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# Baseball Reference Blog

## Bloops: MacAree – The Problem With Sabermetrics

Posted by Steve Lombardi on July 24, 2011

Graham MacAree had an interesting post at Lookout Landing the other day. (H/T to BBTF.)  Here's two snips on what he had to say in it:

Once upon a time, sabermetrics was an interesting field. Better, it meant something. Those curious about how baseball worked were lifting the veil and understanding the mechanics of the game. New metrics were developed that gave us a better idea of not only what a player was worth but how to puzzle that particular question out. Following the logic behind the new wave of baseball statistics was a ride through the logical skeleton of the game. Understand the stats, and you understood baseball. And there were a bevy of talented writers to guide you down that route.

Now, things are more than a little different. Sabermetrics seems to have lost its way.

Proper sabermetrics is something that has to come from the top down (baseball-driven) rather than the bottom up (mathematics/data driven), and to lose sight of that causes a whole host of issues that are plaguing the field at present. Every single formula must be explainable without recourse to using ridiculous numbers. Every analyst must be open to thinking about the game in new ways. Every number, every graph in a sabermetric piece must tell a baseball story, because otherwise we're no longer writing about the sport but indulging in blind number-crunching for its own sake.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with MacAree's points in the feature?

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 24th, 2011 at 10:06 am and is filed under Bloops. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

### 64 Responses to “Bloops: MacAree – The Problem With Sabermetrics”

1. You should have included these 2 quotes from the writer, despite the claims to the contrary, sabermetrics is most emphatically not science. Proper science requires, at the very least, controlled experimentation, which is something impossible to manage in baseball analysis. My emphasis added. Also ...sabermetrics is a branch of applied philosophy. Without experimentation, all we can do is observe, hypothesise, theorise and... This gentleman comes very close to exposing my theories behind mentioning the Coriolis force in relation to baseball and the reactions I got.

2. " Without experimentation, all we can do is observe, hypothesise, theorise and then check back with the (flawed) observations we've conducted. "

Um, yeah. That's exactly science. I mean, unless cosmology, geology, and the great majority of 20th century physics are 'applied philosophy', too.

The notion that the only valid observations are ones that stem from human-driven experiments is, quite simply, wrong. The important progression is theory-prediction-affirmation-or-not -- there's no rule that says the prediction needs to be about something in a lab. Recent observations related to light being subject to gravity as it passes by the sun are a great example.

The analog would be a prediction, say, that a group of high-achievers would regress to the mean is the analog here -- just because they regress to the mean on the field rather than in the lab makes the chain of reasoning no less valid.

3. All I have to say is I can tell a player's value much better by watching than to read numbers.

4. Thank you Henry, for saving me the time of writing a lesser version of what you did. You are 100% right.

5. @3

Uh huh.

If baseball games were scored like a gymnastics meet you would be so right.

6. Johnny Twisto Says:

All I have to say is I can tell a player's value much better by watching than to read numbers.

Doubtful.

7. There are really three issues here. The first is that there is nothing wrong with search for greater technical understanding of why something happens, or how it happens, nor creating mathematical models to express performance. The second, however, is that mathematical models that measure artistic/athletic/esthetic performance need to reflect a visual and instinctive reality-the numbers need to enhance our understanding, not contradict what we see. The act of creating a new non-counting stat very often means making a new value judgment-it makes a numeric representation for something that may be part esthetic or even emotional. Reasonable people can disagree on the relative value of certain acts. Finally, baseball is performance, just like a Da Vinci, Tosca or Phantom or the Beatles. It can be admired for its own sake at whatever level we so desire or are capable of. It's not just that you don't need technical proficiency to enjoy performance-you don't need technical understanding either. With apologies to a stat like WAR, sabermetrics is best used as a tool to enhance understanding and enjoyment, not as a single number representative of the sum of a player's contributions. Perhaps the two best examples of this is the debate over Tim Raines and Jim Rice. In the new math, Raines created enough value in the peak portion of his career to make him HOF worthy. But to buy Raines's candidacy you have to a) agree that walks have great value, b) that steals have real value, and c) the fairly mundane last half of his career is less relevant than his peak. Well, maybe. I'm old enough to have seen both halves, and he was truly great in his prime. Then, he was useful, a contributor, an asset, etc, and not anywhere near HOF. As to Rice, the same applies. He was great at his peak, and just above average after that. He was marginal-he's in-but I don't see him as a more valuable player than Raines, and WAR reinforces that.
In the end, the fan should be able to enjoy what he sees according to what he appreciates. If there's a dissonance, it's with the purists on both sides-those people who demand you value what you see according to their mathematical analysis, using their underlying assumptions, and those who want you only to accept what their gut tells them-not yours.

