PDA

View Full Version : NY Times: Put down your slide rule geeks - you're ruining baseball!



jmcclain19
02-28-2007, 08:26 PM
Nothing quite like a pompus, pretentious, self important prick insulting a huge number of baseball fans.

Happy Wednesday

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/27/sports/baseball/27chass.html?_r=4&ref=sports&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin


Statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics.

I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didnít care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didnít know what it meant either.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Donít ask what it means. I donít know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, thatís their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fansí enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers donít.

GAC
02-28-2007, 08:31 PM
Stats are "new age" nonsense?

Channeling Henry Chadwick and Branch Rickey. ;)

vaticanplum
02-28-2007, 08:39 PM
People, please. If you think your game can be ruined that easily, then you don't have enough faith in it.

Falls City Beer
02-28-2007, 08:57 PM
Nothing quite like a pompus, pretentious, self important prick insulting a huge number of baseball fans.

Happy Wednesday

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/27/sports/baseball/27chass.html?_r=4&ref=sports&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

I have nothing against a guy being pompous, pretentious, or self-important; I do, however, have a problem with him being wrong.

ochre
02-28-2007, 09:13 PM
Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

That's good work if you can get it.

Here, I'll rewrite it from a different perspective:


Crappy journalists ruining "news reading" for those interested in, like, actual reporting of events and similar phenomenon.

Yachtzee
02-28-2007, 09:29 PM
Stats are "new age" nonsense?

Channeling Henry Chadwick and Branch Rickey. ;)

Hey. Who invented runs anyway? In my day you kept playing until people's arms started falling off. The last man standing won.

Always Red
02-28-2007, 09:50 PM
What a loser. Stats have always been around and have always added to the enjoyment of the game. Even back in the old days- 30 wins, 200 hits, 60 home runs, hitting .400, all were magical numbers. There is a reason stats have been kept since the very beginning, literally.

Todays stats are able to describe, more accurately, a players skills, and what he has really done, if one is willing to put the time in to learn what the stat actually means.

Any serious baseball fan learned early on how to calculate an ERA or a batting average; heck most of us learned math in grade school by doing such.

The newer stats are no different; it just takes a little energy to figure them out, that's all. This guy is just lazy.

Disclosure: I'm no stat head. I love the beauty, pace and rhythm of the game of baseball. I love the bright green grass, the smell of fresh cut grass, and sound of a fastball hitting a catchers mitt or the sharp crack of a well struck ball against the wood of the bat. When I choose to look at certain stats, they only add to my enjoyment of the game, they in no way detract from it at all. In fact, they serve to explain in numbers what we often see with our own two eyes.

remdog
02-28-2007, 09:58 PM
Nothing quite like a pompus, pretentious, self important prick insulting a huge number of baseball fans.

There's no need to be so harsh with yourself, McClain. :p:

This subject was brought up and discussed in a much more civil manner on Reds Live. http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=54932

Rem

Wheelhouse
02-28-2007, 10:01 PM
All the news that's fit to print!

RedEye
02-28-2007, 10:03 PM
Just wanted to point out the discussion we've been having on this topic over in Reds Live!:

http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=54932

Might be fruitful to merge the threads... if that follows forum policy, of course.

Reds Nd2
02-28-2007, 11:25 PM
I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.
Mr. Chass, unless I'm mistaken, you need a paid subscription to Baseball Prospectus before you can receive the daily e-mail alerts. If that's is indeed the case, then I say thank you, or more likely your employer, for supporting the cause.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didnít care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didnít know what it meant either.
You know Mr. Chass, in a way that's funny. I asked some of my colleagues, "whose work I respect" and they didn't know what "new-age nonsense" you were referring to.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Donít ask what it means. I donít know.
So which is it Mr Chass, thrilling or absurd? Oh wait, I forgot, you don't "care enough to go to any great lengths to find out". One would think though, once you actually saw "VORP spelled out", you would have either understood what it was trying to accomplish or at the very least you would have spent a little time trying to educate yourself about one of the metrics that Baseball Prospectus provides to it's premium subscribers. Some of those are actual Major League teams. (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/chat/chat.php?chatId=263)

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, thatís their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fansí enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.
Do you mean the way batting average ruined the game? As early as the late 1800's, Henry Chadwick believed, as salaries increased, that players no longer played for the side but for their own record. One Boston newspaper went so far as to suggest, "It is high time that a protest was entered against the growing and prevalent custom of papers printing the averages of the players."* You see Mr. Chass, your not the first person to rail against "new-age stats". I would suggest that your no Henry Chadwick though.

