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westofyou
07-09-2012, 05:27 PM
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17603



Dear Mr. Morgan,

I owe you an apology. No, not a snarky, sarcastic, "Haha this will get a lot of pageviews and I'll smack him down at the end—Big laughs all around!" sort of apology. A real one.

About five years ago, I started publishing my own research as a little hobby, and I found out some interesting things about baseball. It was fun, not only in a nerdy way, but in the sense that I really felt like I was contributing to a better understanding of the game.

Had it stopped there, I wouldn't be writing this letter of apology. But it didn't. Something happened to me over time. I'm not sure when it happened, but gradually the work became less about having fun by talking about the game of baseball and more about proving that I knew more than anyone else. I somehow convinced myself that the sabermetric way was the only true way to understand the game... and I laughed at those who said otherwise, including you, Mr. Morgan.

In my reflections (and uh, Gregorian number-crunching) I came to some rather interesting conclusions. I can’t get into specifics (so please don't ask) but I will say this: there are things that are generally publicly held as sabermetric doctrine—in some cases, crucial underlying assumptions—that are demonstrably false.

In other words, I discovered that I was capable of being... wrr… wrrro... wrrrrr... incorrect.

edabbs44
07-09-2012, 07:59 PM
Nice article.

defender
07-09-2012, 08:01 PM
Science/academics is about having a hypothesis and then finding the data to support it. Once you publish, there is a market for studies that prove you wrong. This goes back and forth for years/decades/centuries.

In Sabermetrics, only one side has been publishing. People want to read about how they know more about baseball than the Joe Morgan/Dusty Bakers of the world. When cigarettes were studied only by tobacco companies, they were good for you.

In order for sabermetrics to be useful, you have to study both sides. In the framework of baseball (162 games made of 9 innings of 3 outs each team) study the value of speed at the top of the lineup, productive outs etc.

Most sabermetrics that are published is done outside the framework of baseball (season or career totals). That is why sabermetric impressions are so different than watching impressions. Sabermetrics might conclude that avoiding outs is the most important thing. That is not what you see when you watch the game.

Redsfaithful
07-09-2012, 08:15 PM
That's interesting. I feel like the stats vs. scouts debate has softened. Or maybe I pay less attention to the debate than I used to, which is possibly a better explanation.

marcshoe
07-09-2012, 11:02 PM
I have come to believe that sabermetrics reveals a great deal about what goes on in a game and can be reliably predictive of players' future performance. It has also backed up an observation I had been making for years--that giving up outs to advance runners is usually counterproductive.

Having said that, I believe that two foundational assumptions of sabermetrics, which I won't specify here, are wrong, even though these assumptions can lead in the right direction. It has to do with the micro-macro bit. I also believe that WAR is the single most accurate measure of player value, but that the inclusion of the word "WIN" in the acronym is misleading.

In the end, I think the biggest danger is that the new Stat paradigm could become so set in stone that it ends up discouraging the very innovation it once helped drive.

Always move forward.

membengal
07-09-2012, 11:16 PM
Had just gotten done reading it after Goldstein tweeted it, and headed here to see if it was being discussed. Good looking out woy.

Of interest was Carleton's (he was the author) response in comments to a question if he could offer any specifics. Carleton's response offers some meat to the bone:


You might appreciate that I'll have to decline to talk about the specifics. My work on the inside is covered by a non-disclosure agreement.

But, may I point out a similar process that has taken place in public. DIPS has gone from "there is no difference between pitchers in preventing base hits on balls in play" to "Well... sorta... but it's a lot more complicated than that." (Shout out to Mike Fast, among others, for a great deal of work on that.)

I point that out as there have been an awful lot of threads on this board about that particular topic...

powersackers
07-10-2012, 02:31 AM
I bet his unspeakable falsity in sabermetrics deals with park factors. Example: So Tampa's stadium gave up 33% less runs than Toronto's in 2011. Park factors tell us that 16.5% of a TB pitchers Era vs. A Toronto pitchers Era is due to that. Plus or minus a few percent for defense...

Well does anyone factor in that Toronto's offense didn't have Carlos Pena and Sean Rodriguez playing 81 games up there? Just two examples... but is roster quality taken into account? Joey Bats surely accounted for some of that run difference himself. l am not a student of Saber like most of you. So I may be well off base here.

Brutus
07-10-2012, 02:39 AM
I bet his unspeakable falsity in sabermetrics deals with park factors. Example: So Tampa's stadium gave up 33% less runs than Toronto's in 2011. Park factors tell us that 16.5% of a TB pitchers Era vs. A Toronto pitchers Era is due to that. Plus or minus a few percent for defense...

