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?