BASEBALL TRENDS – STATS ALL, FOLKS!

By:  Holly Horning

Nothing exemplifies the significant changes baseball is experiencing more than the battle between the old and new schools of statistics. The war between those who prefer the eye test and all degrees up to those with noses pressed to the calculator instead of eyes glued to the diamond.

But what’s happening now is the movement by many who cherry pick their stats from both groups, no longer having to select one side or the other. They are finding happiness using some of the traditional stats that are easy to understand and give a very quick snapshot of how well a player is doing – but balancing it with certain sabermetric stats that help neutralize team-centric strengths and put the player’s skills in better perspective in comparison to the league.

But much as the fans are divided on which stats school to use, so are MLB teams. Not all teams think the same way, nor have they developed statistical departments similar to anyone else’s. As of last year, the AL teams employ over 40 sabermetricians while the NL has 23.

The Tampa Bay Rays (#1 in MLB) alone employ 8 full-time sabermetricians while the Rockies, Braves, Phillies and Marlins employ none. The Royals have 4 full-time while the Indians rank #3 with 5. As Yoda would say, “Tied with the Yankees, they are!”

The Tigers come in #23 with only 1 part-time analyst – and are in a dead-heat with the Twins for last place in the AL Central. Part of this may be a residual effect from having Jim Leyland as manager who expressed his refusal to use sabermetrics.

It is not surprising that Brad Ausmus won’t categorize himself (a story for another day) on these non-traditional stats so we really don’t know the extent or frequency of how he interprets any numbers put up by the Tigers’ part-time analyst. It was interesting to read last year that Dave Dombrowski was quoted as saying that anything Ausmus needs to support this statistical system, he’ll get for him.

So let’s keep our eye on the Tigers’ sabermetric department. Hiring more analysts, or not, will tell us how much weight Ausmus gives to this method.

11 thoughts on “BASEBALL TRENDS – STATS ALL, FOLKS!

    • Hi, Kathy – I think most of us are still trying to figure out who Brad is. He never clearly reveals what he beliefs, prefaces many of his comments with “probably”, “maybe”, etc. He’s been heard to say he likes numbers but the next day refutes that they really play an important role. Who knows? I think he’s responsible for the part-time analyst which potentially tells us he’s smack in the middle of the road. We’ll see what the year brings.

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  1. Stats don’t lie, but you can pull anything from them, and at times they can be misreading. Stats don’t measure speed and how much pressure it puts on defense. Stats don’t measure game situations. They need to be kept in mind, but it’s yet a human game. Stats were one of the reasons Joe Torre left NY in disagreement with Cashman on signing Mientkiewicz over Bernie Williams. I talked to a ML manager in January at the Italian International Coach Convention and his word was: “I do look at the numbers, but then I trust more my mind.” You can look at numbers all day long, but at the end it’s instincts.

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    • Hi, Frankie – I’m with you on the limitations of stats. Ian Kinsler had a great quote the other day about what sabermetrics are unable to measure. At some point in the near future, I’m going to devote a bigger discussion to the strengths and weakness of stats.

      Thanks for reading!

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  2. Holly, I enjoy looking at stats as much as anybody, but I am a firm believer that stats are like the first page of War and Peace. They merely begin to tell the story…and it’s a loooooong story. I trust my eyes much more than the stats. As for the new stats, I don’t even pay attention to them. I’m sure you have seen my posts on The News’ site regarding WAR. I quote Edwin Starr:
    War
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing

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    • Hi, Ian – I am with you for the most part, esp. WAR. But there are some of the newer stats like OBP that are helpful when included with a bunch of other figures. I’ll be going into this subject frequently in the future – there’s a lot to discuss.

      Thanks for reading!

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      • Holly, the use of OBP as a stat might be new (I’m unaware of how long it’s been used), but it is something I have always paid attention to. Maybe not as a “named stat” but I always checked out hits plus walks for players. Specifically for guys who bat 1-2 and to a lesser degree 3 in the order since they are the guys who are paid to get on base.

        Here’s a question for you. When did OBP become a stat?

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      • Hi, Ian – I am always so limited by space that it’s impossible to give as much detail as I’d like. Many of us refer to OBP but there are still close to half the fans who ignore it. It became a stat in the 1980’s but that doesn’t indicate how seriously it was used. In fact, Jim Leyland had a famous, colorful rant about OBP that I cannot print. Let’s just say he didn’t use it.

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  3. Would be fun if you could find an old timer to find out what they kept track of and what they discounted

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      • That should be easy. Just buy a Honus Wagner baseball card and see what stats are listed on the back. The Honus Wagner part is said in jest because I seem to recall his card was sold for more than any other card at one point in time. I believe the card came with a pack of cigarettes, and to be serious, I have no idea of what was on the back of it, but checking out old baseball cards could be a very good way to find the answer.

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