It’s late in the afternoon and I’m aware it’s an incredibly easy target, and that by commenting and linking to it, I’m only doing what Mark Donatiello was probably hoping would happen when he wrote an article titled: Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees, and the Death of Sabermetrics. However, I’ve been a good boy this week, so please, just give me this one.
The column on how the Yankees shortstop is single handedly destroying sabermetrics, which graces The Faster Times website, begins like this:
Why has Jeter been able to defy expert opinion, including New York Yankees staff members, hitting like it’s 1999 to close the season? Does it mean the death of sabermetrics? I sure hope so.
Alright. This sounds like it should be a fair, balanced and unbiased approach to a somewhat contentious issue in baseball. Giddy up.
As one of the all-time clutch players in baseball history, it’s hard to say the pressure of 3,000 hits got to the all-time Yankees hits leader, but maybe it did. Perhaps Derek Jeter just needed some rest.
Five things you should know:
- Derek Jeter’s career OPS is .833.
- In high leverage situations, Jeter’s OPS .827.
- With two outs and runners in scoring position, Jeter’s OPS is .842.
- In late and close games, Jeter’s OPS is .797.
- In tie games, Jeter’s OPS is .840.
Where exactly is the evidence for this clutchiness? Even his .850 career OPS in the playoffs is only marginally better than his regular season numbers.
All this despite the fact that his UZR, WAR, FIPP, DEUS, FISL, AWO, DKSL, and ELWIS are well below average for a Gold Glove shortstop – and yes, most of those are made up categories. But do you know which ones?
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned failed hypothetical question? To criticize something without at least an elementary grasp of what you’re criticizing goes beyond willful ignorance and into the sad and strange land of arrogant ignorance where people are so proud to not understand something that they boast about their inabilities. It’s the opposite of everything human beings should ascribe to.
Sabermetrics represent a cult of baseball analysts and fans, with too much time on their hands, that believe everything baseball can be explained through numbers.
Let’s ignore the fact that a professional engineer and unprofessional writer is taking time out of his presumably not-too-busy-schedule to criticize people “with too much time on their hands.” If anything, using statistics to form opinions reveals the enormous role that randomness and luck play in baseball. No one who follows advanced metrics believes that everything that happens on a baseball field can be explained or understood with numbers.
Sabermetrics argues that all outlying statistics aside, in-depth analysis can predict, more often than not, player production in a given situation.
Four things you should know:
- Derek Jeter has a .297 AVG, .355 OBP and a .389 SLG.
- Marcel forecasted: .283 AVG, .350 OBP and a .397 SLG.
- ZiPS forecasted: .280 AVG, .347 OBP and a .393 SLG.
- Fans forecasted: .289 AVG, .353 OBP and a .397 SLG.
Once again, there isn’t a single baseball nerd alive who believes that it’s possible to perfectly predict the outcome of any given situation in a baseball game. Intelligent baseball analysts think in likelihoods. They come to these likelihoods based on the entire history of events that lead up to those moments. And because they’re aware of that history, even outcomes that go against the proposed likelihood aren’t all that surprising.
Baseball is great because Kirk Gibson can hit a walk-off homer even though he can’t walk.
This is perhaps the boiled down anti-sabermetric sentiment that irks me the most. Just because one person’s ability to gain pleasure from a deeper understanding of something is severely limited, it doesn’t mean that everyone’s is. This isn’t a black or white, all or nothing scenario. You may want to sit down before I inform you that I am capable of enjoying both a statistical based understanding of a game that I love to watch and the drama that occurs in the enormous sample of events that baseball brings to its spectators.
The Oakland Athletics haven’t won a championship since MoneyBall.
Neither have the:
- Tigers, or
In fact, only seven teams have won the World Series since Moneyball was published, including the Boston Red Sox, a team that hired Bill freaking James as an analyst, who have won twice.
Sabermetrics might be a good way of evaluating the usefulness of mid-level baseball talent, but it can never undermine the value of a baseball great – even if he is 37 years old. It seemed like a great time to pick Jeter apart, but with this year’s resurgence baseball scouts and their numbers were once again proven wrong.
What resurgance is this, exactly? Derek Jeter’s declining non-advanced statistics this season include: walks, hits, doubles, home runs, runs, and even RBIs.
Sabermetrics should stick to evaluating the pinch-hit value of Miguel Cairo on a Tuesday night in Chicago with wind speeds under 12 MPH against a lefty pitcher in the 7th inning or later on an outside fastball in a 2-1 count. This way, when they’re wrong, nobody will care. Leave Derek Jeter alone, because Sabermetrics aren’t a credible way to evaluate talent and Derek Jeter is going to continue laughing all the way to the Hall of Fame.
Come on, we both know the sample size is far too small for a proper analysis of that.
While several straw man arguments are set up by the author here, the worst assumption made in this disasterpiece of an article is that somehow those in favour of using logic and reason to back their beliefs don’t like Derek Jeter. I really like Jeter. I think he’s a very good shortstop and a big part of multiple championship teams. There’s little question in my mind that he should go to the Hall of Fame when it’s time. And I’m not even a Yankees fan.
In summary, Mr. Donatiello’s argument has all of the nuance of this: