First Pitch: Why Advanced Stats Are Better Than Traditional Stats

If you’ve read this site for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that we use the WAR stat. A lot. The trade values series is based off WAR (although that wasn’t originally designed by us). We point out WAR when talking about the overall value of a player in a given season, or to compare two different players. We use WAR when estimating what a player will receive through the arbitration process.

The WAR stat keeps baseball fans split. Some like it, and some hate it. You can usually tell who is in the second group. They’re the ones saying “WAR, what is it good for?”, like that’s something that hasn’t been said on every message board ever, three times a week since WAR became a popular stat. Earlier this week, Dave Cameron wrote a story on WAR at FanGraphs (titled What WAR Is Good For). The story was in response to an article on ESPN.com criticizing the WAR stat. And now I’m sharing Cameron’s article because he says a lot of great things about the usage of WAR.

First, Cameron leads off by pointing out that WAR is too often used to end discussions, rather than promote them. He says that “WAR was never designed to be the only statistic that matters, nor should we view it as some kind of infallible truth.” He then goes on to point out that all stats provide an answer to questions, and that WAR is aiming to answer the question that is asking “how good is that player?”

Cameron’s whole article is a good discussion on WAR, the value of the stat, and what it is trying to show. I especially like the part where he goes into detail what the Wins stat of a pitcher is really trying to answer. I’m not going to continue discussing the merits of WAR, because Cameron covered it. What I will do is use this as a defense for advanced stats, and the resistance to accepting their value.

Just like WAR, there are other advanced stats we often use on this site, and a lot of them get similar reactions to WAR (usually from the same crowd that is against WAR). I don’t even look at fielding percentage for a fielder. Instead I rely on UZR. I put a pitcher’s ERA out there for reference, but I’m always sure to include his xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching), and/or his K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 ratios. I’ll also dive a little deeper to look at his Batting Average Per Balls in Play (BABIP), his home run per fly ball ratio (HR/FB), and his strand rate (LOB%).

Earlier in the off-season there was a debate about the value of Mark Melancon. On one side you had people looking at Melancon’s horrible ERA in 2012. On the other side, you had people looking at his 22.2% HR/FB ratio, his 59.4 LOB%, and his 3.45 xFIP. The people looking at his ERA didn’t like the move. The people looking at his advanced numbers saw a lot of bounce back potential. The league average HR/FB ratio is around 10%. The league average LOB% is around 70%. That means Melancon was giving up an unlucky amount of home runs, and was unlucky in stranding runners. It’s almost the exact same situation as Joel Hanrahan when he came to the Pirates in a trade.

If Melancon does bounce back this year, the people looking at the advanced numbers probably won’t be that surprised. As one of those people, I’d be more surprised if he repeats his advanced metrics from 2012 and gives up a 22.2% HR/FB ratio again (his 2010 and 2011 ratios were 9.1% and 11.1% respectively).

Melancon is one example of a split between old stats and newer advanced stats. Clint Barmes would be another.

Barmes hasn’t been the most popular player in Pittsburgh. He was signed to a two-year, $10.5 M deal. He came in and put up horrible offense in 2012. Statistically, his defense was great. According to his UZR/150, Barmes ranked second in the majors among 21 qualified shortstops. He was one spot behind Brendan Ryan, who is another all-glove shortstop.

The main part of his value is his glove. But that value comes under another debate over the advanced stats. For those that don’t trust UZR, and rely on the eye test, Barmes isn’t anything special. To be fair, it’s not just UZR that considers Barmes a strong defender. He ranks near the top of every advanced defensive metric. I find UZR to be the best of those, which is why I always use that stat.

The underlying complaint that seems to come up with every advanced metric is that they’re not perfect. That’s true, but if we discounted all stats because they weren’t individually perfect tools for overall analysis, we wouldn’t have any stats left. Too often the error is “This new stat isn’t perfect, so let’s keep using this old stat that has been in place for years”. Determining whether the advanced stats are perfect draws the attention away from the real goal of advanced stats. They’re not meant to be perfect. They’re just meant to be better.