People play baseball. Numbers donít.
No one, neither Henry Chadwick, Ernie Lanigan, Al Elias, Eric Walker, Sandy Aderson, Allan Roth, Branch Rickey, Pete Palmer, Earl Weaver, Bill James, Billy Beane, the "GREEN EYESHADE BOYS"**, or anyone else has ever said differently. So please, don't insult anyones intelligence by printing that statement again.

*From The Numbers Game - Baseballs Lifelong Fascination With Statistics ~ Alan Schwarz

**Built To Win - Inside Stories and Leadership Strategies From Baseball's Winningest GM ~ John Schuerholz (That particular insult was in all caps in the book too.)

Reds Nd2
02-28-2007, 11:32 PM
There's no need to be so harsh with yourself, McClain. :p:

This subject was brought up and discussed in a much more civil manner on Reds Live. http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=54932

Rem
jmcclain19 hammered this nail perfectly.

marcshoe
02-28-2007, 11:33 PM
If you're going to attack stats in general, VORP seems a strange whipping boy. It seems like as utilitarian an idea as any of them. I could understand a screed against BABIP (although I've come to believe in its usefulness), but VORP? It's handy and it's easy to use, even if you don't understand what goes into it.

Yachtzee
03-01-2007, 12:05 AM
If you're going to attack stats in general, VORP seems a strange whipping boy. It seems like as utilitarian an idea as any of them. I could understand a screed against BABIP (although I've come to believe in its usefulness), but VORP? It's handy and it's easy to use, even if you don't understand what goes into it.

I still don't know how to calculate QB Rating, but football writers have no problem throwing that stat about. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment of the game of football any.

paintmered
03-01-2007, 12:23 AM
I don't know about you guys, but I derive all my baseball statistics from the Fermi-Dirac distribution.

Outshined_One
03-01-2007, 12:25 AM
Fire Joe Morgan's Take (http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/02/this-is-why-this-site-exists.html) (some bad language).

I love that site. :)

Reds Nd2
03-01-2007, 09:55 AM
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?no=347813&rel_no=1

The last week of February must be a boring time to be a baseball writer. With the Hot Stove League over but Spring Training games yet to begin, there's not much to write about other than which player tweaked his hamstring during fielding drills and which minor leaguers are still stuck in the Dominican Republic due to visa problems.

Thus it's hardly surprising that Murray Chass, the venerable baseball columnist for that most venerable of journalistic institutions, the New York Times, should choose to devote his allotted column inches to a list of subjects he hates talking about. This is the sort of curmudgeonly article that old sportswriters like Chass like to pen when they have nothing else to write about and feel like being, well, curmudgeonly.

After listing the usual suspects -- Roger Clemens's ongoing retirement soap opera, pending free agents angling for contract extensions, etc. -- Chass pulled out the favorite bete noire of the cigar-chomping, plaid jacket set: statistics, in particular, the newly developed stats that make up the field known as "sabermetrics," after the Society of American Baseball Research.

Chass went after Baseball Prospectus, a prominent online baseball analysis site that also prints an annual book previewing the coming season. [In the interest of full disclosure, one of the founders of BP, Christina Kahrl, is an old college friend of mine, but I myself have no financial interest in the project.] The particular object of his wrath was a statistic known as VORP, which Chass dismissed as "new-age nonsense."

"For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn't care enough to go to any great lengths to find out," Chass admitted. After asking some colleagues who didn't know either, Chass finally "came across" the full name of the stat -- value over replacement player. "Don't ask what it means," Chass concluded. "I don't know."