Well does anyone factor in that Toronto's offense didn't have Carlos Pena and Sean Rodriguez playing 81 games up there? Just two examples... but is roster quality taken into account? Joey Bats surely accounted for some of that run difference himself. l am not a student of Saber like most of you. So I may be well off base here.

Typically, park factors are based on a team's stats at home compared to how the same team does on the road, and the same adjustment is made for runs/homers/doubles allowed, etc.

There are some park factor algorithms that go into even greater detail than that. But to answer your question, yes, those things are usually accounted for.

RichRed
07-10-2012, 09:17 AM
I like the article; it's a nice reminder to stay humble and open-minded. Still, some of that stuff on firejoemorgan.com was downright hilarious.

dougdirt
07-10-2012, 10:48 AM
Well, his first problem was that he was incredibly close minded. Most of the sabermatricians that I tend to read all acknowledge and believe in scouting to be a big part of understanding baseball. The author here apparently did not.

As for his DIPS theory comment in the replies, well, I think we have known for a while that yes, BABIP can be controlled somewhat.... when a guy makes his pitches. But that no one is consistently good enough to be able to make those pitches, so their 'bad' pitches kick the BABIP up, while when they make their pitches it pushes their BABIP down. It is kind of why scouting reports exists. Some guys can hit x pitch in y zone, but can't hit B pitch in C zone. But when x or B pitch are in D zone, they crush them both. C and D zone happen to be about 5 inches from each other though and it is pretty easy to miss C zone and wind up in D zone.

VR
07-10-2012, 11:59 AM
Well, his first problem was that he was incredibly close minded. Most of the sabermatricians that I tend to read all acknowledge and believe in scouting to be a big part of understanding baseball. The author here apparently did not.

As for his DIPS theory comment in the replies, well, I think we have known for a while that yes, BABIP can be controlled somewhat.... when a guy makes his pitches. But that no one is consistently good enough to be able to make those pitches, so their 'bad' pitches kick the BABIP up, while when they make their pitches it pushes their BABIP down. It is kind of why scouting reports exists. Some guys can hit x pitch in y zone, but can't hit B pitch in C zone. But when x or B pitch are in D zone, they crush them both. C and D zone happen to be about 5 inches from each other though and it is pretty easy to miss C zone and wind up in D zone.

And players and scouts have know this for 100+ years. Which is why some of them were testy when saber tooth statisticians thought they were re-inventing the game.

dougdirt
07-10-2012, 12:07 PM
And players and scouts have know this for 100+ years. Which is why some of them were testy when saber tooth statisticians thought they were re-inventing the game.

Which is where the disconnect comes from. Sabermatricians were generally saying that on the whole of an entire season, pitchers aren't good enough at hitting the exact spot with the right pitch to control it. That eventually, given enough pitches thrown, a pitcher is going to hit enough spots and miss enough spots that it is going to even out.

defender
07-10-2012, 03:02 PM
The disconnect is that we watch a game of skill and the numbers show a game of chance. Statistics are not made to prove your theory right, but to prove it not wrong. If results are normally distributed you will most likely prove a hypothesis that they are random not wrong. That does not mean the theory is right.

One assumption that sabermatricians make is given a large enough sample size all ABs can be considered equal. There is no reason to make that assumption, because we have the capability to analyze every AB of the season individually.

In any given AB the value of an outcome is different, the park factor different, the defense different the skill different. If your results for a hitter are out and avoid out and results for a pitcher are miss bat, not miss bat then you get a lot less data than by ranking the value of each result in each specific AB.

In this additional data you may find a hitter or pitchers ability to control their own destiny in other words, skill.

REDREAD
07-10-2012, 04:14 PM
Maybe it's just me, but it seemed like kind of an arrogant apology as well.
Seemed like he was more concerned about proudly announcing that he was even more enlightened than before than actually apologzing.

Chip R
07-12-2012, 10:24 AM
Maybe it's just me, but it seemed like kind of an arrogant apology as well.
Seemed like he was more concerned about proudly announcing that he was even more enlightened than before than actually apologzing.

Little bit. Of course we have to remember that Joe can be just a bit arrogant on the subject as well. Of course he has the credentials to back it up.

REDREAD
07-12-2012, 10:45 AM
Little bit. Of course we have to remember that Joe can be just a bit arrogant on the subject as well. Of course he has the credentials to back it up.

Yea, I will agree that Joe isn't exactly humble.

Most experts (whether self-proclaimed or legit) are that way I guess.

Just seemed like an odd "apology". Seemed to be more narcistic than apologizing.