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Thread: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

  1. #16
    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Q: Shouldn’t in-game strategic decisions be made by a computer? Or, more to the point, isn’t there always a correct choice?

    A: It is totally impossible to isolate the correct strategic choice in almost all real-life situations, for the simple reason that all real-life strategic situations involve dozens of variables, many of which have not been thoroughly tested by trial. People who think that they know when a manager should bunt and when a manager should pitch out and when a manager should make a pitching change are amateurs. People who have actually studied these issues know that the answer disappears in a cloud of untested variables.
    I have never really been a follower of James or sabermetrics. I have been really suprised about his attitude towards the actual game played on the field. I liked this answer but James basically admitted that the actual management of the game is much more difficult than people give it credit for.

    I think James' type analysis if very useful for front office decisions with regard to signing players and letting players walk but the actual game being played on the field can defy his type of analysis.

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  3. #17
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    I have never really been a follower of James or sabermetrics. I have been really suprised about his attitude towards the actual game played on the field.
    I used to hate olives because of those little dry black Spanish olives on pizzas.. there are a zillion reasons to love olives, just not those little black dry ones.

    Sometimes you have to try the very best olives to see what they are really all about.

  4. #18
    nothing more than a fan Always Red's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    I used to hate olives because of those little dry black Spanish olives on pizzas.. there are a zillion reasons to love olives, just not those little black dry ones.

    Sometimes you have to try the very best olives to see what they are really all about.
    ...and sometimes you have to stuff them with blue cheese and soak them in a gin martini first to bring out the true flavor.

  5. #19
    Member blumj's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    For some reason, I feel the need to point out that Bill James works at Fenway Park and has opportunity to interact with all the other people who work there. I just think no one should be surprised that he shows enough respect for the people he works around not to try to tell them how they should do their jobs, jobs that he would be the first to recognize that he's not qualified to do for them.
    "Reality tells us there are no guarantees. Except that some day Jon Lester will be on that list of 100-game winners." - Peter Gammons

  6. #20
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    I just think no one should be surprised that he shows enough respect for the people he works around not to try to tell them how they should do their jobs, jobs that he would be the first to recognize that he's not qualified to do for them.
    Exactly, he also doesn't describe his POV as the one and only way to do things, which is in counter to the epidemic of the "I'm right and you're wrong" approach to baseball debate that is the song of the day so often.

  7. #21
    Will post for food BuckeyeRedleg's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    After reading this article it hit me.

    I think WOY might be Bill James.

  8. #22
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Exactly, he also doesn't describe his POV as the one and only way to do things, which is in counter to the epidemic of the "I'm right and you're wrong" approach to baseball debate that is the song of the day so often.
    Well, if somebody went up to James and said "intuition is more important than evidence" or even " and stolen bases are more valuable than walks", I imagine he'd disagree. James is clearly open to any method of collecting information, but that doesn't mean he's willing to accept contradictory conclusions.

    One of his greatest strengths as a writer, in my opinion, is his specificity. He's very careful in avoiding absolutes unless he's 100% certain. At the same time, as he said in the article, he often takes up his topics based on the questioning of an existing assumption, disproving something as opposed to trying to prove something. He doesn't tend to start a conversation about a question to which he doesn't really know the answer or have copious supporting evidence. He's got the guts to say, "we don't know" or to defer to somebody with more expertise. He is also excellent about not painting himself in to corners with unfounded assertions. A lot of his statements take the form "the information we have avaiable suggests X", which is a great way to make a point and share a perspective without putting the other person on the defensive.

    He's just a really intelligent guy who goes about his work carefully, ways from which many of us, myself perhaps more than most, could learn.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 04-04-2008 at 11:35 AM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

  9. #23
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Q: "My friends and I attend baseball games often, and our rule is this: when the lead is greater than the number of half-innings left, it’s “over” and there is no shame in leaving."

    So, at the end of 6 innings, with the score: visiting team 9, home team 2, the questioner and his friends leave the game because there is a 7 run difference with only 6 half innings to play.

    They are missing 3 innings if baseball, 1/3 of the game. They could miss a big rally by the home team, a pinch-hit home run, a triple play, spectacular infield or outfield plays, a relief pitcher's perfect two innings, a rookie's first big league appearance, somebody hitting for the cycle, a triple or two...

    They could miss more subtle things like: pitch selection by the catchers, pitchers' degree of command of their secondary pitches, managers' choices of pinch-hitters, success or failure of some double switches, success or failure of defensive positioning, the adherence to deviation from a station-to-station offensive strategy by the trailing team, the adherence to deviation from a more aggressive offensive strategy employed by the team in the lead...

    They are missing baseball! There's more to the game than just the score. They might as well simply stay home and next day just read the final score -- not even the line score, especially not the box score.

  10. #24
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Far East View Post
    Q: "My friends and I attend baseball games often, and our rule is this: when the lead is greater than the number of half-innings left, it’s “over” and there is no shame in leaving."

    So, at the end of 6 innings, with the score: visiting team 9, home team 2, the questioner and his friends leave the game because there is a 7 run difference with only 6 half innings to play.

    They are missing 3 innings if baseball, 1/3 of the game. They could miss a big rally by the home team, a pinch-hit home run, a triple play, spectacular infield or outfield plays, a relief pitcher's perfect two innings, a rookie's first big league appearance, somebody hitting for the cycle, a triple or two...

    They could miss more subtle things like: pitch selection by the catchers, pitchers' degree of command of their secondary pitches, managers' choices of pinch-hitters, success or failure of some double switches, success or failure of defensive positioning, the adherence to deviation from a station-to-station offensive strategy by the trailing team, the adherence to deviation from a more aggressive offensive strategy employed by the team in the lead...

    They are missing baseball! There's more to the game than just the score. They might as well simply stay home and next day just read the final score -- not even the line score, especially not the box score.
    They would have missed the Adam Dunn granny a couple years ago.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

  11. #25
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    FWIW James was quite the snarky guy back in the day, I have many of his Abstracts and there is no loss for tude towards players or managment, however he tried his best to leave the on field decisions alone, he felt he wasn't qualified to make them without the data. Though the regular appearance and actions of Don Zimmer pulled him out of that shell for a while.

    In about 1990 the sudden appearance of books with new stats and wall to wall numbers pushed Bill into retiring the Abstract, IIRC he was disturbed at what he created, because he felt that it was too impersonal and didn't focus on the players and the game as much as he felt it should

  12. #26
    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    In about 1990 the sudden appearance of books with new stats and wall to wall numbers pushed Bill into retiring the Abstract, IIRC he was disturbed at what he created, because he felt that it was too impersonal and didn't focus on the players and the game as much as he felt it should
    I think this has been my resistance to sabermetrics and stats based analysis (well, aside from never quite getting clear the jumble of alphabet soup letters and the string of numbers that make me scratch my head) - it sometimes feels like it sucks the life out of the game itself.

    I do try to be open to understanding the stat end more, but ultimately I just want to see the games.
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    Beer is good!! George Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    FWIW James was quite the snarky guy back in the day, I have many of his Abstracts and there is no loss for tude towards players or managment, however he tried his best to leave the on field decisions alone, he felt he wasn't qualified to make them without the data. Though the regular appearance and actions of Don Zimmer pulled him out of that shell for a while.

    In about 1990 the sudden appearance of books with new stats and wall to wall numbers pushed Bill into retiring the Abstract, IIRC he was disturbed at what he created, because he felt that it was too impersonal and didn't focus on the players and the game as much as he felt it should

    Not sure if you saw the "60 Minutes" show the other night, but James wrote something very unflattering about Mr. Sparky Anderson. It was something along the lines that Sparky was more lucky than good. Sparky refered to James as "a little fat guy with a beard...who knows nothing about nothing"
    "Boys, I'm one of those umpires that misses 'em every once in a while so if it's close, you'd better hit it." Cal Hubbard

  14. #28
    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    Well, if somebody went up to James and said "intuition is more important than evidence" or even " and stolen bases are more valuable than walks", I imagine he'd disagree. James is clearly open to any method of collecting information, but that doesn't mean he's willing to accept contradictory conclusions.

    One of his greatest strengths as a writer, in my opinion, is his specificity. He's very careful in avoiding absolutes unless he's 100% certain. At the same time, as he said in the article, he often takes up his topics based on the questioning of an existing assumption, disproving something as opposed to trying to prove something. He doesn't tend to start a conversation about a question to which he doesn't really know the answer or have copious supporting evidence. He's got the guts to say, "we don't know" or to defer to somebody with more expertise. He is also excellent about not painting himself in to corners with unfounded assertions. A lot of his statements take the form "the information we have avaiable suggests X", which is a great way to make a point and share a perspective without putting the other person on the defensive.

    He's just a really intelligent guy who goes about his work carefully, ways from which many of us, myself perhaps more than most, could learn.
    I would imagine that Bill James didn't discount Dave Roberts stole base in game 4 of the ALCS at all. I do like it when he admits he is wrong. My biggest beaf with the whole stats community, and I think James would admit to this, is that you can put all this information foreward. You can have the percentages down pat and know that this is the best move to make but too often humans defy that so called correct move.

  15. #29
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by George Anderson View Post
    Not sure if you saw the "60 Minutes" show the other night, but James wrote something very unflattering about Mr. Sparky Anderson. It was something along the lines that Sparky was more lucky than good. Sparky refered to James as "a little fat guy with a beard...who knows nothing about nothing"
    You can view it here

    http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2008...-deep-minutes/

  16. #30
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James Answers All Your Baseball Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by bucksfan2 View Post
    I would imagine that Bill James didn't discount Dave Roberts stole base in game 4 of the ALCS at all. I do like it when he admits he is wrong. My biggest beaf with the whole stats community, and I think James would admit to this, is that you can put all this information foreward. You can have the percentages down pat and know that this is the best move to make but too often humans defy that so called correct move.
    Very true. A lot of debate stems from your last point. Sabermatricians often hold to distinguishing between the proper decision and the actual outcome. Most other people don't care what the justification of the decision was as long as the outcome was a good one.

    As for Dave Roberts, stealing that base in that situation probably was a good idea, even from the sabermetric perspective of run expectancies. But James would be very careful in taking a single example and generalizing from there.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.


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