VORP is actually a stat developed several years ago by another friend of mine, Keith Woolner. The idea behind it is that there is a certain level of performance which can easily be provided by the average minor league veteran trolling around AAA. Thus the value that a major league player provides to his team is the degree to which his actual performance exceeds that of the hypothetical "replacement player."

See, Murray, that wasn't so hard, was it?

The usefulness of this statistic stems from the well-known fact that players at more difficult defensive positions (catcher, shortstop, center field) tend to be worse hitters than those at the easier-to-play spots (first base, left field, DH). By contextualizing a player's offensive contribution according to the standard for his respective fielding position, it allows us to compare the value of players at different positions. So, for instance, VORP believes that Joe Mauer (66.9 VORP) was a more valuable player for the Twins last year than AL MVP Justin Morneau (52.0 VORP).

Of course, such stats are not for everyone. Some people would rather just sit back and enjoy the sunshine, the smell of fresh cut grass, the cries of the hot dog vendor, and the sound of wood meeting horsehide. Which is, of course, a fine way to enjoy the game of baseball, and one that I indulge in whenever I can (although always, of course, with my scorecard open across my lap.)

Why not, in the words of Chairman Mao, "let a thousand flowers bloom"? Surely America's great National Pastime has room for all kinds of fans?

Not according to Murray Chass. The statmongers' (as he calls them) "attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein."

Come on! As if legions of fans would drop their beers and run screaming for the exits if scoreboards at major league stadiums started flashing a players' VORP instead of just his batting average, home runs, and RBI.

Chass's crotchetiness is perhaps understandable. He has, after all, been doing his job for a long time, and it's not surprising that he would resist the young whippersnappers who are coming in with all their newfangled computer stuff and taking attention away from the old time beat writers like himself.

What is shocking to me is the level of editorial oversight that would allow a column like this to be published, particularly in a paper that presumes to contain "all the news that's fit to print." Here a writer attacked an idea which he admitted he didn't take the time to even try to understand. Now, I realize that Mr. Chass is very busy these days watching Scott Proctor run wind sprints, but surely he could find five minutes to visit the BP website to find out what this statistic actually is that is making him so apoplectic.

As an editor, I would never allow an article that attacks something without bothering to find out what it is, and ends on a sweeping generalization that purports to speak for millions of other people while providing no evidence of what they actually think. Sure, covering baseball isn't as important as, say, reporting on the White House's plans to attack Iraq, but doesn't the New York Times hold its sportswriters to any kind of journalistic standards? Is there anything Murray Chass might write that his editor wouldn't print?

People worry, and rightly so, about the journalistic standards of citizen journalists. This is something we, as writers and editors, need to keep constantly aware of. But at least when it comes to sportswriting, the traditional media doesn't seem to have set the bar too high.

westofyou
03-01-2007, 10:11 AM
That's a great piece, really top flight, Chass should feel a bit smaller today IMO.

RedsBaron
03-01-2007, 10:23 AM
Nothing quite like a pompus, pretentious, self important prick insulting a huge number of baseball fans.

[/url]

I think you were far too kind to him.

gonelong
03-01-2007, 10:25 AM
Fire Joe Morgan's Take (http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/02/this-is-why-this-site-exists.html) (some bad language).

I love that site. :)

Moneyball is also famous because Joe Morgan rails against it constantly, even today, and on numerous occasions has pronounced it hogwash, despite freely admitting that he has never read it, and also for a long time believing that the book was actually written by Beane himself. When his error was pointed out to him, Morgan apologized profusely, admitted his mistake, rethought his stance, read the book and has now completely changed the way he thinks about statistical analysis. Oh, no Ė wait. Iím sorry. He didnít do anything of the kind. He just dug in his heels and continued to claim that the book was hogwash.

Bwaa aha aha ahahaha!!!

GL

RedsBaron
03-01-2007, 12:45 PM
Upon further reflection,perhaps we are being too hard on Chass. He probably put a lot of time into writing his article, as I assume it takes some effort to compose an article using a chisel and stone tablet (I'm sure he doesn't use one of those new-fangled typewriters, which threaten to "undermine" most readers "enjoyment" of sportswriting and the "human factor" involved therein--oh, please don't mention computers to him).
I further assume it took some time for his translator to put Chass's prose into English, as I understand he writes everything only in Latin rather than this "new age nonsense" called the English language.

