Resisting the feud

Dave · January 6, 2005 at 10:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

People sometimes ask me why I’m such a big Alan Schwarz fan, and I don’t always articulate it very well. I just really enjoy his writing. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, and has an understanding of the game, but lacks the annoying tone of most of the other analysts who use statistics to explain their place in the game. He comes across as someone trying to educate, not lecture, and his latest piece at Baseball America is further proof of this. It’s a roundtable of two long time scouts and two of the more prominant names in the statistical community with the intention of bringing the two sides together. It’s worth reading.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I had a nice little blurb written here that started with “no disrespect to the four guys involved”, but I deleted it and am just going to say what I feel.

Voros McCracken comes across as a total jerk. Gary Hughes doesn’t fare much better. Eddie Bane and Gary Huckabay apparently handled themselves well, but the sniping between Hughes and McCracken was downright petty. Both Hughes and McCracken spent almost no time explaining their strength and what they can bring to the table, but instead focused on letting us know why the other side is flawed. The reality is that both sides are flawed, though in different ways, and those who are willing to accept that fact and use the complementary aspects of scouting and statistics are those who are going to move ahead in understanding the game. Eddie Bane is one of those guys. So is Chris Antonetti. There are thoughtful, reasonable, well spoken guys on both sides of the fence. Unfortunately, Voros McCracken and Gary Hughes are not part of that group.

Honestly, the statistical community needs new leadership. Rob Neyer, Joe Sheehan, Voros McCracken, Mitchel Lichtman, all intelligent guys. And all of them need to take a giant step back, eat their pride, stop focusing on the flaws of the scouting community, and take a class on personal relations. As much as I agree with a lot of the theories and insights that performance analysis has brought to the game, I’m too often ashamed to be associated with the current voices of the statistical analysis community.

What started as an article to bring the two sides together reads like a rollcall of the issues that keep the two sides apart. We need to stop trying to change the other side, and look in the mirror. Maybe the scouts don’t think we’re jerks because they’re defending their jobs. Perhaps, just maybe, you really are acting like a jerk. Joe, Rob, Voros, something to think about…

Comments

110 Responses to “Resisting the feud”

  1. U.S.S. Mariner » Schwarz follow-up on January 24th, 2005 9:02 pm
    [...] ick bit following up on the discussion that quotes (twice) from one excellent comment made here by dw. So Schwarz reads U.S.S. Mariner, apparantly. Hi Alan! And also, it’s a re [...]

  2. Tim on January 6th, 2005 10:58 pm

    Bravo, Dave. The stats community can either be snarky and self-congratulatory or we can try to change people’s minds. You can’t do both. What did Grandma say back in the day….”You catch more flies with honey.”

  3. DMZ on January 6th, 2005 11:12 pm

    I think Huckabay does really well clearly stating what I feel —

    : I think it’s important to understand that a lot of people have overclaimed what you can do by statistical analysis. It’s a tool. A car is a tool as well—you can use it to drive to the store, or you can use it to drive into a tree. I think there’s more of a dichotomy between good statistical analysis and bad statistical analysis. But all the information you can get your hands on—as long as you understand what it’s good for, and what its quality is—is always a good thing. We’re all after the same thing here: We’re out to build a great baseball team. As long as you have X number of pieces of information, whether it’s performance data [...] and then also, if you’ve got people who have tremendous insight who are well trained, they know how to scout a guy, give me that information too. I want both of it.

    That’s the, what, 70-word version of exactly how I feel about this whole thing.

  4. Dave on January 6th, 2005 11:21 pm

    Yea, Gary’s quote was solid. Though, I think the most important thing he said was this exchange:

    ALAN SCHWARZ: Gary Huckabay, I believe you coined the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a pitching prospect.”

    GARY HUCKABAY: Yeah, but that was an overstatement designed to sell books.

    At some point along the way, BP made a conscious decision to spread bad information to help their profit margin.

  5. Matt Staples on January 6th, 2005 11:26 pm

    McCracken came off badly, I was pretty surprised that Hughes made it through the interview without punching him. Bane seemed fair and open, which is all anyone would ask. Huckabay was not only gracious to the “other side,” but pretty much every statement from the guy was a solid quote. Honestly, I was surprised at how stereotypical McCracken and Hughes were, each as representative of the respective “sides,” even if it was mitigated somewhat by the relative openness of Huckabay and Bane.

  6. Donovan on January 6th, 2005 11:33 pm

    You’d do well to heed your own advice. Your insights are top notch and nearly always thought provoking. But, way too often, I find your tone to be lecturing and intolerant of other opinions, no matter how well stated.

  7. DMZ on January 6th, 2005 11:34 pm

    Yow. Having been around for those discussions, I think Gary was being glib about it. It wasn’t a phrase designed to sell books. It’s a trite bon mot that’s been hammered into the ground, and at its heart, it’s not true. There are pitching prospects. And this is perfect example of why people don’t like a particular breed of statheads: the meaning behind the phrase is
    “Pitching prospects are incredibly risky” which is entirely rational. Thanks to Joe in particular, BP beat the phrase “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect” like a drum until people were covering their ears and yelling “shut up shut up shut up!”

    And I understand why that ticks people off. You can point at a guy on the field and say “look, there’s one right there. He’s going to be great if he stays healthy.” To have someone go “Un-unh” because they want to stand there, arms crossed, and look smug about it, that would piss me off too.

    It’s the use of an essential truth — pitchers are risky — turned into something not-as-true but that can go on a poster (“OBP is life!”) and plastered all over the place like a 1920 communist poster (“What have YOU done for sabermetrics?”) until people shake their heads in resignation.

    That’s my fundamental disagreement with… uh, many writers. Looking at a problem like “pitching prospects are overrated” and instead of pushing for a modest, compromise solution that advances the discussion, they’re looking to stake a position equally as wrong on the other side to even things out.

    And I don’t care about that any more. I want to see where reason leads, and in almost all cases I’ve found that it’s closer to splitting the difference than both sides want to acknowledge.

    You’re right, though, in a larger sense — publicity and fame come with controversy. I wasn’t quoted in ESPN the Magazine because I wrote something thoughtful in however many years, I got quoted because I said the deal MLB was striking with Peter Angelos was the worst ever (and I have to say I absolutely believe that this is true, for reasons outside this discussion). It was an easy quote to pull out of a much larger article, and it made good copy. Michael Lewis sold tons of books advancing an intentionally adversarial position. That lesson’s not lost on people. And many people want to get on the radio. They want to be interviewed on ESPN, and talked about as the internet’s best baseball columnist, and so — and so in a sense, you’re right, that there are those I think, at BP and elsewhere, that say things they know are overly bombastic and not entirely true in order to advance their site, or book, or themselves, and that sucks.

  8. Kevin on January 6th, 2005 11:52 pm

    This was a fun article to read–thanks for the pointer. But I gotta say I see it differently. Aside from Voros’ initial comment (paraphrase: scouts are getting fired because people use stats more) I thought his comments were fairly balanced:

    “The stats can help the scouts zero in on the guys they should be zeroing in on. And the scouts, once the stats are sorting things through, can tell you who exactly are the best guys to go after.”

    “I fully admit that you can’t tell the future via stats. My point is that scouting has that equal amount of unpredictability. You can only know so much.”

    Seems pretty reasonable to me, not exactly the lunatic fringe. On the other hand, Eddie Bane comes across as wounded, defensive, and inflexible:

    “He’s the “fat scout” in the book [Moneyball]. I resent that.”

    “I am sure. Because if I see fear in a hitter, I’m not ever coming back.”

    “Our job, when we go to a high school game, is there better be some swinging as soon as we get out of the rental car. I’ve never wanted to draft a guy where the first line in the report is, “He’s got a good eye.” We’re looking for guys who swing that bat.” [I read this three or four times becuase I thought I read it wrong--surely he must have a greater respect for plate discipline than he admits here. Right?]

    But then at the end, the stats guys ask for some respect and the scouts basically admit they have a lot to learn. I don’t think either side could ask for anything more.

    Kevin

  9. Tim Marchman on January 7th, 2005 12:13 am

    The scouts could ask for McCracken not to pretend he knows more about baseball than he does.

    Alan Schwarz is an absolute gem. If anyone wants a gracious writer who’s doing the heavy work of putting sabermetrics out there in a way that encourages thought and dialogue, he’s it.

  10. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 12:19 am

    I wouldn’t agree that he’s “it” but yeah.

    Voros is wrong about college baseball, and I think he must know that he is. You can get close enough to be interesting with college translations, but there’s no way you can say “this guy hit .330 at the UW, UW hitters translate as… ”

    There’s too much flux in the level of competition, the scheduling, the different conferences.. it’s as if instead of (say) Sally League every conference was a league, with a small pool of players. With the Sally League, you have better data, a lot better historical information, a more steady level of competition, so you can make a lot better judgements based on data, and you’re still faced with some of those issues.

  11. Tim Marchman on January 7th, 2005 12:27 am

    This brings up the problem of self-promotion again, though. Just as a writer has natural reasons to make a brash caricature out of reasonable positions, an analyst has every reason in the world to claim magic truth comes out of his laptop rather than saying, “The world is complicated and all I can give you on college ball right now is a reasonably informed guess.”

  12. tyler on January 7th, 2005 12:28 am

    “He’s the “fat scout” in the book [Moneyball]. I resent that.”

    I admit I haven’t read the book, but I do remember the excerpt in SI and the reason he resented it: 1) calling his friend “fat” 2) the way they portrayed the scout was not only fat, but lazy and unintelligent. In fact, I only specifically remember three things about the excerpt. The fact that the fat scout was portrayed very negatively, the key player was an unathletic catcher with a great walk/so ratio, and that the writing was very smug in regards to Beane and his boys. (we’re right, you’re old and out of it.)

    “I am sure. Because if I see fear in a hitter, I’m not ever coming back.”

    This makes perfect sense to me. And I, like Bane, am trying to use both approaches in my coaching, both in baseball and basketball. But I guess I’m “old school.” I see some of my players knock the cover off the ball in bp, but put them in a game with one out and runners at the corners and they hit a perfect dp ball– if they hit it at all.

    I can’t describe it either, but I know you can almost smell fear on a player who doesn’t want to be in a situation– and that’s what he’s talking about. And in the context of the conversation, he was referring to a double-A player being looked at as a value piece in the trade. That guy drops off his “top tier” list and becomes a classic PTBNL if they ever looks at him again.

