Smart Baseball

Postby DOUGHBOYS » Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:17 am

I am reading a book called 'Smart Baseball' by Keith Law. Law has impressive credentials in that he is a writer for ESPN and has worked in the front office of Major League baseball teams.
I am just starting Chapter Five and am hoping for the book to improve.
So far, Law has only gotten across that batting average, Wins, rbi and other 'old time' statistics are flawed.
Real baseball fans already know that EVERY stat has a flaw.
At the same time, every stat has a purpose. A fact that is lost on Law.

He rips voters of Most Valuable Player voters and Cy Young award winners for voting the way they did in past votes.
Law doesn't take into account that the system for these votes are flawed as well. But of course, these votes are made by his writing brethren. It is much easier to attack statistics than friends who digest those statistics and vote wrong in his eyes.

I get that rbi is a statistic that does not define a batter. That the better lineup in front of an above average hitter, the more rbi.
We all know that.
Law wants 'runs created' to be used as a reflection of a players ability over rbi.
But here is the thing.
Baseball statistics need to be simplistic. They engage eight year old kids. They have eighty year old men arguing over who is the better player.
RBI are understood by both age groups and everyone in between.

Law is smart about baseball. There is no doubt. Everybody reading this post is also smart about baseball.
Our job, as fantasy players is to gauge each statistic, weigh them against each other, and formulate a thesis in which statistics benefit us most when drafting players.
Every statistic.
We know the failures and tendencies of each statistic.
We know that there is no one statistic that defines any one player.

As said, I am only about to read chapter five and I know that Law is leading up to On Base Percentage as being a more important statistic than Batting Average, RBI, or other older hitting statistics.
It is just another statistic for us.
In this day and age, reaching first base has become, well, not that important.
The extra base hit has.
Every team seems to be under the impression that even if giving a batter like Mike Trout first base, it'll take two singles to score a run.
BUT, only one extra base hit.
If anything, today's game actually renders OBP as NOT that important as even three years ago.
Baseball statistics flow and trend quickly!

Everybody in baseball have known for years that the Win statistic is deeply flawed and that the Save statistic is almost laughable.
The Win statistic was employed when most pitchers threw complete games. That is far from the case now.
Heck, only one pitcher in baseball (Kluber) averaged throwing seven innings.
The pitcher that throws the worst inning(s)during a game can get a Win.
It is indeed, stupid.
I believe that Wins should be eliminated.
Not only in fantasy baseball, but real baseball.
No one pitcher 'Wins' a baseball game. Especially by today's standards.
Wins is a statistic that tells us nothing about a game.
A Win can be given to a pitcher with a 7ip, 0 runs, as well as a pitcher with a 1/3 ip, 3 runs line.
I agree with Law that Wins has outlived its purpose.

The Save has never really had a purpose. It was made to glorify the pitchers who 'saved' a game by entering the ninth inning and 'preserved' a game.
The statistic itself, changed the way Managers looked at a game and made a lot of one inning pitchers a lot of money.
It put emphasis on the ninth inning being much more difficult than the first eight innings.
A pitcher can have a Save with a line of 1/3 inning, 2 runs allowed.
While in the seventh inning, another reliever came into the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded with two out, got the out, then retired the side in the eighth.
For his efforts, he gets a 'hold'. Another statistic not embraced by most baseball fans.

During the playoffs, Managers eschew the Save philosophy. They have their usual Saves pitcher warming up much earlier in the game.
When 'having' to win a game, they want every pitcher on board. Not just a pitcher to throw an inning with a three run lead in the ninth inning as in the regular season.
If used properly, the 'Save' can still be an effective statistic.
The problem being, subjectivity.
The 'Save' should not have the perameters or rules of a statistic as it has now.
Instead of going to the last pitcher standing, it should go to the pitcher who actually did the best job of saving the game.
However, this requires subjectivity on the scorekeepers part.
Any subjectivity by a scorekeeper, unless obvious, diminishes a statistic.
It's a tough nut.

