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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
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The New Stats - They Mean No Harm
2007-02-27 21:31
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

From Dodger Thoughts, February 19, 2003, for Murray Chass. Just to show that we should be past statphobia by now.

In fact, we really are well past it - note how much more ubiquitous OPS has become in the past four years, to the point that OPS is starting to seem junior league - only Chass, who wrote today that "new-age statistics (threaten) to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein," is among those who don't seem to realize it:

The New Stats - They Mean No Harm

Calculus killed me. Math was easy until calculus. After that, math became Sanskrit. So I get that there are limits.

But the new baseball stats that are coming into use today - they aren't calculus. So don't be afraid. Give them a chance.

It's often said that no sport depends on numbers for its popularity more than baseball. Numbers like 61, .406 and 1.12 have volumes of meaning that bridge generations.

That said, many baseball fans, writers and professionals are resistant to, if not critical of, any hint of excessive or, dare I say it, newfangled statistical analysis. (By the way: 27 words in that sentence and six commas, for a ratio of 4.50 WPC.) These people can be longtime fans who worry that stats will suck the romance out of the game, or managers who feel that stats can't substitute for human observation. Statisticians are often perceived as a threat to the game itself.

In no way am I a statistician, but I'd like to speak up in their defense - and explain why this matters to Dodger fans.

The Suits and the Dungarees

Everyone will have their limit, based on how much they want to know and how much they want to learn. But it seems to me that baseball is not baseball without numbers. It is a poetic game, to be sure, and a visual one. But fundamentally, you keep score. One team gets more runs than another. Stats help us evaluate who helps their team get more runs than another.

This shouldn't be like a high school war between the jocks and the geeks. Watching a player has its role, and evaluating a player with numbers has its role. They can co-exist.

That said, can we agree that it's okay to use newer, better stats?

Some people are fiercely loyal to the stats they grew up with, and are offended by change. Batting average is cool, but OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) is too much. (Can I get away with a WKRP in Cincinnati reference here? It's a battle between "the suits and the dungarees.")

In the end, we all need clothes.

Look, I take the purist side on many issues, like being anti-DH and anti-wild card, but I don't do so for the sake of being a purist, but because I think the game was better without those changes.

I get that there will always be some magic to a player's batting average, to the idea of trying to hit .400 or even .300 and of avoiding .200, so I don't want to see batting average eliminated from the records.

But it's becoming clearer that magic and poetry are about the only value that the batting average statistic has. People should not be affronted by the idea that measures of performance that are newer and more reliable than batting average have been discovered, such as OPS. People should be encouraged that they can offer more informed explanations about why Eric Karros is no longer a very good player.

In particular, the media should not live in denial.

Pull Up a Chair for OPS

OPS is a relatively new concept. It's second-hand to me now, but I don't think I've been aware of it for more than a few years. Of course, a few years is better than nothing. I revel in the ability OPS has to provide a one-shot indicator of a player's performance. Clearly, it is more effective than batting average, and nimbler than citing separate on-base and slugging percentages. Some media outlets, such as ESPN.com, have come to realize this.

And yet, I'm pretty sure that the next reference to OPS in the Los Angeles Times will be the first.

The Times is the paper of record in Los Angeles, so it does not need to take change lightly. But it should also strive to provide the best analysis of any given subject. Certainly, a minority of its readers are going to be familiar with OPS. But I think if this is the best tool at hand, providing both efficiency and simplicity, then the Times beat writers should learn it and use it.

Same goes for Vin Scully. There's no announcer for whom I have more love or respect. But past achievement does not eliminate the need to adapt - just look at Kevin Brown. There are better tools available today, and I am dying to see Vinny look beyond the old school stuff and use them in his broadcasts.

(It has to be Vin, by the way. If Ross Porter does it, more power to him - but he's so criticized for his reliance on numbers that the citywide resistance may be vitriolic. And if Rick Monday does it, will anyone notice amid his rambling? Even though he has his detractors, Vin has the necessary authority to put OPS into use in Los Angeles.)

