Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You bet your sweet bippy I'm willing to bitch about FanGraphs

Why not? Sure, it's just a blog (that also maintains a ton of statistical information- here I'm just talking about their analysis). But we pick on Deadspin because Deadspin is a shit factory; and in its own way, FG is just as much of a shit factory. More importantly FG holds itself out to be a source for serious, objective baseball analysis. So I don't feel bad at all as I engage in this episode of blog-on-blog crime.

I "discovered" FanGraphs (by which I mean "was linked to" or "was told about"- don't you hate it when people try to act like they actually discovered some well-known site or blog before the general public? Like they got in on the ground floor or something? GRRRRRRRRRRR) sometime back in 2008. My initial reaction was "Wow! This is great! A whole blog dedicated to numbers-based analysis!" Within two or three weeks that had changed to "Wow! This is insane! What a pathetic collection of smartest dipshit in the room writers and sycophantic pathetic commenters! How could a concept this great be executed this poorly!"

It's sad and true. Despite offering itself as a high-minded source of objectivity, in reality it's often simply a bunch of pick-and-choose-which-stat-helps-your-predetermined-conclusion garbage. Frequently its analysis is no more objective that the kind of crap Dayn Perry or Scott Miller peddle. If a hitter the FG staff approves of (usually a Mariner, a Ray, or a backup catcher with a high OBP who is SO UNDERRATED IT'S CRIMINAL! THIS GUY WOULD BE A 5 WAR PLAYER IF THEY'D JUST LET HIM PLAY EVERY DAY! (Note: player does not play every day for a perfectly good reason, such as an obscene platoon split problem or the fact that he spent last year putting up slightly above average numbers as a 26 year old in AA ball)) is struggling, it's because of an "unsustainably low" BABIP or HR/FB or whatever. And if those metrics are down because that player's LD% is down and their GB% is up compared to their career numbers, no worries, it will certainly normalize itself in due time and you'd be a fool to think otherwise.

BUT- if a player who is not one of their chosen favorites is struggling, it's a whole new set of rules. The reduced BABIP or HR/FB which is a function of a tanking LD% is not going to change anytime soon. After all, the LD% was "unsustainably high" in the first place. People who say otherwise are selling snake oil. And of course, apply appropriate numbers and logic for pitchers FG loves/doesn't love. Long story short, the whole site is a celebration of the lies/damn lies/statistics thing. Decide what you want your conclusion to be, then build an argument around it based on cherry-picked stats. Just because batted ball splits tell us more about a player's skill level than RBI or batting average doesn't mean they can't be misused just as egregiously. Effecting the egregious misuse in question just takes a little more skill.

In any case, there's no more well-known or hilarious example of FG's groupthink stupidity than the 2010 "organizational rankings" which saw the Mariners, who just happen to be the team of choice for managing editor Dave Cameron, come in ranked shockingly high (#6org!) despite a crummy MLB team and a very questionable farm system. But there were TOTALLY LEGITIMATE AND OBJECTIVE REASONS behind that ranking- just ask any of those smartest dipshit in the room writers or sycophant commenters. Until June or July 2010, anyways, when the Mariners were on their way to a very foreseeable 101 loss season and everyone associated with the site started to get really annoyed with any commenters who made light of the whole situation.

But I'm not writing this post to generally dump on FG. I'm writing it to point out two atrocious posts they've published in the last two days. To be fair, neither is of the lies/damn lies/statistics ilk I was just talking about (although I'll keep an eye out for the next one of those they put out). Nope, each of these is flat out awful for different reasons. I think both would fall nicely under the label of "articles that didn't need to be written."

First, we have this peach, in which the author spends 5 paragraphs and 600ish words expressing the very controversial position that Paul Konerko is ABSOLUTELY NOT a hall of famer. No fucking shit, of course. But what really serves to douse the whole thing with dumbsauce is the reason the post was written in the first place: because White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said that Konerko was a HOFer. So can anyone raise their hands and tell me why Ozzie might have made that argument? And further explain why saying this in response:

Over his career, Konerko has been worth only 26.7 WAR. Again, a far cry from Hall of Fame level. Just a quick glance at his stats reveals a good, but not exceptional, player. If that’s the case, why is Ozzie so convinced Konerko will make it into the Hall?

is kind of like using a hammer to open a can of soda? It's a completely ridiculous and pointless method for dealing with the situation. Ozzie is sticking up for his player (a conclusion deftly reached by the author in the post's final paragraph). A dumb Sox fan who thinks Konerko is bound for Cooperstown because he gave Jerry Reinsdorf the damn ball after the 2005 World Series isn't going to listen to someone talking about WAR. And you certainly don't need to explain that Konerko is not a HOFer to anyone who reads FG. Overall just a useless fucking article that takes the mindless bluster of one of the game's great mindless blusterers and turns it into an excuse to blandly state the completely fucking obvious. Awesome.

Better yet we have this, which is mind-bogglingly dumb enough to have rolled off the ESPN.com press.

What a tough question. What are the top rivalries in baseball?

Who gives a shit? Is there some kind of prize for the two teams involved? Is there any way to get past the insane subjectivity involved in this discussion? And in case I forgot to mention this, who gives a shit?

I’m sure Yankees fans will claim it’s Yanks-Boston,

I realize saying this makes me a hypocrite (to pick nits, I'm saying what's NOT the best rivalry in baseball rather than what IS), but this is almost certainly the most overrated rivalry in sports. It has negligible historical roots and is largely fueled by the fuckwits in the MLB front offices pushing it on everyone every goddamn second of every season. Anyways.

but if you went out on the West Coast, I bet you’d hear plenty of fans saying Giants-Dodgers deserves more consideration.

Actually, I bet most fans out here probably would say that it's Red Sox-Yankees anyways because they've been told over and over and over and over and over again for the past seven or eight years that that's the case. See above. Thanks Bud Selig! You make Roger Godell look downright sensible sometimes.

How exactly do you declare one rivalry “bigger” than another?

You can't, in any meaningful way.

How do you measure fan excitement, and compare one fanbase against another? Is it possible?

NO. Leave writing this article to Jayson Stark. Walk away right now while you still can.

Probably not, but regardless, I’m going to take a stab at it anyway. My methodology is very simple: I’m ranking rivalries based on the amount of Google hits returned for the search “(Team name) (Team name) rivalry”.

Your head should be buried in your hands right now. Tears optional. I'm not going to tell you what the results are, although they're fairly predictable. The point is this: FanGraphs is fucking hole. It's a disastrous combination of misguided analytical elitism and worthless poopstain articles like the two linked here. Fangraphs upsets me just as upset (if not more) as tales of Simmons and J-Hench's AL East-only 17 team keeper league.

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