Sunday, November 18, 2012

OK, I will take Mitch Albom's bait

Undoubtedly someone has already linked you to this, and it's possible you've already seen someone make fun of it.  Still, I've got to take a crack at it.  It's just too fucking awesome to pass up.

The eyes have it.

That pun, which he will go on to repeat in his final sentence, is probably the best part about this whole article.  Not because it's clever or insightful (or even sensical--it's not like the MVP vote is a yes/no proposition like HOF voting is or something); just because it's not as offensive as everything else this cretin writes.

In a battle of computer analysis versus people who still watch baseball as, you know, a sport, 

It is a well-known fact that people who like computer analysis watch baseball as a romantic comedy.

what we saw with our Detroit vision 

Detroit Vision (patent pending): from the company that brought you Cleveland Smell.

was what most voters saw as well:

Cabrera won the Triple Crown and happened to play for a team that wasn't in the same division as Texas and Oakland.  I, too, saw all that.

Miguel Cabrera is the Most Valuable Player in the American League this year.

Shouldn't have been.  Chris W put it best: he was a deserving candidate, just definitely not the most deserving candidate.  I think that's a very levelheaded and fair way to describe his credentials.  Now let's watch Mitch work his magic.

"It means a lot," he told reporters over the phone from Miami. 

(Between rounds of shots)

"I'm very thankful. ... I thought it was gonna be very close."

So did everyone. But the debate ended Thursday night when the results were announced, with Cabrera earning 22 of the 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. It reinforced what Tigers fans have been saying all season: This guy is a monster.

All season long, Tigers fans have been trying to convince other fans that a guy who has a career triple slash of .318/.395/.561 was having yet another awesome offensive year.  But those other fans wouldn't listen!  They were too busy doing computer nerd things on computers, and refusing to watch any baseball.  Finally, some vindication for those Tigers fans, in the form of acknowledgement from the always-credible BBWAA.

It also answered the kind of frenzied cyberspace argument that never shadowed baseball 20 years ago but may never stop shadowing it now.

Wasn't life so much better when we had less information?  That's how I feel.  It's so annoying that the rise of the internet and the computer age has allowed us to expand our baseball analysis knowledge base.

Statistics geeks insisted Cabrera was less worthy than Angels rookie centerfielder Mike Trout. Not because Trout's traditional baseball numbers were better. They weren't. Cabrera had more home runs (44), more runs batted in (139) and a better batting average (.330) than Trout and everyone else in the American League. It gave him the sport's first Triple Crown in 45 years.

The funny part is, if Trout gets 3 more hits and see his BA go up to .331, ruining Cabrera's Triple Crown, you can bet that Trout would have won the MVP.

But Trout excelled in the kind of numbers that weren't even considered a few years ago, mostly because A) They were impossible to measure, and B) Nobody gave a hoot.

A is correct.  B is not.  We've been keeping track of errors for decades because people wanted to have a way to quantify defensive ability.

Today, every stat matters. There is no end to the appetite for categories -- from OBP to OPS to WAR. 

"There is no end to the appetite for categories" -- guy who gets paid a generous salary to express thoughts through writing

I mean, OMG! 


The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.

It probably is not.  But highest OBP while wearing certain colors of underwear?  That is most definitely "being measured" (again, Albom is a professional journalist) right now.

So in areas such as "how many Cabrera home runs would have gone out in Angel Stadium of Anaheim" or "batting average when leading off an inning" or "Win Probability Added," Trout had the edge. At least this is what we were told.


I mean, did you do the math?  I didn't. 

Why bother when people around Detroit had already concluded that Cabrera "was a monster?"  CASE CLOSED

I like to actually see the sun once in a while.


Plus he has intangibles

That's a subheadline, not an editing mistake, but I think he should have just ended the article there.  What would the computer people be able to say in response?

Besides, if you live in Detroit, you didn't need a slide rule. 

The best part about jokes like that is that the defensive metrics that showed Trout to be an awesome CF and fuel his enormous WAR total cannot exist without extremely diligent viewing of actual game footage.  That's not to say I'm some UZRophile or something--I think most defensive metrics are crappy.  But I'd still rather have them than not have them, you know?

This was an easy choice. 

