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RedsManRick
03-25-2012, 05:36 PM
Great blog post courtesy of Tango's blog regarding the limits of observation:

http://wagesofwins.com/2012/03/22/you-watch-the-games-so-what/

The post is in the context of basketball but all the basic points are universal.

lollipopcurve
03-25-2012, 05:41 PM
Both direct observation and stats fail to capture much what happens on the field of play.

If you want to know what a sport is, though, you should watch it.

mth123
03-25-2012, 05:57 PM
Both direct observation and stats fail to capture much what happens on the field of play.

If you want to know what a sport is, though, you should watch it.

Agreed. I use stats, I just think there are limitations that others don't seem to want to acknowledge.

The tone of articles like this come off as kind of "holier than thou." I think stats are utilized enough that the stat guys don't need to be lobbing bombs like this in print. The whole "I know everything and you don't know jack" tone of this and many articles like it stinks.

I agree with the overall point, but its still better to watch the games IMO and whoever wrote that came off like a huge jerk, IMO, even if he or she is right.

cinreds21
03-25-2012, 06:35 PM
A player could go 4-4, yet all of them could be of the punch and judy variety. You can't tell that by a boxscore or stats.

RedsManRick
03-25-2012, 06:58 PM
Sigh...

The article was clearly a response to those people who like to drop the "I know I'm right because I watch the games" argument. The author was not suggesting that the watching the game is useless or that stats tell you everything.

Nobody thinks that stats tell you everything or that watching the game is pointless. But there are people who don't appreciate the limits of the powers of observations. Frankly, I don't know anybody who who loves stats who doesn't have great appreciation for their limitations. I know a lot of people who denigrate stats who don't have appreciation for the limits of what their eyes tell them.

Vottomatic
03-25-2012, 07:00 PM
It's amazing that baseball people could figure out how good Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, etc., were without all these modern day stats. :p

mth123
03-25-2012, 07:04 PM
Sigh...

The article was clearly a response to those people who like to drop the "I know I'm right because I watch the games" argument. The author was not suggesting that the watching the game is useless or that stats tell you everything.

Nobody thinks that stats tell you everything or that watching the game is pointless. But there are people who don't appreciate the limits of the powers of observations. Frankly, I don't know anybody who who loves stats who doesn't have great appreciation for their limitations. I know a lot of people who denigrate stats who don't have appreciation for the limits of what their eyes tell them.

Never seen an article titled, "You Crunch Numbers, so what?" IMO, the stat guys more often come off as the classless bunch in this whole divide.

There shouldn't be a divide. Stats are important. So is scouting, observation and understanding context that watching games provides.

RedlegJake
03-25-2012, 07:19 PM
I, too, came away with a "holier than thou" feeling from the article. I get his point but his writing still left me feeling that way - Just could have done a better job of writing up his point without making it seem that way. Let's face it - stats without observation is limited and observation without stats is also pretty limited. They go hand in hand and trying to analyze a player, a team or a game without both is going to be suspect. If I was an owner I'd fire any scout who didn't use stats as part of his analysis, and I'd refuse to accept the analysis of any statistician to make a draft pick that didn't include an eyeball report from coaches or scouts. The absence of either one makes the other merely half of the whole.

edabbs44
03-25-2012, 08:09 PM
Yeah, not a fan of the tone of these types of articles.

traderumor
03-25-2012, 08:17 PM
Boy, the standards for writing sure are low. That level of argumentation would probably get about a C in persuasive writing (graded on a curve). I'm right because I'm right.

Sea Ray
03-25-2012, 08:34 PM
Never seen an article titled, "You Crunch Numbers, so what?" IMO, the stat guys more often come off as the classless bunch in this whole divide.

There shouldn't be a divide. Stats are important. So is scouting, observation and understanding context that watching games provides.

I agree.

I don't like anyone who says "because...I know this sport better than you" and my impressions are that such opinions usually come from the stat crowd. When have you ever heard my stat is better than yours from a guy like Marty Brennaman?