My own audience, such as it is, is a mix of people who used OPS before I knew what it was and people who may still be in the dark about it. But you know, you've got to learn sometime. It's not like the Times explains what ERA is every day. If a media outlet uses vocabulary that the reader doesn't understand, I don't see a problem with the reader having to do a little self-education.

Stats are part of the game. Everyone should agree on that. Sure, let Dusty Baker ignore OPS, play a hunch and let Shawon Dunston into a World Series game (and watch him hit a home run). But can a better stat like OPS at least be part of the discussion? I don't see why not.

EqA - Obscurely Wonderful, Like Fernando in 1980

I was gonna say Jack Fimple in 1983, but it turns out his OPS was only .658, and I thought that might be controversial.

Anyway, I'm not saying OPS is not the be-all and end-all.

I'm studying this stuff more, trying to understand all the statistical tools out there. Not as an end to itself, but as a better means to do the evaluation of the Dodgers that I'm trying to do.

In using OPS, I'm ahead of the mainstream curve, but I still trail the cutting-edge curve.

The latest item I'm just now starting to work into my baseball vocabulary is Equivalent Average, or EqA, which appears to be even more useful than OPS.

Baseball Prospectus defines EqA as "a measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. The EqA adjusted for all-time also has a correction for league difficulty."

You can see the advantages right away. OPS doesn't make any of the above corrections. So when I use OPS to compare Shawn Green to a player from another team, like Raul Mondesi -- much less a player from another era, like, oh, Mel Ott, I have to guess at the adjustments that I must make.

Additionally, in a manner that serves to appease or entice the so-called purists, the EqA scale is deliberately set to approximate that of batting average. An average EqA is .260 - which on a gut level, seems like the batting average of an average ballplayer. (Does it hurt the case for EqA if I wish they had picked .250? You know - a simple 1 for 4?)

For now, OPS remains handier because it can be located on many baseball websites and can be calculated very easily. EQA is not nearly as accessible. The only EQA chart I know of is on the Baseball Prospectus site, and it's not comprehensive.

I also have to mention that in this, my first experience writing about EqA, the shift between capital and small letters is tiresome. I hate to be insolent, but can I write EQA instead?

Let's try it. Write me if it bothers you.

In any case (literally), I'm going to start to try to work in EQA into my articles, hoping it provides some use, while acknowledging that it might be another gateway drug for me to an even more obscure if effective stat.

Here are some relevant 2002 EQAs for the Dodgers, and where they ranked in the major leagues within their given position (minimum 502 plate appearances):

.265 Paul Lo Duca (6th among C)
.294 Fred McGriff (14th among 1B)
.262 Eric Karros (21st among 1B)
.242 Mark Grudzielanek (16th among 2B)
.259 Adrian Beltre (15th among 3B)
.292 Alex Cora (in 291 plate appearances - would be 5th among SS)
.201 Cesar Izturis (in 449 PA - would be worse than all 19 SS regulars except Neifi Perez)
.284 Brian Jordan (14th among LF. Barry Bonds was at .457!)
.277 Dave Roberts (in 472 PA - would be 13th among CF)
.289 Marquis Grissom (in 367 PA - would be 11th among CF)
.322 Shawn Green (5th among RF, 21st among all players)

Beltre really does have a ways to go, doesn't he. Good thing he still qualifies as young. Of course, no one on the team is has more ground to cover than Izturis.

You can see the similarity in the EQA scores between Lo Duca and Karros, but the difference as to where they rank in their given positions.

McGriff, Jordan and Grissom were more above-average than I expected. And Cora, for his position, was really high - and it's not like he had an infinitesimal amount of at-bats. With his fielding ability, doesn't it seem strange that he is an underdog for a starting job this year? Or is it that human element that makes it wise to make him a backup? Seriously - I'd like to know.

Barry Bonds was 87 points higher than the next-best major leaguer, Manny Ramirez (.370).