KronoRed
03-01-2007, 01:27 PM
So people and numbers never interact?

Interesting ;)

Outshined_One
03-01-2007, 01:51 PM
So people and numbers never interact?

Interesting ;)

I've never seen numbers exist beyond what we write down, have you? Equations and formulae aren't just floating around in space, willy-nilly! No sir, they are just figments of the imagination!

RANDY IN INDY
03-01-2007, 02:57 PM
Thank goodness the games start today.

letsgojunior
03-01-2007, 06:50 PM
Nothing quite like a pompus, pretentious, self important prick insulting a huge number of baseball fans.



Isn't it possible to articulate why he's wrong without resorting to comments like this?

Given the number of relatives of players, coaches, as well as young kids reading this site, I think it's possible to still maintain the level of discourse we typically have without stuff like this.

Cedric
03-01-2007, 06:59 PM
Fire Joe Morgan's Take (http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/02/this-is-why-this-site-exists.html) (some bad language).

I love that site. :)

He's Joe Morgan.

Who are they again?

Chip R
03-01-2007, 07:08 PM
Mr. Chass, unless I'm mistaken, you need a paid subscription to Baseball Prospectus before you can receive the daily e-mail alerts. If that's is indeed the case, then I say thank you, or more likely your employer, for supporting the cause.


Actually, you don't.

jmcclain19
03-01-2007, 07:19 PM
Isn't it possible to articulate why he's wrong without resorting to comments like this?

Given the number of relatives of players, coaches, as well as young kids reading this site, I think it's possible to still maintain the level of discourse we typically have without stuff like this.

How in the world does the fact that relatives and tykes read this site have anything to do with what I said? That I called a spade a spade after the man
insulted a large swath of baseball fans?

And in the future, if you have issues what something I've said you can be more respectful and send me a PM.

vaticanplum
03-01-2007, 07:31 PM
Fire Joe Morgan's Take (http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/02/this-is-why-this-site-exists.html) (some bad language).

I love that site. :)

Their ongoing David Eckstein thing is seriously one of the most enjoyable -- and astute -- pieces of writing I've ever read.

GAC
03-01-2007, 08:29 PM
One can easily see the direction/turn this forum has been taking over time. One editorial is written, regardless if one agrees/disagrees, and all of a sudden it turns into an anti traditionalist/old school tirade, and wanting to crucify their so-called messiah figure in Joe Morgan. :lol:

Life itself is about stats. And that is what bother me. I just hope no one tries to analyze my "history" and "project" how much longer I have on this planet. It's not so much that I disagree; but that they may be right. And that is information that I don't want to know. :mooner:

pedro
03-01-2007, 08:34 PM
One can easily see the direction/turn this forum has been taking voer time. One editorial is written, and all of a sudden it turns into a anti traditionalist/old school tirade, and wanting to crucify their so-called messiah figure in Joe Margan. :lol:

Life itself is about stats. And that is what bother me. I just hope no one tries to analyze my "history" and "project" how much longer I have on this planet. It's not so much that I disagree; but that they may be right. And that is information that I don't want to know. :mooner:


you may want to avoid conversations with any actuaries then.

GAC
03-01-2007, 08:37 PM
you may want to avoid conversations with any actuaries then.

Why?

pedro
03-01-2007, 08:40 PM
Why?

because their job is to analyze you from a demographic standpoint and then tell the insurance companies that they work for how long your are likely to live and how likely you are to get sick or be in an accident.

GAC
03-01-2007, 08:41 PM
because their job is to analyze you from a demographic standpoint and then tell the insurance companies that they work for how long your are likely to live and how likely you are to get sick or be in an accident.

The problem is that most actuaries won't risk coming around me to analyze me. :mooner:

Chip R
03-01-2007, 08:44 PM
because their job is to analyze you from a demographic standpoint and then tell the insurance companies that they work for how long your are likely to live and how likely you are to get sick or be in an accident.



