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Monday, April 20, 2009
Please be a parody . . . please be a parody . . .Oh, please oh please be a parody:
Sabermetricians. Ugh. It’s like Major League meets Revenge of the Nerds, except the nerds aren’t fun and they think they’re better than you. And Bob Uecker isn’t there to keep things interesting with the occasional witty one-liner.
The best part is the end, where the author writes a mock diary entry by a sabermetrician in which he says he's going to touch himself while watching film of Steve Balboni getting on base.
As Neate Sager noted when he shot me this link, "I guess it proves his point if we note that Steve Balboni's career OBP was .293."
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 8:50am
David Pinto said...
Craig, you fell for it. This person was looking to get hits, so he wrote a post critical of sabermetricians. Now he’ll get a ton of traffic from the Hardball Times and be very happy. His blog was ignored for a reason.
Posted 04/20 at 09:07 AM
In light of our e-mail chain yesterday, and a post referencing sabermatricians touching themselves while watching Steve Balboni, I’m a little worried about you.
Maybe its time to step away from the computer, buy Shyster Wife some roses and a bottle of wine, and forget about baseball for just one day.
It can be done. Your stronger than Bud. You can escape his grasp for a short while.
Posted 04/20 at 09:19 AM
Alright, so I’ve read it and feel dirty for having done so…
Dave’s right. We are giving him what he wants by visiting the site and complaining about it. He’ll think it’s some sort of proof of his anti-nerddom or something (though it’s plenty likely that he both plays fantasy sports and video games, neither of which scream “cool guy!”... not to mention the fact that he writes a blog about sports). Anyhow, would it be improper to paste the rest of his post here so no one has to visit the site? Regrettably, the answer is probably yes…
Posted 04/20 at 09:28 AM
This guy totally doesn’t get sabermatricians. OBP is so 2001. VORP, UZR, and wOBA are what really turn me on. In fact, just writing that sentence got me going a little bit…
Posted 04/20 at 09:56 AM
I thought it was funny.
Posted 04/20 at 10:32 AM
I thought it was funny , especially the Steve Balboni part.
Posted 04/20 at 10:33 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Yeah, I figured the guy was probably trolling, but I tend not to have a problem giving hits to trolls. For one thing, it’s not like there are enough hits coming from me that he’ll be able to retire from his day-job guarding bridges to begin with. For another, Most trolls tend not to be able to keep it up for long once some attention is focused their way. If your arguments are essentially empty, the greater your’re scrutinized, the more spectacular your eventual flameout is likely to be.
Posted 04/20 at 10:36 AM
Richard in Dallas said...
All they’re doing is combining different variations of some basic stats in interesting new ways, and breaking them down by situation. Back in the old days when there were four or five channels on TV and you had maybe five games a week to choose from, when instant replay was a brand new toy, when there was no fox box in the corner of your screen, all you got was AVG, HR, and RBI flashed at the beginning of an at bat in large yellow letters on the bottom half of your screen. For the most part, it was anybody’s guess as to how a particular player performed in a particular situation. We knew we wanted Sal Bando or Dave Concepcion to be coming to the plate in certain situations, we just didn’t know exactly why. We had little more to go on than our gut feelings, and that made for some tense moments, high energy conversations, and unexpected reactions. God, I miss those days!
I suspect that obscure numbers have crept into the game as a direct result of agents trying to justify huge arbitration demands, as well as free agent sales jobs. Sure, my client is only hitting .255 overall, but it’s .367 with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. Therefore, he IS worth every bit of the $80 million over 7 years we’re asking for…...
Posted 04/20 at 10:46 AM
Made me laugh. Generally, the guy doesn’t seem to understand the ‘other side’...and that’s okay. However, there are some points that I agree with. Perhaps I’ll get a message board donkey punch for mentioning this on a website like this, but my experience, in general, with purely Sabermetric writers is not the best. There seems to be a general cockiness or pomposity among the community. It’s a general attitude toward other people that I’ve experience with very statistical-natured people (including Statistics departments at universities). There is no reason for this besides feeding one’s own ego. The author hits it on the nose when they say: “they think they’re better than you.” There seems to be a general disregard for differing opinion among the “Sabermetric Community” that makes them just as naive as those who criticize them. And that’s what I don’t like. I won’t say any names, but I’ve run into a number of ‘bloggers’ that really don’t understand much of what they’re talking about. That’s okay, too. Discussion of these topics is important, but the argument I run into in many cases is ‘well, you’re just wrong and you don’t understand what I’m talking about because I’m smarter than you.’ Even if you don’t know everything about stats, that doesn’t mean your opinion isn’t worth much. Or that you’re wrong. Unfortunately, these people are often times not very careful about who they say this to. Sabermetric analysis at the professional level is very important for the sport, but the general public gets to see a lot of online bloggers that often times aren’t anywhere near the level of knowledge of those in professional practice.
This is one of the biggest reasons others have trouble with sabermetrics. Though they resist because they don’t understand, resistance is facilitated by the failure of those in the community to communicate their ideas with others. Many times, these ideas are extremely valuable. But failing to recognize that offending people through a pompous attitude will not communicate effectively is where the problem lies. JC Bradbury recently posted a ‘story’ on his website that I strongly believe in. However, I don’t think it applies very strongly when we’re talking about online bloggers and websites that claim to exist in order to communicate information with others. Explaining every detail is not necessary, but explaining WHY something works the way it does is imperative if one wants acceptance…whether or not they know they’re right.
