FIRE JOE MORGAN: Not Sure How I Missed This

FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

 

Not Sure How I Missed This

Old. But bad.

Does the statistic "RBIs per 100 at-bats" really measure how valuable a hitter is? You have cited that stat in at least two stories comparing Brian Schneider to Paul Lo Duca.

Schneider is a strong defensive catcher, and a below-average hitter. The RBI as a stat is not nearly as telling about a player's ability to be a productive hitter as are on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, extra-base hits and even the vastly overrated batting average stat. I just feel that citing that statistic adds little, and is somewhat insulting to students of the game.
-- James K., no hometown given

Good question, James. And more restrained than we stat-minded basement dwellers usually are. Very well done. Who can argue with such logic?

Oh. Marty Noble can.

I beg to differ, and I guess I'm obligated to explain my use of RBIs per 100 at-bats because yours is one nine [sic] e-mails I've received that have questioned it. To me, it is a fundamental and quite legitimate means of measuring run production.

Obvious thing:

Player A and Player B both have 500 AB. Both have 65 RBI. Player A and Player B are the same, in terms of run production, right? Wrong! You fell into my trap. I am a diabolical genius who totally just outsmarted you so bad.

Because what you don't know is that Player A hits clean-up for the Awesome City Crushers, and the three guys in front of him all have .950 OBPs, so in his 500 AB he had like 1450 guys on base and only drove in 65. He struck out like 400 times, never walked, and generally acted like a sullen dick. He is terrible. The only reason he is hitting clean-up is that his dad owns the team. It's totally unfair.

Player B hit lead-off for the North Suckington Suck-Bears. He was an excellent baseball player who walked all the time and hit like .450 with a .700 OBP, but in his 500 AB, his stupid sucky teammates had only gotten on base 20 times, total, in front of him, and he was so good he drove all of them, and also hit 45 solo bombs. (Why was he batting leadoff, am I right? Maybe it's because his manager saw that the Cubs were hitting Soriano leadoff and followed suit.)

Anyway, here's the undeniably true thing: Player B is better than Player A. Player B will create more runs than Player A 10 seasons out of 10, assuming their seasons were not total flukes.

Now here's something that will blow your mind. Player A is Mickey Mantle. Player B is Dustin Pedroia!!!!!!

(Just kidding. I made them up.)

Computers have contributed to a current glut of statistics that, to a degree, distort the picture. We have so many now that we lose focus on what is most important. The objective of the game is to win, and to win a team must outscore its opponent. Nothing, therefore, is more important than runs -- both producing and preventing them.

Wow. I am being taught a very valuable lesson here. Color me: chagrined. No -- ashamed. In all of my stat-mongering, I forgot that the idea of baseball is to win. I further forgot that in order to win, a team must outscore its opponent. Mary Noble's condescending spoonful of proudly provincial bullshit has jolted my RobotBrain™ back to earthly reality. Thank you, sir. Or, as my people say,

"0101010001001000010000010100111001101011011110010110111101110101."

Runs and RBI totals provide insufficient information because neither tells us how many opportunities a player has had to produce. And in the case of catchers, who are unlikely to play every day, the number of opportunities helps us understand how they produce.

What's amazing is that he acknowledges a problem with RBI here. He even goes so far as to say that the problem is that RBI as a raw stat doesn't work because it ignores RBI as a percentage of RBI opportunities. Then explains his method of using RBI, which does little or nothing to fix the problem. It's like saying, "Throwing money into your toilet is bad, because if you throw money in your toilet, you won't be able to use it to buy food, or furniture. Instead, you should set it on fire, and toss the ashes into the toilet. That way, the toilet won't clog."

Knowing the potential rates of production affords us a better sense of what a player does, particularly if the rates are compared, as they were in the two instances you cited.

RBIs per 100 at-bats measures run production as ERA -- earned runs per nine innings -- measures pitching. It's a quite legitimate means of determining who does what.

Last year, Lo Duca had 487 plate appearances, and Schneider had 477. Pretty damn close. Given this fact, RBI/100 AB is essentially exactly the same thing as just asking "who had more RBI?" (Plus, you should use PA instead of AB, probably, since AB don't count walks.) If the difference were huge -- like 100 or more PA -- it might shed a little more light on the subject. But 10 PA? Two games?

What matters more is -- obviously -- how many guys were on base when they got their PA, and how successful they were driving them in. Schneider had 331 guys on base in his 477 PA. Lo Duca had 307. So Lo Duca drove in the same number of guys, in almost exactly the same number of PA, but there were 24 fewer guys on base for him. Now, 24 isn't a ton, but it's something, and the only thing a rational, non-condescending person could possibly conclude is that Lo Duca was more efficient in terms of driving in runs last year than Schneider was.

