If you’re reading my stuff for the first time, I like sabermetrics. I also like Bob Dylan enough to make a lame reference to both a song of his and a baseball stat that I like (WAR—Wins Above Replacement).
I write about the White Sox for Examiner.com, where I try to ground my analysis in advanced stats. I also cover the University of Missouri baseball team for KMOV.com’s MizzouSpot blog, where I believe I’m one of the few writers covering a college baseball team who uses advanced stats (a big thanks goes out to Mike Rogers of BlessYouBoys.com for hooking me up with those numbers).
Now, if you’re a casual baseball fan reading this, I know what you’re thinking. Advanced stats? Math equations? What are you, some kind of nerd?
To quote Milhouse Van Houten, “I’m not a nerd. Nerds are smart.”
I got a C in high school statistics. I haven’t taken a single math class in my three years at the University of Missouri. So how can someone who’s the David Eckstein of math like to use stats with big scary numbers like wOBA, FIP, UZR, and WAR?
I like logic, that’s how. I don’t have to know the theory behind linear weights or whatever to understand that batting average doesn’t tell you the whole story about a hitter. I don’t need a huge equation to tell me that ERA is flawed because the defense behind a pitcher can raise or lower a pitcher’s ERA. And I certainly don’t need a degree in statistics to tell me that fielding percentage doesn’t even make an effort to incorporate a fielder’s range.
There are a lot of saber-slanted blogs out there. My hope is that I’m not watering down the sabermetric community with just another blog.
Truthfully, I’m writing this blog for my Online Journalism class at the University of Missouri (because transparency is awesome!). But honestly, that’s not really why I’m doing this. I’m looking forward to being able to post silly Simpsons or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia while somehow connecting them to the point I’m making.
But beneath the random references will always be an argument. And it’s an argument that I hope every baseball fan who reads this blog in the coming weeks will take to heart: sabermetrics, while not perfect, are the best way we as baseball fans have at explaining this great game.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to combine these stats with the views of scouts to form our opinions. But because 1) most of us aren’t professional scouts and 2) reports from professional scouts are difficult to come by, the only way to judge players without our own biases coming into play is through using these stats.
So when you go out and say “Yuniesky Betancourt sucks!” you can have something concrete (like that he was the worst regular position player in baseball last year) to back up your argument besides “well..um…he sucks!”
Or, when your friend says “Derek Jeter is the best defensive shortstop ever!” you can point to these numbers that show that argument has more holes in it than Jeter’s glove the past few years (excluding 2009, but I’ll get into that more in a later post).
Before I wrap this up, I do want to say this: writers who use sabermetrics can often rub people the wrong way. Because sabermetrics aren’t close to becoming mainstream yet, it’s easy for writers to fall into the trap of trying to undermine the intelligence of those who don’t use saber stats.
My goal is to not do that here. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a baseball fan. And if you’re a baseball fan, you probably know the core stats that are plastered all over TV broadcasts and scoreboards: batting average, RBI, ERA, wins and losses, etc.
If you read through the posts I have and the ones on advanced stats from other sites and still want to continue using those traditional stats, go right ahead. If those stats keep you coming back to the game, by all means, use ’em.
But please, on the behalf of sabermetricians who devote so much time to trying to better understand the game: go into these stats with an open mind. The stats aren’t going to bite. In fact, they’re pretty friendly once you get to know them.