Like GAC needs an actuary to tell him that.

pedro
03-01-2007, 08:54 PM
The problem is that most actuaries won't risk coming around me to analyze me. :mooner:

They know that GAC plays the game, stats don't ;)

GAC
03-01-2007, 09:16 PM
They know that GAC plays the game, stats don't ;)


The problem is that I don't always play it the right way. I'm the "Juan Castro" of life. :beerme:

RedsBaron
03-01-2007, 09:18 PM
The problem is that I don't always play it the right way. I'm the "Juan Castro" of life. :beerme:

But you are scrappy.
And you definitely have a veteran presence.

Marc D
03-01-2007, 11:43 PM
Transcript of the call from Murray Chass to his friend Marty, who's work he respects:

MC: "Marty? Murray here. Whats new with you?"
MB: "Not much. Just sitting here watching this big goof left fielder of ours hit meaningless homeruns. How about you?"
MC:"Was wanting to see if you knew what VORP was?"
MB: "Damn, Murray you really need to get out more, watch TV or something. Everyone knows VORP is how fast that drunken soccer hooligan on Star Trek can make the ship go.You know, 'Scotty give me VORP speed in 5 minutes or we're all dead.' Sheesh"
MC: "No actually I thought that too but they tell me thats WARP not VORP. I dunno but all these egg heads and their fancy shmancy lingo are just ruining the game."
MB: "Well thankfully geeks don't play baseball, ball players do...whats that? Oh, hold on. Thom knows how to use one of those computer things and just told me it means Value Over Replacement. Shouldn't it just be VOR then?"
MC: "Well how do they know how good the guys replacement would be? This sounds like the hogwash these new age hippie types are always saying to me. Trying to tell me how these new 'hybrid' cars are more 'eco' friendly than my '72 El Dorado. Shows how dumb they are, first of all thats not an echo it makes, its called a backfire and not all those new cars are green. I've seen silver and red ones."
MB: "Brother I feel your pain. I mean what if a guys backup is say...Steve Finley? Have you seen the body on that guy? He's the youngest 42 year old I've ever seen. You could probably bounce a quarter off the guys but cheeks. I'm telling you after they all work out and he's all sweaty and glistening he puts all those young whipersnappers in the locker room to shame. When the lights just right and it hits the sweat on his tanned shoulders...."
MC: "Uhh..Marty I gotta go."

letsgojunior
03-02-2007, 12:03 AM
How in the world does the fact that relatives and tykes read this site have anything to do with what I said? That I called a spade a spade after the man
insulted a large swath of baseball fans?

And in the future, if you have issues what something I've said you can be more respectful and send me a PM.

I'm sorry - as someone who tries to always be respectful - I was not attempting to insult your post in any way. I was merely pointing out that we've got kids and relatives reading the site. Kids who need to know that insulting people who insult them is not always the best way to win an argument. Relatives who in the past who have been pretty badly hurt by some of the less politically correct comments made about certain Reds personnel.

For the record, I do not support Chass's view. I think he is wrong. That said, I don't think any and all disagreements with prior posts must be submitted via PM. We disagree here all the time. I wasn't personally attacking you at all - I was asking if it was possible to tone things down.

Isn't it possible to simply criticize Chass's claim on the merits, dissect why he's wrong, and state why he overstated his claim? That opinion could be conveyed without resorting to invective, without basically thoroughly trashing the man.

I'm all for First Amendment rights, but it seems pretty unfair to say that "he insulted x number of baseball fans, he is completely wrong, but it's perfectly fine to insult him back."

gonelong
03-02-2007, 12:54 AM
He's Joe Morgan.

Who are they again?

IMO "they" are much more entertaining than anything I've heard from Morgan in the last few years.

GL

Reds Nd2
03-04-2007, 01:12 PM
Actually, you don't.
Thanks Chip. I'd forgotten, if I ever knew that is, that BP offers a free basic subscription.

Cedric
03-04-2007, 01:46 PM
IMO "they" are much more entertaining than anything I've heard from Morgan in the last few years.

GL

They are vengeful little twerps. They aren't funny either.

If anyone dare challenges their beloved boss they come running out with nerdy jokes. It's embarrassing how petty and childish they look.