8. @7, you've pretty much covered my basic thoughts on the topic (and then some!). I'd also like to throw Blyleven's HOF induction in as an example of the usefulness of sabermetrics and heavy statistical analysis.

9. Justin Bailey Says:

What I think is that you should be reading U.S.S. Mariner, which is a much better Mariners blog than Lookout Landing.

10. MacAree's premise, perhaps, comes from an error that we all make from time to time. Once we stop understanding something, we begin to deride it. For example, I think opera stinks. Of course, I have no freakin' clue what's going on in an opera. If I did, I just might like it. Then again, maybe opera is a bad example…

Some have a hard time understanding anything beyond batting average. Joe Morgan? Others begin to lose it at WAR. And MacAree, it seems, can't quite get his head around stuff like regression analysis. I mean not to criticize him for that - I can't either. But just because something is outside of your grasp, doesn’t mean that it has lost meaning. It only means that it’s lost meaning for you. And to MacAree, I say to be patient.

Sabermetrics continues to evolve as a field, though that evolution isn’t entirely linear. Sure, there might be too much math from time to time for some, but after the math is digested there are lots of great writers out there who can quite proficiently and often artistically explain it to us. While we might not be headed toward a better understanding of the game with every article that’s written, we are generally learning more and more about the game that we all love. If sabermetrics it loses MacAree, that’s okay. There will be plenty of people to replace him. Sabermetrics will continue to grow and evolve.

11. I completely agree with Henry on #2.

12. MichaelPat Says:

"All I have to say is I can tell a player's value much better by watching than to read numbers."

Hmmm... You can tell a .220 hitter from a .280 hitter by watching? The difference between the two is about 1.5 hits per week (7 for 25 versus 5.5 for 25).
I submit that there is no way anyone can tell the difference except by counting.... i.e., reading the numbers.
`

13. Numbers are interesting, but I like to also look at the person behind the numbers when I see something unusual. Like, why did someone falls short of 3,000 hits or why did someone start their career late or what effect history, like WWI, WW2, and the Depression play on the games. What was the effect of integration, free agency, or expansion have on someone's career. So when I see someone here making a negative comment about someone's numbers from way back, I like to find out something about that person, looking beyond the numbers. Often, there's a personal issue involved.

I like the journal articles here.
http://research.sabr.org/journals/files/

14. PAUL LYNCH Says:

When I have to read formulas that look like calculus or trigonometry, I tend to look elsewhere but, I am still a huge fan of SABR. At least that which I can understand. One question: how do sabermetrics rate Bonds and McGwire, Clemens, Sosa and all those against the other players throughout history?

15. What's the criticism? Sabermetrics is an internally competitive field. If an analysis is faulty, someone will gladly shoot it down. If a metric can be improved, someone will try to do it. If people think the wrong things are being looked at, then they'll start looking at different things. Raw numbers don't include situation/clutch situations? Now those are easy to find. Fielding charts are much more detailed and extensive now. All the "little things" that peopel used to argue about ten years ago are now counted and relatively easy to find. Productive outs, moving the runner over. Baserunner advances by Outfielder or by baserunner, reaching on errors. We have pitchF/X data.

And if you don't like numbers, then much of SABR isn't statistically oriented at all. Read the journal articles posted by Charles in @13. There's a lot of biographical data. People are look at the history of scouting reports. The 'R' in SABR just means research. If you think something is being ignored, then go study it.

16. Mike Fast Says:

@Henry/2, Graham and I discussed that point further in the comments to his article.

