Welcome To The Charlie Sheen Wing Of Analysts

Of course, I’m referring to “WINNING!!”

In today’s NY Times, Mike Tully writes in the Keeping Score feature that To Create Winner, You Have to Find the Winners.

Examples cited to “prove” his point are David Eckstein‘s overachievement and two championship rings; records of players who—in any permutation—have very little to do with their teams winning or losing; and Carlos Beltran‘s return to the Mets lineup last season coinciding with their slide from contention to mediocrity and embarrassment.

How does one quantify this?

It’s not even an old-school, antiquated notion that can be picked apart by new metrics; it’s simple baseless nonsense.

Although it’s rife with assertions that are akin to a shooting gallery to pick off one-by-one, the best example of the bizarre leaps of logic in the piece is the following about Brendan Ryan:

St. Louis traded shortstop Brendan Ryan to Seattle in the off-season after his career-worst .223 batting average. The Cardinals were 17 games over .500 with Ryan, seven games under without him.

So?

The 17 games over .500/7 games under stuff is meaningless without full context. Did Tully look at the games in which Ryan played and how the pitchers pitched? Whether Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday homered or drove in multiple runs? If the opposing club had a bad day in one way or another?

It’s as if he credited Ryan for his attendance though Ryan—with his .223 average, no power, little speed, no on base skills at the plate and his very good defense—had that much of an influence on the “winning” when he played and the losses when he didn’t.

The Cardinals defense at shortstop was markedly worse when Ryan wasn’t playing and his primary replacements—Felipe Lopez and Tyler Greene—were; but you can’t judge whether the diminished defense had to do with the poorer record without tearing the whole thing apart.

That’s the point.

Tully leaves out a warehouse full of accessible information to bolster a non-existent case that cannot be bolstered without doing some actual research beyond the won/lost record.

Some people who rely on stats are bad enough with their condescension and self-important beliefs that since they can calculate a formula they’re automatic “experts” who can tell Tony La Russa how to run his team; but those on the other side (the radical opposing wing led by Murray Chass and others) is, in a way, worse!

It’s as if those still resistant to any kind of statistical analysis are more invested in maintaining their position than using new metrics to increase their understanding; slow to evolve because even the tiniest utilization of a new and potentially valuable tool is perceived as an admission of weakness.

We see this in Mike Francesa who’s always about 3-5 years behind everyone else, yet never admits the alteration in what he calls “expertise”. I haven’t heard him reference the “stat” he and his former partner Chris Russo used called “runs created” in which they’d add up the homers, RBI and runs scored of a hitter; this was ignorant of the fact that, yeah, a hitter gets an RBI and a run every time he hits a homer—it’s a bit redundant.

No, it’s a lot redundant.

I’m no stat guy, but I use stats in their proper place to try and come to a consensus in my own mind as to what I think is going to happen; how teams would best be served in acquiring and subtracting players among other maneuvers on and off the field.

The piece printed in today’s Times is a colossal waste of energy that has to be addressed because there are going to be a substantial number of people who want to believe it and will use it as “proof”.

As for Brendan Ryan, let’s see how his reputation as a “winner” plays out in Seattle with the Mariners, a team destined to lose 95 games—a number of games they’d lose with or without Ryan.

Why?

Because the Mariners are terrible and Ryan is a fringe big leaguer who benefited by playing for the Cardinals.

At least Charlie Sheen has a viable excuse for his delusions: he’s a drug addict!!

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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  1. #1 by fjrabon on March 27, 2011 - 7:48 pm

    Yeah, it was embarrassingly bad, yet rife with condescension. At least when the stats guys are being condescending, they’ve done some sort of homework.

    The thing with the stats guys is that once you get past the veneer, you’ll recognize that most of them disagree about the stats that the non-stats people question the most. Like the defensive stats are questioned a lot, but an INTENSE debate rages within the stats community about how to make up the defensive statistics.

    The problem lies in that the stats people feel some sort of obligation to present a unified front against the non-stats people. THe non-stats people, like you said, hate all things statistics (except for the completely idiotic and arbitrary stats, like batting average, saves and wins) and can’t admit to any of them being good, out of fear of weakness.

    We’d all be a lot better off if there wasn’t this “war” and we just took the stats we have as what they are and worked to develop better stats.

  2. #2 by Jeff on March 28, 2011 - 2:23 pm

    To think the Cardinals success or lack thereof was dependent upon Brendan Ryan is… asinine. Seriously.

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