The ESPN player rankings

Dave · June 11, 2007 at 11:16 am · Filed Under Mariners 

If you look at’s front page right now, there’s a story about a player ranking formula that they’ve created.

It’s horrible, it’s useless, and you shouldn’t care. It’s based on bad premises, produces bad results, and is a collossal waste of time. ESPN is horrible at this kind of stuff – a few years ago, they shoved Productive Outs down our throats and tried to convince everyone that they’d created some fantastic new statistic.

ESPN does some things well, but besides a select few guys they’ve hired (John Hollinger, for one), they are a disaster when it comes to any kind of serious analysis. Just ignore the player rater, because it isn’t worth your time, unless you want to learn why Sean White is better than Jarrod Washburn.


72 Responses to “The ESPN player rankings”

  1. Chris Miller on June 11th, 2007 1:43 pm

    Chone Figgins > WFB.

  2. colm on June 11th, 2007 1:48 pm

    Did anyone ask Jeff Bennett if he were a GM would he trade, say, Albert Pujols for Magglio Ordonez? Or Jose Guillen for Chone Figgens?

    At the end of his essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell says something like: “Break any of these rules sooner than write anything barbaric”. When the results you get are as barbaric as some of these rankings appear to be you need to throw out the rules altogether.

    Back to the spreadsheet for ESPN.

  3. hub on June 11th, 2007 1:53 pm

    As silly as these rankings are…Anything that gives Putz the credit due him, is a good thing. If nothing else, casual fans outside the AL West will soon be saying, ‘Whoa…this JJ-guy is doing great! When is Cashman gonna get off his ass and trade [insert useless scrub here] to get this guy for us?!’

  4. kenshin on June 11th, 2007 1:55 pm

    I don’t understand how ESPN could publish this tripe. Don’t they care about their reputation/product value at all?

  5. Chris Miller on June 11th, 2007 1:56 pm

    The Ordonez stuff isn’t fair, he has been the MVP so far. He probably won’t be come year end, but if you’re measuring value created, he’s been similar, if not better offensively than A-Rod, and Pujols has just started hitting again.

  6. Chris Miller on June 11th, 2007 1:57 pm

    #54, this stuff is basically just glorified fantasy ratings, so I doubt it’s being viewed quite as poorly by most of their readers.

  7. Eleven11 on June 11th, 2007 2:00 pm

    55, well maybe Chris but I think it points out two things, a two month rating is as silly as WFB’s ST stats and to have a rating of Albert that much lower than Maglio does suggest an “issue” or two…

  8. hub on June 11th, 2007 2:04 pm

    #56: I agree wholeheartedly. The ‘5×5 H2H’ Fantasy leagues will eat this stuff up. I’m sure they are already singing its praises, and how it helps them in their trade of an elite 2B for a CL+1B. That might have been ESPN’s targetted audiance all along.

  9. Chris Miller on June 11th, 2007 2:09 pm

    #57, how else would in season ratings work? Should you regress? That would only be useful if you were trying to project the player. If you’re measuring performance thus far, A-Rod or Ordonez are tops in the AL.

  10. Steve T on June 11th, 2007 2:18 pm

    I’ve seen at least a dozen “systems” like this over the years. No, make that three dozen. They’re all the same; they want all the advantages of hard numbers but they can’t accept the basic premise of them, that they’re MEASURING something concrete.

    These sportswriters are absolutely wedded to the idea of judgment. It’s the foundation of what they do professionally; they judge who’s best, by naked observation and experience, with never any reference to a serious measurement.

    Maybe they think they are — they think BA is a serious measurement, which it is (but of the wrong thing). But the flaws of BA they MUST assume can be sorted out by experience. After all, if you could just look up things in a table, you wouldn’t even have to know how baseball is played to tell who’s best, right?

    The notion that numerical analysis based on recording actual events is even possible, let alone useful, is alien to them. So they make stuff up.

    Hmm, gotta have something about clutch hitting in there, right? My years of watching baseball tell me that…Ortiz is clutch. He gets a high mark there, whaddya think, about a 95? And ARod gets a 12. Yeah, that’s about right. This is how science works, isn’t it?