@Howard/10, I think you completely misread where Graham was coming from. He's not anti-sabermetrics. He is the developer of tRA and one of the co-founders of statcorner.com. He's opposed to a certain kind of sabermetrics, not all sabermetrics. He's lamenting that a lesser standard of sabermetrics seems to have taken over the majority of the work in the field. You can agree or disagree with that, but it's not that Graham is lacking the mathematical chops to participate in research in the field

@David/15 I'm a bit presumptuous to speak for Graham here, but I think his criticism is that the peer review and competitiveness in sabermetrics isn't really working very well. For goodness sakes, we've spent the last decade barking up the wrong tree with advanced fielding metrics, and as a few of us have started to peel back the facade on the batted ball data there, we've had a lot of derision heaped upon us from the rest of the sabermetric crowd for trying to get at the truth. I'm still confident that the truth will show itself for what it is in the end, but I think Graham is a lot less confident about that--thus the negative tone. It's the disappointment of an insider who hoped for better, not the insults of an outsider for whom detailed analysis just isn't his cup of tea.

17. Marc Robinson Says:

I think the field of sabermetrics was extraordinarily lucky to have Bill James, who consistently asked great questions, figured out how to get reasonable answers from the evidence, and wrote about it all with wonderful clarity and humor (he still is doing on his web site). As with any field, the early contributions are likely to be the most important, so it is unrealistic to expect that as much insight will be added after 30 years and with an ever-expanding list of people trying. The field occasionally gets a little caught up in acronyms and minor refinements. On the plus side, the available data - including this site - keeps getting better and better. I think there is no question that sabermetrics has added and continues to add an enormous amount to understanding baseball; just look at the increase in employment by baseball teams of sabermetricians. It has certainly added pleasure for me over 30 years.

18. i don't want to be the jerk here on the baseball site, but number crunching for its own sake, in the big picture, is a hell of a lot more justifiable than enjoying baseball for its own sake. the writer seems to be saying, how dare you treat math as more important than baseball. except, it is. the things applied to baseball stats are very useful in other fields that matter more than analyzing baseball stats. he seems to be jealous, complaining about math nerds poaching on his intellectual territory, that of baseball. which is a joke. he needs to keep things in perspective and realize that he's covering a non-complex system of leisure for a living.

besides, how do you define data driven vs. baseball driven? if you base things on league average and weight it all, is that baseball driven or data driven? if you say walks and hits are part of whip and therefore whip is sufficient as a statistic and you don't need walks or hits, is that baseball driven or data driven?

19. Baseball is the most statistically driven sport. The sport i think that you have to cast a wary eye towards stats is football because there are so many matchups at once and your stats are almost always at least 30-40% dependent on the quality of your 10 teammates. I think the one stat that can be slightly flawed is zone rating for defense. I don't think Roberto Alomar is the greatest fielding 2b ever, but he's better than if you judge him by zone runs over his career, since he had negative ratings in the prime of his career in Toronto. Andruw Jones was a great defensive centerfielder, but it might be a stretch saying he was the best ever in history as his zone rating would indicate.

20. @Mike Fast/16, Though I think you might have missed a small part of my point, it's nuanced and not at all worth the debate. That's mainly because it's clear, based on what you wrote, that I largely misunderstood the position of the author, at least in part because I wasn't aware of his background. Thanks for setting me straight.

21. I've seen no evidence that SABRmetrics can in any way help predict the outcome of events better than a market driven, risk reward system (think Las Vegas). I say with the utmost sincerity that I would love to see the best minds in SABRmetrics play and beat the odds makers. I think it would be fascinating and in my opinion the best test would be futures betting on team total wins over and under before the season starts and possibly predesignated points in the season. I'd like to see SABRmeters look at rosters and player values and be able to say Las Vegas is wrong in this instance, this team should win over 87 games this year, and here is our statistical analysis as to why. Think Bill James vs Las Vegas!

22. Otherwise, to me anyway, SABRmetrics is just a fun way to look at the game after the fact.

23. @13 Charles

Thanks!