For years people have used ERA and W/L records to determine the value of pitchers. Then others came along and determined that W/L is more about what the team did than what the pitcher did, and that there were way too many factors that went into ERA, such as the fielders around the pitcher, luck, and park factors. So they discovered things like “how often do pitchers strand a base runner” or “what is the percentage of fly balls that leave the park”. They also managed to figure out a way to remove the impact of fielders and get FIP, or xFIP if you also normalize the HR/FB ratio. In the end you go from a basic stat that just tells how many runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings — disregarding any other factors — to a stat that digs deep into how good that individual pitcher is by removing those other factors.

Then there’s UZR and the eye test. “Eye test” fans say that they know a good fielder when they see him. They watch the games, they see the plays that are made and the plays that are missed. They’ve watched enough baseball to know what is an easy play and what is a hard play to make. They can use that knowledge to determine whether the player in front of them made a difficult play, or missed a hard play. When you break down what the eye test is, you see the flaw.

What are you doing with the eye test? To start with, you’re watching a play. You’re making a mental note of the outcome of that play, and everything that happened to produce that outcome. You add that single play to every other play that you’ve seen, and you then compare it in your head to your memory of every other play that you’ve ever seen. After comparing that play to every other play you’ve seen for roughly a second, you determine how good the play was. You do this for every play that you see that individual player make, and after a certain amount of plays you have enough data to say whether the player is a good or a bad fielder.

UZR does the exact same thing, only in a way that humans can’t. The process for UZR is to divide up the field into zones. Every time a play is made in any game, the zone that the play was made in is recorded. If Clint Barmes makes a play between third base and shortstop, he gets credit for making a play in that zone. The way his UZR is calculated is by taking the percentage of plays he made in each individual zone, and comparing that to the percentage of plays that every shortstop made in those individual zones. If Barmes makes 10/10 plays in one zone, and the average shortstop makes 8/10 plays in that same zone, then Barmes gets a favorable score for that zone (that’s not the formula for UZR, just a number used as an example).

UZR does what the eye test is supposed to do, but can’t. In the second that it takes you to determine whether a play is good or bad, it’s impossible for you to remember every play you’ve ever seen, take the percentage of plays made in that specific zone, and then figure out how the percentage of plays that the player you’re watching has made in the same zone. You’re just reacting to how flashy the play looked. You don’t focus on whether it’s been Nate McLouth’d — where a simple play turns into a highlight reel play. You don’t consider that a guy with good range just missed a fast grounder, while a guy with poor range wouldn’t have gotten close to the ball. That’s what UZR does. It records every play from every game, and compares all of the stats to determine how good each individual player is. A person would have to watch every play of 162 games a year for 30 years to get that kind of data. Then there’s the issue of computing it all from memory.

I agree with Cameron that advanced stats aren’t the end of the discussion about players. I do think they provide the smartest way, for now, to have that discussion. That’s not saying that people who use advanced stats are smarter. It’s just that the arguments those people are making are supported by smarter stats that were designed to be better than the traditional stats. The stats aren’t perfect, but they are the best we have now. In a few years, Field F/X will probably provide us with a huge upgrade over UZR for fielders. And that just goes along with the goal of advanced stats: always try to improve on the previous methods of evaluating players. It’s impossible to do that if you never move beyond batting average, RBIs, won-loss records, or fielding percentage.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. The 2013 Annual is also available for pre-sales. Go to the products page of the site and order your 2013 books today!