No, I don't need OPS or EQA to tell me Barry Bonds had a better season than anyone else last year. But those stats say it more authoritatively, and are of great use in putting in perspective the mediocrity that is the Dodger lineup. I hope that the Dodgers are paying attention. Better stats might have helped prevent some of the horrible decisions made in recent years. Tom Goodwin - hello?

And though I hate to mention football as a role model, that sport has been using a complicated statistical formula for ranking quarterbacks for about 25 years. No one seems to mind.

Everyone who is a baseball fan should embrace OPS, if not EQA. They're great fun and easy to spell!

I wish I had Vin's number.

Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus wrote a classy response to Chass tonight.

Comments (73)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-02-27 21:51:44
1.   doppelganger
Some interesting extremely stat heavy info on EQA http://tinyurl.com/26j238

For me, stats complement rather than supplant baseball.

2007-02-27 21:56:53
2.   D4P
One thing that bothers me is the attitude from people like Chass that they know more about putting together a winning team (from the X number of games they've watched in their lives) than the statisticians who dedicate their lives to looking at data from essentially every single game every played (rather than a subset), and then use sophisticated (though widely accepted) techniques to determine relationships among variables.

It reminds of me of the attitude of some folks who, say, worked on ranches or ran oil companies, thinking they know more about global warming than the scientists who spend their lives studying such things.

Who knows more about architecture than architects? Engineering than engineers? Rocket science than rocket scientists?

The irony is that the Murray Chasses of the world have the gall to accuse the statisticians and scientists of being arrogant...

2007-02-27 22:10:13
3.   Greg Brock
I don't understand the premise that learning more about something takes away from enjoying it. Learning about statistical analysis has made me a better fan and a smarter fan. Not only do I get to watch a game I love, but I get to examine it in new and exciting ways. I have the opportunity to examine players from the past and present in ways I never imagined. Things I've always intuitively thought about the game, but could never quite articulate, have been laid out in stunning detail.

I love baseball more now than I ever have, and that's largely due to statistical analysis.

2007-02-27 22:13:04
4.   trainwreck
3
I totally agree. I feel I have such a better grasp on baseball than the other sports I follow, because of learning about statistical analysis.
2007-02-27 22:16:31
5.   natepurcell
in todays photos on dodgers.com, they have a neat photo of meloan, hammes, elbert, megrew and houlton next to each other. Basically, Hammes is a behemoth compared to everyone else. If Megrew is 6'6, Hammes has to be at least 6'8 now. Meloan looks a bit like billingsley too. Elbert looks like a little kid compared to all of them.
2007-02-27 22:19:25
6.   trainwreck
Yeah, when I saw a pic earlier today from an article I figured Hammes must be mammoth, because Elbert is certainly not as small as Hammes makes him look.
2007-02-27 22:19:38
7.   Humma Kavula
I probably shouldn't be pointing this out, but:

If you'd used the serial comma, it would have been 7 commas for 27 words.

And really, if the serial comma is good enough for Messrs. Strunk and White, isn't it good enough for us?

2007-02-27 22:20:14
8.   D4P
I suggest an immediate ban on weather forecasting. It ruins the human element of having to guess what kind of clothing to wear on a given day so as to be appropriately attired.
2007-02-27 22:40:41
9.   trainwreck
Veronica Mars is going on a break till May.

What is with TV shows taking a couple months hiatus? I do not like this trend.

2007-02-27 22:43:31
10.   Bob Timmermann
Let me tell you about the time when TV shows had their own summer replacements...
2007-02-27 22:46:36
11.   Jon Weisman
7 - Evolve.

9 - Unless you lived in an era in which shows produced 39 episodes a year, it's not a very new trend.

2007-02-27 22:48:43
12.   D4P
I remember when the "season" for most TV shows would start at the end of the summer, and end at the beginning of the summer. Now, it's not uncommon for a season to be January through June.
2007-02-27 22:51:29
13.   Wrigleyville
2: Totally agree that stats - whether you like or understand them - create new opportunitites for new generations and new segments of fans to enjoy the game.