    “Our job, when we go to a high school game, is there better be some swinging as soon as we get out of the rental car. I’ve never wanted to draft a guy where the first line in the report is, “He’s got a good eye.” We’re looking for guys who swing that bat.” [I read this three or four times becuase I thought I read it wrong–surely he must have a greater respect for plate discipline than he admits here. Right?]

    No. I read it and understood perfectly. We had a guy two years ago, Tommy Hawk. He is currently throwing in A ball. He was a 3B masher and pitcher, signed with Fullerton. Our SS last year, Isaac Simmons, is starting as a frosh for Lewis and Clark (the Idaho one). Outside of intentional walks, they didn’t walk. The only player I’ve seen us play against that was a better hitter was a guy you’ll hear of soon if you haven’t already– Ian Steward. We played against him the day of the Major League Draft, he went 3rd overall.

    Those guys– if they are hs players and they are big time– don’t have big holes in their swings. High school pitchers almost become bp for them. And they are used to seeing (scared) pitchers nibble. So they attack. Their coaches don’t want them at first after 4 pitches, they want them to swing away and be very aggressive. It is the same thing as a great basketball player not ever taking a shot with a defender in his face– pretty soon that’s all he ever sees. If he then goes timid and doesn’t play aggressive, do you really want him at the next level?

    Those guys who attack are the ones you want. Hell, I’ll throw in a Big Tuna reference. On the old NFL Films Crunch Course (the one where Freddy Young decapitated a Chief on a kickoff return) Parcells said, “If they don’t bite when their puppies, they ain’t gonna bite when their grown.”

  13. Jim Thomsen on January 7th, 2005 12:29 am

    Derek touched on something interesting that can be boiled down to two words: Snide sells.

    I love Baseball Prospectus, and get a lot of mileage out of their annual books, but the tone in the books’ comments can be insufferably smug and acidically sarcastic, loaded with junk-pop-culture non sequiturs and sophomoric attacks. (Yeah, I know, to a certain extent, I’m throwing stones from a glass house, but I was born that way and have been getting my ass cheerfully kicked for it since fifth grade — it wasn’t a marketing strategy.)

    My question is: Does that tone come from a conscious marketing analysis, given that riff-a-riffric types like Jon Stewart and Craig Kilborn and those guys on The Man Show and The Best Damn Sports Show Period and who knows who all else draw sizable market share? Is a function of the age the BPers tend to be, and the generational values in which they were raised? Is it confusing what’s strong and decisive-sounding with what’s glib and giggle-inducing?

    And the biggest questions of all: Does the tone take away from the substance?

    Are people hearing the message behind the meanness? Or are they being repelled by it? And how does that get determined?

    Me, I stick around for the substance … because it’s that good. But I hold my nose at times along the way. And the baseball people who most need to hear what you folks have to say must be pinching their noses, ears and every other available orifice. Sort of like Gary Hughes.

    (Is this all Bill James’ fault for being so damn good at balancing snideness, smugness and substance? Or was Earnshaw Cook a wiseass as well?)

  14. TGF on January 7th, 2005 12:40 am

    After I read the roundtable, I had pretty much the same reaction as Kevin (#7). McCracken has some reasonable points and admits some of the limitations of non-scouting based analysis. Hughes gets very emotional and is joined at times by Bane who once cuts McCracken off mid-sentence and completely misunderstands McCracken’s point, only to look like a complete tool when McCracken gets a chance to complete his thought. McCracken may or may not be a jerk, but in this transcript both he and especially Huckaby come off much better than the two scout types, in my opinion.

  15. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 12:52 am

    Just as a writer has natural reasons to make a brash caricature out of reasonable positions, an analyst has every reason in the world to claim magic truth comes out of his laptop rather than saying, “The world is complicated and all I can give you on college ball right now is a reasonably informed guess.”

    Mmmm… I gotta say that’s not entirely true. It’s like being any other kind of analyst: each person finds a balance between making those kind of statements and seeking the the truth in a reasonable way. There are motivations for both ways to go. One’s a little more… self-promoting at the cost of clarity, but the other frequently gets ignored.

  16. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 12:55 am

    On BP’s tone: there are competing motivations, personalities, and other factors that go into it. It’s… I’d have to write about this at length to do it justice. I’ll say though — there’s no marketing study or anything, but there’s been a conscious effort from the first books, which were a bunch of nuts with keyboards willing to say anything, no matter how offensive, to make their point, to what you have now. It’s an attempt to inform and entertain, which is still comes off to many as smug and insufferable but is the product of much, much mellowing and in the past couple years, far better editing (in my opinion — I’m a big fan of Jonah and Chris).

  17. John Hawkins on January 7th, 2005 1:08 am

    GPS is a wonderful navigation tool. A push of a button and you know where you are within a few yards. I wouldn’t set sail for Hawaii without it.

    But a thousand years ago, Polynesians sailed to Hawaii, and almost every other island in the Pacific, without it. They crossed thousands of miles of open ocean and made landfalls on tiny specs of land. They didn’t know how to do trigonometry, didn’t have almanacs of star positions or charts with latitude and longitude, but they still made it across the water (most of the time anyway), using a bunch of hand-me-down bits of fuzzy knowledge based on anecdotal evidence and occasionally superstitious hunches.

    I’d rather have a working GPS with accurate charts. It’s better. But you know what? Sniffing the water and making guesses about which direction the nearest land is based on a flock of birds is better than navigating with a broken GPS system or, worse, bad maps. A modern day hazard of navigation is running into a reef that’s mischarted. The GPS unit is telling you exactly where you are, the science is working flawlessly, but the data you’re feeding to it is wrong. The reef is where the reef is, regardless of what the map says. And that big gash in the hull is going to be hard to argue with, especially if you’re the one bailing water.

    So ideally, you’d have a GPS system, a chart, and some ancient Polynesian wisdom too. If the fish are acting like there’s a reef nearby, then start looking for one, even if it isn’t on the chart. Maybe the chart is wrong, or maybe the GPS is busted.

    Not that I think all that many MLB scouts would look good in a grass skirt. But wouldn’t it be a pretty powerful pair to match up a Quant-guy who respects the accumulated wisdom of an old-line scout with a Squat who doesn’t tell anyone doing statistical regressions to “get a girlfriend, Poindexter”? Wouldn’t that be better than all this over-hyped Jerry Springer sideshow behavior?

  18. Kevin on January 7th, 2005 1:11 am

    Tyler–

    Appreciate your comments, but disagree with two of them. So Lewis made fun of Bane’s friend–surely it was unecessary to prove Lewis’ point–but that’s a bad reason to dis the concepts presented in the book. I think Moneyball has been rejected by scouts and people like Gillick because it made them look like dopes. But rejecting statistical analysis because you didn’t like that is, well, dopey.

    You write: “put them in a game with one out and runners at the corners and they hit a perfect dp ball if they hit it at all…I can’t describe it either, but I know you can almost smell fear on a player”

    I have coached, too (Little League) and have never had access to good stats in evaluating players–hence, I’ve gone with my gut in making decisions based on ridiculously small sample sizes and unfairly weighting crucial moments that stand out more than others. Lack of data is my excuse. If the data is available, what’s the excuse for going with “smelling fear” rather than SLG with RISP?

    You make an excellent point about the best high school hitters never walking, and plate discipline not being relevant at that level. I hope Bane doesn’t also believe this about college players and minor leaguers.

    Kevin

  19. Will on January 7th, 2005 1:17 am

    Well, don’t forget to critique the tone, attitude and posture of the anti-sabermetrics camp(s), which often resort to high school-esque assertions of “I’ve played the game, you are a 98 pound nerd, you don’t know anything”.

    Secondly, I don’t think the article, this particular article was too bad.

    Although Neyer is getting increasingly unreadable…

  20. Bernard Aboba on January 7th, 2005 1:24 am

    I did think there was reasonable balance in the article. By nature, statistics is about averages — but there are exceptions. I found it interesting that Voros McCracken would not be interested in scouting reports when evaluating a potential Rule 5 draftee. Personally, I would want to look at the scouting report — if only to see if there is something that the statistics aren’t taking into account.

    As metrics grow increasingly advanced and more GMs become comfortable with sabermetrics, one would predict that baseball markets will become more efficient. That means that the analysis will need to grow more sophisticated (e.g. contract options pricing models). It also might enable improvements in scouting, as Voros suggested.

  21. Chris S. on January 7th, 2005 1:35 am

    Hawkins,

    One wonders, though, how many boatloads of Polynesians lost at sea it took before landfall in the islands. I think there is a certain smugness on both sides, but I’ve never thought it to be anything other than insecurity from both camps.

  22. AK1984 on January 7th, 2005 1:45 am

    Look, what each major league team needs — moreso than a bunch of “old-school” scouts and “new-age” statisticians — is a financial analyst. Obviously, every organization has a Cheif Financial Officer who deals with the monetary aspects of the operations as a whole, but that doesn’t account for the team’s payroll. In the NFL, though, most teams have what is consider a capologist, for the hard salary cap makes it difficult for the general managers/v.p. of football operations to deal with fiscally; however, in the MLB, the structure of the league makes it so that throwing money away is not important. Now, it is irrelevant in this regard as to whether a team is aflluent, bourgeois, or proletariat-esque, for either way, being fiscally sound is enormously important. Right now, my main complaint in regards to the Mariners — as well as numerous other teams — is the amount of horrendous contracts they currently have, with some of the examples being long-term contracts; Pat Gillick was somewhat correct as it concerns this, as anyone who isn’t a legitimate ‘star’ player isn’t deserving of more than three years guarenteed. Moreoever, no player is deserving of a contract longer than five years, for it is (from an onstensive viewpoint) illogical and inane. Also, options [team, player, mutual, etc.], performance incentives, and signing bounses are completely unncessary, for contracts should be simplistic and concise in that manner. Another problem faced in MLB — as well as other sports — is the lack of collusion. Now, while collusion is illicit and pseudo-socialistic, it is nevertheless an efficient means of preventing obscene contracts from occurring. In the NBA, there are set salaries for certain players, with some examples being: rookie scaled contracts, mid-level exceptions, veteran minimums, maximum contracts (Shaquille O’Neal is the last of the era prior to the current CBA) and low-level exceptions. Furthermore, the NBA sets specific trading guidelines (115 % = or – $100,000, unless team is under cap or has trade exception from prior deal), which makes it difficult for inane trades to happen. I mean, look at the Johnson deal, which was just ridiculous, since there is no reason as to why $8 million should swap organizations. In the NBA, there is a $3 million maximum when it comes to cash considerations. Ultimately, I am going off the subject, but my point is that a smart organization would not only worry ’bout winning and putting an exciting product on the field, but they would also care ’bout being fiscally sound.