24. http://www.masnsports.com/the_goessling_game/2011/07/talking-statistics-with-davey-johnson.html

Anyone in the debate here should find the recent interview above with Davey Johnson interesting.

Johnson was the only player who was a teammate of both Aaron and Oh. Those interested in the HOF for Oh debate should find page 53 of the journal below interesting.

PS it uses Sabermetrics also

http://research.sabr.org/journals/files/SABR-Baseball_Research_Journal-33.pdf

25. Finally, someone who gets it.

26. Johnny Twisto Says:

I don't see a single example in the article of what this guy is complaining about. So it's hard to respond.

Anyway, sabermetrics doesn't have to have anything to do with math or stats. It is the search for objective knowledge about baseball. One example that immediately comes to mind is the Neyer/James pitchers book, in which they listed the repertoires of hundreds of major pitchers. And they presented questions that one could follow up on, using that data (I don't know if anyone ever has). Like, how do pitchers who relied on a curveball age in comparison to others? A worthy topic which, imo, falls within the field of sabermetrics.

27. @ 1 "Coriolis force"

Is this from the claim you made once that Juan Pierre's throwing only sucks because this affects him as a lefthander?

28. I've been following sabermetrics since 1979, when I picked up my first Bill James Baseball Absract.

He has a point.

29. @3

Sure, but do you have time to watch every inning of every game of every team?? Do you ever see 10% of what that would be? No, so you have to use stats.

30. Tim Lemke Says:

This column comes off a little reactionary, with an aura of "kids get off my lawn. That said, I did agree with this one point.

Every single formula must be explainable without recourse to using ridiculous numbers

There are too many stats used today that are difficult to explain, and in many cases the formulas to determine them are extraordinarily complex or proprietary.

31. @25 I knew we'd here from Chuck. SABRmetrics is an interesting way to look at things, but as I've said before, when you start talking about keeping guys out of the HoF, and that there should be a Harvard educated team of SABRmeters in every teams front office, then you've gone too far, and made yourselves look silly. Some of the stuff said by SABRmeters is so ridiculous it makes a reference to the Coriolis force look sane. There is one gentlemen that posts here and shall remain nameless (O' Canada) that talks as if Bill James is the Messiah, and how he clutches BJ's books like the Bible, and absorbs them. He speaks of attending SABRmeter lectures at Ivy league schools as if it's as important the Manhattan Project in the '40's. It's gone a little too far.

32. Dukeofflatbush Says:

Timmy P

Just wanted you to know this, although I am sure you already know.
Juan D'Vaughn Pierre is hitting .366 over his last 22 games.
But not just that exciting nugget, but that cherry picking crowd that doesn't like you picking to many career stats to justify a player's worth, need to know only two stats about JDV, SB and Hits, since 1940 only he and 14 others have 1900 hits and 500 SBs. He is soon to get 2000/600 putting him further into rarified air. Finishing his career at 2500/700.
Next stop Hall Of Fame.

33. It seems to me that the popularity of sabermetrics has given rise to "spreadsheet analysts", people who do not understand the mathematical principles behind statistical analysis but do things just because their spreadsheet can do them.

Things like "normal distribution", "sample size", and "hypothesis testing" come to mind.

34. @32 Thanks Duke and you're correct, I already knew Pierre was playing good ball. As far as Juan's career stats there are few players with as quirky stats as JP, at least modern players. Is JP HoF worthy? No, unless he gets to 3000 hits then he's accomplished something great and deserves the nod. Juan's career is at a crossroads at the end of this year, and I think his best bet is to get back into the National League where he often comes to the plate with at least one out and nobody on base. That is where JP was at his best. He's not suited for the lead off spot in the AL. If you remember back around the 1st of May what sparked a great debate here was my comment about how unusual it was that JP had 5 errors in the first 4 weeks of the season in LF, and had been thrown out 8 straight times. Well I was mocked for that, but since that time he has not committed one error. I would say that any outfielder that made 5 errors in 4 weeks would be a freak occurrence, but was told that this is not unusual because Pierre is terrible.

35. Dukeofflatbush Says:

I'll concede Pierre as a 7 hitter in the NL or possibly 2 hitter if you'll back me on my quest to see Mark Reynolds bat fourth for that swine Showalter.
Bet?