Mr. Chass, I believe, would like to watch the game with his 7 purist friends "for the love of the game."

We found a list of other things Murray Chass doesn't like: http://wrigleyville23.blogspot.com/2007/02/murray-chass-fuddy-duddy.html

2007-02-27 22:54:30
14.   Jon Weisman
Throughout the 80s, the TV season usually ended around Spring Break.

When sweeps months became more important, the end of the season moved to the end of May, but with more interruptions in between. The maximum number of episodes per season for a show has remained at around 22 - maybe as high as 26 for a really successful show - but still, that leaves six months a year without fresh episodes.

Other shows fill the gaps, and then you have things like short-run HBO shows, but there's really no avoiding shows going on hiatus for long stretches of time.

2007-02-27 22:55:05
15.   Bob Timmermann
I remember when the TV season started when TV Guide published its "Fall Preview" issue. And then the season began when some writer for "Variety" decided it was time to start the season.

D4P is way too young to remember TV shows that had 39 episode seasons. 39 NEW episodes.

"MASH" went on the air in 1972. It had 24 episodes in its first season. "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Bob Newhart" usually had 24 episode seasons.

2007-02-27 22:55:46
16.   D4P
13
But why parade yourself as a stodgy turd for all the world to see?

Why indeed...

2007-02-27 23:01:00
17.   Greg Brock
13 Big ups for using davenport instead of sofa.

My grandparents smile upon you from heaven.

2007-02-27 23:01:04
18.   CanuckDodger
Maybe Elbert IS as small as Hammes makes him look. The player height and weight measurements we read about can be extremely inacurrate. Elbert has been listed as 6'2 since his high school days, and that was supposedly Billingsley's height as well, going back to high school. But Billingsley is clearly no taller than 6'0, and once Billingsley was in the majors this past year, his "official" height was changed on rosters and player profiles.
2007-02-27 23:04:36
19.   Wrigleyville
17 - You still hear "davenport" in parts of the Midwest. It's creepy...
2007-02-27 23:11:54
20.   CanuckDodger
A guy I know practically throws a fit every time a TV series he is following goes into a rerun cycle. His not liking it is one thing. What really ANNOYS me is that he always acts like it is happening for the first time in his life, as if network executives have suddenly, unexpectedly pulled the rug out from under him. The guy is 48 years old and has been an avid TV watcher forever. He should not be surprised by this sort of thing by now.
2007-02-27 23:13:49
21.   D4P
20
Now there's a guy who doesn't let "using the past to predict the future" ruin his human element
2007-02-27 23:14:49
22.   CanuckDodger
"Davenport"? "Sofa" I have at least heard of. It's called a chesterfield, people.
2007-02-27 23:17:40
23.   CanuckDodger
21 -- Yes, behavioral psychologists into Pavlovian experiments would have a field day with him.
2007-02-27 23:20:11
24.   Andrew Shimmin
The Pride of the Yankees (which I'd not seen before) is on right now. People really bought 42 year old Gary Cooper as a teenager?
2007-02-27 23:22:30
25.   Andrew Shimmin
I guess that comment's a thread late.
2007-02-27 23:22:42
26.   natepurcell
18

well, houlton is listed officially as 6'3 on the dodgers site; compared to earlier reports of 6'4 when he was drafted. So im assuming 6'3 is pretty accurate for him. If we use Houlton as a benchmark, elbert is about 2 inches shorter with megrew being about 2 inches taller.

Meloan looks a tad shorter then houlton, although a bit thicker.

2007-02-27 23:37:57
27.   natepurcell
http://tinyurl.com/2q7jjv

two things

1. when did penny and milano break up?

2. how in hell is he pulling these hot girls?

2007-02-27 23:39:52
28.   trainwreck
Penny's got game.
2007-02-27 23:43:41
29.   natepurcell
28

if his game is anything like his baseball game, he obviously lacks the second half stamina chicks like Eliza Dushku probably dig.