Another problem I have, and this was recently proposed on Stat Speak by Pizza Cutter (someone whose opinion and writing I hold very highly in the online realm), is that Sabermetric minds propose their ideas with the suggestion that things are static. There seems to be a general assumption that players cannot change and that coaches have very little effect on how the players perform. Generally, at the highest level of baseball, coaches have little impact on the game outcomes (well, managers specifically…sorry Joe Torre). This is probably because of the individualistic nature of the tasks required in baseball. Football and basketball are different…and coaching seems to be more accepted as a useful practice in these sports. However, coaching has been essentially written off by Sabermetricians in the baseball world. When you tell people that their job is no longer important, they’re going to resist. Unfortunately, few seem to realize how the interaction of coaching, development, and sabermetrics can support one another in practice.
Finally, though I love statistics, economics, and baseball, my experience in the use of vigorous analysis of something I grew up loving sometimes takes a little away from the aura of what these incredible players really do. Sabermetrics reduces these almost ‘mythical’ figures to a bunch of numbers and a line graph (I exaggerate). One of the things that many baseball fans find enjoyable is having no understanding of how the feats these players achieve are possible. I watch Josh Hamilton hit the back of Yankee Stadium 5 times in a row…Impossible. Bo Jackson run horizontally on a wall…Impossible. They see Jeff Reboulet out there covered in dirt and they love it. Then someone tells them Reboulet shouldn’t even be in the Major Leagues and shows them a bunch of numbers to prove it. And it ruins their enjoyment. Though ignorance isn’t necessarily productive, it can truly be bliss when watching baseball. These guys are heroes to many, and to be heroes, people assume they’re supherhuman (see Superman or Captain America). Sabermetrics makes them human again, without any chance to become a hero.
Posted 04/20 at 11:16 AM
Luke Gofannon said...
Although it was a few years ago, even someone as numbers-friendly as Dave Cameron has noted that some of the biggest practitioners and advocates of sabermetrics can be interpersonal-skills challenged and lousy good will ambassadors (“jerks,” that is).
While the post in question (the one by Alex Akita) is hardly enlightening, I think it’s take on sabermetricians is approximately only 50% more parodic than Michael Lewis’s take on scouts in Moneyball.
Also, as much as I admire David Pinto, I question his suggestion that a goofy little lark like this was done for the purpose of ginning up attention and blog hits. More likely it was done for the amusement of a few friends. I mean, come on, let’s not take things so seriously.
Having said that, I must say, too, that Murray Chass and a few other real Luddites do chap my arse when they rant against sabermetrics.
Posted 04/20 at 03:23 PM
Luke Gofannon said...
And then there is this, written by John Brattain for THT last year:
“Bottom line: the new boss is too much like the old boss. When sabermetrics grew in popularity, the old guard—who felt they were the holders of the Holy Grail—derided the new guys as ignorant since their heads were always stuck in a spreadsheet and they never watched a game. Now the new guys are the old guys who call out the ignorance of those who use observation as part of the basis for reaching conclusions when that conclusion doesn’t fit neatly into the foreordained sabermetric framework.
“Many of Bill James later acolytes have gone the same way as Jesus Christ’s post-apostolic-era ‘followers.’ They have gone from being the persecuted to being the persecutors. Instead of being the ones executed as apostates, they have become the ones executing apostates. They have gone from being students and teachers to conquerors and crusaders.”
Posted 04/21 at 12:12 AM
My problem with that was less about some sort of “us vs. them” mindset but more the fact that I just didn’t think it was anything special either as a serious rant or a parody. At least with Brattain’s piece, there’s reasonable thought to it.
Posted 04/21 at 01:14 AM
Bob Rittner said...
It is a standard fallacy to critique a school of thought or movement by focusing on the poorest practitioners. Naturally as the sabermetric movement became more widespread it attracted some people who were half literate or smug or narrow minded. Every movement does, no matter how worthy.
But that is not the essence of sabermetrics which is fundamentally about skepticism and questions, not certainty and answers. In fact, a key distinction between sabermetric and traditional thinking is that the latter accepts certain propositions as dogma, as “the book” while the sabermetricians are constantly critiquing and testing their own hypotheses, refining them and even rejecting some after a while.
What I find boring is discussion that accepts premises uncritically and parrots traditional wisdom. In conversations with friends who are uninitiated into progressive analysis, there can be no new insights. One knows the tenor of the conversation even before it starts. It’s just slapping time-worn cliches on situations, and if there is disagreement it becomes dueling cliches. It is the wider vision of sabermetric analysis that adds spice and surprise to baseball conversation.
Posted 04/21 at 08:49 AM
David Pinto said...
Thanks, Bob, well said.
Posted 04/21 at 09:11 AM
Luke Gofannon said...
I guess my question would be: Was (is?) the pre-sabermetric word really as narrow minded and monolithic as the sabermetric world is supposedly (so we are constantly told) open minded and eclectic? I subscribe to BP and have my browser bookmarked with tons of sabermetric-oriented sites (including THT and Baseball Musings), and all the baseball books I’ve purchased the last several years are saber-slanted (Tango & MGL’s Book, THT’s and BP’s Annuals, etc. and so on), because that’s what interests me most, but it seems to me that some folks have accepted as gospel the Michael Lewis-influenced caricature of Old School Baseball Rubes (i.e., they’ve bought into just another form of received wisdom). Whatever the “faults” of my Traditional Wisdom baseball friends, I never hear them suggesting they are qualified to be general managers.
It’s always the Other Side that is doctrinaire and blinkered. This, anyway, seems to me to be the gist of what Brattain and Cameron are saying in the posts linked to above.
Again, I’m not defending the post that’s the subject of this thread. But was it really any more heavy handed and smug than a lot of stuff that used to be on Fire Joe Morgan? (I concede, FJM was funnier.)
Posted 04/21 at 11:55 AM
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