Now, this isn't the be-all, end-all of a batter's worth. Clearly, OBP, SLG, and myriad other things should be checked out. But Noble concerns himself solely with RBI, so that's what we're doing, here, on our Saturday, is looking through BP's sortable stats to determine that Lo Duca drove in runs at a higher rate last year than Schneider. (He also had a higher VORP -- 9.2 to 2.4.)

I'm too lazy to do this for the last three years, but it actually doesn't matter. It's the methodology I object to. Sorry -- mis-typed. It's the methodology logic objects to.

That Lo Duca might have had a higher on-base percentage or slugging percentage means less to me than the number of runs he produced. The next time a team wins a game because it produced a higher on-base mark and scored fewer runs than its opponent, please alert me.

This is hard-core boneheaded. The more guys are on base, the more chances they have to score. That can't be hard to grasp. Why fight it?

OBP, OPS, et al, are the ingredients in the recipe for offense. Runs are the meal.

"Food metaphors" label? Today is your lucky day.

Next question for Marty?

C'mon, Marty. Jerry Koosman must be considered for the Hall of Fame, given what we are witnessing today. He must be considered.

-- Ray, Matawan, N.J.

Must he, Ray? Must he really? A .500 pitcher with a 110 ERA+? With a 1.26 WHIP and barely a 2/1 K/BB ratio? Must he be?

I'm not quite sure if you're referring to something specific that I've written about Koosman or just making a general comment. I wish there were a place for Koosman in the Hall. He's a personal favorite. When he was healthy, he was as effective as almost any Hall of Fame pitcher and nastier than most of them. [...]

This bold claim might -- might -- be defensible in 1968, 1969, and 1976. I guess he wasn't healthy in any of the 16 other seasons.

Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Morris are popular answers to the question, "Which pitcher would you choose to start a must-win game?" Koosman wouldn't be a bad choice, either.

Homework assignment: name 100 pitchers since 1960 you would rather have start a big game then Jerry Koosman. (Don't really. Or if you do, don't send them to me. Print them out and post them on your wall, and look at them every day and say to yourself, "I am so happy Jerry Koosman is not in the Hall of Fame." And then say to yourself, "No one should ever use 'Who would I want to start a big game?' as a criterion for Hall of Fame induction." And then say to yourself, "I can't believe I spent an hour making this list. I should read more."

At least Noble doesn't actually say Koosman belongs in the HOF. That's something, I guess.

How can Aaron Heilman not be given a real shot as starter? He pitched a one-hitter. At least it'll stop him from wondering. And if it works? Remember, what good is relief if you're down by six or seven runs all the time?
-- Charles F., Brooklyn, N.Y.

That one-hitter didn't make Heilman a lock to produce a 15-victory season as a starter. And making him a starter would affect one game in five. Losing him as a reliever might affect three or four games in 10. Chances are Heilman working as a starter wouldn't prevent being "down by six or seven runs all the time."

Noble's solution: make every pitcher a reliever. That way, they all get to affect the most games.

Abrupt ending to this post......now.

Labels: , , , ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 6:33 PM
Comments:
Hat tip: yuhsing720.
 
To those of you who asked, yes, it does actually say "Thank you" in binary code. Perhaps I need to read more.
 
Joe sez:

Not sure if you know this or not but you're binary code translates to THANkyou. "Thank you" would be: 0101010011010001100001110111011010110010000011110010110111101110101.
 
01010100 01001000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01010111 01001000 01000001 01010100 00100000 01001000 01000001 01010000 01010000 01000101 01001110 01010011 00100000 01010111 01001000 01000101 01001110 00100000 01010100 01001000 01000101 01010010 01000101 00100111 01010011 00100000 01001110 01001111 00100000 01000110 01010101 01000011 01001011 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01000010 01000001 01010011 01000101 01000010 01000001 01001100 01001100 00101110 00100000 01010000 01001100 01000101 01000001 01010011 01000101 00100000 01010011 01001111 01001101 01000101 01000010 01001111 01000100 01011001 00100000 01010011 01001000 01001111 01010111 00100000 01010101 01010000 00100000 01010100 01001111 00100000 01010011 01010000 01010010 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01010100 01010010 01000001 01001001 01001110 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01000001 01001100 01010010 01000101 01000001 01000100 01011001 00101110 00100000
 
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