2007-02-27 23:47:37
30.   trainwreck
Maybe it explains why he looks in so much better shape this spring training.
2007-02-27 23:47:58
31.   King of the Hobos
Has everyone seen Penny lately? Maybe it's the goatee (or lack thereof), but he looks quite a bit different.

http://tinyurl.com/2oq5uh

2007-02-27 23:48:08
32.   trainwreck
Just imagine the girls Clayton Kershaw will be hooking up with.
2007-02-27 23:58:59
33.   Xeifrank
It's a psychological phenomena that people tend to make fun of, or put down things they don't understand or feel threatened by. It sounds like Murray Chass fits into this category.
vr, Xei
2007-02-28 00:19:22
34.   saltcreek
simers article on lasorda http://tinyurl.com/2f4487
2007-02-28 00:20:06
35.   Andrew Shimmin
Old guys are predisposed to getting crotchety. P.J. O'Rourke keeps a closet full of IBM Selectrics so that he'll never have to learn to use a computer. Andy Rooney won't trim his eye brows. I think Chass's column is just another version of that phenomenon. Instead of beating up on him, maybe we should be celebrating the un-crotchety old guys.
2007-02-28 00:49:24
36.   bhsportsguy
24 First a little more trivia about Pride of the Yankees, thanks to IMDB.com

Since star Gary Cooper was right-handed and Lou Gehrig was left-handed, and since Cooper's athletic skills were barely passable right-handed let alone left-handed, the close-up baseball scenes were shot with uniforms in reverse type. Cooper would hit the ball and run to third, and the prints would be reversed.

That said, the movie remains a favorite of mind because Lou Gehrig was one of the first players I read about when I was growing up.

How good was Gehrig? There are those who downplay the stats of late 1920's and 1930's because offensive stats were inflated during those years.

But Gehrig, who from 1927-1937, never had an OPS under 1.015, an OBP under .424 and a Slugging under .583, does not fall under the overvalued players of that period.

Gehrig of course became famous in death as the disease he died of, ALS, became also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. And he made the Luckiest man speech on July 4, 1939.

My thoughts about the movie, Babe Ruth did a pretty good job playing Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey did an average job playing Bill Dickey. As a kid, I could not think of a better wife than Teresa Wright (think about it, a girl who loves baseball and looks like that!) Gary Cooper, who got nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Lou Gehrig, went around military bases during WWII to recreate the Luckiest man speech, later won his Oscar for his portrayal of maybe the unluckiest man on the face of earth, the Marshall in High Noon.

2007-02-28 01:03:42
37.   bhsportsguy
29 Brad Penny has now dated the "daughters" of Tony Danza and Governator Arnold.

Nate, to answer your question about how he gets these girls, need I remind you that Brett Tomko married a Playboy Playmate. And although I tend to get confused which Arizona school Nate attends, its no secret that Andre Ethier married fellow Sun Devil, Maggie Germaine, currently an ASU Gymnastics assistant coach, formerly a member of the team from 2000-2003.

2007-02-28 04:38:14
38.   Vishal
i think the vehemence and self-righteousness of the anti-stat crowd is symptomatic of a larger trend, and probably the single thing that bothers me the most about our country; anti-intellectualism. we've always been somewhat anti-elitist, which is all well and good, but i think in the past we were less resentful and suspicious of smart people who bring about change.
2007-02-28 06:56:57
39.   Bumsrap
If someone has a high ops I wonder if it is due to a high on-base or a high slug. To me it is like someone getting an A in math and a C in English and having a 3.0 gpa. Is that person a B student or that person good in math but can't read.

I like to separate on-base and slugging percentages and combining the two hides what I want to know. Pierre's ops is low but he earns millions as a leadoff hitter and more than one team was willing to pay him those millions.

I am for Vin doing his own thing and letting those wanting more stats to do their own thing. And if Vin should do something differently he should start by pronouncing Encarnacion with a Latino accent.

2007-02-28 07:25:05
40.   Bob Timmermann
38
I believe a writer for the NY Times being anti-intellectual or anti-elitist is, dare I say it?

