Baseball Stats ….. Traditional vs Sabermetrics.

A few months ago I signed up for the Annual SABR conference in Long Beach.  I wanted to learn about Sabermetrics,  the science of analyzing baseball  in unorthodox ways,  at least when compared with traditional “see ball, hit ball, run” stats. The term is derived from  SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research.

After reading everything I could get my hands on about the subject, I found this great  Sully video (what would we do without him?) and discovered everything I need to know about Sabermetrics, which is, I don’t need to know anything.

A few days ago a fellow BBA Blogger, Bryan O’Connor, wrote a post that relates to this very subject.  I had to save and read later, because I couldn’t understand it.  Here, see how you do with it ~ Bumgarnering Around …..

Wow!  How confusing is this stuff?  I jotted down a few abbreviations; WAR, OPS, VORP, OBP, OPS Plus, bWAR.  Good grief!  This game is confusing enough.  Don’t confuse me with facts and details.  Just give me a score card and a pencil and let the games begin!

14 responses to “Baseball Stats ….. Traditional vs Sabermetrics.

  1. Statheads see this stuff and view it like they view “flat-earthers.” They see all the developments in baseball stats and equate it to the progression of society. So if you don’t agree, you’re a knuckle-dragger who doesn’t care to know as much about the game as they do.

    It is actually a pretty complex argument which I talked about here and here:

    http://elmaquino5.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/joe-posnanski-doesnt-like-me-much/

    http://elmaquino5.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/on-statistical-moderatism/

  2. I really want to learn more about this stuff, but keep wondering “what’s the point” you know? Great posts! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I understand having new stats and analyzing the game in different ways. But what drives me bonkers is three things

    1) Nobody can stick to one set of stats for more than a second. Poor VORP was in vogue for, what? An hour?

    2) The stats are produced so quickly that some of us have a hard time keeping up with what a good stat is. I STILL don’t know what a good WAR is. I am beginning to figure out OPS+. I DO understand OPS, but that is passe.

    3) If you aren’t using the EXACT STAT that is in vogue then somehow you know nothing about baseball. “Check his bWAR!” OK… Fine. Now tell me what the hell I just looked at. (Eyes rolled. Silly person who WATCHES baseball.)

    4) It operates as if baseball takes place in a vacuum. What is the main objective of each batter? It is NOT to get on base. It is to produce a run. Now yes, that requires other people’s help and it requires help. But EVERY stat requires help. Walks require a wild pitcher and a consistent ump. Strike outs require a pitcher and a batter. Outs require good fielders. Home runs depend on the pitcher, the ballpark etc. So the notion that the production of runs is irrelevant is, in fact, bat shit crazy.

    I’m not saying don’t make new stats and analyze players in different ways.
    Just don’t dump the basics in the garbage too.

    I’d rather have a lucky team scoring runs than a team with the highest bWAR in the league

  4. And one more thing… if you say that just because you know the best defensive WAR that you CARE about the game more than me… whomever says that can kindly go (fool) thyself.

    That’s as stupid as saying “I have more plastic ice cream hat cups, therefore I love baseball more than you”

  5. And yes I realize I listed 4 things when I said 3 things

  6. As the co-author of the offensive article, I feel compelled to reply to the “flat-earthers” comment. I love baseball, as it’s played on the field. Without any numbers, it would be a marvelous game. The fact that great people (and I’m certainly not one of them) have done great work creating metrics that help us better understand player value and predict future success is icing on the cake.
    Anyone who wants to enjoy baseball without WAR and FIP+ and all the other advanced metrics has every right to do so. The criticism of “flat-earthers” comes when fans who have been fed relatively meaningless statistics like pitcher wins and RBI for their whole lives won’t listen to an argument for or against an MVP/Cy Young/Hall of Fame candidate based on metrics that more accurately assess their contributions to their teams’ success.

  7. Thanks for your comment Bryan. I consider your article high-tech but not offensive. There’s a lot I personally don’t get but it doesn’t mean it’s not gettable .

  8. I agree Bryan. I wrote 3 years ago an article in my blog about Bert Blyleven and the fact that he DIDN’T reach 300 wins keeping out of the Hall was lunacy and proceeded to list a bunch of his no decisions and hard luck losses.