**Keith Law Releases His Top 10 Pirates Prospects.

**Here is Dave Cameron’s article again: What WAR Is Good For

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • John Dreker

    I will say that I am one of those people that hates the really advanced stats, won’t go into the reasons, but I do my own advanced look at players using traditional stats. I take into consideration the home ballpark all the time when judging players stats, their splits are important too and how they fare in certain situations.
    I’ll look at ERA, but I’ll also look at how many unearned runs a guy allowed. For example, one season watching every one of Oliver Perez’s starts with the Mets, I noticed he would implode after a fielding error. He allowed 20 unearned runs after them. A normal pitcher may have settled down after that to try to pick up his teammate and allowed ten unearned runs, but not him, so he got off easy as far as his ERA was concerned.
    An advanced stat like WHIP is flawed in that it doesn’t include hit batters, so two guys could have the same WHIP after a full season, even if one hit 20 extra batters. That is something that should be counted, yet isn’t for some unknown reason.
    It could be that I can read the stats without being told what the BB/9 or K/9 is just by looking at the innings first, then the walk and strikeout totals. If you look at enough stats, you should know right away what is good and what is bad. That could just be a lifetime of reading baseball stats at work though.
    Same would go when comparing strikeouts and walks for a batter. I never look at the % totals, I look at AB’s first, then the totals and right away I know whether they are good or not.
    When scouting a prospect for this site, the eye test is always the best method in my mind, and not just my own eyes, others that see them too and had a trusted opinion. Last year I saw a six inning start by a pitcher that was just awful, so many hard hit balls. Final stats were 6IP, one run.
    I think some people like the traditional stats because that is what they grew up with and they knew who was good by looking at them. If it’s not on the back of the baseball cards they bought as kids, they don’t like it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

      Reading your post led me questioning something. Who are advanced stats really for? Like what you said, you can see through the stat lines and etc. what each player has done. I would argue that some of these advanced stats are more for the interest and benefit of the fan, rather than the actual teams using them in order to judge whether or not to keep players, or sign a certain free agent, or even draft a player. Not to say that it’s a bad thing, I think allows the game to be more accessible to fans. However, I think that the advanced metrics may just be advertised poorly at times.

      The one thing that these stats are very good for, I believe, is giving what was once were subjective arguments, objective figures to lean on. But even before many of these things existed, baseball people that knew what they were doing saw the balance between a guy with a high OBP and a guy with a high SLG; they could tell whether or not a pitcher allowed too many base runners.

      So in that sense, while I appreciate the insight that advanced stats offer us, I’d just prefer to not use it as a crutch (not that I’m accusing anyone of this site of that, just a statement). So much of the game used to be based upon this subjective baseball experience, by observation. Isn’t that part of the beauty of it? Then, won’t an over-reliance on technology, and in turn things like advanced stats, somewhat work to detract from the pastoral essence of the game?

      • jg941

        This response isn’t directed at Ian directly above (just a place to drop the “reply”), but I think the game stopped being “pastoral” when guys started making $20 million a year and moving around every 2- 3 years.

        And I really don’t think the advanced stats are more for the benefit of the fans, although they do make the true fan experience that much more interesting, particularly in a stat-heavy sport like baseball.

        The development of these stats (while created by ‘fans’ like BillJames, Nate Silver and others) was unearthed, nurtured, and ultimately paid for, by major league GMs to help them run their large, expensive businesses in a better, more objective, fact-based way.

        It’s like anything else in this world – as time goes on, we constantly find better data, better technology, better ways of doing certain things – to roadblock that or just deny that kind of natural progress is a little counter-productive, no?

        If you want to continue to believe that Kyle Lohse is a better pitcher than Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia or Zack Greinke because he had more Wins and a lower ERA than those guys, well………I’m not sure what I could say at this point to explain why I think you’re wrong, other than to show you all of the other advanced “stats” that might say otherwise.

        The point, or connection, that I think most “old-school” fans don’t realize is that all of these additional stats – these additional data points, material, components, details, insights, whatever – are what is painting that picture that you “eyeball” on the field.

        To someone’s earlier example, if you think that the thought processes that led Vincent Van Gogh or Miles Davis to create “Starry Night” or “So What” were based on 2 or 3 simple, obvious pieces of information, then I think you’re seriously underestimating what goes into that kind of creation.

        That person was right – they, as a fan I guess, can just ‘eyeball’ that painting or song and just know it’s good, and they don’t need to know what colors were in Van Gogh’s wheel, or understand Miles’ chord structures.

        But, guess what, fans? Those guys – Van Gogh, Miles, your team’s GM – DID have to undersdtand the hundreds of things that might gointo creating that painting, song and team that your eye tells you is good or bad.

        Fans always run the risk of thinking that, because they might know how to drive really well, or how to do their own car repairs, or even how to take an engine apart and put it back together, etc., that they know how to build a car, particularly one that’s continuously moving down the road at 60 miles an hour while you’re trying to build it.

        But that takes things like design, engineering, information (lots of it).