36. I have no problem seeing Reynolds batting 4th. His OBP is .118 above his average, he takes his walks which is good. He is only 27 and made some swing changes this year, think Jose Bautista. Looks like he will have about 170 K's this year which is an improvment for him. I think he'll rattle off 9 HR's in 15 games and end up with about 38 for the year, and he is only making \$5 million this year. Lot's of upside with MR!

37. Rumor has it that Bud, in his endless quest to tamper with tradition in order to generate new revenues, is going to use the "best interests of baseball" power to make some roster moves: Since Seattle has lost 15 straight, they will keep Miguel Olivo (C) and Ichiro, but add Dunn DH, Reynolds 3B, Miguel Tejada SS, Uggla 2B, Loney 1B, with Alex Rios and Juan Pierre filling the outfield.

We could "anchor" the pitching staff around Happ, Lackey, Carmona, J. Vasquez, and Burnett (for some fireworks)

Might be a gas. They could go 45-15 over the balance of the season

38. Just catching up on reading in former blogs. Real life intrudes from time to time.

Not much to add, at the moment, but just wanted to say, good, intelligent, well-written posts everybody, in my opinion, especially Howard, Charles, and Mike Fast(even #37)

@13
Charles, echoing Kenh @ 23, thanks for the link. I've added it to my baseball Favorites folder. It looks like of lot of hours of pleasurable reading in those articles.

39. Juan Pierre to the HOF seems extremely remote unless he can get to 300 hits and that's far from a given since he has less than 2k hits now. That's like saying Brett Butler or Willie Wilson or Vince Coleman belong in the HOF.

Second, look how Damon gets blasted for being considered and his stats are way ahead of Pierre's and he has postseason memories to at least bring into his HOF argument as well as hitting for extra bases.

Third, Pierre's SB percentage compared to being caught isn't that great and he leads the league in caught stealing this year. I guess that's one of the reasons his WAR has never been good.

40. Dukeofflatbush Says:

TimMie Pee,

I think the problem with Pierre and his quest for 3,000 hits is the fact he has never stuck with one club for more than 5 years.
I'll explain my rationale a bit.
I'll use Jeter and Rose as two prime examples.
Jeter should not be playing shortstop or batting leadoff for a team as offensively powerful as the Yankees. Even in his younger days, his dWAR, which - I still think is flawed but the best we have, he was .5 above replacement. And that was his best. Almost every year he is in the negatives. Orlando Cabrera has somewhere like a thousand more assists than the Captain. He is allowed to play SS and Leadoff because he has been a fan favorite for the biggest market in baseball. If he spent 3 years with the Royals than 6 with the Padres , then 6 with etc, he wouldn't of been given the room to play out his twilight at the top of a potent offense. He doesn't even posses the bat or speed to be a DH. He's gonna play because the Yankees wanted him to finish out his career with them, hit his milestones with them etc.
Ditto with Rose. He came back to Cincinnati for sentimental reasons and to get the record. If he was at 3,700 hits, no way he plays. at 4,000 hits the Reds saw the potential to put buts in the seats, that's all.
Pierre has no 'home' team. Even if he gets close to 3,000, he'll be washed up as a leadoff hitter and a base stealer. He has no power and his defense will only worsen. No one, except the slim possibility of a non-contending Washington or Florida, may pick him up for the record, ala Wade Boggs for the Rays. I couldn't see any other way Boggs could of gotten to 3,000 if it were not for the desperation of the Rays. Wade started late and his numbers were inflated slightly because of Fenway. After that, he was an above average player with the Yankees, not great.
Or Giambi, if he came up with the Yankees, who knows, he might be there DH right now, looking for 500 HRs, instead of a pinch hitter.
I think you get my point.

41. John Autin Says:

To everyone who would rather just believe "what you see":

Fine with me, but make sure to get your children vaccinated -- because the bacteria don't care whether you believe in them or not.

