Monday, May 14, 2012

Old Dogs Fear New Tricks

Hall of Fame sportswriter Jerry Green is (for now) through yelling at you, YES YOU, for running Brandon Inge out of town and this week is instead shaking his cane and spitting out his Ensure in disgust over the silly “new” phenomenon called sabermetrics. Perhaps next week he’ll share his disdain of America’s fascination with that darned MySpace.

Read the entire column if you like. Or just read me cutting up the majority of it here.

The vogue in baseball these days is to mash all the numbers into some cryptic statistical gumbo such as WAR, WHIP, OPS and VORP, etc.

Note to my son who is currently 8 years old:  If Daddy ever gets to the age where he starts describing things he is too old and stubborn to try and understand as “cryptic statistical gumbo”, please smother Daddy with a pillow in his sleep. Thanks, buddy. You’re the best.

As though runs, hits and errors don't amount for much any more.

“When each new stat is introduced, another must be discarded forever”. –Rule that doesn’t exist

And W's and L's are meaningless parts of the magic formula.

Don’t make me angry, Jerry. If you’re talking about a team, of course wins and losses are important. To say otherwise would be silly.

But if you’re one of those that insist a pitcher’s true value comes from his win-loss record, I may have to burn your house down and urinate on the ashes.

By that ridiculous logic, the Tigers never should have gone after Doug Fister last season with his dismal 3-12 record with the Mariners at that point. Currently, Ryan Dempster has an ERA+ of an amazing 370 and a WHIP of 0.85 after five starts. He’s 0-1 because the Cubs are awful. Do we discount his outstanding efforts so far because the team hasn’t score runs for him? Or does he get a pass because his traditional ERA stat is a league-leading 1.02 and that statistic isn’t considered evil by old baseball men?

I’m so confused.

WAR, for example, means wins above replacement. That translates, I presume, to how many more victories Brandon Inge would mean to the Tigers than Prince Fielder.

Way to work your weekly Inge reference.
I’ll never let go!

BTW, Inge’s WAR is 0.2. Prince’s is -0.2. I’m amazed Jerry isn’t all about the WAR stat right now.


VORP stands for value of a replacement player over an entire season.
No it doesn’t. VORP is value over replacement player. It demonstrates how much a hitter contributes offensively or how much a pitcher contributes to his team in comparison to a fictitious "replacement player”, who is an average fielder at his position and a below average hitter.

If you’re going to piss all over sabermetrics, sir, please do five seconds of research first. Jesus Christ.

That to me, scratching the gray of my head, could be construed as the opposite of WAR.

You’ve dug too deep on the old scalp, pal. That’s not gray. That’s gray matter you’re scraping away.

These new categories fall under the title of Sabermetrics,

Sabermetrics can be traced back to 1964 and the publication of Earnshaw Cook’s “Percentage Baseball”. Bill James began publishing his “Baseball Abstract” books in 1977. This is not a new thing, for crying out loud.

the figment of several self-anointed geniuses,
Such a bitter old fart.

mostly originated via the vivid imagination of the illustrious Bill James.

Yes, sabermetrics is so silly that its proponents include men like Sandy Alderson, Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, Nate Silver, and countless other respected baseball folks.

They were noisily compacted into a best-selling book entitled "Moneyball." The book was scripted into a popular motion picture a year ago, starring Hollywood jock Brad Pitts

Brad Pitts.


Does Jerry have a contract that forbids an editor at the News from even glancing at his work before it is published?

Yet now, amid all that claptrap,

THIS is a clap trap.
Oh, I kill me sometimes…

we are being treated to a Major League Baseball season for the ages. It is the sort of season that grabs any longtime baseball lover with sensational joy of the game, without the mashed numbers.

And here’s where I truly don’t understand the point of this piece.

Who says one can’t enjoy baseball WITHOUT sabermetrics? No one is forcing it upon you, Jerry. Before Delmon Young strikes out on four pitches on your television, what stats are shown? His average, homers, and RBI…same as always. No one is forcing WAR, VORP, or any other spooky nontraditional stats down your throat. Just enjoy the game.

But some people are statheads. They can’t get enough and want to try and understand the game even more. So they get into sabermetrics. What’s so wrong with that? Why does this bother the ancient guard so much that people they don’t know are enjoying baseball in a different way than they are?

Screw gay marriage…ban OPS!

Imagine, in the first six weeks true baseball lovers have been treated to one perfect game and one game in which a batter struck four home runs.

The perfect game and the four-homer game are two of the rarest feats in baseball.

There have been all of 21 perfect games in the 136-year history of Major League Baseball, and only 19 since 1900. Many of these gems have been pitched by journeymen such as Philip Humber. Humber tossed a perfect game for the White Sox last month. I reckon, attempting this new baseball math, that his WHIP was zero for that particular game.

