Posted tagged ‘sabermetrics’

My take on SABR-heads v the average fan

August 12, 2010

Republicans and Democrats. The Jets and the Sharks. Pokemon and Digimon. Some groups of people (or in the case of the latter, Japanese creations) will never get along. With the advancement of statistics in baseball over the past decade, another group of people that seemingly will never co-exist are SABR-heads and the average baseball fan.

The common fan loves the game. They are typically from an older generation, or young but have no taste for doing math outside the classroom. Baseball is a game they played growing up and is a game they love to watch. That’s all. They don’t want to analyze players or game theory- leave that to the GM’s and managers. Baseball is supposed to be fun and crunching numbers is not fun. It’s work. Baseball is not work.

The SABR-head also loves baseball. For the most part, most SABR-heads are from the current generation. College students and recent graduates or who love math. They may or may not have played baseball growing up, but they enjoy watching the game. However, it doesn’t stop there. The SABR-head loves to think and question things and crunch numbers. Instead of taking a managers move for granted, they question it. They question the game theory behind the move. Was it right to pinch-hit in that situation or not? And why? To them, the analysis of the game is just as fun as the game itself.

The saying is that “opposites attract” but that is not the case here. When it comes to baseball, there is a great divide between the SABR-heads and common fans. The two groups cannot co-exist- they hate each other with a passion. SABR-heads can take junk stats and “shove it down their ass”. The common fan “doesn’t know jack shit about anything and should never talk again”. Clearly these are two groups of people that cannot along.


When talking about the other group, each group says the other comes across arrogant. I can see that. The common fan throws stats aside like they are worthless. They don’t care at all for them and because of that, the SABR-head is an idiot. Therefore, the SABR thinks the common fan is arrogant or ignorant Since SABR-heads love stats, they throw them around like crazy. Because of that, there is a sense of feeling that they think they’re better than the common fan.

So who is to blame?

Both sides are to blame. I know there are individual cases on both sides where people do act reasonable and get along. But for the most part that doesn’t happen. There are blogs like Fire Joe Morgan that attack “idiotic writing”. In return, many other blogs and writers criticize the SABR-heads with columns lamenting “strange acronyms like WAR, UZR, and AKSDZHHZJWEU8WERW8E@$$”.

Really though, we should try to get along and put aside the stereotypes (common fans are jocks; SABR-heads are math nerds. I’ve played competitive baseball my whole life and still do). If you a SABR-head, try and have patience. Realize not everyone wants to get into stats. So if you’re in a conversation with someone like that, know your audience. Take it easy on them and don’t overload them with information and numbers.

At the same time, if you are a common fan and don’t want to worry about stats, that’s fine. I don’t care, it’s your choice. But do not criticize stats or call them worthless because you don’t want to take the time to understand them. If you are talking with a SABR-head, just realize the stats he is using are good and tell him you’re not into it. Don’t call them crappy. That leads to the contention between the groups. As a SABR-head, that is the most annoying thing about the common fan. I love talking baseball with the average person, but if they criticize any stats that I may bring up, that’s when the conversation is over.

So we can get along. SABR-heads need to cool it with the holier than thou attitude. The average fan needs to understand that advanced stats are good stats and not worthless, so there is no need to attack them because they may seem confusing and new and different than what you learned growing up. It will be tough at times to follow these guidelines and it will be difficult. But it’s for the best interest of both parties.

tERA, the Pitching Metric of the Future

July 25, 2009

The year is 2050. Tim Lincecum Jr.-using the same famed delivery of his Hall of Fame father-has just won his 2nd consecutive Cy Young award. Lincecum Jr. lead the league in wins, ERA, and WHIP. These stats have almost become obsolete in determining the winners of the major MLB awards. That’s right, even the BBWAA has adopted the use of deep statistical analysis to determine who the best hitters, pitchers, and rookies are. Lincecum Jr. also was the far-and-away leader in a few key advanced statistics like FIP, WAR, tRA, and the newly created but widely used True ERA (tERA).

tERA, since its creation in 2009, has been a giant work in progress. In fact, the stat only became relevant recently once the sample size became large enough. That’s right, it took nearly 40 years to gather all of the data needed to create the most flawless pitching metric the SABR community has seen.

With the wide-spread use of HIT /fx beginning in April of 2009, tERA began its epic journey to become the greatest pitching statistic of all-time. So, what exactly is tERA? Well, it is the first truly DNPS (Defense Neutral Pitching Statistic). Using the trajectories and bat speed of each ball hit into play tERA will measure the exact percentage of times a batted ball will go for a single, double, triple, or out. For example, say a batter with the bases empty hits a ball with x velocity and y trajectory and it lands at location z, tERA will have enough data (40 years worth) to determine how that play turns out with a completely average fielding team. Let’s say the aforementioned ball would drop in for a single 20% of the time, get past the defender for a double 45% of the time, and be caught for an out 35% of the time. This play would then be worth (.29)(.20)+(.45)(.49)-(.35)(.20)=.2085 runs against. Unlike statistics before it such as FIP that paid zero attention to the situation of the game, tERA will be able to level upon itself because each play will measure a pitchers true ability. Complicated linear weights will be used to calculate the tERA for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc batter of each inning because tERA is a completely neutral statistic. In other words, the pitcher can be held 100% accountable for his actions as expressed by tERA. Let’s run through an example. If the first batter of an inning hits a ball in the exact same location with the exact same trajectory as the previous example, we obviously have a situation where there is a base runner on first 20% of the time, a base runner on second 45% of the time, and no base runner 35 percent of the time. To make the math a little simpler, let’s say that the next batter hits home run. That is a play worth 1.00 runs with bases empty, 1.74 with a runner on first, and 1.60 with a runner on second. We then have to take the result of the first batter and use leveling to get the true value of this second outcome. The math looks like this: (.20)(1.74)+(.45)(1.60)(.35)(1.00). This equals .348+.72+.35=1.418 runs against. In this situation, the pitcher has given up two runs, but because a truly average defensive team would have made the first play 35% of the time, the pitcher is only held accountable for 1.6265 runs.

And therein lies the beauty of tERA. Every pitcher will be judged against the exact same baseline, with regards to game situation (read: “clutch”), and with a highly perfected way to measure truly earned runs.  tERA truly revolutionized the way baseball was looked at from an analytic perspective, and judging the value of pitchers has never been easier.