IRONIC!

2007-02-28 07:54:53
41.   Disabled List
39 Funny you should mention GPA when wondering about the relative value of OBP and SLG in the makeup of a player's OPS. Allow me to introduce... Gross Production Average!

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/statpages/glossary/#gpa

Gross Production Average, a variation of OPS, but more accurate and easier to interpret. The exact formula is (OBP*1.8+SLG)/4, adjusted for ballpark factor. The scale of GPA is similar to BA: .200 is lousy, .265 is around average and .300 is a star.

2007-02-28 08:14:59
42.   Greg S
27. Penny has been with Dushku for at least 8 or 9 months. Hasn't been with Milano for quite a while which isn't to say she can't often be found sitting behing the dugout.
Now I feel dirty. Not saying anything that isn't public or is hurtful so I'll only take a quick shower.
2007-02-28 08:23:37
43.   Greg S
3. Things I've always intuitively thought about the game, but could never quite articulate, have been laid out in stunning detail.

I think that there is a beauty that is exposed through better tools of analysis. Study evolution and all of a sudden there is a path to understanding everything from how we got here to why we act, feel, think like we do (as well as why trees and ant colonies do what they do). Explaining how and why a rainbow exists doesn't make the rainbow less magical. I think it can make it more so.
Same goes for a better understanding of why Juan Pierre does or doesn't help a team win.

2007-02-28 08:28:42
44.   underdog
What do Penny and Dushku talk about when they're alone? Fishing? I can't imagine.
2007-02-28 08:30:05
45.   underdog
Damn, I knew I shouldn't have tossed out that Honus Wagner card!

http://tinyurl.com/2l52gq

2007-02-28 08:38:51
46.   StolenMonkey86
Wow, he does look like he dropped a few pounds. His face looks skinnier.
2007-02-28 08:39:15
47.   StolenMonkey86
46 is in reference to 31
2007-02-28 09:04:59
48.   Jon Weisman
I'm sure Honus has lost a few pounds, too.
2007-02-28 09:07:52
49.   Penarol1916
36. I first watched "Pride of the Yankees" and "Best Years of Our Lives" within a couple days of each other when I was 12. I've been secretly in love with Theresa Wright ever since.
2007-02-28 09:10:06
50.   Gagne55
Calculus killed me. Math was easy until calculus. After that, math became Sanskrit. So I get that there are limits.

Ah, limits.
Lim (Weisman) = 0
(math)->(calculus)

Is that correct?

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-02-28 09:17:38
51.   Bob Timmermann
49
Theresa Wright never answers my fan letters now.

Her family says it has something to do with her being dead, but I think they're just putting me off.

2007-02-28 09:20:02
52.   underdog
51 you say that beyond shadow of a doubt that she's dead?

Damn, I knew I shouldn't have tossed out that Theresa Wright rookie card, too!

2007-02-28 09:23:12
53.   Benaiah
50 - And the nerdiest joke of the year prize has been ripped away from the guy who spoke fluent Klingon. I really like math, but Calc is a lot less entertaining than trig.
2007-02-28 09:27:04
54.   D4P
Geometry > Algebra > Trig > Calculus
2007-02-28 09:27:55
55.   Greg Brock
Anything > Math
2007-02-28 09:30:13
56.   Benaiah
Trig > Algebra > Geometry (why don't kids take symbolic logic in high school, geometry lays the framework perfectly) > Calculus. And I didn't even get into the nasty multi-variable stuff.
2007-02-28 09:30:22
57.   natepurcell
erickson>math
2007-02-28 09:31:34
58.   JL25and3
I'm incredibly glad that baseball analysis has moved as it has over the last 25 years or so. Now, the three numbers given to describe a hitter's performance are BA/OBA/SA; then, they would have been BA, HR, RBI. Huge advance.

And having said that, I'll admit a certain sympathy with Chass's viewpoint. Not that I'm against more complex and advanced statistics, I just question whether they truly provide more useful information. In particular, the obsession with finding The One Number to describe performance robs us of information, and of meaning.