Why can't we all just enjoy sports the way we want to and not worry about who's stats are better or who's opinion is better? I like to think that I get something out of my conversations with all people of varying sports intellect. Have you guys ever gotten something sorts related out of your (sports) widow wives or girlfriends? I sure have. She'll bring up some sort of point that I'd missed. I know you folks would love a specific example but suffice to say that she values guts over draft status. Thank God my mind is open enough to accept it

CySeymour
03-25-2012, 08:34 PM
It's amazing that baseball people could figure out how good Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, etc., were without all these modern day stats. :p

No one suggests that only stats can tell you who the greats are. But stats can help indicate who the under-appreciated are and who are perhaps overrated.

westofyou
03-25-2012, 08:45 PM
Never seen an article titled, "You Crunch Numbers, so what?" IMO, the stat guys more often come off as the classless bunch in this whole divide.

There shouldn't be a divide. Stats are important. So is scouting, observation and understanding context that watching games provides.

Oh they exist, for instance we could look at Murray Chass, he's the president

http://www.murraychass.com/?page_id=23

About This Site

This is a site for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs. The proprietor of the site is not a fan of blogs. He made that abundantly clear on a radio show with Charley Steiner when Steiner asked him what he thought of blogs and he replied, I hate blogs. He later heartily applauded Buzz Bissinger when the best-selling author denounced bloggers on a Bob Costas HBO show.

Bloggers, however, are welcome to visit this site; so are stats freaks, fantasy leaguers and Red Sox fans. How else will they know what is being said about them by a columnist they love to hate?

Otherwise, this site will most likely appeal primarily to older fans whose interest in good old baseball is largely ignored in this day of young bloggers who know it all, and new- fangled statistics (VORP, for one excuse-me example), which are drowning the game in numbers and making people forget that human beings, not numbers, play the games.

Murray Chass, who created this site, will do the column writing but will invite others to join him, the others being long-time columnists for daily newspapers who no longer work for newspapers. If you have a favorite columnist who is no longer actively writing and would like to be able to read his work again, please send a note and he or she will be invited to join the site.

dougdirt
03-25-2012, 08:54 PM
I agree.

I don't like anyone who says "because...I know this sport better than you" and my impressions are that such opinions usually come from the stat crowd. When have you ever heard my stat is better than yours from a guy like Marty Brennaman?

Why can't we all just enjoy sports the way we want to and not worry about who's stats are better or who's opinion is better? I like to think that I get something out of my conversations with all people of varying sports intellect. Have you guys ever gotten something sorts related out of your (sports) widow wives or girlfriends? I sure have. She'll bring up some sort of point that I'd missed. I know you folks would love a specific example but suffice to say that she values guts over draft status. Thank God my mind is open enough to accept it
I have heard Marty, many times, say that this stat or this other stat isn't nearly as good as what he see's on the field.

As for the enjoyment of it, well, we can all enjoy it how we want. But when we all start talking about the sport, that is where this whole thing comes from. If arguments over sports never happened, you wouldn't ever see articles like this. But, as we all know, they happen every day.

BCubb2003
03-25-2012, 08:55 PM
Here's another in the "You Have to Watch the Ganes" file.

http://www.phillybroadcaster.com/pat-gillick-inducted-into-baseball-hall-of-fame/

I think the main difference is that stats tend to provide a macro view, and watching the games tends to provide a micro view, that's all.

RANDY IN INDY
03-26-2012, 06:39 AM
A lot of it tends to depend on who is doing the watching, and who is using the stats. There are plenty of idiots on both sides.

lollipopcurve
03-26-2012, 08:41 AM
Frankly, I don't know anybody who who loves stats who doesn't have great appreciation for their limitations. I know a lot of people who denigrate stats who don't have appreciation for the limits of what their eyes tell them.

Sigh.

CySeymour
03-26-2012, 08:57 AM
A lot of it tends to depend on who is doing the watching, and who is using the stats. There are plenty of idiots on both sides.

QFT. Essentially, you have to know the source.

bucksfan2
03-26-2012, 09:19 AM
Here's another in the "You Have to Watch the Ganes" file.

http://www.phillybroadcaster.com/pat-gillick-inducted-into-baseball-hall-of-fame/

I think the main difference is that stats tend to provide a macro view, and watching the games tends to provide a micro view, that's all.

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't the SABR movement really get going with a lot of wall street types diving into baseball stats? IIRC with the exceptoin of Bill James, Moneyball talked a lot about Wall Streeters quitting to develop advanced baseball stats. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, they are looking for value where others have overlooked it. They are looking for "market" inefficiencies, they are looking at areas where others have overlooked.