42. Dukeofflatbush Says:

BTW

I know this will change, but as of right now, Giambi has 10 HR in 95 ABs.
Only 2 others have had 10 Hrs with less than 100 ABs.
Can any one guess who the two mystery men are?
There is sort of a third, he had exactly 100 ABs. So I guess we can lump him in with the other two.
So if Giambi decides to retire now, or gets hurt, he is on a pretty short list.
Any guesses?
Hint: one guy was an aberration.
Another played until very recently, had a big upside (or so I thought) and then disappeared.
The other, well, lets just say his short season was not his fault.

43. @42,

44. @42,@43
Yeah. I got Shane Spencer & Ted Williams without looking (thanks to the "not his fault" hint for Ted).

The AB == 100 guy I would have never gotten without a full scan, though. So, I'll leave that one open.

FWIW, I got another "sort of" hit. Glenallen Hill hit 10 HR in 87 AB for the Cubs in 1993, but his time with the Indians earlier in the year boots him off the list.

45. Richard Chester Says:

@44

Mike Jacobs, 2005

46. Without sabermetrics, we would never have a stat named WHOOPS. So I think you can guess which side I'm on.

47. @42 Remember Kevin Maas for the Yankees? Without looking I remember him having over 20 in maybe 200 AB. I looked and it was 21 HR in 254 AB in 1990. He struck out 76 times.

48. @2 Recent observations related to light being subject to gravity as it passes by the sun are a great example. I think you could be talking about the 1919 Einstein eclipse experiment/observation. Can you give us an example in baseball where SABRmetrics has done something similar?

49. Timmy, not to jump in on Henry's response, but I wonder if he doesn't have in his mind the application of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in a time space analysis of the velocity of the batted ball as it influences range factor. If you look at it closely, and then consider the work of Pierre Gassendi, and his presentation of an empiricism, atomism, and new cosmology in historical and philosophical context, perhaps we can see the emergence of an entire new epistemology.

Could be wrong, of course. Henry, care to amplify?

50. Richard Chester Says:

@43, @47

Spencer hit 10 HRs in his first 66 AB and I believe that is the record for fewest AB to hit 10 HRs. Maas hit 10 HRs in his first 77 AB.

51. @49 You betcha for sure the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle was on the tip of my tongue, as well as the work of Pierre Gassendi, this was mandatory academic material at Boys Town, before I dropped out.

52. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

REPLY TO POSTS 1 & 2.....
the key phrase is "WITHOUT EXPERIMENTATION....".
There is no science going on unless you can replicate results in a controlled environment that duplicates the conditions that were observed in the first place.
There is no way baseball statistics can be tested in the laboratory, they simply reflect what has already happened, but not so much the likelihood that it can happen again. That's something managers are supposed to figure out, not computer geeks.
As for: "...there's no rule that says the prediction needs to be about something in a lab..." - quite true, but again, we're talking about a manager's decision-making, not a computer program.

53. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

In defense of CowboyB post #3 and his subsequent critics like MichaelPat post #12: I could tell what Dave Kingman's stats were compared to, say, Greg Gross, just by watching them. I didn't need to see the numbers. I saw Richie Ashburn and Frank Howard when I was only 9 years old, and I could tell their value just by watching them. You don't have to watch them for a week to see which one gets 1.5 more hits than the other. One game, four or five times at bat, if you know what you're looking for, you'll see it. It's called "scouting." A guy with a handheld calculator didn't discover Willie Mays! ! !

54. Even if Juan Pierre reaches 3,000 hits, he is not a hall of famer. His stats the last 4-5 years are nowhere near good enough, and even in his prime he's not quite a HOF leadoff man, although an all star.

55. Dukeofflatbush Says:

@ 54 Bob M.
I agree, but just for arguments sake, say he was an eleven year Cardinal. He would get 'extended' time if he were approaching a milestone.
Guys like Biggio, Jeter, Rose, Ripken, Griffey etc... were all kept on past the point where there contributions merited the playing time. it was pure sentimentality.
Others, like Staub, Oliver, Kingman, Baines etc, were denied extended playing time to reach certain milestones because they were perceived as mercenaries or no one had a sentimental view of them or saw them as a career ______*.
Others, like Moliter, Winfield, Murray, etc... proved to have certain value, their declines, especially in the case of Moliter, were not extreme or not there. All three were also helped by the DH and their careers just wound down at the advent of the PED era.