I'll keep reading the book. I'll read any baseball book.
Law has inspired this post after all and has got me thinking about statistics. A good thing.
At the same time, I feel that he believes his readers are not that savvy when it comes to baseball.
That's alright.
The eight year old who can read a box score and the eighty year olds arguing over box scores won't bother to read it.
On my tombstone-
Wait! I never had the perfect draft!
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Re: Smart Baseball

Postby fwicker » Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:24 pm

Hi there, I really enjoy your posts, you write well and make cogent points. I can tell that you’re a real student of the game .... I came across something recently that you might be interested in (I am assuming you’re retired or at least have some discretionary time): Google Ngram viewer. The viewer will search for occurrences of words or phrases in its “text corpora” given any time boundaries from 1500 to 2008. It’s fun to search on “baseball” because it not only gives you occurences of the word but also access to the books in which the word occurred. I was just reading one from 1910 entitled “Letters from a Baseball Fan to his Son”. It is very ent entertaining, and to tie it back to your post, it’s a pretty comprehensive book about baseball with very little attention paid to statistics.
"You can observe a lot by watching" - Yogi Berra
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Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 6:00 pm

Re: Smart Baseball

Postby DOUGHBOYS » Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:35 pm

Thank you very much for the compliments. Really appreciated.
I'll have a looksee into that. Sounds right up my alley!
Thanks again.
On my tombstone-
Wait! I never had the perfect draft!
Posts: 11806
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2005 6:00 pm

Re: Smart Baseball

Postby DOUGHBOYS » Thu Nov 09, 2017 8:39 am

Thanks Fwicker, I have started to check that out....

Finishing 'Smart Baseball' I found it a little dumb.
I was supervising at the softball park the other night. There was a match up of two teams who were 'fighting it out' for the league title. (an adult softball league title, in reality, is on par to finding a dollar bill).
The game did not live up to the self-hype from the players, the final score 16-1.
A group of players from the losing team approached me and complained that the umpire was shoddy.
I know these players. Most, good fellas.
I smiled.
"Look, I get it. You guys have to blame someone. I counted nine errors by your team.
Did that umpire make nine bad calls?
If not, he had a better night than you fellas."
They laughed in spite of themselves.

It is the same way with 'Smart Baseball'.
Keith Law rails about rbi, Wins, Saves, fielding percentage and any other old time stat.
He blames these stats for being the primary reason in which ball players receive undeserved MVP, Gold Glove, and Hall of Fame nominations.
Law chooses to blame the statistics instead of his sports writing brethren who are the ones doing the voting.
Why doesn't he enlighten them instead of trying to dismiss older statistics?

All statistics have a purpose. As time goes by, some statistics pale to what they used to be. We all realize that.
I agree with him that the Save is one of the stupidest stats ever created.
Still, it shined a light on an overlooked portion of most baseball teams, the bullpen.
Now, after watching these latest playoffs, the bullpen may be where some teams build in the future.

Law wants to piss on statistics that have stood the passage of time. The same statistics that generations of kids waited for the Sunday paper for to see where their favorite players ranked.
He pisses on the stats because his sports writing brothers give those stats too much credit.
And as a result, his friends vote for the wrong players for awards.
Law is simply pissing up the wrong tree.
On my tombstone-
Wait! I never had the perfect draft!
Posts: 11806
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2005 6:00 pm

Re: Smart Baseball

Postby DOUGHBOYS » Thu Nov 09, 2017 9:12 pm

The Silver Slugger Awards came out. I could care less about these awards.
Inherently, I cannot get excited about any event that is voted on. (My wife hates me during the Olympics and reality shows)
Votes for victory in sports is silly.
The victor depends on the voter.
So, with every boxing match, every gymnastics event, and every award show, some are left grumbling about who should have won.

We now have over one zillion baseball stats. I just counted.
Yet, awards are handed out by vote?
Why not have a criteria for each placement?
Especially the silver slugger award where we are only talking about batting prowess.
It is stupid to vote.
Especially when voters are stupid themselves.

Ok, I can't leave this post without talking about a low level Rockies meeting late last Summer.
This book reminded me of it...
Talk was about Giancarlo Stanton and how hot he was.
One scout related that pitchers and Managers were taking big chances by pitching to him in important situations.
A youngish College kid with a sabr background told the scout that 'Hot streaks' were a fabrication and silly.
He went on to say that there were ebbs and flows with EVERY batter and that hot streaks was not real. Only a subject made up by the press.
I could see the smoke rising from the scouts ears.
I interjected.
I asked the kid if he had ever played baseball.
"Little League", he replied.
I told him that he wouldn't know. That he had to live a hot streak. I told him I had a hot streak in College.
The baseball looked like a volleyball.
I hit everything in sight.
For two weeks.
It is hard to explain, but they're real.
They're as real as your measured statistics.
The scout winked.
The kid shook his head as if I didn't get it.
I relented.
I know that he thinks of a hot streak as a fella that's rolled seven in craps five times in a row.
And I know the two are not remotely the same.

Thanks for the listen.... :D
On my tombstone-
Wait! I never had the perfect draft!
Posts: 11806
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2005 6:00 pm

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