        And I’m much happier knowing that the guy who built my car (or my team) is chasing down every last piece of information to build the “best” car, not just one that goes fast, sounds cool and looks good.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      John….good to see that someone else looks at unearned runs.

      Great minds and all that….lol

      I look at ERA and then the other stats as support. I am old fashioned.

    • Green Weenie

      John, out of curiosity why is hit batsman a fatal flaw for an “advanced” stat like WHIP, but not a problem for a traditional stat like BA – BA doesn’t even take into count walks? Furthermore, do you not find it the least bit troubling that Slugging treats a HR as 4 times as valuable as a Single, when in fact we know empirically that it is worth less than that?

      I’m not suggesting that the eye test of a seasoned scout is worthless, quite the contrary, but to dismiss the added value of advanced statistics when assessing the value of a player seems foolhardy.

  • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

    I think the defensive metrics are the most likely to be refined/redefined. I also think that they weight given to defense when ranking players overall (or in calculating WAR) is likely to be refined. By way of example, when Total Baseball came out Pete Palmer & John Thorn’s defensive metric (Fielding Wins) had Maz as the #1 all-time best defensive player at any position. The result was Maz was ranked as the 75th best player of all-time. I love Maz, but that was ridiculous.

    Since Palmer and Thorn’s work came out, the defensive metrics have been improved (I think its fair to say that). But I also think it is fair to say that there is room yet for more improvement (even Fangraphs notes that UZR isn’t perfect in their primer on the subject). In other words, in five years, we might look back and chuckle at our current reliance on UZR (or at least our reliance on it in its current form).

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I agree on UZR. As I mentioned, I think Field F/X will replace that.

  • Uyerta36a7x

    I’m not a huge advanced stats guy, but I’m coming around. One thing i still can’t understand is this concept of a player being “lucky” or “unlucky”. I think its related to BABIP or HR/FB? Can someone please explain this to me. I think I’ve heard explanations in the past, but never really bought into them.

    • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

      For pitchers, the typical BABIP (Batting Average Balls in Play) is in the zone of .290 to .310 each year. So if a pitcher has a BABIP of .240 and had a great looking season, there is a chance that he is a candidate for regression. Same on the other end if a pitcher has a.350 BABIP, he will regress back to a more normal line potentially.

      For batters, BABIP analysis is a little trickier. The same zones hold true, but you really need to look at a player’s whole career BABIP’s to determine an outlier. If a player is super fast, his BABIP may be higher due to infield hits. If a player strikes the ball with a lot of force, that may result in more balls finding gaps as opposed to someone with less force on their swing.

      In short, if a batter has a career BABIP of .320 and hits .330 in 2012, he’s not necessarily a candidate for regression.

      • Uyerta36a7x

        Thanks, Kevin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

    everyone knows that im not a huge stat guy. many on the back of a baseball card are still okay with me. OBP, OPS, WHIP… I’m fine with these as well.
    .
    but it seems like a new stat comes out on a weekly basis that basically repeats what we already know. how many WARs do we really need to analyze? Did we have to know that Matt Kemp led the league in WAR in 2011? Or can we just look at his basic stats to know that he was amazing that year??? It appears that stat guys, in the process of simplifying things, are actually making it more complicated.
    .
    UZR: not a fan. It’s more than errors, i get that. Zone defense, however, doesnt take in effect positioning per pitch, instincts and fluidity. I know that some would laugh at this comment, but please remember that Alphonso Soriano was considered a good fielder in 2012. This is just ludicrous.
    .
    i do admire stat guys for trying to figure things out for defensive stats. It’s probably the last true baseball statistic to get discovered, the Holy Grail of Defense if you will. But until there’s a universal stat for judging the players, instead of 50 different versions, I’ll stick with the “eye chart”.

  • tb510

    I don’t want to open a can of worms here but I believe that most the preference of stats runs parallel to religion. I’m not trying to offend anyone but hurdle bases his game strategy on not believing in realities around him and stays faithful to what he has grown up to believe. I don’t want to start the crusades all over again so I will not go deeper into it. I’m sure someone wrote an article about this somewhere because I don’t think this sounds like an original argument. Or it’s just bs

  • NorCal Buc

    John Dreker hit upon the main point for me — >

    I think some people like the traditional stats because that is what they grew up with and they knew who was good by looking at them. If it’s not on the back of the baseball cards they bought as kids, they don’t like it.

