Baseball is back, but until we get to roster decision time, there isn't much to talk about, and since I do not feel like getting any work done, i thought i would reopen the old Stats versus Eyes discussion/debate.
At heart, I love the general concept and idea of sabrmetrics/statistical talent evaluation, but I thought I would bring up the darker side of this phenomenon.
Simply put, I believe that sabrmetrics creates a false self-view of knowledge/competence/credibility in the common fan such as myself.
First, the sum total of my actual baseball expertise is 2 years in little league, over 35 years ago. I can't tell one type of pitch over another unless one of them is a knuckle ball; I would not recognize a 'hole' in a swing if i was standing in it. In short, I am a total ignoramous in terms of actual baseball.
But you know what? I can add, subtract, multiple and divide and do all that other stuff you find on a basic calculator. I even have an informal background in statistical analysis. The other thing I can do is argue... I have done that for a living most of my life. As a result, I can come up with and somewhat effectively advocate just about any baseball conclusion out there... EVEN THOUGH I DON'T KNOW A DARN THING ABOUT BASEBALL.
I would say that those three skills: Basic Math, Basic Statistical Analysis, and Argumentation are possessed by about 90% of the folks on the internet. Suddenly, all of us are baseball experts, despite the fact that only the tiniest percentage of us have the baseball knowledge/experience to add meaningful insight on Major League caliber baseball skills/strategy/tactics/play.
To make matters worse, because our sole claim to competence comes from statistical analysis and comparison, we look with disdain on any factor that cannot be reduced to an objective statistic. On this and just about any baseball board, there are countless posts ranging from sarcasm to full blown disgust in reaction to any mention of intangible factors such as: clubhouse leadership, lineup stability, the litany of non statistical catcher skills, mentoring, confidence, the eye test, and so on.
Because we cannot attack or defend these various factors with statistics, we give them little, if any, weight in the arguments. I mean, why would you ever choose a player with a career/current OPS that is 30 points lower? Clubhouse presence? Balderdash. Or, don't tell me that a guy who can't OPS over .720 is an asset to the team just because he is a "leader."
But the fact is, 30 major league ball teams all pay scouts to provide more insight about players than what the statistics show. Why?
Should we accept that Scott Rolen had a greater impact on the Reds in 2010 than we can justify with statistics or not? (I use this merely as a Reds example of the issue... please do not turn this into a Rolen debate).
There is one more dark side to using statistics as our primary means to evaluate players... they cause us to have very little patience with all but the most proven of players.
If Votto goes 2 for 30 over a stretch of games, we will just wonder if something is wrong. If anyone else does, we want them benched, traded or sent down. Why? because we can use that statistic to justify our fears that X player: lost it, never had it, was overrated, was rushed to the majors, and so on. If we can convince ourselves of this, then we spend our time trying to convince others.
If the player turns it around for a while... we put our fears on the back burner, but the second they go into a statistical slide again, we pull all the old arguments back out. We ask "Why Can't the guys who are paying millions to make these decisions see things that are so obvious to us?"
...and then we conclude that they must all be idiots.
Ahhh... the glorious power of statistics. I can jump from ignoramous to expert with nothing more than a calculator. Fear me!