Some days, I wish I was illiterate. Good gawd.

Four home runs in a game is even more precious and uncommon than the perfect game. Josh Hamilton this week became just the 16th player to hit four in a game. (Although watching ESPN with its penchant for overabundant replays it seemed that Hamilton hit 32 home runs in that game.)
Eh, why didn't you get something useful, like storm windows, or a nice pipe organ? I'm thirsty! Ew, what smells like mustard? There sure are a lot of ugly people in your neighborhood. Ooh, look at that one. Ow, my glaucoma just got worse. The president is a Democrat! Hello? I can't unbuckle my seat belt. Hello?

Hamilton, of course, is a recognized star for the Rangers. And he sure gave his OPS a boost that night, although he did not receive the rewards Bobby Lowe did for a four-homer game.

Lowe was the first of the 16 hitters who hit four home runs in a game. He delivered this achievement for the Boston Beaneaters in 1894. The Boston fans were so appreciative they littered the field with $160 in silver coins as gifts for Lowe, we are informed by baseball's historical textbooks.
You see, back in those days, rich men would ride around in Zeppelins, dropping coins on people, and one day I seen J.D. Rockefeller flying by. So I run of the house with a big washtub and... hey! Where are you going?

No, I never saw Bobby Lowe play. But I did see Cole Hamels pitch for the Phillies the other night and plunk Bryce Harper on national television.

And I did snicker at Hamels' blatant, perhaps courageous confession in the aftermath of the HBP. Welcome to the big leagues, kid!

Cole Hamels intentionally threw a baseball at Bryce Harper. A young person in pain. Jerry nearly achieved his first erection in 40 years.

Harper, certainly, has added to the wonders of baseball this season. Just a 19-year-old rookie — a Sports Illustrated cover personality at 16 as sure as if he was wearing a swimsuit —

I...I feel uncomfortable, all of the sudden…let’s move ahead.

Baseball does not thrive on all this Sabermetrics bunkum.

Bunkum. Fitting that the cranky old sportswriter that angrily spits out his dentures in fury at which he doesn’t understand would use a word that hasn’t been uttered by anyone since 1935.

It thrives on games and the athletes playing them, and on W's and L's and HRs — and no runs, no hits and no errors and no runners left on base.

If only there were advanced statistics that could help you figure out better ways to project what would get you those W’s instead of L’s. If only there were ways to better determine a player’s value in this time of huge money contracts to help some of the cash-strapped teams better achieve those W’s without having to rely on the HR. If only.

Nah. Sounds like bunkum.

As Casey Stengel — who once managed successfully without the benefit of Sabermetrics but with the aid of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra — once said: "You could look it up." Casey was the master of another old-fashioned merging of letters — BS.

If you don’t understand something, kids, it must be BS. Words to live by.

People once thought the world was flat. Women could not vote at one time. Neither could blacks, who were also not permitted to play in the Majors until 1947.

My point is yes, there was a time before sabermetrics in our history. But just because it’s something that wasn’t always there, it does not make it a bad thing. “Back in the day” is not always best.

I don’t consider myself a saber guy. But it doesn’t mean I fear sabermetrics or dismiss it because I don’t use it every day or know how to figure out a player’s WAR. It’s just another thing out there in a world with millions of things out there. Who cares if people enjoy different numbers than the old box score standby statistics. It doesn’t impact my enjoyment of the game one bit.

So Jerry, in closing, I leave you with a new one for you that isn’t quite sabermetrics, I’m afraid. But I do feel it applies to you.



Jeff S said...

You know, I used to love reading Jerry Green when he was primarily covering the Lions back in the 70"s and he was at the top of his game.

Man!  That was a loooong time ago!

reattmore said...

He used to wear an onion on his belt, that was very fashionable in thsoe days.

That was before his blew his brain out, trying to decode his cryptic gumbo.

Biff Mayhem said...

You're darn tootin' Rogo. You're darn tootin'.

Jay Hathaway said...

Why, that Jimmy Leyland is nothing but a mollycoddle!  Seriously though, I think some saber stats really help with perspective and enhance the game.  For example, look at our boy Raburn:  you can look at his avg, and think, "wow, he's really bad at life, especially hitting a ball."  But because we have BABIP, we can say, "Wow, that ol' boy has been as unlucky as old Stinky Calhoun who lives over there past the old holler--the feller with all them rashes."

But, as Rod would say, at the end of the day, this much we do know--you either dealin', or you stuck in some kind of funk.

Mongoose said...

so does he think that SI puts 16-year-old swimsuit models on the cover, or...forget it. Don't want to think about it too much.