They chide Joe Morgan for being close minded and stubborn and yet they act like twelve year olds.

westofyou
03-04-2007, 02:03 PM
Hey, it's just a blog entry... nothing to get worked up over.

Falls City Beer
03-04-2007, 02:04 PM
Hey, it's just a blog entry... nothing to get worked up over.

Yep. It ain't exactly the NY Times. :)

RANDY IN INDY
03-04-2007, 03:34 PM
I'm sorry - as someone who tries to always be respectful - I was not attempting to insult your post in any way. I was merely pointing out that we've got kids and relatives reading the site. Kids who need to know that insulting people who insult them is not always the best way to win an argument. Relatives who in the past who have been pretty badly hurt by some of the less politically correct comments made about certain Reds personnel.

For the record, I do not support Chass's view. I think he is wrong. That said, I don't think any and all disagreements with prior posts must be submitted via PM. We disagree here all the time. I wasn't personally attacking you at all - I was asking if it was possible to tone things down.

Isn't it possible to simply criticize Chass's claim on the merits, dissect why he's wrong, and state why he overstated his claim? That opinion could be conveyed without resorting to invective, without basically thoroughly trashing the man.

I'm all for First Amendment rights, but it seems pretty unfair to say that "he insulted x number of baseball fans, he is completely wrong, but it's perfectly fine to insult him back."

:beerme:

gonelong
03-04-2007, 06:00 PM
They are vengeful little twerps. They aren't funny either.

If anyone dare challenges their beloved boss they come running out with nerdy jokes. It's embarrassing how petty and childish they look.

They chide Joe Morgan for being close minded and stubborn and yet they act like twelve year olds.

I have only read the site for a few minutes and I could be wrong ... but I think that is just part of the shtick.

... and in the forum they are a part of, I find it amusing. Childish ... absolutely. Amusing to me nonetheless.

GL

Outshined_One
03-04-2007, 10:07 PM
They are vengeful little twerps. They aren't funny either.

If anyone dare challenges their beloved boss they come running out with nerdy jokes. It's embarrassing how petty and childish they look.

They chide Joe Morgan for being close minded and stubborn and yet they act like twelve year olds.

So what is your opinion of writers such as Murray Chass, who act in a similar way when it comes to insulting those of us who value statistics, yet have a substantially greater readership and (presumably) more credibility since they work for major media outlets?

Cedric
03-05-2007, 11:20 AM
So what is your opinion of writers such as Murray Chass, who act in a similar way when it comes to insulting those of us who value statistics, yet have a substantially greater readership and (presumably) more credibility since they work for major media outlets?

I think it was ignorant and wrong.

If he devotes a whole website to bashing stat guys then I will call him the exact same as above. Someone with that much hatred is just weird.

Johnny Footstool
03-05-2007, 11:28 AM
I think it was ignorant and wrong.

If he devotes a whole website to bashing stat guys then I will call him the exact same as above. Someone with that much hatred is just weird.

He reaches probably 100 times more people with one article than the boys at Fire Joe Morgan do with their web site.

RANDY IN INDY
03-05-2007, 12:04 PM
.......and neither makes a whole lot of sense or trumps the other one.

Rojo
03-05-2007, 04:21 PM
Chass's greatest sin was brevity. Instead of building a case that too many questionable stats are churned out, he's dismissive.

NJReds
03-05-2007, 04:26 PM
Chass has been hanging with Classy Freddie Blassie:

http://www.kayfabememories.com/BookReviews/images/blassie.jpg

Falls City Beer
03-05-2007, 05:23 PM
Chass's greatest sin was brevity. Instead of building a case that too many questionable stats are churned out, he's dismissive.

This is a fair point. A very good point in fact. Ethos = the importance of doing your homework.

jojo
03-05-2007, 05:32 PM
Life itself is about stats


Actually life is a bell curve and happiness is being comfortable with your standard deviation from the mean.....


:beerme:

Reds Nd2
03-05-2007, 07:39 PM
Chass has been hanging with Classy Freddie Blassie:

http://www.kayfabememories.com/BookReviews/images/blassie.jpg
:bowrofl: :bowrofl: :bowrofl:

Eric_Davis
03-07-2007, 01:40 PM
"People play baseball. Numbers donít."

