Baseball Guys Hate Stat-Heads

As a long-suffering geek and baseball fan, I enjoy SABRmetrics. The thing about it that I find the most interesting, though, is the complete disdain that stat-heads have for old time baseball people… and the utter rage that old-time baseball people have for stat-heads.

Mostly summed up in this column on Fox Sports.

While I’m not Ken Tremendous, and I did get this column linked from an FJM post, I’d like to actually take the time to respond to this vast wasteland of stupid:

Sabermetrics, is the Scientology of baseball. It all started in a tiny, airless, room, where the guy who got picked last in Little League, perfected his revenge. This handy guide will help clear up the wildest misconceptions spread by this extremely annoying and exceedingly irrelevant cult.

Starting off with a belittling insult is always the best way to get your point across. Scientologists believe that little alien souls inhabit us all and we are all descended from an alien god who put people in volcanoes. Sabrematicians use 140 years of data to come up with patterns that they can apply to baseball players. Remember folks: any first-year college class that deals with statistics = aliens.

Definition.
Sabermetrics is also known as, long winded pointless dissertation, insufferable boors with calculators, or guys with pocket protectors. If you’re like me, you don’t need to know the equation for cracking oil to figure out you got a batch of bad gas in your car. Or live near the Devil Rays or Royals, to realize beauty might be skin deep but bad goes all the way through.

Excellent use of cliche. I bet he likes pitchers that are “built like a horse” or outfielders that “look like a ballplayer”. One of these days, I’ll have to try and figure out what a “ballplayer” looks like (I’ll be he’s white). I also enjoy how it’s a long winded, pointless dissertation to say “hitters who get on base a lot, pitchers who don’t let guys on base a lot, and guys who don’t make errors are better than guys who do the exact opposite of those things.” One would think that would make a whole lot of sense and guys that already do this well are better than guys who don’t do it well but might do it well some day.

Humor.
Sabermites believe they have a sense of humor. Sadly, it can only be expressed mathmatically.

Oh, wit. My favorite math jokes:

Old mathematicians never die; they just lose some of their functions.

Trigonometry for farmers: swine and coswine.

Let epsilon be less than zero…

All of which are funnier than the above.

Reality.
Using pseudo-algebraic conclusions to describe the infinite intangibles of great baseball is like using cement to describe Mozart. Abstract baseball minutia stacked like pancakes doesn’t get around the real consistent opinion voiced by those who watch baseball daily and this churns the guts of Sabermites.

No, the general idea is that “intangibles” are greatly over-rated. I’ll give you the all-intangibles team and you give me a team built with stats and I’ll win 70 out of 100 times.

Do you know the difference between watching Alex Rodriguez play every day and looking at his stat line for 2007? If you watch him play ever day, you know he’s having one hell of a season. If you look at his stat-line, it tells you he’s having one hell of a season. See how that works? This works in baseball because at-bats are pretty static things with very few variables at any given time. Since almost no one watches every game every day, they provide a convenient way to compare seasons.

Equate.
Never allow anyone near the prime equation of sabermetrics, A+B=Shut the Hell Up. This is sports for math club members.

I guess this is his vaunted “sense of humor” shared by “real baseball guys”? I’ll share more math jokes:

How many mathematicians does it take to change a light bulb?
None. The answer is intuitively obvious.

Q: What is the first derivative of a cow?
A: Prime Rib!

I’ve heard that the government wants to put a tax on the mathematically ignorant. Funny, I thought that’s what the lottery was!

Q: Wadaya get when you take the circumference of your jack-o-lantern and divide it by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pi.

Gross Tonnage.
The complicated formula for “Hey that guy just bunted the runner to second…” would fill this entire page. SABER stat-bot hysteria amply illustrates the “Star Trek Factor,” now that Kirk’s too fat to worship, Sabermites invented an arcane statistical abstract to replace dialectic Klingon arguments that made their life worth living…

Here’s arcane: look at each possible combination of bases and outs and see, on average, how many runs score from each state. For example, if you had a man on first with zero outs (in 2005) on average you scored 0.89 runs by the end of that inning. Then, you compare it to having a man on second with one out and discover that, in 2005, you scored an average of 0.69 by the end of the inning. 0.69 is less than 0.89, so you were more likely to get a run if you didn’t sacrifice an out. If your sacrifice fails, and you have a man on first with one out, you drop to scoring an average of 0.54 runs by the end of the inning. That also means, if you have a guy with a crappy average (like a pitcher at the plate) that if he’s more likely to ground in to a double play or fly out than get a hit, that it makes more sense to give him up for an out.

Believe it or not, real baseball guys think this way, too. It’s the same reason that you probably wouldn’t expect Derek Jeter to bunt a guy over, but it’s less surprising when Tom Glavine does it.

Value.
According to SABER dogma, a single just isn’t worth a double. Take that Ty Cobb, you BLEEP because 75% of your hits aren’t all that and a bag of SABER chips.

Let’s think about this for a second. Ty Cobb, who walked 118 times and struck out 43 times in 1915? Ty Cobb, who posted a career OBP of .433, a career SLG of .513, and 1,249 walks vs a (I’m projecting) 538 strike-outs? Ty Cobb’s actually a stat-head’s wet dream. Ty Cobb is only ever brought up when people make self-righteous moral statements about the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown. Ty Cobb, who once slapped a black elevator operator for being “uppity” and then stabbed the black night watchman who intervened and who beat up a handicapped guy for taunting him. He’s in the Hall of Fame… but idiot writers are going to make holier-than-thou statements about the players these days, who may or may not have used illicit substances to get stronger? Or that we’re somehow supposed to dislike Mark McGwire for using creatine? Meanwhile, if I was a very religious writer, I’d get ridiculed for bringing up the fact that every person in New York State probably knows someone who knows someone that Captain Intangibles in New York has slept with (I know two!). He’s of high moral character, though, and has all sorts of awesome intangibles. Steroids made you morally corrupt. Everything else is, apparently, fair game.

Anyone who says Ty Cobb’s baseball accomplishments are over-rated are not only painfully wrong, but quite possibly brain-dead.

Worship the Stat Gods
Barry Bonds is a perfect example, the thought of losing all those succulent steroid drenched numbers sends the average Sabermite into a slobbery, mad dog, frenzy. They would rather chew off the non-math lobe of their brain than let go, or admit, that Barry might indeed be full of nincompoop.

While I can’t speak for everyone, for me it’s more “If you celebrated the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa run for the record, don’t go and get up on a moral high-horse now because Bonds calls you media assholes out as exactly what you are: media assholes.” Baseball made this bed when they looked the other way after the strike season, now they get what they deserve.

What Can You Do?
I know the answer to every problem is “sing a song” but if organizing a world wide series of concerts is beyond your grasp, try these simple SABER killing phrases:

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Albert Einstein

Very true… it’s very hard to quantify defensive-aptitude in baseball.

I think this can be summed up with one thought: “Jocks still hate nerds. Jocks just get lamer as they get older.”

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