  23. Shoeless Jose on January 7th, 2005 1:49 am

    When it comes to snide tone, I have to say the frequent references to “pocket lint” on this board come to mind. Petty, small-minded name calling really detracts from the message and reflects badly on the people doing it. Far better to let the object of all the scorn demonstrate his ineptitude himself; it’s certainly possible to call attention to incompetence without sounding like a schoolground at recess.

    BTW, the ancient polynesians had maps made of twine and twigs. So even they mixed recorded/calculated information and naked eye/gut observation.

  24. tyler on January 7th, 2005 1:53 am

    Kevin,

    Good replies. And I don’t think Bane did dis the book completely. He did say something about reading all the BP-type info. And from reading the dialogue I think that his resenting of the book was its tone and not the information. If anything, I think he very much is trying to find a happy medium.

    And I too, don’t have the stats available at the frosh level. Not to take anything away from your experience, but i think even lower level hs ball is somewhat more intensive than little league. (Though seeing those LLWS teams makes me wonder.) Being with players 6 days a week 2.5 hours a day (including field maitenance) gives you tremendous insight into their psyches.

    And a career scout is i’m sure more in tune to “reads” than I am–much like a good poker player. However a great poker player, like a great scout, knows that both “reads” and statistical probability are equally critical to success on the table. And as I said, I would venture by reading the article that Bane is searching for that medium.

    Since he is in our division, though he seems an intelligent guy, i hope he never finds it! :)

  25. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 2:05 am

    Yes, yes, the continual fight between us being entertaining and snarky and respectful. I don’t know what to tell you execpt I’ve been working on it. I know it sucks to be “Pocket Lint”. And we haven’t used it in a month. And I’m more guilty of it than anyone else. So… yes, I understand.

  26. dw on January 7th, 2005 2:36 am

    A dozen years ago or so, Gary Huckaby was a regular on rec.sport.baseball, as were several other statheads. Reading this article reminds me of why I liked Huckaby’s posts back then — if he thought you were wrong, he’d explain why, and he’d do it with grace and an economy of words. Nowadays the BP vs Scouts arguments are nothing but partisan hacks subbing baseball for politics.

    Look at the PECOTA last year. I roughly guess that PECOTA was within a standard deviation of the actual stats of 80% of all the players in MLB. That other 20%, though, is significant, and it says that while you can correctly guess the effectiveness of 21 players on the roster, you’re going to be wrong on four, and if those four are the key four that are supposed to drive your offense/rotation, you risk being exposed.

    The statheads and scouts need to take some meteorology classes and learn just how effective their methods are. Weather forecasting is more accurate than ever, but there’s still a 1 in 10 chance that you’ll be shoveling 3″ of “partly sunny” off your driveway. Every meteorologist learns both how computer modeling works and how to use a barometer, because you need both the models to show the possibilities and the barometer to know what’s actually happening. And a good judge of talent needs both a graphing calculator and a working knowledge of 20/80.

  27. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 2:40 am

    Nowadays the BP vs Scouts arguments are nothing but partisan hacks subbing baseball for politics.

    That’s a gross oversimplification, and it’s not true. If you’re not familiar with Goldman, Keri, and Perry, that’s your own business, but if you think they’re partisan hacks you’re off your rocker.

    Congratulations, you managed to paint people with one broad stroke while trying to condemn them for doing essentially the same thing.

  28. hurt on January 7th, 2005 2:53 am

    And the biggest questions of all: Does the tone take away from the substance?

    Are people hearing the message behind the meanness? Or are they being repelled by it? And how does that get determined?”>

    Speaking only for myself, yes it does. These discussions always involve predictions of the future which, when it comes right down to it are guesses.

    To arrogantly state that “You know Player A sucks because his PECOTA blows, and that any team that signs him is just pathetically stupid.” is the same as listening to Jim Rome for me.

    If just once somebody said simply that “the evidence is that Player A sucks because of data B, but we really don’t know” that would be so refreshing.

    Certainly I got a lot of that feeling around these parts that the Richie Sexson “debate” got a little out of hand with people’s “takes” on how stupid the sign was, when in actuality, there is really no way to know if the sign is stupid or not yet.

  29. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 3:03 am

    If just once somebody said simply that “the evidence is that Player A sucks because of data B, but we really don’t know” that would be so refreshing.

    Dude, we do this all the time. We spent so much time explaining why we thought Sexson’s signing was for too much money. The initial reaction was “nooooooooooooooooooo” but we went out of our way to do exactly what you’re asking.

  30. hurt on January 7th, 2005 3:17 am

    I know that eventually you got around to it Derek and I’m not saying that your comments aren’t insightful or at least for me, thought provoking.

    It just seems sometimes with the “oh noooooooo” part, you get a little too “I know better than them” with the comments at least in the tone.

    I know I’m not elucidating my complaint very well, but I will just say that sometimes the tone is off-putting and condescending to the readers that have opinions that aren’t as strong and are looking for insight rather than “takes”.

    I’m not asking for a “touchy, politically correct” approach, or really any change whatsoever really, just stating that sometimes the latter part of the message is lost on me when the headline reads “those stupid morons know nothing!!”

    I also know I’m in the minority (as I usually am) when I say I don’t find this approach entertaining, or unwelcome.

  31. John in L.A. on January 7th, 2005 3:35 am

    I would argue that now is actually the only fair time to evaluate the Sexson deal. If Beltre has a terrible year next year, I’m not going to blast management for a terrible contract. It wasn’t foreseeable. The same is true for Sexson… if he has a freakishly good year, I’m not going to say it was a good contract.

    You can evaluate all the reasons they made it and decide now whether it was a good deal or not – whether the risks (and all contracts are a collection of risks) made it a worthwhile bet. Waiting until next year isn’t accurate anyway (by that notion we’d have to wait until the entire contract was over) and it would just be Monday Morning Quarterbacking, I think.

  32. Paul Covert on January 7th, 2005 6:58 am

    I haven’t read the roundtable yet. Probably I will eventually, but I don’t look forward to it. This whole thing has become like politics or religion. Probably most of you know the feeling you get when somebody from an opposing religion or political party or whatever is arguing against yours in snide and immature tones, using arguments that only make sense to the already-converted. And you probably also know the feeling you get when somebody sharing your own religion/politics/whatever is doing the same thing. Quite different feelings, of course, but neither very pleasant; and from the descriptions above, it sounds like the roundtable would give me plenty of both. Time to break out the antacid tablets.

    My general view, though, for what it’s worth (I may have commented on this before; hopefully I’m not running this into the ground yet) is: Stats are very good for determining what skills lead to victories. For most teams, (38+VORP/10) will give you their win total within five, almost always within ten (last year there were three exceptions, with Seattle being the biggest at about -13). That clutch hitting, “productive outs,” etc., make at most a small difference over the course of a season– this can be shown to the satisfaction of anyone who takes the time to go over the data.

    Statistics is not so good, however, in predicting the future development of skills, especially in how they will translate from one level to the next. It’s not as useless as was thought in the pre-James era, when a AAA masher like Ken Phelps could languish for years because he wasn’t “proven” at the major-league level; but it remains true that sometimes guys have weaknesses that can be taken advantage of at higher levels (Craig Anderson for example), and reading a stat line won’t tell you about those.

    Perhaps a more relevant question to the blogosphere might be: Under what circumstances does it make sense to criticize a decision? We kind of get caught up in the sports-talk-radio mentality here, always wanting to discuss whether signing player B was smart and signing player S was stupid, or vice versa, or whatever. My thoughts on that issue at the moment here are:

    1. Restraint should (in most cases) be used in criticizing any one decision. This is especially true of in-game decisions, as a field manager will have access to information that most of us won’t have (which player has a stomachache, which one broke up with his girlfriend last night, who couldn’t get his slider working during his bullpen warmup session, etc.).

    2. However, a trend of decisions, or a stated reasoning process behind a decision, can be criticized on statistical grounds. If a manager has a .290/.380/.490 hitter bunt every time with a man on first and nobody out, that is equivalent to a statement of statistical analysis, and the implied statistical statement may be either correct or incorrect (and presumably most of you reading this can figure out which). Likewise, if a color commentator says that Dan Wilson hitting the runners over is worth ten games a season (disclaimer: am exaggerating for effect here!), that statement can be objectively discussed, and can be either agreed with or… not.

    3. To criticize a person, not just an idea, as stupid requires a good deal more evidence than that. It is possible for a generally intelligent person to hold stupid ideas on a few points here and there; therefore, seeing a person express a stupid idea doesn’t justify saying, “what an idiot” (however much we might be feeling it in the heat of the moment). Calling the person stupid is equivalent to saying that his or her entire thinking processes are deeply flawed, which can only be justified with a broad range of evidence about the person’s intellectual skills (or lack thereof) (and concerning which it’s also helpful to be able to answer the question, “how did this person get his job, then?”).

    (For what it’s worth, the one 2004 USSM nickname with which I disagreed was “Box Melvin,” as IIRC it seemed to have originated in an overall criticism of his intelligence. Surely he was no brilliant intellectual, but “Box” seemed to be going a bit too far. “Pocket Lint Finnigan,” on the other hand, seems to have been fairly well justified, as it reflected a more focused criticism of how he did his job: specifically, that he showed a consistent trend toward reporting things because management wanted them reported, not because they were true.)

  33. kcboomer on January 7th, 2005 8:37 am

    I really enjoyed the dynamic of the conversation. It shows that much work still needs to be done to bring the two groups together. They have much to offer each other.

    I do have a major gripe about BP. These guys seems indulge in a lot of “one of us wrote it so it must be true” and “if we keep talking about it it must be true”. In comment 25 above DW talks about problems with PECOTA. I once emailed the author of PECOTA and asked him to publish a specific analysis of how accurate PECOTA was. I wanted to know how many players it got within 10% of the mid-point, 20%, 30% etc. He said he would but I haven’t seen anything yet.

    It reminded me of the old business story about saying the inventory was 100% accurate because you have exactly everything you thought you had. The only problem was that none of it was where you thought it was.

  34. kcboomer on January 7th, 2005 8:44 am

    Oh, one other comment. This about the inherent rudeness of the saber crowd. This is almost seems to be a by product on the anonymity of the internet which permits people to act in a manner that is totally unacceptable publicly.

