Just a little while ago, in the White Sox versus Nationals game, Chicago announcer Ken Harrelson talked a bit about what he felt was the most overrated thing that has come into baseball in the past 10 years.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking—he was talking about the closer role. You know, the fact that guys get huge contracts because they have a history of pitching one half-way decent inning at the end of a game in which that player’s team is ahead between one and three runs.
No, it wasn’t the closer’s role.
And it was not an overrated statistic. Don’t start thinking it was something like Runs Batted In for a hitter or Wins for a pitcher. No, he didn’t rail against those as being an incomplete way to judge a player because they rely too much on variables that are outside the player’s control.
No, it was a broad concept. It was something that “Hawk” sees as a waste of time that many in baseball are overvaluing like crazy right now.
Sabermetrics is the most overrated thing in baseball according to Harrelson.
He made his observation after the Nationals had their pitcher bunt the runner on first over to second. With that sacrifice bunt by the pitcher, an ode to bygone days of baseball, a time when men were men and they chewed tobacco instead of sunflower seeds, Harrelson was reminded of all that is bad in baseball right now and said of sabermetrics, “…it’s gotten a lot of people fired, because it didn’t work.”
His color man, Steve Stone, noted that while maybe some people have been fired, a lot of people right now—people currently working in baseball—actually have their jobs because of their ability to understand sabermetrics. Harrelson conceded a little and said that sabermetrics could be an “element” that could be used in the game. Then he went on to tell us, in so many words, that you’re much better off just looking for guys who want to win baseball games, an idea he says that our infatuation with numbers has obscured.
So from that, one might be tempted to look at a team like the White Sox and conclude that if they go on to have a sub-.500 record this season, it won’t be due to any lack of talent that, based on past performance, projection systems like PECOTA could see coming. No. According to Harrelson, a below average season would be due to an overabundance of players who don’t really want to win.
Now, if the White Sox beat PECOTA’s expectations? It won’t be because of Alex Rios having one of his every-other-year- career years which could flip their record by eight games all by itself. It won’t be because they all stay relatively healthy and exceed expectations. No, it will be because they want to win more than the teams they play against.
With it being that simple, I have just finished applying for the head scouting position of every team in baseball. Surely one will see that my resume, which consists only of one sentence, makes me worthy of a job over some sabermetric dweeb. The resume simply states that, “I will find players who say they really, really want to win and our team will be the pants off everyone else and you should really hire me because this will work and using stuff like statistics to evaluate players is the most overrated thing in baseball in past decade.”*
It’s only a matter of time before the phone rings.
*I always use run on sentences on my fake resumes.