So far the only ways in which you've compare the two guys are BA, HR, RBI (all numbers which can be trusted and which favor Cabrera), how playing in Anaheim would have affected Cabrera's HR total (favors Trout, supposedly), batting average leading off an inning (favors Trout, but not a number to be trusted, apparently) and win probability added (WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?).  You haven't talked about defense or stolen bases, which are traditionally the kind of things that the I LOVE ME SOME PLAYERS WHO PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY crowd loves, and which are more or less the reason Trout's WAR total was so much higher than Cabrera's.  I know I'm simultaneously preaching to the choir and shouting into the void here, but holy dogshit, if you're going to make the case for why A was better than B, simply saying "A was great" isn't a very good way to do it.

People here watched Cabrera, 29, tower above the game in 2012. Day after day, game after game, he was a Herculean force. Valuable? What other word was there? 

Defensively inadequate?  Can I use two words like that?

How many late-inning heroics? How many clutch hits? And he only missed one game all year. 

That last stat really makes Justin Verlander's 2011 MVP look silly in hindsight.  Guy didn't even play 75% of the time!

"During the season, a lot of guys tell me I'm gonna be the MVP," Cabrera said, laughing. "But they said the same thing to Trout."
Yes, it's true, Trout is faster, Trout is a better defensive player, 

Here we go!

Trout is a leadoff hitter, and Trout edged Cabrera in several of those made-for-Microsoft categories.

4 WAR is not really an "edged him out" margin, but OK, go ahead.

But if you are going to go molten deep 

Again, this man is paid to use the English language effectively.

into intangibles, 

Like playing defense and stealing bases?

why stop at things like "which guy hit more homers into the power alleys?" (A real statistic, I am sorry to say.)

Still not an intangible.  But in any case, who wants to stop there?  This is the most bizarre and confusing straw man I've ever seen.  "ALL YOU INTANGIBLES LOVERS OUT THERE WHO WANT ME TO CONSIDER TROUT'S DEFENSE AND SPEED, JUST STOP PUSHING HIS POWER ALLEY HOME RUN TOTAL ON ME ALREADY!  WHO CARES ABOUT THE INTANGIBLE THAT IS POWER ALLEY HOME RUNS?"  What?

Why not also consider such intangibles as locker-room presence? Teammates love playing around -- and around with -- Miggy. He helps the room.

When he's not being a total distraction because his wife beat him up and he got a DUI, yes.

How about his effect on pitchers? Nobody wanted the embarrassment of him slamming a pitch over the wall. The amount of effort pitchers expended on Cabrera or the guy batting ahead of him surely took its toll and affected the pitches other batters saw. 

Surely!  Meanwhile, Trout spent the whole season giving opposing pitchers scouting reports on his teammates in exchange for an agreement that those pitchers would throw him BP fastballs.  Hardly a team player.

Why not find a way to measure that? (Don't worry. I'm sure someone is working on it as we speak.)

Why not take three seconds to realize that Trout did the exact same damn thing all season, while batting leadoff?

What about the debilitating power of a three-run homer? How many opposing teams slumped after Cabrera muscled one out? 

Clearly all of them, as evidenced by Detroit's 88-74 record, obtained while playing in the same division as the AL's two worst teams.

How about team confidence? You heard everyone from Prince Fielder to Justin Verlander speak in awed tones about being on the same team as Cabrera. Doesn't that embolden teammates and bring out their best?

I sure don't remember seeing any articles about how Trout energized the Angels and was more or less the sole reason their season turned around the time he was called up.  Anybody else catch any of those?

How about the value of a guy who could shift from first to third base -- as Cabrera did this past season -- to make room for Fielder? Ask manager Jim Leyland how valuable that is.

Yeah, nothing like playing a fat guy out of position so you can add another fat guy to your infield.  True value right there.

How about the fact that Cabrera's team made the playoffs and Trout's did not? ("Yes," countered Team Trout, "but the Angels actually won more games.") 

No response to that completely valid argument is provided.

How about the fact that Cabrera played the whole season while Trout started his in the minors? ("Yes," said the Trout Shouters, "but the Angels won a greater percentage with Trout than Detroit did with Cabrera.")

I like how he thinks that this is a knock on Trout.  Sure, he hit 30 bombs, but he only played in 139 games!  Totally invalidates everything!  /fart

How about this? How about that? The fact is, voters are not instructed to give more credence to any one category than another. Twenty-eight sportswriters, two from each AL city, decide, in their own minds, what is "valuable" and who displayed it the most.
They chose Cabrera.

By an overwhelming majority.

In the end, memories were more powerful than microchips.

I believe that was the original pitch for Forrest Gump.

Which, by the way, speaks to a larger issue about baseball. It is simply being saturated with situational statistics. What other sport keeps coming up with new categories to watch the same game? 

Basketball (PER, +/-)  Hockey (Corsi, Fenwick)  Football (QB Y/A, WR Y/Tgt)?  But wait--are those actually SPORTS, or are they computer games?  Hard to tell.

A box score now reads like an annual report. 

I'd love to be a shareholder of AlbomCorp.  Its annual reports would be awesome, they'd be like THINGS ARE GOING PRETTY GOOD, WE'RE DECLARING A DIVIDEND OF $1,000,000 PER SHARE BECAUSE WE'RE NOT SOME NERD COMPANY THAT USES NUMBERS.

And this WAR statistic -- which measures the number of wins a player gives his team versus a replacement player of minor league/bench talent (honestly, who comes up with this stuff?) 

People who like to know which baseball players are good?

-- is another way of declaring, "Nerds win!"

If you'd prefer the nerds to win after completing a series of athletic and talent show challenges, like in Revenge of the Nerds, I'm sure that can be arranged.

We need to slow down the shoveling of raw data into the "what can we come up with next?" machine. It is actually creating a divide between those who like to watch the game of baseball and those who want to reduce it to binary code.

To the extent such a divide exists, it's entirely the result of the needledicked insecurities of people like you, Mitch.  Your antiquated way of thinking is being challenged by people who like baseball just as much as you do, and have said to themselves, "Hmmmm, stats like RBIs really don't tell us that much about who's good and who isn't.  Maybe there are other, better ways to measure performance.  As someone who likes watching baseball, I'd like to discover/learn about those ways."  Since (most of you) know that you can't make the argument that old stats are more illuminating, of course you and your ilk instead attack the new stat people by saying they don't like to watch baseball, which is elephant shit.  Go read a book, then go fuck yourself, and follow that up by giving the Detroit Free Press your two weeks' notice.  You're a fucking loser and I hope you catch Crohn's disease.  

Christ, I tried to keep it lighthearted, but eventually I got worn down.  Mitch Albom is the fucking worst. 


Rage of Larry B said...

I'd like to teach Mitch Albom a history lesson and hurt him with a Mike Trout model Old Hickory bat. It is sad and pathetic to watch old school dinosaurs mail in predictable half assed efforts on topics they don't get. Of course, to expect Mitch Free-Rider and the Detroit Squeals to come up with a column espousing how Mike Trout was robbed for the MVP would be surreal.

Chris W said...

Also, wtf with these "situational stats". The only situational stats used to advocate Trout are as follows:

1.) When on base, advancing and scoring rate
2.) When ball hit to fielder, ability to make successful play on ball
3.) When pitch thrown to batter, supression of hitting by park
4.) When runner on first base, rate not to hit in double play because you are a slowfooted alcoholic


Adam said...

01010011 01110101 01100011 01101011 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100000 01001101 01101001 0111010001100011 01101000 00100000 001000001 01101100 01100010 01101111 01101101

Margarito Tlaxcala said...

Hey Chris W, I'll bet you don't like Hispanics even the cute, fat, harmless ones like Sergeant Garcia. Math and stats are overrated just ask Bill Conlin or Murray Chass, guys who know what's what. You probably like fish too.

jacktotherack said...

I just can't understand how these types of articles are still being written. Advanced stats/sabermetrics/whatever you want to call it have been around for over a decade and yet guys like Albom still feel this threatened by them? Why? Why still make the nerd jokes and accuse people who appreciate looking deeper into baseball numbers of not being real fans? That's just so fucking stupid.

The ultimate irony is if Trout was actually worse at baseball he would probably get more love from guys like Albom being that a) he's white and b) he does lots of the "grindy" stuff like steal bases, field well, etc. The fact that he's so awesome prevents him from getting the Eckstein treatment.

HRosen said...

Mitch Albom is one of the five douchebags you'll meet in heaven.

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