    I at times, with tongue in cheek, advocate the return to the code duello. If you knew someone was going to physically call you out for being verablly abusive we might want to adopt a more courteous, civil attitude towards others and their opinions.

  35. Kevin on January 7th, 2005 9:09 am

    Tyler,

    I really should defer to your coaching experience, since most of mine is with 7 to 9 year olds. And spending as much time with the kids as you do–well at some point the plural of “anecdote” does become “data”, and perhaps what you’re “smelling” is really just the accumulated wisdom of watching the same thing happen over and over again.

    I am as fascinated with scouting as I am with stats. On this site I find Dave’s insights into pitching mechanics to be especially objective and helpful. I read “Dollar sign on the muscle”, which was recommended here and other places, and found it entertaining as an expose of the wacky characters the profession attracts, but lacking insight into why the process is valuable. (I think the book is out of print–I found mine at an online antique bookseller, with “Southwest Wisconsin Library System” stanped the spine!) Can anyone suggest another resource resource for learning more about the scout’s side of the story?

    Kevin

  36. Tangotiger on January 7th, 2005 9:12 am

    As much as I agree with a lot of the theories and insights that performance analysis has brought to the game, I’m too often ashamed to be associated with the current voices of the statistical analysis community.

    Do what I do: call them on it.

    I agree that when you sit back, and just be a passive listener, it sometimes boils my blood what some people say, and how they say it. But, it may be that whoever says these things doesn’t realize the impact they have.

    I’m sure we all say arrogant things in bars that we wouldn’t want repeated in “proper” company. And, sometimes guys write or stay stuff because they aren’t aware of the real context in which their words will appear.

    So, call them on it. Tell them what you think, person-to-person.

    I think David is right for expressing his opinion, as it was well formulated. But, he should also send an email (if he hasn’t) to the target parties, and show specific examples of what they’ve done or said that “hurts the cause”.

    Call them on it!

  37. B. David on January 7th, 2005 9:13 am

    I haven’t purchased BP in a couple years, just because my interest in following baseball with a pathological fascination has faded. However, it was always a book FULL of in jokes, that was very much written for people “in the know”. If you understand the theory behind saying “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect”, you realize what people are really trying to say. As the internet exploaded, and BP got a lot more popular, I think the tone was slow to catch up, and it comes off as “snide” to the unaware reader. That said- no way I read it without people being funny. I loved reading Gary Huckabay because of his sense of humor first, his baseball knowledge second.

  38. Kevin on January 7th, 2005 9:14 am

    kcboomer–

    Last year BP published a “How’d we do” lookback at PECOTA compared to the other major projection systems.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2515

    It was incredibly fair and well-balanced, and where one analytical method seemed to favor their system, they’d show another as well for balance. It would be interesting to know how well ALL the systems do compared with reality, but this article tells me they’re not trying to hide anything.

    Kevin

  39. Tangotiger on January 7th, 2005 9:23 am

    I agree with the other poster: Nate has not publicly shown that his “distribution ranges” are accurate.

    In fact, if you look at this PECOTA ranges, they will hardly be different between a guy with tons of pitching experience (Hudson, RJ, Radke, whoever), and a guy with little pitching experience (look at any reliever with less than 3 years experience).

    (This was the case anyway, this time last year.)

    The way I “backward engineer” Nate is that he first looks for comps, and then uses those comps to establish the confidence intervals. On the surface, I can’t agree with that.

    However, until Nate actually shows the evidence that this is correct, you will have to assume that he is incorrect on this. My general rule is that the status quo is true, until evidence comes in. Right now, there is zero evidence to the public.

  40. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 9:32 am

    For what it’s worth, the one 2004 USSM nickname with which I disagreed was “Box Melvin,” as IIRC it seemed to have originated in an overall criticism of his intelligence.

    Wherever that came from, it’s false, it was because he was such a poor tactician. 6/2003 was the first use: “Bob Melvin is the in-game strategist equivalent of a box of rocks.”

    I do have a major gripe about BP. These guys seems indulge in a lot of “one of us wrote it so it must be true” and “if we keep talking about it it must be true”.

    I really wish this hadn’t turned into a gripe-fest on BP, but I’m probably more guilty of sustaining this than anyone.

    To some extent, that’s going to be true of any organization, newspaper or convenience store. But in a larger sense — that’s not true of BP at all. There are huge ongoing arguments in things people have written, and in the five years I was there, I don’t think I ever saw a group of more divided, contentious authors on many issues. There isn’t a groupthink at BP. It may seem like it because Joe Sheehan writes more than anyone else that one viewpoint dominates, but I disagreed with what was thought to be the party line all the time.

    This about the inherent rudeness of the saber crowd.

    To attack, briefly, the inherent statement: there’s no inherent rudeness in the saber crowd. Like any group, those that are loud and rude are heard more easily than those who are not, but take SABR itself — they’re the origin of the whole thing, people who study all kinds of stuff from baseball business to the dead ball era, and by and large the nicest bunch of folks you’ll meet.

    As to anonymity — this is not limited to the sabermetrics crowd. Expressing an enlightened viewpoint on, say, pitcher abuse in many online forums (like the ESPN boards) will get you mercilessly hacked down for not understanding grit, and determination, and whatever else they can think of.

  41. Kevin on January 7th, 2005 10:10 am

    “Bob Melvin is the in-game strategist equivalent of a box of rocks”

    To me this DOES sound like an attack on his intelligence. I always thought “Box” referred to that which he was incapable of thinking outside of, ie, “The Book.”

    Kevin

  42. Matt Staples on January 7th, 2005 10:27 am

    John in L.A. — IMO, you’re spot on. This goes to the heart of what stats-minded fans are trying to do, which is to quantify as much as reliably possible and to elucidate the particular likelihood of a good result (i.e., risk). The only limitation on analysis of Sexson’s deal right now–at least, which is in addition to the inherent limitations that the Huckabay quote describes well, and which the three guys on this site do a good job of disclosing whenever they do analyses–is the difficulty of quantifying the risk of recurrence of his shoulder injury (I’m not buying the 10% figure, personally, and it sounds like the kind of thing the AZ docs pulled out of a hat, especially given AZ’s willingness to give nearly as much money to Glaus over the same timeframe). Beltre could fall down the stairs tomorrow and not play a game, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad contract, nor is Sexson’s a good one if he puts up his 90% PECOTA each year of the deal and stays healthy. You could not say that Sexson’s deal was a good *contract* in that situation, but only a good *result* from a mediocre or bad contract. All this said, I still believe that myriad other factors go into these deals, such as the necessity of overpaying in this particular situation to bring a big bat in and lend some credence to a 99-loss club in its pursuit of others, etc.

  43. Josh on January 7th, 2005 10:28 am

    Its not an attack on his intelligence as a person, its an attack on his in game moves. Of which there was a lot to disagree with.

  44. Will on January 7th, 2005 10:34 am

    I think we would be well served in going back and reading James’ “Breaking the Wand” piece way back when and compare it to what is happening now.

    I think alot of the saber tone, attitude and posture is founded in a deep feeling that they are disrespected, shunned, excluded etc. However, clearly, this is changing, as evidenced by all the hirings — however minor the positions actually are.

    Anyway, after a few more years of increased sophistification within the media and game, stat-heads will be more integrated, less excluded, and increasingly polite.

    Now about that Buster Olney…

  45. Evan on January 7th, 2005 10:36 am

    There are examples of people on the scouting side of the argument who are equally intractable. Joe Morgan, for one.

    Re: #30 – John’s absolutely right. You can only evaluate any roster move based on the information available (to the principals involved) at the time of the move.

  46. Greg on January 7th, 2005 10:47 am

    Both sides are moving in the same direction — a coexistance of complimentary input for decision making. The best components of each school of thought will be equiped to put forth the most compelling information. The leadership of the GM and asst GM will be absolutely critical to ensuring a balanced fusion of ideas to prevent tipping the scale heavily in favor of scouts and statistical analysts.

    I believe that the scouts retain the most difficult skill for hiring and staffing. For one, corporate America is filled to the gills with financial analysts and business analysts capable of supporting the needs of any front office. I also have strong feelings about the value and ideal structure for analysis research groups but will spare you the rant.

    The see and gut feel scouts develop their skill over years of absorbing and processing mountains of anecdotal information to the point where it all cumulates to a degree of credibility. This contribution is not easily replaceable and is clearly still extremely valuable to player personel decision making.

  47. Gaelan on January 7th, 2005 10:51 am

    I’m surprised by these responses. To my mind both of the scout’s came off as jerks. More interesting to me, however, is the idea that they still don’t think minor league stats are useful in predicting major league performance. I think Voros McCracken was way too soft on this point. It is possible to predict the future and moreover everyone knows this is true (it’s the basic premise of scouting). The question is what is the best way to predict the future? The problem is that it is impossible to evaluate the ability of scouting to predict the future because it depends on the “feel” or “instinct” of the individual scout. So I won’t say anything more about scouting since the worth of scouting in general is impossible to evaluate.

    We can evaluate statistical analysis however. We know, for instance, that minor league statistics are as good as major league statistics in predicting future performance. Some people don’t believe this, just like some people don’t believe in evolution, but doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. The fact that the scouts could say that stats only tell what a player has done not what he will do demonstrates their ignorance.

    Finally, on a side note, I love the writing of baseballprospectus. It’s both funny and informative and if I wasn’t so adverse for paying for things on the web it’s the one site I’d subscribe too.

  48. John Morgan on January 7th, 2005 10:54 am

    First, I don’t think any of the participants of this discussion come off as jerks. I don’t think it ever inspires intelligent discourse to attack people, when the disagreement lies within their argument.
    That said, I think we are making too much of the supposed rift between the so-called objective and subjective groups of player analyst. People thrive on conflict, especially conflict of a binary nature. Us vs. Them is the most basic principal of any competition including athletics. But like the Miller v. Bud ad campaign currently dominating airwaves, the truth is the conflict is, in fact, mutually beneficial. Certainly sites like Baseball Prospectus profitted from the initial reputation of statisticians as outsiders.
    I agree that an intelligent GM would use all available information to make player decisions, and would not discount either his scout’s or his statistical analyst’ conclusions. As one or the other method becomes more strongly emphasized, along with a concurrent de-emphasization of the opposing method, opportunities arise for level headed GMs to take advantage of a potentially undervalued player. The genius of Billy Beane was not that he used statistical analysis, but he did so when few others were. Of course, if statistical analysis eventually becomes the standard for player evaluation another savvy GM might just start stealing top-tier talent by means of strong scouting. But either way, it is good for the game.
    People eat-up impassioned, partisan, rhetoric. Especially when there is no categorical answer. So I, for one, hope both camps continue to throw jabs each others’ way, because I think the best possible conclusion comes from powerful opposing forces being forced, over time, into a compromise by means of necessity.
    On a separate note: Does anyone else think Beltran is almost certain to be overpaid this off-season? Last year, at his theoretical peak, he posted a .915 OPS with a declining average and a not-to-impressive OBP of .367? (For comparison’s sake, Beltre at 25 posted a 1.017 OPS, .102 higher or about the difference between Beltran and Mark Kotsay) Are teams paying for an upside Beltran has given no sure indication he will ever attain or am I missing something?
    And finally, might the Oakland Athletics completely collapse next year? I know a number of writers I respect have posited theories of how good the A’s could be if things break right, but don’t very young teams, like very old teams, have an abnormally high chance of complete meltdown. It seems if even a few things go very wrong this could be a team well below .500. Any thoughts?

