View Full Version : Saber Shenanigans

03-14-2010, 04:17 PM
I would just like to make a couple of comments on an article posted over on ORG the other day. Here is a link to that article: http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80750

In short the article deals with modeling systems and baseball in general. It focuses on this particular modeling system - The Marcels - and how it performed with regards to Home Runs hit by the top home run hitters in 2009.

The Marcels predicted that the top 13 predicted home run hitters in 2009 would combine for a forecasted 401 HR. The actual total for these hitters in 2009 was 400. In the words of the author of the blog 'They nailed it!'.

In conclusion the author of the blog states: "So, the forecasting systems work… if you know how to properly interpret what it is they are trying to tell you. "

Soon a number of skeptics replied pretty much along the lines of "It was a fluke". The supporters soon shot back with comments such as "the model is capturing the cohort really well...i.e. it works and the population is being accurately defined.....".

This is the statement that got me thinking about it and I consider it a very reasonable statement: "But what do you consider accurate? What if it's within 3 HR 90% of the time? There are plenty of studies out there that show the accuracy of the various projections systems. You might be surprised how accurate a simple model based on regression the mean can be."

So I decided to test how accurate this model is. A quick aside, I found it odd that the author of the blog would make such a statement about his model using just one year's data. That does not strike me as a very rigorous test. Surely the author could have checked out the Marcel forecasts versus what actually happened in rather short order. It would have made for a far more convincing article if he showed that he 'nailed it' 3 or 4 years running.

I decided to first take a look at 2009. He made the cutoff as 28 home runs which resulted in 13 players. I didn't see in the article any explanation as to why he picked 28 homers or if 13 players (points of data) is enough to test a model. So I moved the cutoff one home run and made it 29 homers. This cut the list down to 9 players. How did that work out?

NAME pHR29 aHR29
Howard 40 45
ARod 32 30
Braun 32 32
Fielder 32 46
Dunn 32 38
Pujols 31 47
Pena 31 39
Thome 30 23
Dye 29 27

289 327

Marcels predicted 289 Home Runs and the actual amount was 327. This is a difference of 38. Less points of data probably mean less accuracy, but I would say Marcels did not nail it. That definitely is not within 3 or even 3%. It missed by about 13%.

So maybe 9 players is too small of sample set (although it isn't that much smaller than 13). I decided to start testing backwards using 13 players and ties. How did that work out? Here are the list for the years 2008, 2007 and 2006. Remember I took the top 13 players and ties so there is not the same amount of players for each year. What does that show us?

Last pHR08 aHR08 Last pHR07 aHR07 Last pHR06 aHR06
Howard 39 48 Howard 40 47 Howard 40 58
ARod 36 35 Ortiz 40 35 Ortiz 40 54
Ortiz 34 23 Pujols 38 32 Pujols 38 49
Pujols 33 37 Dunn 36 40 Dunn 36 40
Fielder 33 34 Jones 35 26 Jones 35 41
Dunn 32 40 Glaus 33 20 Glaus 33 38
Pena 31 31 Konerko 33 31 Konerko 33 35
Berkman 30 29 Ramirez 33 20 Ramirez 33 35
Jones 30 3 ARod 33 54 ARod 33 35
Soriano 29 29 Soriano 33 33 Soriano 33 46
Hafner 28 5 Texeira 33 30 Texeira 33 33
Thome 28 34 Ramirez 32 26 Ramirez 32 38
Konerko 28 22 Delgado 31 24 Delgado 31 38
Dye 28 34 Hafner 31 24 Hafner 31 42
439 404 Sexson 31 21 Sexson 31 34

512 463 512 616

In 2008 Marcels was off 35 HR or 7.9%, in 2007 it was off 49 Hr or 9.6% and in 2006 it was off 104 HR or 20.3%.

I readily admit I don't know much about modeling and perhaps these are acceptable margins of error. But at a glance I would say Marcels, did not nail any of those 3 years.

One defender of Marcels had this to say, "Opponents of the sabermetric approach often like to cherry pick specific examples to question the credibility of a model." It would appear that the author of the blog did a little cherry picking of his own.

In fairness, the author of this blog is probably a post-grad student of sabermetrics while I would consider myself about a second grader. Sabermetrically speaking, I am riding a very short bus. And, while I don't understand a lot about modeling and the uses and the limitations, I think the author was more than a little premature in patting himself on the back.

03-14-2010, 04:54 PM
Believe it or not, this is what the "Are you smarter than a monkey?" thread is about.


03-17-2010, 12:21 AM
Nice work. Stats are best at measuring the players that are best at that stat. Marcels did a good job of predicting total HRs of the best HR hitters. I think as you go down the scale of HR hitters, there is going to be even more variance. This would not be reliable to predict production for a team.

03-17-2010, 05:23 AM
It can all be thrown out the window if baseball decides to do something such as "tighten the baseballs" and not tell anyone about it. Or, something else, such as have the umpires make the "strike zone" 1 inch higher at the top level and 1 inch higher at the bottom level, and not tell anyone about it.

Don't put it past Bud Selig to go out with a bang this year and try to attract extra attention to the sport by raising the number of homeruns again. He can say that they've done the steroids testing and that it's just that there are several players having better than normal seasons while others are at their peak years (26-30).