Take something as simple as OPS. I actually avoid that, where possible, for two reasons. One is that it takes two statistics that actually stand for something - percentage of times reaching base, total bases per at-bat - and combine them into a number that, in and of itself, stands for absolutely nothing.

Second, the combined OPS stat provides less information than looking at OBP and SA as separate statistics. Player A: OBP .400, SA .450. Player B: OPB .350, SA .500. With very little extra effort, you've conveyed much more information, and much more meaning, than to say that both have and OPS of .850.

Perhaps EqA and other stats are more accurate, but that doesn't make them more useful. Tell me a player's OBA, SA and at-bats; tell me when he played, for whom and at what position. Simple, direct, meaningful information, that enables me to assess a player's performance as well as EqA does, and gives me a much better understanding.

2007-02-28 09:39:24
59.   JL25and3
52 Died two years ago, at age 86. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

With all due respect, you can have your wholesome, innocent Teresa Wright. I'll stick with my secret true love: Carole Lombard.

2007-02-28 09:45:40
60.   Hythloday
58 - Presumably though if you were a GM and you were looking for free agents you would want to start with the One True Number (which might make Bill James Sauron, but I'm not positive) and then do the due diligence that you speak of. You wouldn't be using your time efficiently if you only did the latter and you wouldn't be doing your job completely if you only did the former. Furthermore if this wasn't for information reasons and you were working within a scarce environment wouldn't knowing something like EQA/$ be more useful than narratives about the players in question?
2007-02-28 09:45:56
61.   Jon Weisman
49 - Count me in the Teresa Wright fan club.
2007-02-28 09:47:46
62.   Jon Weisman
58 - I agree with you essentially - but the point is, even the Chasses of the world often settle for one true number. And when they choose batting average as that number, they're undermining themselves. So OPS is just a better substitute for that. In no way is OPS the be-all and end-all.
2007-02-28 09:58:58
63.   LAT
Is Simers initial position not to report the Lasorda-Babydoll story a compromise of journalist ethics? I am one of the few here who likes Simers but it seems to me that when a senior reporter for the LA Times refuses to report a story involving Lasorda who is his friend, his professional source and someone he needs in the near future to continue to have access to the Dodgers, Simers is selectively filtering the news. If this involved anyone else, say Barry Bonds or Dusty Baker or Lou Pinella, TJ would be all over it without reservation. Then to compound matters, he agrees to use his exclusive column to address the story when Tommy's attorney asks for a platform to do so. I just don't think Simers should refuse to address the story and then do a 180 when his friend asks him to. Maybe I'm wrong about this but from a journalist integrity point of view it seems inappropriate.

Not to mention, I think Tommy is crazy for prolonging this. Just deny it, leave it at that and Babydoll's 15 minutes will be over in 5. Instead I have now heard Tommy's attorney on three talk shows keeping this dead horse alive.

2007-02-28 09:59:08
64.   Robert Fiore
In the acceptance of the new stats we've passed through the stages of denial and anger into bargaining. What Chass appears to be arguing is that traditional stats are beer goggles viewed through which the game is beautiful and mysterious. The trouble with that reasoning is that people who rely entirely on traditional stats don't treat them as beer goggle stats, they treat them as absolutes. While they realize that sometimes a traditional stat is empty, they don't want to take any steps to identify the emptiness. But for somebody who writes a sports column for a daily paper there's a practical aspect to this. He knows the sort of readership he has, and he knows it's the sort of readership whose eyes are going to glaze over if he starts writing about VORPs or EqAs. For one thing, when the writer writes about RBIs he doesn't have to explain to readers what they are. For another, the new stats introduce counterintuitive strategies, like creating a hypothetical Replacement Player to measure performance by. The natural objection a fan makes to this is that sometimes the replacement player is Lou Gehrig. That stat might be palatable to a broader public if it were called something like Value Over Mediocrity (though the acronym would not be appetizing). The new stats appeal to the sort of person who would pore over the 600-page Baseball Prospectus book, which is a much smaller group than the group that would pick up a newspaper or listen to a sports talk show. What this represents is the elemental struggle between the Know-Nothing and the Know-It-All. The Know-Nothing believes conventional wisdom is sound and no attempt to overthrow it is fraud or obfuscation. The Know-It-All has a large emotional investment in thinking himself smarter than the ordinary person. What is tipping the balance is the emergence of executives who use the new statistics to build winning ballclubs. When a Beane or an Epstein succeeds eventually you have to report why.
2007-02-28 10:00:17
65.   D4P
58
Yes. The problems with OPS are at least these:

1. Adding two fractions that have different denominators (without first converting to a common denominator) doesn't make sense. It's like adding 2/4 and 5/9 and saying that the sum is equal to 2 + 5 = 7.

2. Equal weight is placed upon OBP and SLG, even though we have reason to believe that OBP has a greater impact on scoring runs than does SLG. The GPA statistic appears to place different weights on OBP and SLG by multiplying OBP by 1.8

2007-02-28 10:02:59
66.   Benaiah
58 - OPS is such a puzzle because despite being bad math (why would you add together the two numbers?) it is really really accurate. I have done correlation tests, and OPS explains something like 92% of team runs scored. Basically, if you ranked teams by OPS, you just ranked them by runs scored. Plus, it is pretty easy to understand, 1.000 is really good and .700 is the Mendoza line. I do like to look at the components, but I can understand why OPS is the one number people use.
2007-02-28 10:06:52
67.   D4P
It's like adding 2/4 and 5/9 and saying that the sum is equal to 2 + 5 = 7

Actually, this analogy is not correct. Strike it from the record.

2007-02-28 10:09:24
68.   Jon Weisman
63 - Well, there's no law that Simers had to be the one to write about Lasorda. So in theory, if he didn't want to write about it, but it was worth a column, the Times should have assigned someone else should write the column.

Instead, Simers wrote something in which he declared his biases. On that level, I don't really have a problem - especially from a columnist/opinion writer, a position that is designed in part to offer biases.

Simers' column certainly shouldn't be taken as the definitive piece on the news, but I didn't really see a problem with it. In the end, he aired out both sides.

2007-02-28 10:12:16
69.   Sam DC
My secret decoder ring is inscribed: "Charter Member: Grace Kelly Fan Club."
2007-02-28 10:12:20
70.   underdog
You can have your Theresa Wrights and Carole Lombards, I'll take Veronica Lake. (Were I transported in a time machine back 65 years).

Gosh, I have no doubt Tim Lincecum is going to be a great pitcher, but it seems a little early to be readying him for the majors.
http://tinyurl.com/28zwyb
"Seven of the nine were strikes, including the three he blew past Tomas De La Rosa and one that broke Nate Schierholtz's bat."

After taking care of De La Rosa and Schierholtz, I annoint him ready for Albert Pujols!

Oh those wacky Giants writers...

2007-02-28 10:18:16
71.   D4P
One thing to note about "new" stats is that, in many cases, new stats aren't really new stats per se, but rather new ways of combining old stats. Stats like OPS and EqA combine tried and true stats like hits, walks, stolen bases, etc., into a single metric that has been found through the use of statistical techniques (e.g. regression analysis) to do a good job of predicting/explaining runs scored.

People who reject these newly-created combinations of old stats are implicitly rejecting the statistical techniques that speak to their worth. That's all well and good, but if they're going to do so, they need a better justification than "stats ruin the human element." They need to show us why the statistical techniques are flawed.

2007-02-28 10:25:03
72.   Jon Weisman
New post up top.
2007-02-28 11:30:42
73.   bigcpa
The highlight of the Chass column is that he actually subscribed to the Prospectus newsletter and took the time to ask colleagues what VORP was. Call the guy an anti-intellectual stat-phobe, but then realize he's 10x more open-minded then our very own local lead columnist (ironically with the initials B.P.).

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