I think you brought up the most valid point, probably the most important point to me in the whole argument, the difference between micro and macro. Games are won in the micro decisions by the front office are made in the macro. Two very different things that have to coexist in order to make an all around club.

RANDY IN INDY
03-26-2012, 09:21 AM
There are a lot of "eyes" over the years, that I have trusted implicitly when it comes to evaluating baseball talent. I know quite a few "stat guys" with eyes that I also trust implicitly. I can't say that I know anyone who uses stats alone, that I trust that way. Maybe I'll run across that guy some day. That's just me.

Sea Ray
03-26-2012, 09:22 AM
I have heard Marty, many times, say that this stat or this other stat isn't nearly as good as what he see's on the field.

As for the enjoyment of it, well, we can all enjoy it how we want. But when we all start talking about the sport, that is where this whole thing comes from. If arguments over sports never happened, you wouldn't ever see articles like this. But, as we all know, they happen every day.

No question the SABR guys bug Marty to no end and we all know where he stands but he doesn't say BA is a better stat than OPS

traderumor
03-26-2012, 10:22 AM
Like anything, balance. On RZ, the prevailing position is that both methods have their place and are complementary, not either or. I would say this essay (using the term loosely) leans on the "statistical evaluation is always superior to observation," and that is not the prevailing position of even our staunchest "stats" folks.

Also, I do not think the author came close to explaining why the method of "boxscore evaluation" of 25 points by Carmelo Anthony was superior to watching him score the 25 points, as an example of the incomplete and inadequate argumentation in the article that I referred to earlier.

IslandRed
03-26-2012, 10:27 AM
The article said it was posted this week, but the content and the smackish title is oh-so-2004. I could have sworn the Great Moneyball War was over.

Roy Tucker
03-26-2012, 10:37 AM
The nice thing about baseball is that there are many different levels to enjoy the game on. And you can be as serious or not so serious about whatever level you choose.

Contrary to the saying, baseball is not life. It's a game meant to be enjoyed.

dougdirt
03-26-2012, 10:43 AM
No question the SABR guys bug Marty to no end and we all know where he stands but he doesn't say BA is a better stat than OPS

Nope, but I have heard him plenty of times saying things like "I don't care what his OPS is, I watch him and he isn't good" - paraphrasing that, but you get the point and I am sure everyone else has heard it too.

Sea Ray
03-26-2012, 11:15 AM
Nope, but I have heard him plenty of times saying things like "I don't care what his OPS is, I watch him and he isn't good" - paraphrasing that, but you get the point and I am sure everyone else has heard it too.

I know exactly what you're talking about and that's baseball. I don't have a problem with that.

I follow stats to a lesser extent than some others do and I respect your opinion because you do both, follow stats and watch video of the players but the folks who just looked at stats were railing on Drew Stubbs as a minor leaguer that he was no more than a strikeout prone punch and Judy hitter. When I saw him play, I saw a guy with incredible bat speed as I watched the ball jump off his bat. I didn't know if he'd be a hitter in the big leagues but I knew that power wouldn't be an issue

BCubb2003
03-26-2012, 12:07 PM
Nope, but I have heard him plenty of times saying things like "I don't care what his OPS is, I watch him and he isn't good" - paraphrasing that, but you get the point and I am sure everyone else has heard it too.

Yeah, but we need stats on that, not just listening to the games ...

MikeThierry
03-26-2012, 05:48 PM
Frankly, I don't know anybody who who loves stats who doesn't have great appreciation for their limitations.

I don't know if people like Keith Law follow your belief. He is absolutely one of the biggest wind bags I have ever heard on the radio/tv and is an example of why many people are resistant to sabr stats. People like him gives people who rely on mostly stats and advanced stats for their opinion, bad names.

The Operator
03-26-2012, 06:29 PM
It's amazing that baseball people could figure out how good Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, etc., were without all these modern day stats. :pI get what you're saying, but those names don't exactly back your argument up.

It doesn't really take advanced metrics to realize that elite level talent is elite. I doubt the Washington Nationals called up Bill James before drafting Stephen Strasburg.

