The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


Ever meet one of those people who say shit like "I believe in magic because the world is just too dull without it" or "there are so many things that just can’t be explained by science and reason?" Those people are assholes.

And sometimes they write about baseball.

In sentence-fragment paragraphs.

Because sportswriters love that nonsense.

Hiring the Red Sox manager will be (or should be) more than just solving a metric equation

Holy shit, that’s a title and a half. That’s longer than most of the paragraphs in your column, Ron Chimelis. Also: why is there a parenthetical aside in your title? That’s some confident writing. Allow me to present you with the title for your next article, provided at no cost as a public service from the online entertainment corporation:

"Baseball (or maybe a similar sport like softball) will (probably, unless something weird happens, like maybe the moon falls out of the sky like in that one Zelda game) be back in the spring (or maybe technically it’ll be the very very end of winter, but you get the idea)."

Then you fill the column with great writing like this:

People sometimes ask my opinion of sabermetrics.

I tell them I accept the concept. I also hate it.

See all that whitespace? I get paid by the column-inch, bitches. Anyhow, here’s a short play I wrote about your thinking:

Galileo: Hey medieval Church, what do you think of my theory that the Earth goes around the sun?
Medieval church: I accept the concept. I also hate it.

The use of advanced statistical data, better known as sabermetrics, is very much in Red Sox news these days.

Has been since 2004, yeah. But I can forgive you for overlooking it, because… I think something else happened in Red Sox news in 2004, didn’t it? Something that might lead the ownership to believe this stuff has some merit. Now what was it… ?

The search for a manager always seems to dovetail back to whether a candidate embraces New Age stats that have turned baseball into Trigonometry 101.

"New Age," in case you were wondering what words actually mean, is the exact opposite of rational inquiry. New Age is the belief in magic and voodoo and gut feelings, like you prefer. Methodically collecting and analyzing data to determine what works is a different thing.

Also, how funny is it that this guy is so afraid of math that his idea of obscure and complicated is trig 101? Holy shit, Ron. If you had any idea how much more complicated this stuff is than trig 101, your head would explode.

[Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont] are the only two candidates who managed in the ancient, pre-metric era before 2002.

Did you know that baseball "metrics" date to 1876?

Oh, no, you don’t. Because you’re not very smart.

Being considered for the job still requires a bow to the metric shrine. Look at Valentine, 61.

Widely regarded as a throwback, he still described himself as practically a pioneer of metrics.

Bobby Valentine also claims to have invented the wrap sandwich. So maybe he’s just a self-aggrandizing blowhard.

Perish the thought of managing by instinct and observation. The dark shadow of Grady Little, keeping Pedro Martinez in for too long because his gut told him so, is never far away.

Also the dark shadow of losing for 85 years, until they smarted up and started using their heads instead of their intestines.

Watching this cavalcade of Red Sox candidates has given me a chance to review my own mixed feelings about New Age stats.

I think there is great value in them – to a point. Preparation is crucial; dismissing information is lazy, close-minded or both.

Okay. So which one do you claim to be?

I can also understand why a general manager would like sheafs of stat data. Players make ungodly amounts of money.

Sure. Here’s another reason: GMs who get hundreds of millions of dollars in player payroll and still can’t field a winning team become ESPN analysts. Isn’t that right, Hendo?

(Aside: "In 2010, for most of the season they were one of the worst teams in the baseball." Thanks, the Wikipedia!)

If I were a GM, I would want some number to validate what my innards were telling me they were worth.

This is why you are not a GM. You do not comprehend. To use data successfully, you don’t scour it for something that confirms your bias; you look for things that challenge your bias. It’s kind of like how, if you want to be a good writer, you don’t just write single-sentence paragraphs.

Assigning a number to everything will not stop, even if a relative old-timer like Valentine or Lamont is hired.

See, you really don’t get it. Bud doesn’t oversee a Bureau of Numbers Assignage that votes on what numbers things should receive. The numbers are already there. They always were. Here, see if you can wrap you stegosaurian walnut brain around this:

I am a baseball man playing in a baseball game. I come up to the plate five times. Did Bill James use his magic numeromancy to create that number? Of course not. Say I strike out three times and get two hits. Those numbers: naturally-occurring or implanted by borg slavers? So we can say that I got a hit two out of five times, right? Which we could express as a fraction like that, or decimally as .400, yes? Either way, we’re not "assigning" anything — that is what happened. All we are doing — all anybody is doing who uses statistics — is talking about what happened on the field during the game of baseball. Why cannot you nincompoops process this?

My problem with the sabermetrics concept is this: It’s useful, but it’s not the Bible.

You clearly have a problem with many things, then.

Yet it is being treated that way, not so much by real baseball people, but by those who analyze real baseball people.

Ron Chimelis: arbiter of who is a real baseball person, and who is a fucking baseball replicant!

Ever talk to these types? They sound like zombies, talking in the vocabulary of initials, not words.

Wait, is that what zombies do? B.R.A.A.A.A.I.N.S.!

They can convince you that Derek Jeter has been overrated, or that J.D. Drew was worth the money. Get my point?

Is your point that they are smart people who know correct things? Because otherwise: no. Derek Jeter has five gold gloves, including 2010.

Curiously, the SABR group is known for researching and honoring baseball’s long-ago past. Sabermetrics involves the sport’s very new, different present and future.

I’m sorry: for what and honoring? What was that first thing? Researching? Fuck that. That sounds like something people think about. Maybe it involves numbers. That ain’t baseball! Let’s replace this with a Society for American Baseball Bullshitting instead.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is a disciple. He was weaned at the feet of Theo Epstein as well as Red Sox advisor Bill James, the guru of the art.

Theo Epstein was GM for seven years. The Red Sox won the World Series twice during this time. I dunno, Ron; maybe there’s something to this after all.

James’ passion has even gone Hollywood. The movie “Moneyball,” based on a book of the same name, chonicles how Oakland’s Billy Beane used new data to uncover unappreciated players he could get on the cheap.

That no longer works, because big-money teams have the secret formula now, too. Everybody is in on it.

Wait, it doesn’t? So the Rays keep winning because they’re out-spending the Red Sox, then?

No longer ahead of the sabermetric curve, Epstein is competing against front offices using the same weapons he does.

So he should go back to making teams randomly, then? This is a win… for what reason?

Sabermetrics has definite use. New Age stats have correctly debunked batting average as the bottom line of hitting value, for one thing.

They’ve also correctly debunked the idea that Derek Jeter isn’t overrated. But you don’t seem to appreciate that for some reason.

But I hope there is more to the Red Sox decision than how a manager handles a stack of printouts. I want to know how he’ll handle the first time the chicken guy comes a-knockin’.

Oof. Wow. That’s terrible. Also trivial, but, hey.

To borrow a phrase, it’s still baseball, not rocket science. Played by humans.

Yeah, it still is, huh. So maybe we can use all this data we’ve collected over the past 135 years and learn something!

Nah, fuck that. Let’s just be lazy dum-dums.

The first time the new Sox manager says he made a move "just because I thought it was right," he will have my undying admiration.

Because he will reveal himself to be a dum-dum also. Gotta stick together!

November 29th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

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