@ 43.
what's crazy about Spencer, was he was a late call-up, on a roster full of stars, so I saw why teams pitched to him (all 9 starters had at least 10 homers) but still 10 HRs in 67 ABs... Who-ah.
For guys with at least 10 HRs, only he and Barry Bond's 73 season, have a homer in 14.5 % of ABs. And he is the only player in baseball history to have at least 10 HRs and HR in 13.5 % of PAs; Bonds walked way to much in '01.
Absolutely amazingly, Maas's first HR to his 10th came in 67 ABs, same as Spencer.

@44 Gotta go ahead and add Glennallen to the list. I think in pre-inter league, stats should be kept separate. I mean, they are when tallying AVGs. Look at Willie McGee and Murray.

Timmpy P.

You cease to amaze me. Now you are quoting quantum theory. God Bless your mind. But if we are talking Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, we must include the YES NETWORK BULLSHIT PRINCIPAL as well. This principle (no misspelling in the former) says anything seen or heard by Michael Kay, is not only altered or unreliable, but it becomes instaneously irrelevant bulls**t.
Also you quote 1919 as the year gravitation was proved to be a warp in the space time, not an actual force. Do you notice, play index only goes back to 1919. Also Ruth's last year in Boston. Food for thought P.

56. Without reading everything written so far (because I am on sleeping medication and am not a great persuasive writer at my best anyways), I'll just say a couple things. One is that I do agree that sabermetrics have become increasingly math-based, advanced math at that, with all kinds of sigmas and deltas and stuff that I had a frail grasp of in high school until the second I passed a test, and then it all went out the window. This is not to say that they are UNNECESSARILY mathematical, just that they are much more involved than in the past.

The second I want to say is that there are so many adjustments that need to be made. Doubles are worth more than singles so we multiply doubles by 2.017 (or whatever) without anyone explaining how we arrived at that multiplier. Shortstops have 6 WAR added onto their totals because shortstops are rare. But why 6? Why not 4? Why not 12?

Recently, there was an article in the SABR Research Bulletin about how the 1907-1910 Cubs were the greatest team ever because of 40 different things, which this man went on to explain very thoroughly. However, looking at the specific things he chose and the adjustments that they needed, I got the distinct feeling that he came up with his conclusion and then built his proof around it.

And, seriously, don't even get me STARTED on fielding metrics. I put as much stock in the new fielding metric that comes out every week as I do in the new diet craze that pops up every few weeks. They always seem like they were tested on 1 or 2 people, the results were acceptable, and then it was given carte blanche to apply to everything.

Sabermetrics used to explain why wins aren't the best barometer of a pitcher, or why Batting Average numbers leave so much to be desired. I don't feel like that's what they're there for anymore. I feel like there's a team of mathematicians competing to come up with the most absurd formula ever that no one can ever understand. And we'll discover that Mazeroski truly was the greatest player ever to play the game.

*Please ignore anything in the above post that you care to. I probably won't remember typing it when I wake up anyways. But in conclusion, MacAree has a point, but he doesn't know what it is, so he's just going to whine instead.

57. There seems to be some confusion among the previous commentors about the connection between the Society for American Baseball Research and sabermetrics. To be clear, the word is 'sabermetrics' not SABRmetrics.

Indeed, Bill James used SABR as the basis to coin the phrase, but in general, SABR is not especially active in the field of sabermetrics. I believe it is safe to say that the majority of SABR members are not better versed in sabermetrics than most dedicated fans.

In general, it has been my experience that SABR focuses far more on baseball history research than mathematics (though it does indeed include this field also). Most sabermetricians are young, tech-savy baseball fans. Most SABR members are 50-somethings who enjoy a community that appreciates baseball's history and impact on culture.

58. Richard Chester Says:

@56

Amen.