  49. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 11:00 am

    It’s both funny and informative and if I wasn’t so adverse for paying for things on the web it’s the one site I’d subscribe too.

    (shredding business plan)

    Well, there goes that idea.

  50. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 11:01 am

    We’ve talked about the A’s future and Beltran elsewhere. Please don’t hijack threads. Let them drift into irrelevance on their own.

  51. Lester Mann on January 7th, 2005 11:09 am

    I like Alan Schwartz. The other ESPN occasional writer I like is Ray Ratto. The thing that the good writers do is relate to both sides, the personal and the statistics.

    You can’t boil performance down to statistics without factoring in the personal. You can use PECOTA to determine what a guy might do the next year, but if you ignore that the guy’s father died in the offseason, he appeared in court for a DUI, and he’s displease with management for not extending his contract beyond the next year, then your projection isn’t worth a whole lot. And there might not be any way to project a situation like that and perhaps there should be null values sometimes when it comes to projections.

  52. Ryan on January 7th, 2005 11:25 am

    I got up to comment 35 or so and had to quit. If I read another comment about the “tone” of the writing here (and elsewhere) I’m going to throw my laptop through the window. I don’t even know what to say about it it’s so irrelevant.

    This is what I think of when I hear comments like that:

    Writer: “The sky is blue. Here’s why. [List of reasons why.]”

    Commenter: “I don’t like the tone you used so I’m not going to believe the sky is blue. It might be, but you could have been nicer about it.”

    Feel free to delete this comment if you want. Just had to get it out before my computer ended up in the front yard.

  53. Matt Staples on January 7th, 2005 11:37 am

    Ryan, I think you’ve touched on something, even if not the most judiciously … much of what is perceived as snideness here, on BP, or elsewhere in the saber/stat-based community is simply the result of concision.

  54. Evan on January 7th, 2005 11:40 am

    Concision is very valuable. I don’t think it’s adequately appreciated in modern society.

    Having just read the entire piece, I’ll agree that Huckabay did a decent job, but the guy who really impressed me was Eddie Bane. I would love to work for that guy; he seems like the most reasonable person ever.

  55. david C on January 7th, 2005 11:42 am

    I subscribe to BP primary because of the smart-alecky nature of the writers there. I would hate to have them go so mainstream and politically correct that they lose their sense of humour. I mean get over yourselves people.

    Sure Bill James set the stardard by being a smart ass, but he also mixed in so much humility that he never really came off as a jerk.

    This isn’t a science project – good writing uses hyperbole to make a point or even better to make you laugh. With TV & Movies so devoid of intellegent humour I need my internet fix. (or as my wife would say ‘are you reading that Dagwood Bumstead guy again!’)

    So please don’t let controversy make you afraid to tell us how really feel

  56. TMLSGR on January 7th, 2005 11:48 am

    Having just read the entire piece, I’ll agree that Huckabay did a decent job, but the guy who really impressed me was Eddie Bane. I would love to work for that guy; he seems like the most reasonable person ever.

    um, maybe you should hold off on that. From the article:

    I won 15 games in Triple-A two years in a row. I won seven games total in the major leagues. The level of play is completely different. We weren’t into DIPS in ’73 but I led the league in ERA both years.

    Eddie Bane didn’t win 15 games two years in a row in the PCL.
    He didn’t lead the league in ERA in either year.

    It’s not unusual to exaggerate one’s accomplishments, but to do it in a place where you must know they’re going to see and check your facts? He must actually believe it.

  57. Bill on January 7th, 2005 11:53 am

    I agree with david C there. I first took notice of BP many years solely due to the humor in their writing. I didn’t know a thing about sabermetrics, but enjoyed the sarcastic nature of their analytic pieces (much like Jerry Seinfeld or Jon Stewart or David Letterman), and from that, I eventually learned all about the value of statistics and OBP, things I didn’t know from reading mainstream sources talk about baseball. Can it go over the line sometimes, and become mean or snide? Probably, but when Derek calls Melvin “Box of Rocks” due to what I agree were horrible analytical decisions, I find it especially enjoyable. I wouldn’t read his writing so fervently or subscribe to BP without it (yes, Derek, some people are willing to pay for internet content – don’t throw out your business plan yet).

  58. Evan on January 7th, 2005 12:24 pm

    Box of Rocks wasn’t over the line. Joe Sheehan repeatedly referring to the corpse of Bernie Williams probably was.

  59. John Hawkins on January 7th, 2005 12:53 pm

    Chris S.

    The point is, the latter Polynesians were using the accumulated wisdom of the ones who made it. Of course, some of their descendants also came up with the hilarious Cargo Cults, which were perfect examples of how far wrong you can go with pattern matching based on, as Kevin put it, “ridiculously small sample sizes.” If you don’t make an effort to understand what really going on, you might just end up sitting in a bamboo hut jabbering landing instructions for a non-existent C-47 into a coconut. Or trading away the next Randy Johnson for the next Ryan Franklin. Of course, it’s easy to laugh at the dumb things other people do…

    I can imagine thirty years from now some smug kid with a PhD in molecular biology scoffing at sabermetricians because all they do is type a bunch of numbers into a spreadsheet. Anyone who knows how to read an MRI can tell that Player A’s elbow structure will never let him develop a Major League curveball…

    Perhaps that’s the next level in scouting that Bernard Aboda mentioned. But I do think the key to resisting the feud is realizing – whichever side you’re on – that you don’t know everything, and even if you’re positive you know more than the old fart/young punk on the other side, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know something you don’t.

    That, and remembering you both love the same game.

    For my part, I’ll follow Derek’s example and swear off calling BP “Baseball Proctol…” well, you get the idea. I won’t use it any more. I wonder if folks will stop talking about “Wee Willie” Bloomquist? I guess that’s the thing that bugs me the most. I agree he’s probably never going to be much more than the 25th guy on somebody’s roster, but how many of the folks calling him “Wee Willie” and WFB could even make it to AA ball? How many could even get their bat on a AA pitcher’s curveball? I mean, it’s not like Bloomquist’s batting average is the result of some personality flaw on his part or that he lied on his resume to get his job. So why the petty insults directed at him?

  60. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 12:56 pm

    So why the petty insults directed at him?

    They’re not — the frustration (which puts the F in WFB) is over the org’s continued romance with him. I don’t think anyone thinks he’s scum or anything.

  61. tyler on January 7th, 2005 1:16 pm

    I happen to like the guy (Willie B), actually– for this year’s team. (Assuming everyone stays healthy and he has a specific virtually non-hitting role.) He can do a lot of things relatively well. That is a good end of the roster stop-gap. I try to keep a couple guys like that on my teams, as long as they are happy with the role.

  62. tyler on January 7th, 2005 1:17 pm

    uhm… he does several things relatively well (but forgot to say nothing great.)

  63. Kevin on January 7th, 2005 1:36 pm

    When we say something like “Why the hell is he in there? He sucks!” It could be perceived as insulting. What we mean is “Experience and data indicate that there are superior options available, and only bad management prevents a prudent substitution.” We’re just being concise.

    Kevin, starved for interesting baseball news and amazed this thread has attracted 60+ reponses

  64. hurt on January 7th, 2005 1:36 pm

    Writer: “The sky is blue. Here’s why. [List of reasons why.]”

    Commenter: “I don’t like the tone you used so I’m not going to believe the sky is blue. It might be, but you could have been nicer about it.”

    My point earlier wasn’t one of saying that facts weren’t facts.

    It was than in subjective analysis to have your opinion be, as they say in the article listen to more you should for your argument better than starting off “those stupid morons”

    In the Sexson debate, the opinion of value vs performance is as valid as any I have heard, but what about value besides performance?

    Baseball is not only a business, it is an entertainment business and part of that is getting people to come to the ballpark. Lot’s of people.

    I understand winning is a better way of gaining attendance figures, but how entertaining would a team of 25 Kevin Youkallis’ be? From an entertainment standpoint?

    Ichiro’s value is simply immeasurable by statistical analysis due to the revenue he brings in by people just wanting to see him play.

    To totally discount Sexson doesn’t take into account the extra season ticket sales generated by the signing of BOTH Beltre and Sexson over just Beltre.

    Sometimes the off the field performance is valuable to a teams success.

    I don’t think it shows ignorance to say that “I don’t know what’s going to happen but here’s what I think”, rather than saying “This sucks, stupid.”

    Or as Voros said well in the article . . .

    VOROS McCRACKEN: I don’t know. But I do have an idea. I have looked at stats for tons of Triple-A players, and what they’ve done in the major leagues, and I think with this sort of information, I don’t think that “I don’t know” should be the final answer. I think, “I don’t know, and I would like to find out” would be the better approach. I’m not sure that’s always been the approach.

  65. Evan on January 7th, 2005 2:50 pm

    I don’t think Wee Willie Keeler was insulted by calling him wee. Wee Willie Bloomquist just rolls off the tongue (as much as Bloomquist ever can). It’s a nickname, not derision.

  66. Jordan on January 7th, 2005 3:03 pm

    Dave,

    I have to say I had a different reaction to the story than you did.

    I thought the article was fairly even-handed and I didn’t feel that Voros came across as a total jerk.

    There seem to me to be two sides of the spectrum when it comes to baseball fans/personnel/writers, and at their extreme they are:
    The Decision Maker — Someone who sythesizes disparate arguments and make a decision, or conclusion, about something. They know a lot about a lot of different things, but they aren’t an expert at any, really, save for maybe making final decisions. They, at their best, are unbiased.
    The Decision Influencer — Not someone who makes actual decisions, but someone who typically is more biased than a decision maker but they usually know one thing or one subject extremely well. They want their voice to be heard and their studies to be known, but they tend to specialize in one area or school of thought.