On the other hand, advanced stats can (and have) help you find those diamond in the rough type players who for whatever reason have been overlooked or undervalued. That's the true beauty of the SABR movement.

defender
03-27-2012, 02:18 PM
Since it is impossible for the human eye/brain to follow all 10 players at once, we would gain a better understanding of the game from the box score? This article is a glaring example of stat people not understanding the limitations of statistics.

Hitting, pitching, fielding are skills. Baseball is a game that has created a context in which watching people perform those skills is entertaining. In fact, the context is so compelling, that people even listen to the games.

The human observer is good at context. Statistics are bad at context. No matter how poor our memories are or how influenced by emotion or bias, we are still better at context than stats. The difference between each team being given 4,374 outs to see how many runs they score and being given 162 games to see how many games they win is what makes the game of baseball.

Stats measure the game of 4,374 outs. Stats add a lot to the baseball fan experience and are useful for evaluating players. They do not necessarily measure the game we enjoy watching. The weakness of statistics is that we have to create them and their relevance to the game. What we create is influenced by our biases, data collection, math skills, what we use it for and what we want it to tell us.

defender
03-27-2012, 02:18 PM
Since it is impossible for the human eye/brain to follow all 10 players at once, we would gain a better understanding of the game from the box score? This article is a glaring example of stat people not understanding the limitations of statistics.

Hitting, pitching, fielding are skills. Baseball is a game that has created a context in which watching people perform those skills is entertaining. In fact, the context is so compelling, that people even listen to the games.

The human observer is good at context. Statistics are bad at context. No matter how poor our memories are or how influenced by emotion or bias, we are still better at context than stats. The difference between each team being given 4,374 outs to see how many runs they score and being given 162 games to see how many games they win is what makes the game of baseball.

Stats measure the game of 4,374 outs. Stats add a lot to the baseball fan experience and are useful for evaluating players. They do not necessarily measure the game we enjoy watching. The weakness of statistics is that we have to create them and their relevance to the game. What we create is influenced by our biases, data collection, math skills, what we use it for and what we want it to tell us.

Johnny Footstool
03-27-2012, 02:37 PM
Observation = that player did a thing.

Stats = that player tends to do a thing.

Observation tells us what a player is capable of. It can distort our ideas about what that player can do on a regular basis.

Stats tell us what a player has done on a regular basis. They can distort our ideas about what a player is capable of.

You need to use both.

traderumor
03-27-2012, 03:25 PM
I get what you're saying, but those names don't exactly back your argument up.

It doesn't really take advanced metrics to realize that elite level talent is elite. I doubt the Washington Nationals called up Bill James before drafting Stephen Strasburg.

On the other hand, advanced stats can (and have) help you find those diamond in the rough type players who for whatever reason have been overlooked or undervalued. That's the true beauty of the SABR movement.That's great. Now what about guys who have lagged in performance, have no statistical indicators that identify them as "breakout candidates," yet could be identified by a discerning, experienced talent evaluator? In other words, talent can be discovered in a variety of ways. There is no dichotomy, these are complementary disciplines.

OldRightHander
03-27-2012, 03:53 PM
This is the beauty of the game. People with all level of understanding can gain immense enjoyment out of watching grown men throw a ball and whack at it with a stick. I understand the game at a level I couldn't even comprehend when I was 5, but I can't say that my enjoyment now is any more than it was then. If anything, when I was 5 there was a magic and a mystery to it that isn't there any more. Sometimes it comes back when I witness a moment that is transcendent, but when I was that age there was a wide eyed wonderment every time we stepped into the ballpark.

Now I understand more about the game and at times it is a hindrance and at times a blessing. Like when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the guy at the plate is a lousy hitter and he surprises you with a bomb into the bleachers. The 5 year old is happy because his favorite team hit a home run, and you're ecstatic because the guy who hit it is the last one you expected to. In a way, our excitement level is dependent on our level of expectation.

With that said, I think some of the non traditional stats are making their way into the mainstream. I have seen references to a pitcher's WHIP and a hitter's OPS recently at ballparks, on tv coverage, and in MLB The Show. Give it a few years and some of these things will be right there with the more traditional stats and I don't have a problem with that. I do know one thing. When I'm watching a game, I don't really need to know what I know in order to enjoy it, but it helps when the game's over, the excitement has worn off, and I'm reflecting on what I just saw and what went right or wrong.