    YES!

    I remember Koufax facing Clemente. Or Spahn vs. Mays. Nothin’ else needed. Then, we looked at the essentials numbers of the game…they were on the back of the baseball cards! Or, in the box score.

    They’d been there since the invention of the sport! Box scores, ERA and the three digit batting line; AVG, HRS, RBIs……

    “Who’s goin’ to win the pennant this year?” I KNOW who is going to win, and I’ve known EVERY year of my life! It’s the team with the most WINS!

    I don’t need scrabled-lettter-logic to know this F/O has been on the correct path since day one. I didn’t need UZLs and BABIPs and WARS to see the inherent talent of The Young Core. I’ve been watching talent for more than 50 years! Plus, other franchises rebuilt in the similar manner. It’s really the only way in the past 30 years that small market teams have rebuilt into a perennial contender

    Some may need to see the chord structures to in order to more fully appreciate Miles Davis or Erik Satie or Paul Winter (choose your fave!).

    I needn’t understand the variations of the colour wheel to appreciate Van Gogh.

    So I certainly do not need the new-metrix to see the talent of this pitching rich farm system.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      dude, i would so buy you a brewski right now.
      .
      i admire the stat squad for their inventiveness and their amazing research, but does it really matter how many line drives Tabata hits to RF instead of LF compared to other failed prospects with weight issues from Venezuela???

    • Happydude1

      If you can see the inherent talent of the system, why do you need any stats at all?

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        for fantasy baseball. duhhhh.

  • leadoff

    I think that stats matter considerably to someone like a GM, but to the average fan not so much.
    If all you did is go by stats, my wife would look to you like she knew baseball, when actually she loves the perogi races, knows the pitcher throws the ball to the catcher, but give her a boatload of stats and she could sound like she has known baseball all here life. She does what a lot of people should do, just go out and enjoy the game.
    I believe the average fan can get by with the old baseball card stats, when I go to ST and look at the Pirate kiddie core I have no idea what their stats are, I am looking at talent, if the talent is there they are half way to the majors, when I look at Pirate major league games I pay a lot of attention to the team they are playing, I see enough of the Pirates that I pretty much know what they have, again I am not looking at stats.
    I once when to watch Stan Musial play a double header against the Pirates and he hit into two double plays in one game and did not stand out in any way, I saw several Willi Mays games and he never stood out in those games, that is what you remember, not his UZR.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yo.derama Yo Derama

    I really like stats, but I think you need to have a good overall view of everything when considering players. For example, Jeff Karstens had a BABIP of .287 last year and .275 in 2011. Some people might say that he was lucky the past two years & that he’s bound for a regression in 2013. I think the results were more based on knowing how to pitch and not luck. In Karstens’ case, I think the ERA told the story of how well he pitched in 2011 and 2012 better than some advanced stats, like K/9.

    On the other hand, although I complained many times that Clint Barmes could hit into a double play with two out, I do think he was a decent SS overall. In his case, you really need the advanced stats to bear that out.

  • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

    The eye test can also be as misleading as statistics.
    When Tony Watson was in AA, I went to see the Curve and he was starting.
    He never hit 90 mph in the game, 89 best – overall pitches looked weak. He had a nice motion.
    He got shelled for like 10 runs it was bad… I was seriously like why bother with this bum. Now 95mph, and a candidate for seriously nice Loogy or more. I couldn’t believe the difference.
    There is no gospel truth with statistics or the eye – it’s a moving target, a human experience, and so I take both and put them together which is how they are intended to be used. Together.

  • jaybell

    The added benefit of these advanced stats is to give us a better idea of what to expect in the future, not necessarily to explain the past. Per Angus’s comment above, I get it, we don’t need to know that Matt Kemp led the league in WAR to see he had a great season in 2011. His slash line does that pretty well. But its helpful to understand if he is likely to repeat that level of production in the future, so looking at things like BABIP, HR/FB %, line drive rates, etc provide a better barometer for 2012 than just his Runs/BA/RBI totals.