    Dave, you strike me as more of a Decision Maker than a Decision Influencer. You seem like an even-handed guy that will hear all sides of an argument and synthesize them together to make a final decision on something. Gary Huckabay and Eddie Bane came across similarly to me in this article. Gary Hughes and Voros McCracken strike me as more of Decision Influencers. They have a point and they want it known. It’s somewhat appropriate, in this regard, that Hughes is an assistant GM and Voros is employed by the A’s to give his insight.

    I think that baseball organizations need both types of people. The best GM would be a Decision Maker, but he would have Decision Influencers on his staff to specialize and make their opinions heard.

    My point is this: All four guys, or at least the viewpoints and mindsets they represent, seem to be important to the game of baseball. As long as organizations recognize this, use as much information as possible in reaching decisions and have someone in charge who can synthesize all the information and make decisions based on all of the available information, it doesn’t matter to me how apart the “two camps” are on the blogs and internet fan forums and baseball websites.

  67. david C on January 7th, 2005 3:12 pm

    I disagree with players putting bums in the seats just because of who they are (milestones excluded). The oft quoted Neyerism is that the only thing that brings people to the ballpark is free stuff & winning baseball and I tend to agree. One of the first studies done by Bill James was to dispell the myth that certain pitchers draw larger crowds.

    Ichiro! makes me want to watch Mariner baseball – but why would I want to get off my couch & pay money to see him in person? However who wouldn’t want to be part of 40K+ fans cheering for the hometown team that’s winning or vise versa, a monster road team (see Yankees, New York).

    Losing sucks – any paying upwards of $100 to be one of 15k- losing fans is no fun.

  68. Ralph Malph on January 7th, 2005 3:26 pm

    You haven’t ever bought a ticket to a particular game because you expect to see a particularly good pitching matchup??

    Let’s say, during a M’s-Yankees series this year, you have a chance to see either the Unit against King Felix, or Ryan Franklin or Tanyon Sturtze. If you tell me you wouldn’t gladly pay twice as much to see the first matchup I’ll tell you you’re lying. And I don’t care if the team is on a winning streak or a losing streak, I’d rather see that first matchup.

  69. Ralph Malph on January 7th, 2005 3:27 pm

    Ryan Franklin against Tanyon Sturtze.

  70. The Ancient Mariner on January 7th, 2005 3:45 pm

    Well, unless Felix goes through the league in his rookie year like Gooden in ’84, Franklin v. Sturtze would give us a far better chance to win, so for my part, that’s the one I’d rather buy a ticket for.

  71. Ralph Malph on January 7th, 2005 4:05 pm

    Amazing. I am a very long-time M’s fan and even longer Yankee hater but even if I accept your premise — that the second matchup gives the M’s a far better chance to win — I’d still MUCH rather buy a ticket for the first matchup.

    I would rather take a chance at seeing history be made than watch a matchup between two mediocre pitchers, even if the M’s chance of winning is greater. I am surprised everyone doesn’t feel that way, but whatever floats your boat.

  72. adam on January 7th, 2005 4:08 pm

    If they let Felix throw 200 innings this year, he probably has the best results on our staff…even at his age. A 95 mile fast ball, and a nasty curve and changeup will always be succesful, when you combine it with command.

  73. A's fan on January 7th, 2005 4:24 pm

    Was I the only one who felt like Eddie Bane came across as the most caustic and pompous personality in the debate? Perhaps it’s because he took a few too many shots at the A’s, but he seemed to have adopted some antiquated protectionist policy designed so that no scout would ever lose his or her job. And, if it should happen, it’s the stat communities fault.

  74. chris w on January 7th, 2005 4:28 pm

    (what’s with the thread hijackers?) Here’s how I saw that article, which I only read once. Without diplomacy…

    The scouts – both of them – came across as defensive. They seemed to perfectly represent the old-school in their resentment, fear, and misunderstanding of the new-school. It’s partly that fear and misunderstanding that breeds the smugness on the other side, in my opinion.

    Gary came across as reasonable, but I think he was making an effort to be diplomatic. Fine, I understand and appreciate diplomacy, but tact is fundamentally dishonest. I’m glad he was there to balance out Voros, though.

    Voros seemed generally fed up with trying to explain his side, and so he just removed his filters. He went too far, but I don’t really blame him. It’s the same way I feel when confronted with, say, someone who doesn’t believe in dinosaurs. If I’m debating such a person, I’m not going to bother pretending like I’ve thought her position through and respectfully disagree. I’m going to say what I think and that is that she is, herself, a dinosaur. You can spin it however you want, but those scouts don’t seem to have bothered to really even learn the basics of what the “other” side does. I don’t see that problem with the statistical community. Most stats-guys are genuinely interested in what scouts do, and how they do it, and they wish they had the skills and knowledge and to do it too. As any rational person would agree, statistical performance analysis and scouting are perfect compliments.

    In fact, the perfect baseball talent evaluator would be one with both sets of skills. Those scouts, if they had the inclination, could be that perfect baseball analyst, while Voros and Gary never could.

    Regarding the “tone” – I agree with all of those who don’t care. I read BP and USSM to be informed and entertained. Sarcasm, smugness, nicknames, and all of that are entertaining to me, provided they come in the context of good writing and good information. In the cases of both BP and USSM, they do, and so I like them.

    Finally, for those who just want everyone to get along, and be nice, and not condescending, and see both sides, etc., etc. C’mon, this is baseball. It isn’t religion and it isn’t politics. You can talk about baseball at the dinner table.

  75. rockymariner on January 7th, 2005 4:32 pm

    “The oft quoted Neyerism is that the only thing that brings people to the ballpark is free stuff & winning baseball” Well, maybe some people…………..
    But I used to plan my schedule around when Randy Johnson pitched. Any night he was capable of a no hitter ( and I was there when he did) he certainly put my but in the seat. The same holds true with Ichiro, before I moved he was one guy I had to go see play because he was so much fun to watch.

  76. James T on January 7th, 2005 4:39 pm

    Am I the only one who thought it was a little ironic that Bane is still upset at his friend, the A’s scout being described as fat while part of the point of Moneyball was that scouts like Bane’s friend obsess overmuch about prospects like Jeremy Brown being fat?

  77. Dave on January 7th, 2005 4:41 pm

    but those scouts don’t seem to have bothered to really even learn the basics of what the “other” side does. I don’t see that problem with the statistical community. Most stats-guys are genuinely interested in what scouts do, and how they do it, and they wish they had the skills and knowledge and to do it too

    Out of curiosity, how many scouts have you ever had a conversation with? How many articles have you read written by a pro scout?

    In my experience, having regular conversations with both sides and knowing a lot of these people personally, rather than just through their writing, I have found the opposite to be true. Yea, Gary Hughes doesn’t know what DIPS is, but that’s not exactly a mainstream thought right now. I guarantee you Voros McCracken couldn’t explain fast-twitch muscles or spot a miniscule difference in arm slot between pitches.

    Scouts understand a lot of what statistical analysis is doing. They’ve heard the words plate discipline shoved down their throats for the past two years, even though its basically just used for anyone who has a good BB/K ratio, regardless of why that is.

    To paint scouts with a broad brush without ever having a conversation with any of them, that is what gets their dander up.

  78. rockymariner on January 7th, 2005 4:48 pm

    #75 Actually I think if a scout notes that a prospect is fat that is a legit comment, we are talking about athletes after all. Calling the scout fat is just an insult.

  79. PositivePaul on January 7th, 2005 4:58 pm

    Well, I for one am willing to sift through the perceived snobbishness and arrogance that often crops up throughout the sabermetric spheres (actually, through both spheres). It’s a new perspective for me and a brand new pool of knowledge from which I have barely begun to drink.

    I find the timing of this discussion quite fascinating, in that just yesterday on my blog I “officially” declared myself enrolled in the school of sabermetrics. I’m having an internal debate on how to best approach it (see http://marinersmorsels.blogspot.com/2005/01/new-adventures-from-infant.html for this discussion) and I’m begging for some assistance. I’m not trying to tout my blog for personal gain — I’m truly interested in learning more and more, and I’m trying to use my blog for furthering my education.

    That said, I appreciated this BA discussion (and Schwarz’ posting of it) and while I agree that generally McCracken (Quinton’s relative?) and Hughes came across as, well, childish at times, I did find special wisdom in McCracken’s statment:

    The stats can help the scouts zero in on the guys they should be zeroing in on. And the scouts, once the stats are sorting things through, can tell you who exactly are the best guys to go after. The success of that can obviously be overblown because a World Series championship is a big thing, big news. How much it had to do with stats, how much it had to do with improved scouting . . . I think the point is that Boston has at least tried to reconcile the two positions.

    Obviously the current trend is that you have to have a balanced scale of both scouting and statistical analysis to build a successful ballclub. The info from the “stat-heads” can be very helpful to the “gut-heads” and vice-versa. And, fundamentally, baseball derives a lot of its entertainment value from statistics — a quality that distinguishes it from all other sports. It’s simple enough for a mouse to wade in, yet deep enough to drown an elephant.

    One thing I don’t understand, though, is this statement from Chris W:

    …tact is fundamentally dishonest.

    How can someone using tact in a discussion be fundamentally dishonest? How can tact itself be fundamentally dishonest? I’m really confused. To me, tact takes the approach of sifting through the garbage and finding a common understanding and a common truth. By its very nature, then, tact is fundamentally truthful.

  80. DMZ on January 7th, 2005 5:03 pm

    Paul, I’ve asked you nicely before to please stop hijacking threads to your site. I don’t know if that email didn’t get there or not… so again, please stop posting links to your own blog. If it’s a good discussion, other people will post links to it.

  81. Andy on January 7th, 2005 5:12 pm

    I agree with #72. I wasn’t impressed by Bane at all. Sure Hughes was being a dick, but he was just trying to get under the ‘geeks’ skin. Bane on the other hand praised their work, yet I really doubt he grasps the actual concepts or possesses the ability to apply the metrics in a meaningful way. McCracken should have asked him what a good and bad DIPS stat is.

    I think it was Huckabay who brought up the fact that stats is essentially a form of scouting. Recording events. They aren’t just numbers, scouts should realize the power of that.