    I was lobbying for Felix Hernandez to win the Cy Young even if he finished sub .500

    In fact way back in 1987 I thought Nolan Ryan should have won the Cy Young even though he finished the year 8-16
    That’s before we even knew what OPS was.

    But again… I’m not ready to put RBI in the garbage yet.
    Nor am I ready to put wins in the garbage yet.

    Have they been overvalued?
    YES!

    Does that mean that they are worthless? I don’t see it as either or.

    If someone wins 20 games, I can’t attribute it all to luck
    Doesn’t mean they are better than a 15 game winner… but you also have to look at the games they won.

    If a pitcher lets up 5 runs over 8 innings for the win, it’s easy to throw that in the dumpster.
    But what if by going those 8 innings, they’ve rested the bullpen? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Should they be penalized for something like that?

    It’s more “baseball in a vacuum” syndrome.
    What if they got off to a big lead and he let up a few solo homers towards the end. Are those home runs allowed the same as letting up a home run in a close game?

    If a player is driving in lots of runs, of course you can’t just look at the RBI totals alone and make much of a determination. But isn’t a batter who continually produces runs doing their job? That may not be how you evaluate them, but isn’t that what they are PAID to do?

    Isn’t the winner at the end of the game determined by seeing who has produced more runs than the other team?

    Again, it shouldn’t be the end all and be all for determining the MVP or the Hall of Fame. But it IS the end all and be all for determining who wins the game!!!!!

    They used to have too much value
    Now the pendulum has swung too far the oher way

  9. Sully, I may have been harsh in calling wins and RBI “relatively meaningless”. Pitchers who accumulate wins and hitters who drive in runs are typically more valuable than those who don’t.

    I will take issue, though, with your comment that RBI “is the end all and be all for determining who wins the game!” You’re equating team runs scored to player RBI, and unless a team scores all its runs from solo homers, they’re very different things. Let’s say the Rays are tied in the eighth inning of a game and they’ve got the top of their order up. Johnny Damon draws a walk. Ben Zobrist doubles, but Damon has to hold up to see if the ball would be caught and can’t score on the play. Evan Longoria hits a sac fly, Damon scores, and the Rays hold on to win. If this game is a microcosm for a season, your defense of RBI suggests that Longoria should win the MVP award for driving in the run. Sure, his sac fly was huge, but the run doesn’t score without the walk and the double. I want a stat that values the double in the middle more than the walk that started the inning (even though Damon scored the run) or the sac fly that drove it in.

    I don’t want to throw RBI in the garbage. I’d just rather use them as one of many data points that contribute to a player’s MVP candidacy or contract negotiation. And I’d rather see data points that are less context-driven weighed a little more heavily.

    I’d argue that the pendulum still hasn’t swung enough.

  10. In the last few years I’ve come to love sabermetrics. I can agree with pretty much all of these guys as well. Check out my blog if you’re interested in learning more about them. Nice blog by the way.

  11. Thanks for the comment. Here’s the blog address if anyone’s interested in learning more about sabermetrics: http://thehomerunporch.wordpress.com/

  12. One more thing, I have plenty of friends who prefer the original stats like wins, losses, ERA, RBI, etc etc. I don’t shun people away for using regular statistics, I just like to show them sabermetrics and how you can use them to expand on the traditional stats if that’s what they want to do. We both can agree that stats don’t tell you everything though.

  13. An Original Senators Fan

    Thanks for the link to my post earlier this season about WAR. I constantly waver on my feelings concerning sabermetrics. These days my big thing is if the SABR crowd wants large-scale acceptance of some of their new stats, they have to make it easier for fans to figure them out on their own. Just about any fan knows how to calculate batting averages, ERA’s and the like, but when a stat formula can only be understood by mathemeticians, it’s not going to be widely accepted. Thus stats like WHIP and OPS are easy for people to accept while others like WAR and xFIP will find it hard to find a mainstream audience. In terms of debate between the SABRists and the “average guy”, I see the problem more as someone who just likes to drive trying to follow two design engineers talking about cars. The guy who likes to drive just doesn’t get it while the design engineers can’t understand why the other guy doesn’t get it.

    http://mlblogs40yearrangerfan.wordpress.com

  14. Good Analogies. I compare it to the “new math” back in the 60′s that was never really accepted by my generation. We wanted to learn it but couldn’t really see the need.

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