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…


110 Responses to “Resisting the feud”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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…

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. Client and Server on January 24th, 2005 8:21 pm
    Three inches of partly sunny
    And a hello to all the other USS Mariner readers who came by to see what sort of weirdo I am. Today Derek Zumsteg mentioned that Baseball America super-writer Alan Schwarz had written a followup column on the “stats vs….