  82. The Ancient Mariner on January 7th, 2005 5:17 pm

    I don’t know about smugness being entertaining, but I have no problem with sarcasm as long as it’s inherently fair. If you can back up your sarcasm with reasoned comment, then fire away; if you can’t, you’re just being flippant. That, to me, is the problem with much of this argument as it currently rages in baseball, that many pick their “side” and then dismiss the other without giving it a serious hearing. Whether that’s true in the scouting world, I don’t know (though it does seem to be the case for several traditional-scouting-oriented GMs), but it certainly seems to be so among too many popular baseball writers. That’s hardly surprising–flippancy takes little work, avoids the ego-bruising that tends to come with realizing you might be wrong, and guarantees the applause of those who already agree with you–but it doesn’t help matters. Kudos to Allan Schwarz and others who are trying to get people out of entrenched positions and into real, meaningful conversations in this area.

  83. PositivePaul on January 7th, 2005 5:20 pm

    Derek,

    I didn’t receive the e-mail, and I apologize if it appears as though I’m trying to hijack threads. In this case, I’m legitimately continuing the topic under discussion here, and I’m trying to really grasp the things behind the debate between the sabermetric and the scouting circles. I’m asking for help in furthering my sabermetric education, but trying to take that conversation, if you will, outside your house so as not to disturb the goings on in here. If you’re offended that I’m in your house asking for help in the first place, then I’m sorry. I felt like this house was one of the best places I could find the help that I need.

    If it’s a good discussion, other people will post links to it.

    This, of course, assumes that other people read it. Again, I’m not trying to self-promote anything. I’m very interested in learning more about things from a sabermetric perspective. I’m trying to enlist as much help as I can using whatever means I have.

    I promise, I have no other motive!

  84. NC on January 7th, 2005 5:22 pm

    Hope this doesn’t count as a hijack, but I admit its a “drift toward irrelevance”:

    DMZ, you used the past tense a couple times back in #39. Are you no longer with BP? Just curious – I hadn’t heard if you’ve left.

  85. Paul on January 7th, 2005 5:38 pm

    From MGL in Primer’s thread on the article…

    “And yes, I don’t have any reason to care whether I “reach” anyone or not, which is why I don’t much care if people like Cameron view me as rude or arrogant, and that somehow this is counterproductive. Again, I say, counterproductive to what? This is not a social revolution that anyone is trying to achive, AFAIK. At least not for me. If I did or it was, I might have a different approach as I am smart enough to recognize that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar…”

  86. Dave on January 7th, 2005 6:14 pm

    Well, hey, that comment is a little better than the one Lichtman wrote earlier:

    where is it written that sabermetricians or sabermetrics must win someone
    (anyone) over? That is the implication of many of the discussions and
    articles concerning the sabermetrics versus scouting debate.

    For example, it has been written that many sabermetricians come off as rude
    or arrogant (present company excluded of course), and that that is somehow a
    problem? To whom and how is that a problem?

    When “my side” stops seeing arrogance or condescension as a problem, it ceases to be my side. I don’t particularly care how smart MGL is; I have no interest in being remotely affiliated with his cause.

  87. Derek Jacques on January 7th, 2005 6:15 pm

    Dave:

    It’s kind of odd that this entry is titled “Resisting the Feud”, when you basically tell Sheehan, Neyer, Voros, and Lichtman to quit their jobs and get some people skills.

    What’s really strange is that the story that’s come out of this article, both here and at Baseball Primer, is what jerks sabermetricians are. The only person on that panel who didn’t come off as being touchy and defensive (at one point or another) was stathead Gary Huckabay.

    Why are the stats guys the ones who need to learn people skills? Both Voros and Huckabay readily agreed that scouts are essential to a baseball operation. The best that scouts say is “there might be room for some of that statistical stuff, so long as no scouts lose their jobs.”

    In the end, that’s what this entire debate comes down to: jobs and money. Eddie Bane said as much. The more credence the stats side of the argument gets, the more likely that owners will hire ivy-leaguers instead of bush-beaters to run their ballclub. More likely–even with scouts and stats coexisting–that it will be the stats guys telling the scouts what to do, and not the other way around. That’s the friction.

  88. dw on January 7th, 2005 6:34 pm

    Nowadays the BP vs Scouts arguments are nothing but partisan hacks subbing baseball for politics.

    That’s a gross oversimplification, and it’s not true. If you’re not familiar with Goldman, Keri, and Perry, that’s your own business, but if you think they’re partisan hacks you’re off your rocker.

    Congratulations, you managed to paint people with one broad stroke while trying to condemn them for doing essentially the same thing.

    That wasn’t my intention. Yes, it’s an oversimplification, but both “camps” (if you want to call them that) have partisans who believe their worldview is correct and resent what the other camp has got. What I’m starting to see is some people preaching without teaching, and that is worrisome.

    Some people. Not everyone. And it could all be post-Moneyball fallout still settling, with a media looking to lionize or vilify, whichever gets you Nielsen points or sold papers or clickthroughs. But it’s worrisome.

    That’s the point I’m trying to make.

  89. Joshua on January 7th, 2005 7:37 pm

    Wow. This is why I was stoked when USS Mariner added comments. Smart readers with well-voiced opnions.

    My 2 cents is in defense of Joe Sheehan and the loose cannons of the analyst/BP ilk. Joe Sheehan is usually right. His scathing criticisms of Dusty Baker were on the money. His “corpse of Berie Williams” is a humorous way to talk about a player who has survived many injuries and is in the decline phase of his career.

    Also, I don’t agree that writers have an obligation to be diplomatic.

  90. Jim Thomsen on January 7th, 2005 8:18 pm

    Joe Sheehan couldn’t have been more wrong about Ichiro. I wish one of these days he’d swallow his hubris and admit it.

  91. stan on January 7th, 2005 9:02 pm

    #34, Kevin there is a book by Mark Winegartner called Prophet of the Sandlots that I read a long time ago. The book is about a veteran scout. Regarding the stats vs scouts debate, it seems to me both sides will take a position and spout the company line without any supporting evidence. Over at another website I got into it a little bit regarding catcher defense. The point was that there is not much difference among catcher’s defensively, so it does not matter all that much who is behind the plate. I believe that proposition is from mgl originally but just because he said it does not make it so. The conversation was about Miguel Olivo. I have more of a scout than a stat mentality. When I look at Olivo I see a guy who looks like he is quick,who has a strong arm, and who brings a lot of energy with him to the field. On the other side of the ledger I see a guy who makes a lot of mistakes behind the plate. I have a feeling that Olivo can improve though I have no way of quantifying that feeling. On the other hand, when I saw the Ben Davis behind the plate, I saw a guy who looks slow and somewhat clumsy, but who has a good arm. I don’t have the same feeling about Ben being able to improve that I have about Miguel. Quite frankly, I don’t know of any stat that could measure the defensive difference between Ben Davis and Miguel Olivo. To me the best way to evaluate them would be by asking questions that don’t result in a statistical answer. Does a pitcher feel comfortable with throwing a curve ball in the dirt in a critical situation with Olivo or Davis behind the plate? Do Davis and Olivo have enough confidence in their ability to call for what could be a tough pitch to handle in a tough situation? While I have more of a scout mentality, I realize my eyes can deceive me and that my judgments are often wrong. When I saw Roger Cedeno play in the minor leaguesI thought he would be an absolute star. Ditto for Greg Brock, the guy who failed to take over first base for the Dodgers after Garvey left. That is the beauty of baseball; there are no absolute answers. Do the Mariners need more power in the outfield? I think they do but I also realize the Cardinals won the World Series awhile back without any power in their line-up other than Jack Clark. There are no absolute answers in baseball because there are a variety of ways to win. What a great game.

  92. JC on January 7th, 2005 9:10 pm

    THE ONE POINT WE ARE ALL MISSINS STATS AND SCOUTS ARE BOTH NEEDED YOU HAVE IGNORNT SCOUTS WHO THINK STAT GEEKS DONT KNOW MUCH OTHER THEN A COMPUTER AND YOU HAVE COMPUTER GUYS WHO THINK SCOUTS ARE OVERRATED….IN MY HUMBLE OPINION A COMPUTER CANT SEE WHAT A GUY HAS INSIDE OF HIM WHEN THE CHIPS ARE ON THE LINE ONLY A TRAINED PAIR OF EYES THAT HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR A WHILE CAN…YES THERE ARE LAZY SCOUTS AND BAD SCOUTS WHO ARE SOMEONES FRIEND AKA DAN EVANS….ONE OF THE BIGGEST JOKES IN THE INDUSTRY…BUT WE DO NEED TO REMEMBER THAT THE HUMAN ELEMENT AND STATS ARE NEEDED TO A SMALL % OF THE TIME …

  93. tangotiger on January 7th, 2005 10:32 pm

    I agree with Derek Jacques’ post.

    When “my side” stops seeing arrogance or condescension as a problem, it ceases to be my side. I don’t particularly care how smart MGL is; I have no interest in being remotely affiliated with his cause.

    I dunno, this is what happens when people project their perspective on others. As many people who’ve said that MGL is arrogant, I’ve heard the same about DMZ. Sheehan might come off like that. But, David Cameron’s comments in this thread can also be construed as being arrogant.

    Arrogant: Having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance.

    Heck, by that definition, we’re all arrogant pr—s! I’m sure in some facet of our lives, we each have a sense of overbearing self-importance.

    Ok, so we don’t like MGL’s style, or Sheehan, or Neyer. But, they all listen. As long as you have a line of communication open, that’s what you want.

    It is possible to be arrogant and respectful of someone’s opinion.

  94. tangotiger on January 7th, 2005 10:34 pm

    The “We don’t like MGL’s style” was the “royal we”. I don’t particularly care what style one uses.

  95. Josh on January 7th, 2005 11:17 pm

    I have no problem what so ever with MGL’s style. He shows the information that he has in a clear concise manner, and is willing to teach some what while doing it.

    He may make you feel foolish while doing it, but usually thats because you realize how intelligent he is. ;)

  96. MGL on January 8th, 2005 12:19 am

    I have no interest in being remotely affiliated with his cause.

    I’m trying to say that I have no cause…

  97. Kevin Pelton on January 8th, 2005 12:41 am

    I’m trying to say that I have no cause…

    Is that your decision to make? Fairly or no, you’re grouped in with a cause, and what you say and do does reflect upon like-minded individuals.

    I suppose there’s a parallel to be drawn with Charles Barkley and that whole “role model” flap a decade ago. Barkley was right that he shouldn’t have been a role model, but like it or not, he was and he was going to have to take it into account.