59. @56, Jeff. Re: shortstops: There's an underlying assumption in all of this equalization that all players are statistically related to a norm. And that's fine (assuming your fielding stats are refined enough) when you are comparing, say, all middle infielders, or all corner outfielders, etc. But it's much harder to do when you are trying to value radically dissimilar players. Here's a fun stat. At this moment, Jeter and Thome have 70.4 WAR and 70.3 WAR respectively. Dial them both back ten years, and put together a starting positional team made up only of Thomes or Jeters (and give them a generic catcher). The Thomes might lose 140 games-who would field the ball ? The Jeters might win 90, especially in the National League. Even a team of Juan Pierres might do better than the Thomes (it pains me to say that). So, in that context, what does WAR really mean? I think that one of the problems of advanced stats is that they somehow they don't always reflect something we get on an instinctive level. We internally equalize and contextualize. We don't expect Jeter to hit 50 home runs, and we don't expect Thome to go into the hole and throw someone out. But we don't see these players as at all equivalent, and somehow a stat that seems to imply they are seems discordant.

60. @59
I don't particularly like that logic. What's wrong with Thome and Jeter having roughly the same career value despite being such different players? All WAR says is that if you add Thome to a team of AAA players, he'd add roughly the same amount of value as if you'd added Jeter to a team of AAA players. Nobody ever said that valuation implied that they were the same player.

Its like if I had \$70 worth of food and a \$70 worth of clothing. Everyone needs both food and clothing. Its pretty easy to get everyone to agree that you can have a bunch of food and a bunch of clothing that are of equal value, but that doesn't mean you can eat your clothing or wear your food. That's ridiculous.

What I do agree is that we certainly shouldn't focus only on the "one number" when appreciating a player. I may use an uberstat like WAR to evaluate a trade or pick MVP or fill out a HOF ballot but otherwise I'd much rather see the full spectrum of numbers. Give me OPS+, give me the full triple-slash profile so I can see if he's an OBP guy or a power guy. Give me fielding position and skill. Give me baserunning. I want the whole picture. I'll agree with that.

that doesn't mean you can eat your clothing or wear your food.

62. DavidRF-there's nothing wrong with Thome and Jeter having the same WAR I was responding to the point that shortstops get WAR added. My point is that I find single numbers like WAR to be more useful when comparing like positional players. The math guys should keep at it, there's been a lot of wonderful data put out that's fun to read, and I don't need to understand or even accept it all. To use another analogy (I'll skip food and clothing), I don't need to know how to design an engine to drive a car. But to return to the opening post of this blog, part of what I think the issue is related to the increasing remoteness of some of the stats. Like it or not, they really do need to "feel right" to have broad-based credibility.

63. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

REVELATION: Since mathematical probabilities based on past performance are the basis for the "sabermetrics" industry (e.g., trying to "adjust" stats based on ballparks to get a "true comparison" of players), shouldn't most of this website's discussions be dealing with the decisions managers make, instead of comparing players???
I mean, if sabermetrics is so great, it should have a higher level of accuracy in predicting performance than human judgment.
The issue isn't who has more value, Jim Thome or Juan Pierre, but who is used most often to the greatest benefit of his team, and for that you need to keep track of the situations they are used in, and how well the manager's decision-making tracks along with the sabermetrical trend or whatever you call it.
Was Maury Wills such a great base stealer because he could steal bases, or was it because his team needed him to steal bases?
Does Juan Pierre have the green light to steal any time he's on base, or does he have to wait for a coach's signal? Does he have greater value to his team by being allowed to run on his own, or should he wait for somebody to tell him when the odds are in the team's favor? Not necessarily the odds that he will successfully steal the next base, but the odds that a greater benefit will result for the team than if he holds his base.
Is Mike Quade making worse decisions than he did last year, or are his opportunities for game-changing decisions happening at a much lower rate this year? Would it make any difference if Jim Thome or Juan Pierre were on his roster?
Managers make these decisions, but is anybody tracking that?
I would except my computer time at the library is limited. . . .,

64. Mike Felber Says:

Interesting discussion. To go way back, SM does not show Rice to be a good HOF pick at all, considering total skills & that his offense was exaggerated by line up & ballpark context. Raines fairly dwarfs him in career WAR.