And it's people's prejudices that kept minorities from getting a job in the game and still does in some areas for more than a century now.

westofyou
05-10-2007, 07:50 PM
Nate Silver finally Responds.

http://www.baseballanalysts.com/


It's been several months since Murray Chass woke up one morning and decided to devote the last six paragraphs of his column to criticizing Baseball Prospectus. As I replied at that time, what most took be aback about his column was its assertion that sabermetrics "threatens to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball."

Naturally, I think quite the opposite is true. Here are seven ways in which sabermetrics has helped to improve the fan's experience:

1. Enhancing the Quality of Play.

There has been a great deal of debate about just how much the quality of play has improved in baseball over time. What nobody debates, however, is that the quality of play has in fact improved substantially. There are a great number of reasons for this, first and most importantly because the size of Major League Baseball's potential player pool has tended to grow more quickly than the number of teams in the league.

A small part of the improvement in quality, however, might be the result of the sabermetric movement. In a forthcoming essay for It Ain't over 'til It's over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book, I developed something called the Efficiency Index, which operates by comparing the performances of the best backups in the league to the worst regulars in the league. The idea is that if the best backups in the league are much better than the worst regulars, then the league is doing an inefficient job of distributing talent, presumably because of great disparities in wealth, scouting acumen, or aptitude for talent evaluation.

The Efficiency Index has improved over time, particularly with the widespread introduction of the farm system in the 1950s. There has been a smaller but perceptible rise, however, within the past 5-10 years, and particularly within the last 2-3 years, which coincides with the widespread introduction of sabermetrics into the thought processes of major league front offices. There is no longer any reason to Free Erubiel Durazo!, or Frank Catalanotto, or Kevin Youkilis, or Chad Bradford. Those guys are getting a chance to play, and they're helping to resolve asymmetries in the talent distribution process.

This takes for granted, of course, that fans would rather see Kevin Youkilis play baseball than say J.T. Snow, which is almost certainly the case if he's donning the uniform of your favorite team, but perhaps less so if we're coming at this from the standpoint of pure aesthetics. That is really just the tip of the iceberg, however. Consider: would the Red Sox have matched Daisuke Matsuzaka's price if not for the work of people like Clay Davenport, who helped us to understand the high quality of baseball in Japan? Would Jake Peavy be the best pitcher in the National League, or would he have been a victim of high pitch counts? Would Curtis Granderson be patrolling center field for the Tigers, or would he have been written off because he came from a tiny college program in a northern state, doomed to see his skills and desire atrophy in the lower minors? Even if you think the answer to these questions is "well, probably," baseball is replete with examples of potentially great players whose skill sets slipped through the cracks, and not all of those guys were Jack Cust types.

2. Democratizing the Media

Don't get me wrong. I'd have a tough choice deciding between ESPN and the other 400-odd channels in my cable lineup, provided that some allowance could be made for The Sopranos. But there's developed an increasingly blurry line between the people who cover the baseball industry, and the people who profit from it.

At the one extreme, you have the obvious potential conflicts of interest. The Tribune covers the Cubs while also owning the ballclub. I believe The Trib generally does a good job of managing these conflicts, but - full disclosure - I have been a frequent guest on WGN Radio. At the other extreme, you have the more vaguely insidious conflicts, such as Buster Olney blogging about "fantasy sleepers" when he clearly has no interest in the subject. And there's nobody much left to police the conflicts of interest, because if you don't have a relationship with the leagues themselves, you probably have relationships with the major media players (full disclosure #2: "you" includes Baseball Prospectus).

What we do have, however, is the blogosphere. The blogosphere has generally not been interested in covering the meta-issues of the sports media - there's no mediamatters.org for sports, unless you want to count Fire Joe Morgan. But it does an absolutely superlative [corrected] job of covering baseball itself. At the risk of being self-aggrandizing in an Al-Gore-Invented-the-Internet kind of way, I believe a great deal of that has to do with the lower barriers to entry that sabermetrics helps to facilitate, in terms of its tendency to allow objective knowledge about the game to go forth and multiply. The very thing that Murray Chass seems to fear is the very thing that makes him less important. Baseball fans can still read Murray Chass if they want - but they can also read Rob Neyer or Tangotiger or Rich Lederer. Once you realize that the arrangement of the Yankees' locker room has less to do with their success or failure than simple things like how often Johnny Damon gets on base, you're armed to debate about them without having to tip your hat to insider knowledge.