  98. Mimiru on January 8th, 2005 2:58 am

    Hmm what can I say? Starting with Aaron Gleeman, most of the stat-heads I know are incredible jerks and people, who if they write like they really are, I would not want to be around.

    Here’s my off-the-cuff response though, I mean these people are mostly nerds (thats fine I’m a geek myself!) and that means that when they have something they actually do better than the regular people, they grab onto it and hold tight with both hands. They’re not interested in discussion so much as proving themselves to be completely and soley right to justify the ammount of time they spend on stats.

  99. Richard on January 8th, 2005 9:05 am

    Clutch hitting and fear.

    Much much earlier in the discussion there was a comment about scouts blocking players who showed fear at the plate.

    It’s pretty well known that there is no evidence of clutch hitting at the major league level; and there is lots of anecdotal evidence of clutch hitting and clutch futility at lower levels.

    One argument that is often made is that “clutchness” is really the ability to deal with the fear of failure in the key situations and that this is an essential minimum skill to get to the MLB level.

    Does anyone have any evidence that clutchness (or more accurately, the reverse) does exist at the lower levels, particularly high school and that fear in key situations (ie anti-clutchness) is something that traditional scouting can detect.

  100. Josh on January 8th, 2005 9:49 am

    RE 98, even if you could prove it the sample size would be so small that there would be no way to prove whether or not it was really a skill or a just luck.

  101. Aaron Gleeman on January 8th, 2005 11:05 am

    Hmm what can I say? Starting with Aaron Gleeman, most of the stat-heads I know are incredible jerks and people, who if they write like they really are, I would not want to be around.

    Geez, talk about catching some shrapnel! I’ve been called a lot of names in a lot of places, but this one was really random. Anyway, I just wanted to say that this topic of discussion is one of the more interesting in baseball, and I am glad there are people like Dave who are experienced on both sides of the issues AND willing to talk about and be critical of both sides (he hasn’t been critical of scouts here, but I’m assuming he would be if he felt it was worthwhile to do so).

    As for the complaint that “stat-heads” are arrogant or sarcastic or jerks or something similar (which seems like the #1 complaint), I agree with that to some extent. However, I think part of that comes with trying to establish yourself and your ideas in a business that, up until recently, has not been particularly accepting of them. If you’re in a position of power or in a position of establishment (like scouts or GMs or even mainstream writers), there’s little need to be anything other than nice and polite. When you’re in a position of trying to be heard and you’re finding that very difficult, sometimes the best way is something other than catching flies with honey. Or, if it’s not the best way, it’s the way that seems like one you have to take.

    Also, people complaining about Baseball Prospectus’ “tone” or the tones of other websites should remember that these places are trying to entertain with their writing, too. A big part of what makes BPro special and successful is that, along with their analysis, they can also be funny and sarcastic and cynical. If they were just presenting the analysis without any of that stuff, they wouldn’t be looked at by some people as jerks … but they also wouldn’t have nearly as big an audience. Anyway, just a few thoughts from a big jerk.

  102. tangotiger on January 8th, 2005 12:00 pm

    Alot of the comments here seem to imply: arrogant = stubborn = jerk = a$$hole = doesn’t listen to anyone except himself.

    My point of view is that as long as the other side keeps an open line of communication, I don’t care if he’s arrogant, or stubborn, or a jerk, or an asshole. A person debating someone else can handle all those traits…. as long as that other person is willing to listen.

    You can’t ask for anything more of someone else. You certainly can’t ask him to change his style or personality. And you shouldn’t.

    As for MGL/Barkley…. c’mon! Barkley “needs” to be a role model because he’s part of some machine that forces it upon him in exchange for millions of dollars, and impressionable kids are involved. P Diddy doesn’t need to be a role model, and neither does Robert Downey Jr.

  103. DMZ on January 8th, 2005 2:06 pm

    Starting with Aaron Gleeman, most of the stat-heads I know are incredible jerks and people, who if they write like they really are, I would not want to be around.

    Most of the statheads I know, and I’m prooobably in a better position to have actually met and hung out with them, are some of the nicest, warmest people I’ve ever known.

    Starting with Aaron Gleeman, most of the stat-heads I know are incredible jerks and people, who if they write like they really are, I would not want to be around.

    They’re not interested in discussion so much as proving themselves to be completely and soley right to justify the ammount of time they spend on stats.

    You don’t know, and can’t know, their larger motivations. That you ascribe to them a set of insecurities and ill qualities speaks little to them and more, I would suggest, to you.

  104. robinred on January 8th, 2005 3:57 pm

    I sometimes think of the stats/scouts issue based on two players: Corey Patterson and Nick Johnson.

    I got Patterson in my roto farm system when he was in A-ball and I still have him. I remember scout quotes comparing him to Eric Davis or even Willie Mays. But if you looked at his stats even then, it was clear that he would never be Mays or likely even Davis at ED’s peak. He is OK overall, and has some roto-value. He may still improve. But he does have great tools and is a serious jock, so when I saw him, I could see why the scouts wet their pants.

    OTOH, there is Nick Johnson. He was BP’s #1 prospect after his famous .525 OBP at Norwich. Rany Jazayerli IIRC called him a “Hall of Fame talent” and said he was “Don Mattingly with 100 waks” and a “left-handed Frank Thomas.”

    [MGMT: edited to delete something I don't want to get into that, frankly, warranted deleting this post -- DMZ]

    Johnson was hit with 37 pitches that year, and BP did attach a small caveat about durability.

    Then I SAW Johnson–little belly, pigeon-toed–Babe Ruth’s body except smaller and Johnson was only 22. Brittle, not a jock–I thought at the time he’d be more like Mark Grace or John Kruk, and the I think the Nationals would take that if they could get 600 PA out of him.

    Another example, this time with cheap guys from my roto team: Wily Mo Pena and Keith Ginter. BP has always sneered at Pena, and they may still be right, but I will be interested to read this year’s comment on him. A guy in my roto league coaches baseball and likes “toolsy” guys. He sneered at Ginter, who played well last year, and, appropriately, was acquired by Beane.

    This is why I like Epstein’s approach. I saw an interview with Epstein once, and he talked about getting info on a pitcher by reading a similarity study by Bill James, and then looking at a videotape with Bill Monbouquette, who talked about the guy’s mechanics, body type, and release point.

    It seems to me that there should be some measurement/testing for eyesight/hand eye corrdination/reflexes that could be incorporated into scouting and stat projection. It may well be that “tools” will mean something different in 30 years. But athleticism and strength always will matter as well. So will performance data.

  105. MGL on January 8th, 2005 4:17 pm

    For the record, I rarely if ever have said anything about scouts or scouting. I don’t think that I should even be mentioned in a discussion about “scouting v. sabermetrics.” My position is that each “is what it is.” I often denigrate teams and GM’s, in general, and in particular. I sometimes am harsh and dismissive on and of other people’s points of view, especially when they are wrong, which is usually the case. I never (maybe only rarely) attack anyone personally. A few other thoughts and observations:

    Anyone who is an expert in/on a controversial subject area who is not overly and purposely solicitous and deferential will ALWAYS be branded as arrogant and rude by a certain segment of the population, whether deserved or not, usually those with opposing points of view. I could further characterize those people, but I won’t, in a rare attempt to be solicitous and deferential. If I feel that it is impiortant to “win someone over” then my tone and approach may be drastically different than if I do not. I am rarely in that position (where I need to win someone over).

    A reputation is easy to attain and disdain and hard to change and rearrange (Johnnie Cochran eat your heart out!). I used to be a lot more disrespectful, arrogant, and dimissive, and sometimes downright rude. I rarely am anymore. But in some people’s imperfect minds, I will forever be branded with that scarlet A.

    BTW, I can’t speak for too many of these targeted people, since I have not met most of them, but Tango is a heck of a nice guy, and so is Neyer. Like Tango, I could not care less about someone’s tone when it comes to non-fiction technical writing or discourse. Either the content has value or it doesn’t. I suspect that people who do (care about tome) have some other agenda or some personal issues which have nothing to do with the material at hand.

    The Barkley/MGL analogy is way over the top. OK, I do respect the notion that my demeanor affects other sabermetricians who may be trying to make a name for themselves or get a job, or who have some other cause that I may not share. To them, my sincerest apologies, although I really am not bad at all, for those who don’t read any of my stuff. Plus, I don’t have many opportunities to be rude, arrogant, or not, other than on Primer/BTF, which I would think affors us some degreee of slack as it is an internet message board, and not a formal publication. I don’t participate on a regular basis in any formal publications (or blogs) and my articles are straighforward and dry. So any “reputation” I have, good or bad, is solely based on my 2 in the morning BTF posts. To attach much importance to that is a little silly, IMNSHO.

    BTW, how do you get quotes in those little white boxes and how do you cut and paste? My browser does not seem to allow me to select (highlight) some of the text on this board…

  106. DMZ on January 8th, 2005 6:52 pm

    Like Tango, I could not care less about someone’s tone when it comes to non-fiction technical writing or discourse.

    BTW, how do you get quotes in those little white boxes and how do you cut and paste? My browser does not seem to allow me to select (highlight) some of the text on this board…

    I have awarded myself a gold star for not replying here with a giant rant about what a boob you are for not being able to figure it out yourself in an attempt to see if you could be offended by personal, flaming discourse in a non-fictional explanation. It was soooo tempting. Not because you’re a boob, or it’s a bad question, but it’s just such a perfect pitch, and to let it go by… ah.

    It’s the blockquote tag for the white boxes. As for your browser… don’t know what to tell you. Sorry.

  107. tangotiger on January 9th, 2005 6:53 am

    I have IE6/Win2000, and I too cannot select partial text: I get the whole post. So, I have to cut/paste into Notepad, and then cut/paste what I need. Also, 4 lines for the Comment window here is pretty small. Can you expand this to 8 lines or something.

  108. robinred on January 9th, 2005 2:04 pm

    “I susoect that other people who do (care about tone) have some other agenda or some personal issues which have nothing to do with the material at hand.”

    Perhaps. In many cases, though, they just simply feel it is important to treat other people with respect, rather than adressing them–in whatever medium or context–in a snide, condescending or dismissive manner.

  109. Tangotiger on January 10th, 2005 7:12 am

    Snide, condescending and dismissive are not the same thing. A person may very well be condescending without being dismissive.

    As long as you have a true two-way dialogue, can’t people see through the other person’s style, and focus on the content?

  110. Client and Server on January 24th, 2005 8:21 pm
    Three inches of partly sunny
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