    The reality is, without recording events and analyzing the results, you can’t tell ANYTHING about what baseball are better than others. Game observation without recorded results is WORTHLESS.

    So: the problem with this new “system” isn’t that it’s crap; it’s that it was developed along lines that GUARANTEE its crapness. Even if the ESPN ranking was EXACTLY THE SAME AS VORP, player for player, it would be garbage.

  11. Eleven11 on June 11th, 2007 2:21 pm

    That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer but in season ratings early on tend to put Jose Lopez in the All Star game.

  12. Chris Miller on June 11th, 2007 2:30 pm

    I actually kind of like the idea of a ranking that weights expected performance against actual performance for things like MVP voting and HOF, give some credit for what happened, like giving pitchers SOME credit for W/L and ERA for HOF, but still weighting that against peripherals or expected performance, but this doesn’t do it, this is junk, and does nothing to tell you about who’s gonna do good going forward, nor what they produced.

  13. Jeff Nye on June 11th, 2007 2:40 pm

    If it were something intended to be a tool mainly for fantasy owners, and is intended as such, it should be presented that way. This is being presented as an analytical tool, which it isn’t.

    I think ESPN just wanted their own in-house pseudo-sabermetric stat that they could use instead of the already established ones owned by others.

    If they use VORP, Win Shares, etc, they have to use the intellectual property of another company or person, and at the very least credit them, if not compensate them.

    Everything that ESPN does is about their brand identity, and using tools created by others interferes with their brand message.

  14. colm on June 11th, 2007 3:06 pm

    and their brand message is? Ignorant and happy about it?

  15. Karen on June 11th, 2007 3:09 pm

    #34 Evan Says: “Nate Silver just did some quick work applying Rating back to 1997 to see what it told him. It’s on BP Unfiltered.”

    In case anyone hasn’t yet found Nate Silver’s BP article, here’s the link for “Bristolian Goulash”.

  16. Xteve X on June 11th, 2007 3:55 pm

    can’t wait for the first Joe Morgan reference to this or to see how long it’ll be before they start using it on the Sunday night broadcasts.

  17. Evan on June 11th, 2007 4:14 pm

    Joe Morgan probably thinks it’s a good stat because Billy Beane made fun of it in that book he wrote.

  18. joser on June 11th, 2007 7:58 pm

    and their brand message is? Ignorant and happy about it?

    Pretty much. They do employ Joe Morgan.

    Seriously, Nye pretty much echoed my thinking. They want something that belongs to them, and the ownership is more important than the quality. Afterall, their bread-and-butter (or, apparently, beer-and-viagra) demo isn’t going to pay any attention to how the number is calculated; it’s just something that provides a nice ordering to that day’s Table of Names during BBTN. If Fantasy owners start using it, so much the better; if it provides some controversy, better still.

    Dave is right: the best thing you can do is ignore this and hope it dies a quiet, unlamented death.

  19. Jeff Nye on June 11th, 2007 8:06 pm

    Their brand message?

    Chris Berman shouting “RUMBLIN’, BUMBLIN’, STUMBLIN’!”

    ESPN is about selling the excitement of sport. They are very good at that, and have built one of the most successful cable networks ever that way.

    They are not very good at anything else.

  20. pgaur82 on June 11th, 2007 10:47 pm

    I’m curious as to why Kenji doesn’t show up at all when you select All Teams /C….

  21. The Ancient Mariner on June 12th, 2007 4:15 pm

    On another note, shouldn’t you be Jeff Nye the Baseball Guy?

  22. Chris Miller on June 12th, 2007 4:45 pm

    It’s probably best to look at 1B/BIP than 1B/AB total singles. They’re still tops in 1B/BIP, but it’s not runaway like looking at 1B/AB. They barely edge out Cleveland. Being a low walk low strikeout team, you’ll see a lot of hits because of it. I suspect they’ll regress some, but they were built and trained to be that way, so who knows, they could just keep on hitting well as a low-power, high average team.

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