Our friends and contributors at the Platoon Advantage hosted an enjoyable post yesterday title The War on Statistical Aggression. It is quite funny and certainly worth your time on this most-mailed in of American Thanksgiving Thursdays.

It makes light something we see not only in the baseball world but real, important world, too. Namely: people hate being told how to live. One doesn’t have to look much beyond the election of a guy like Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford to or the various, curmudgeonly awards ballots from 2011 to see people dig in when they’re told what is best for them. Especially when they’re told in a mostly artless, ham-fisted way intended to embarrass and/or shame them into altering their worldview.

An astute comment on a Getting Blanked post yesterday cut to the quick of what in-depth baseball analysis in 2011 needs to be – it must combine the best of both worlds.

As commenter Tim J noted, pulling a few numbers off Baseball Reference of Fangraphs simply isn’t enough. It takes more than just walk rates and similarity scores to create a complete picture of a player and his skills. When choosing Gary Sheffield as a Jose Bautista comparison, it extended beyond the numbers posted at relative ages, however I didn’t pursue this angle with nearly enough vigour.

Physically, Bautista and Sheffield share numerous traits. Baseball Reference lists Gary Sheffield as 5’11″ and 190 pounds. BR lists Jose Bautista at 6′ and 195 lbs. They are both right-handed hitters with incredible pull-power and very similar swings, driven by longer than average strides and a dependency on absolutely precise timing.

They were not chosen as comparable players at random or because they both walked 20% of the time and hit 43 home runs one season. As a writer, I didn’t do nearly a good enough job bringing both sides of the story to light to make my point complete.

Would David Ortiz or another late-blooming slugger provide a better comparison to Jose Bautista? Yes, if we are talking about players with a similar story to Jose. Bautista’s story is a compelling one as a player who overcame so much to become one of the game’s premier sluggers.

But that doesn’t do us much good when we’re trying to determine what sort of production we expect him to deliver as he ages, does it?

By combining all the resources at our disposal — be they statistical or anecdotal — we can better appreciate what a player like Bautista, or Gary Sheffield, or David Ortiz or Stan Musial achieved in both a historical context and what that might mean for the future. We cannot rely on our eyes alone just as we cannot pick and choose which stats and numbers we wish to believe.

We, as baseball diehards, owe it to ourselves to demand more from ourselves and the media we ingest. I, as a person who writes and talks about baseball for money1 owes to the readers and viewers to do a better job. Not to cater to a specific audience or stubbornly dig in against an uncomfortable school of thought, it is simply the standard level of discourse for baseball in 2011.

Major League Baseball’s lording over any and all video footage makes reviewing games and breaking down the mechanical intricacies of swings and pitching deliveries very difficult. Also, breaking down the swings and deliveries is much harder than breezing through a few haphazardly constructed comparisons.

So let’s pledge to be better. I know I will. On this slow news day, it is all we got. Demand more of each other and we’ll have a much better time breaking down this game we love.

1lol. How is this possible?

Comments (7)

  1. Well said. And to your “lol”: Aren’t we (moreso you) lucky bastards? Suriusly.

  2. I think this is especially applicable to minor league prospects. It’s crazy how attached people become to some of these players we’ve never seen, based almost entirely on numbers posted in games we didn’t watch that were played in an unfamiliar league against other players we’ve mostly never heard of.

    One guy who jumps to mind immediately is Brad Emaus. There was a ridiculous amount of outrage over AA’s choice to leave him unprotected in last year’s Rule 5 draft, but none of these people had ever seen Brad Emaus play baseball. It was entirely based on “analysis” of his MiLB numbers based on a glance at his B-R page. Most of us still don’t know anything about Brad Emaus as a player, but the fact that he’s currently tucked away as an org guy for some other team should be evidence enough that there’s more to prospecting than raw data.

  3. It seems to have a lot to to with the unwashed masses (like me) wanting to be smarter than those who are the professionals. The vein of opinion is always that the guys who get paid for working in an industry must be a bunch of lucky morons who have relatives who own big corportations.

    The idea that Joe Buck, Peter Gammons, Dennis Eckersley, John Farrell, Richard Griffin might actually have skills, may have had to do hard work to get where they are, is not a popular one. Its much easier and more comforting to think that I, too, could be world famous with only buffoonery, luck and a trust fund to guide me.

    The truth is, a lot of hard work and time goes into getting good at something. Even more time goes into staying good at it. Sitting on the sidelines and picking at the little mistakes that get made is easy. Its certainly easier than overcoming all the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving greatness.

    Yes, Drew, you get paid to write about baseball. You may think its funny, but you really should realise that you have earned that right. The time and learning you have invested in you profession mean that you SHOULD get paid for it. Nobody gets paid to fill in the box in the comment section. Nobody should.

    At the same time, its also important that you realize that you must contuinue to earn the right to do what you do. I applaud you for being able to turn the critical eye back on to yourself without a knee-jerk defensive snark. It is better for everyone when everyone wants to get better. From the outside though, we need to remember that criticism is not a victory of pointing out past errors, it is about working towards improving the next attempt, the next stretch for insight, information, and revelation.

  4. No one likes trolls but this kind of obviousness is annoying and dull.

  5. My advice: Don’t take yourself, and the breaking down of this game we all love, too seriously. That’s what sets theScore apart.

    And way to rub it in our faces with the footnote, ya bastard.

  6. How many people actually didn’t see the ape?

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