Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Back to the Bread and Butter

Hey folks, it's been awhile, but I got a bit riled up reading a post by John Fay, a Reds' beat writer, entitled "Statheads Love to Hate Dusty", and I had to come back.  The namesake of this blog made its money hammering at stupid things said involving statistics, journalism and baseball, so this one's a hearkening back to the old days.  

Everything in baseball these days seems to come down to a Sabermetrics vs. Old School debate. That’s what the Aroldis Chapman argument revolved around. That was the whole basis for the Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout MVP debate.

Did I miss something about Sabermetrics involving Aroldis Chapman?  I think he's not a very provocative player to cite in this debate, seeing as Sabermetric fans are probably amazed at, say, his incredible ability to acculumate 3.6 WAR while playing in only 71 innings or his 15.3 K/9... while Old School fans are probably amazed at, say, his incredible ability to throw a ball one billion miles an hour for strikes.

The thing that continues to amaze me is neither side ever seems to find any merit in the other side’s argument.

This line is Fay's attempt to position himself as an objective party in this debate.  Unfortunately he will consistently undermine this position.

Covering the Reds is debate central. The Saber crowd loves to scream about Dusty Baker. Baker is Public Enemy No. 1 to Sabermetric enthusiasts.

It's not a good idea, when trying to position yourself as objective, to characterize one side by calling them a "crowd", characterizing their arguments as "screams", and overdramatizing their point of view.

Baker definitely manages by the book that was written before WAR meant anything other than a conflict between nations. But so does just about every other manager in baseball.

Wow, that's a Simmonsesque joke. What about the book that war written before WAR meant anything other than a card game of pure chance involving two eight-year-olds?

So why is Baker such a lightning rod? I think there are two reasons Baker comes to the forefront of the debate: a) he doesn’t back down when asked about things like RBI vs. on-base percentage. His quote about walks clogging the bases is Exhibit A; b) I think some of the Sabermetrics crowd has a hard time accepting that an old baseball guy might know something about the game that they don’t.

Now I remember why I hate people.  

Most recently, Baker has infuriated Sabers by batting Zack Cozart second in the lineup. I inadvertently got pulled into the debate via Twitter. Keith Law of had a “Baker rant” on his podcast.

I dismissed it in a tweet with something along the lines of: Saber guy disagreeing with Dusty, I’m shocked.

That sure was nice of Fay to be honest about how he dismissed Law's point  without discussing its merits.  I'm glad Fay didn't decide to be a police officer.  

I stirred it up with that.

“Anyone who knows math would disagree with Dusty,” a follower tweeted.

“So Albert Einstein would be the ideal manager?” I replied with a tinge of snark.

I'm pretty sure this whole blog is about snark, as Larry B famously noted back in January 2008 when he introduced the famous Reader Participation Fridays.  I took Jeff Pearlman to task for it in a classic March 2008 masterpiece.  Either way, Fay's comment is stupid.  Everyone knows Albert Einstein would be a shitty manager.  He didn't even understand baseball.

I ended up listening to Law’s podcast (or at least the rant portion). 

I'm glad he did that after tweeting about it, and I'm glad he didn't even listen to the whole podcast.  I don't have a critical opinion of Fay as a whole (I'm too far out of sports journalism these days to offer sensible generalizations), but this very sentence just about makes me feel like I just got really bad news from my doctor.

It was about Cozart and the No. 2 spot. I agree that Cozart is better suited to hit down in the lineup. I completely disagree with Law’s contention that Joey Votto should hit second.

Watch that second sentence.  He's going to agree with Law here, and then contradict his own point later.

Law’s rant said Baker’s “willful ignorance” led him to make out his lineup without using the data on on-base percentage. Law cited “Moneyball” and the Red Sox as proof the theory works. (Anyone who thinks the A’s won because of Billy Beane’s grasp of on-base percentage and not starting pitching may be willfully ignorant, but that’s not the point here.)

I wonder if it's possible that the A's won because of both of those things.  Or is that just too hard to imagine?  Is this just a binary world where everything is either completely caused by one thing or another?  Is every person a Democrat or a Republican?  Can every number just be a zero or a one?  Can every bathroom just be gentlemen or ladies? 

Also, reducing Moneyball to "Billy Beane's grasp of on-base percentage" is shallow and miserable thinking.  It reminds me of the Book-a-Minute spoofs which reduce classic literature, except those are done for humor, and John Fay ostensibly gets paid real live American dollars to offer sensible and serious opinions about baseball.

Baker is batting Cozart second because he thinks it will work, not because he doesn’t know about on-base percentage.

Well of course.  But John Fay doesn't think it will work, as he's already said, but will for some unknown reason attempt (and fail) to refute himself in the next sentence.

It worked last year. Cozart hit .324 with a .378 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage in the No. 2 spot compared to .246/.288/.399 overall.

Why does Fay even mention this?  He just said he disagreed with Dusty in batting Cozart #2!  I wonder if it would be relevant to put that, last year, Cozart's .324 average came in just over 100 at bats, and at the time of this writing, Cozart was hitting .198/.221/.363 in just under 100 at bats.  Given the sample size of his whole career (748 PA), his line is .245/.282/.398, I think it's safe to say that last year's performance in the #2 spot is likely to be something of an aberration.  Why would he even mention that statistic? That makes like negative sense, for anyone who knows math about negative numbers. Who would want Cozart hitting second in any lineup? It only undermines his point about Dusty and skjcnsecjnsejvnsdkjvnkdsjvnk. I can't even go on any more about how stupid this is.

I hate people.  Go Reds.


dan-bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan-bob said...

Apparently you have to write about ESPN chowderheads to get any comment traction around here.

ivn said...

you know, if you replaced "WAR" with "VORP" this would sound like something written in like 2006.

pnoles said...

"Number of comments" is the batting average of FireJay article evaluation, dan-bob! I read, I very much enjoyed.

dan-bob said...

I'm old school, pnoles. Old habits die hard.

Tommy Fucking LaSorda said...

I liked your write up. My only suggestion would be to increase your use of cursing and vulgarities as people now are used to the Larry B. style.

dan-bob said...

Larry B will eventually become civilized. After all, he did come around to using capitalization and punctuation... which took years!