    The emphasis on projecting future success versus relying solely on past production is clearly changing the way GM’s around the league build their teams. In the past aging free agents were given large contracts based mostly on the numbers they’ve put up in the past. Now you are seeing large investments made in players during or even before their primes (see Evan. Longoria). In this sense I would even add the Verducci effect of looking at age and pitch counts as a potential barometer of future injury risk. This is clearly changing how GM’s groom young stud pitchers.

    The old stats aren’t useless and should continue to be used to show what a player did in a particular year. But if you want to know who to bet on for next year, look at the new stats.

  • Green Weenie

    It seems to me that the use traditional stats vs advanced stats is parallel to the use of imperial system of measurements vs metric system. The reason traditional stats like BA and RBI persist is because of familiarity. We all have a general sense of what a .310 BA 105 RBI season looks like, similarly we all know what a 6’2 227 lb man ought to look like. Nevermind that the metric system is far easier to use on a practical level, 1.88 m 102.97 kg probably doesn’t recall the same image to mind for most (Americans). The hard thing for some people to come to grips with is that this is not a flaw of the stat (or system of measurement).

    People often complain that traditional stats are much simpler to calculate and understand vis-a- vis advanced metrics, but in truth, traditional stats are not as simple as some would have you believe. E.g. BA has very complicated rules pertaining to what constitutes an at bat, and don’t even get me started on the pitcher wins let alone saves. Meanwhile, a stat like wRC+ is in fact incredibly simple to understand (if difficult to calculate). An wRC+ of 100 represents the league average offensive contribution in terms of runs created by a player (for a given year). Therefore a wRC+ of 150 is 50% better than league average, which is very good. A wRC+ of 75 is 25% worse than the league average – that is bad. For example, Andrew McCutchen had an wRC+ of 158 last year- very good, Neil Walker had a wRC+ of 111-pretty decent, and Clint Barmes had a wRC+ of 62 – bad.

    Again, nobody is insisting you calculate the scores yourself, just like no expects you to keep track of player at bats over a given season. All of the hard work is done for you. Go check out the fine work at fangraphs or Baseball Reference – they don’t bite – and give the new stats a try. You might like it.

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelVelaTTU MichaelVelaTTU

    I like situational stats the best

  • Green Weenie

    Tim, out of curiosity, when giving WAR on this site, do you use fWAR of bWAR?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Usually it’s fWAR.

      • The Green Weenie

        That’s what I figured based on your discussion of UZR above, I just wanted to double check. I love the site, btw. Long time lurker (first time caller). Thanks for providing us all with daily respite from the winter cold with updates on our boys of summer. Cheers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/azibuck Andy Zibuck

    Tim, this comes off more confrontational and, um, pissy than I intend. I’m just to give my perspective and some of my ideas go beyond your piece.

    But, I object to the sweeping generalizations made in your piece and in a larger sense, how Advanced Stat Guy perceives Traditional (and other) Guys. I’m down with just about every advanced stat, and have at least a rudimentary (or better) understanding of how they’re calculated. But what if I’m not sure about one, or don’t like how one is applied? For example, Barmes may be all that with the glove, but suppose I don’t see how even a defensive god could be worth 2 dWAR? Regardless of my reasons, I’m lumped in with the knuckle-draggers touting batting average and wins? To wit:

    >You can usually tell who is in the second group.

    Of course, “he’s one of THOSE people.”

    >there are other advanced stats we often use on this site, and a lot of them get similar reactions to WAR (usually from the same crowd that is against WAR)

    Really? You track who makes what comment? This is what I mean, I’ve rarely commented here, but if I criticize dWAR value (not dWAR itself), what, I’m a dunce all the way? It feels like it sometimes. Maybe not from you, but, ahem, people you probably know.

    >You don’t focus on whether it’s been Nate McLouth’d — where a simple play turns into a highlight reel play…

    As a matter of fact, I do. But if I say I’m an Eye Test guy, I’m just lumped in with the Joe Blows who are just out to the ballpark for a game and a couple cold ones.

