facts– I think its more interesting. I love seeing things develop. I love seeing the little battles. How certain hitters approach pitchers and the match-ups that happen.
While you know what is likely to happen, you never know what exactly is going to happen. One pull happy declining corner infielder could mystically hit an opposite field home run for the first time in three years and it so happened to clinch the NLCS. This while one of the best pitchers in baseball is on the mound.
It’s chaos. It’s anarchy. It’s beauty. It’s part of baseball.
Statistics help us understand the game a bit better. It doesn’t take anything away and it certainly doesn’t create absolutes. That’s the whole point in probabilities. Is however unlikely a scenario is to happen you always have to be prepared for it to happen.
I hope one day, for those that are so against these “nerd stats” will learn abandon their fear and instead choose to understand a simple point of view without feeling like they’ve abandoned everything they once thought.