3. Leveling the Playing Field

One of the great myths of Moneyball is that sabermetrics is something that's the domain of small-market clubs; as the Red Sox have shown, there is little intrinsic connection between a team's financial and analytical dispositions. Nevertheless, having a core competency for statistical analysis provides another dimension along which a team can compete. Since statistical analysis is relatively cheap to execute, this has tended to lessen the intrinsic advantage of large-market clubs, which in turn provides "hope and faith" to a larger number of fans. As a corollary, the analytical approach represents another potential strategy that teams can gravitate toward, which increases the genetic diversity of the sport.

4. Opening up the Owner's Box (and the General Manager's Office)

Fans have always debated about the game's greatest players. But as difficult as it can be to determine whether Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes is the better player, it is even more difficult to determine whether Billy Beane or Terry Ryan is the better general manager, or corporate ownership is better than having a megalomaniac like George Steinbrenner. Sabermetrics, particularly when it pursues angles related to economics, empowers us to discuss the game off the field to a more profound extent. As a result, while the sport itself has a six-month season, baseball fans have grown accustomed to enjoying a twelve-month news cycle, and the Hot Stove League can approach the pennant races in excitement. It is no coincidence that the Baseball Prospectus website gets more traffic in March than it does in April, and more in November than it does in July.

5. Enlivening the History Books

The birth of the National League now predates that of the oldest living person, so there's nobody on earth who can claim to have seen every Hall of Famer play. If you look at the vigorous debate at places like the BBTF Hall of Merit, however, you wouldn't know the difference. Sabermetrics provides perspective, and that perspective can just as easily be applied to the past as to the present. Baseball has the richest history of any major sport, and while sabermetrics owes a great debt to that history - it helps to have 130+ years of observations to work with when you're developing a statistical model - that history owes an increasing debt to sabermetrics.

6. Now Geeks Can Play, Too

Each year, Baseball Prospectus takes internship applications and asks the candidates to submit short writing samples; it's likely that more than half of these writing samples will contain some reference to Theo Epstein. Most of us are not natural athletes, and although sabermetrics has probably not penetrated the industry to the point where the ex-jock/old boy's network culture has been irrevocably changed, it certainly opens up a career in the industry to a wider array of people than might have had access in the past. Keeping those sorts of dreams alive has to help with the sport's audience. And while relatively few of us will be fortunate enough to have a career in the industry itself, we're all able to experience the next best thing in the form of fantasy baseball, which has a mutually reinforcing relationship with sabermetrics.

7. Knowledge is Power

I don't want to sound like Richard Dawkins debunking the Santa Claus myth, but I believe there is inherent good in the pursuit of objective knowledge. Sabermetrics can occasionally demystify certain constructs that it might be pleasant to believe - like the existence of the Clutch Hitter, baseball's answer to Santa Claus - but is that necessarily a bad thing? And sabermetrics tends to spark new questions as well as resolve old ones. Perhaps the Clutch Hitter has been relegated to the status of the Loch Ness Monster, (or perhaps he hasn't), but sabermetrics has provoked us to look at things like player development and the relationship between pitching and defense in entirely different ways, just to name a couple.

What ultimately bothered me about Mr. Chass' article was its anti-intellectualism. Perhaps Chass would prefer that all knowledge about the game be disseminated by the Old Gray Lady on her stone tablets - "Thou Shalt Not Make the First Out at Third Base" / "Thou Shalt Not Worship False Statistics" - but the rest of us are having a lot of fun with this stuff, and we're building a better ballgame in the process.


Nate Silver is the Executive Vice President of Prospectus Entertainment Ventures; inventor of PECOTA, the BP projection system; and writes "Lies Damned Lies," a column about modern statistical analysis. He lives in Chicago.