    There are a subset of people that watch the game differently than either the Advanced Stat Guy or The Traditional Stat Guy. Advanced Stat Guy (seems to) see two circles, one with Advanced Guys, one with Traditional Guys, and the circles don’t touch, or just barely touch each other. I see a Venn Diagram with 3 or maybe 4 circles, with Advanced, Traditional, and Coach and Scout Guys, and the circles overlap.

  • http://twitter.com/mocasdad mocasdad

    I’m not a stat head but I have a lot of respect for those who are. I believe that we should always be striving for improvement in how we do analysis and evaluation.

    I have no problem with things like FIP and xFIP as far as they go. The issue I have is that pitchers actually do have fielders behind them and the better ones can maximize or minimize their impact as the situation warrants.

    I have a lot of problem with the “luck” concept, except in the smallest of sample sizes. If major league hitters are feasting on you, I don’t buy unlucky. If you want to provide a meaningful stats based argument for, say, the great “was Charlie Morton awful or unlucky” debate of 2010, I’d think line drive rates or, if they exist, speed of batted ball stats would be much more telling.

    I’m also off-put by the total dismissal of the value of RBI’s. I understand the opportunity side of the issue. That doesn’t mean it’s. a worthless stat. If you want to convince me, you’ll have to come up with a better argument than one that begins, “assume your lead off guy hits a triple every time he comes to the plate…” — someone on bucs dugout actually tried that. A good RBI total indicates, at least for a given season, that the player produced when opportunities presented themselves.

    We all know there are stats outliers (eg. Tommy Herr’s 100 RBI year) but you don’t need to be Keith Law to recognize them. But it’s Uncanny how the baseball card stats quite frequently identify quality performers.

    Personally, I rely on ops, whip, K and BB rates in addition to the baseball card stats.

  • http://www.facebook.com/schilppryan Ryan Schilpp

    Specifically regarding the ‘eye test’ vs. advanced metrics. I think the reason people get very aggressive when it comes to this is that the eye test is a judgement call based on a persons ability to read the game and their knowledge of it. When a player they thought for years to be an excellent defensive player, one who has passed the eye test, is being regarded as horrible defensively by the metrics (ala The Captain), it’s akin to a personal attack. As if these people are saying “You’re WRONG. That player is NOT a good fielder. No matter what your ‘eyes’ may be telling you”. I think that’s a big part of why people tend to be very aggressive in dismissing advanced metrics. Perceived personal attacks can make people do and say crazy things.

  • Y2JGQ2

    I work in sales- We have our goals that we are paid on, and then we have “activities” which are predictive towards our goals…..and when we don’t hit our goals we can look towards those numbers to explain why we didn’t succeed and where we can focus on in the future. In the sales world, and in a professional sports world- results ultimately matter, and that’s it. That’s why I don’t like a lot of the advanced metrics, except for maybe UZR, over traditional statistics, especially for pitchers. What is more important, the amount of runs a pitcher actually gives up per 9 innings, or the amount of runs one would expect him to give up based on several things within the game he does or doesn’t do well. Ultimately, NOONE cares about it. ERA is most important, because it measures results. Wins are important because it measures results. Your job is to keep your team in the game, ultimately to win the game, and those two things measure that better than anyone else. Now, when someone’s ERA is high, or he isn’t winning games, that’s when you look into the advanced metrics, as a coach, to figure out WHY, and know what areas the pitcher needs to focus on. You can’t say his LOB% was higher than average, so he was lucky this year and thats why his ERA was lower. That, in itself, is absurb. It doesn’t give the pitcher credit for PITCHING under a high stress environment, for being able to focus greater, maybe even pitching better from the stretch. Tim, I just think its greatly overrated in terms of overall performance. Performance is results.

    Basically, if I lead my team in outbound calls, inbound calls, and get great surveys……..then anyone but strong overall performance would indicate poor luck based off some of these measures *BABIP* for example, which is a ridiculous stat, one of the most worthless ones i’ve ever seen. Using that stat to prove anything except a pitcher who has more than a .300 BABIP against is probably a terrible pitcher, is doing injustice to the whole system.

    As far as hitting goes. OPS is great, I agree, but its still not direct tangible results. Home Runs, RBI’s, Runs scored, Hits, batting average……are results. People focus on results because they are all that matters. 200 bunt singles are no less valuable than 200 one hop line drives to an outfielder.