Modern Baseball

A numbers game

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Baseball puts its best teams from the regular season on full display in the postseason. This fall, the games have been as captivating and controversial as expected. Even though our favorite team isn’t participating, many of us watch the teams that are involved with great interest. We tune in not only to enjoy the excellence and drama, but also to figure out what worked for those teams. What were their keys to success: strong bullpens? solid defense? plate discipline? a dozen other theories?

And it’s not just fans and writers wondering. Front offices are busy discerning the lessons of the previous season.

No one factor explains an organization’s winning record. Making the postseason takes dedication, performance and fortune (both kinds). But one other factor in 2015 stares back at every observer: It was a good year for teams that have invested in sabermetrics.

The term sabermetrics comes from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for Advanced Baseball Research. In short, the field of sabermetrics is the application of mathematical and statistical analysis to baseball records.

There’s nothing new about statistics in baseball. From the sport’s earliest days more than 140 years ago, baseball has kept detailed records of individual players and teams. Stat lines were featured on the back of Topps baseball cards dating back to 1952. But, the sabermetrics revolution moved us from counting and describing to understanding, explaining and, most importantly, predicting.

Every baseball front office now has employees dedicated to collecting, structuring and analyzing data about player performances. Just as some organizations are more serious about coordinating their minor leagues than others, there is variation in how much they value data analysis. Analytics departments range in size from a couple stats people to a Greek phalanx of PhDs in computer science, statistics, economics, mathematics and operations research. Hardware matters, too. Teams can use high-performing computing platforms to make sense of the non-stop gusher of data they’re receiving about players and games.

Even after all of that brainpower and infrastructure is assembled, teams still have to put the data to effect. Organizations have to develop insights and translate that to their draft rooms, development plans, dugouts and playing fields. World-class analytics are useless if the team’s gatekeepers – general manager or manager – won’t change old habits.

That leads to an important question: How do the various MLB teams compare in their use of sabermetrics?

Categorizing the seriousness with which a major league team approaches analytics is an imprecise practice, to be sure. But careful methodologies and measurements can provide estimates that reveal meaningful differences. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in machine learning to know the Dodgers and Phillies belong in opposite categories.

Ben Baumer worked in the New York Mets organization as a statistical analyst for eight seasons. He’s now a professor of statistics at Smith College. ESPN tasked Baumer with the job of categorizing every major league baseball team in terms of how much they use sabermetrics. Baumer was the right person for this assignment. He and colleague Andrew Zimbalist have co-authored the book on this topic. The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball was published in hardcover in late 2013.

This past February, Baumer ranked all 30 major league clubs. The criteria were: (1) the strength of each franchise’s analytics staff, (2) the club’s buy-in from executives and coaches, (3) the team’s investment in biometric data, and (4) how much the organization’s approach is predicated on analytics.

Baumer’s findings led him to create five categories: All-In, Believers, One Foot In, Skeptics and Nonbelievers. Here are the teams in each category, alphabetical order, according to Baumer’s research:

All-In: Boston, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland, Houston, New York Yankees, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay Rays

Believers: Baltimore, Kansas City, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Toronto, Washington

One Foot In: Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Seattle, Texas

Skeptics: Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Colorado, Detroit, Minnesota

Nonbelievers: Miami, Philadelphia

Before we start analyzing how these organizations performed this year, it’s noteworthy that more than half of major league organizations now fall into one of the top two categories, rock solid in their buy-in and implementation of sabermetrics. Only eight clubs are at the other end.

How did organizations in each of those categories do this year?

The results are stark. On average, teams that were aggressive about the use of sabermetrics had much better seasons than did teams categorized as skeptics or nonbelievers. Let’s look at the bottom line of wins and losses:

Wins

The 16 teams Baumer ranked in the top two categories, All-In and Believers (grouped here as Believers) won an average of 86.4 games. The One Foot In teams won 79.5 games. The Skeptics (72.5 wins) and Nonbelievers (67 wins) lagged behind.

In terms of qualifying for the postseason, 9 of the 10 teams who either won their division or were a wild card, were in the All-In and Believers categories. The one remaining postseason team (Texas) fell in the One Foot In category.

PostseasonTeams

Not a single team from the Skeptics or Nonbelievers category made the postseason in 2015.

Caveats noted: Only one season of data, only one estimate of the sabermetric friendliness of each organization and lines between the categories are blurry.

Even with those qualifiers, it’s hard to ignore the conclusion that teams placing more emphasis on analytics, on average, did better. And that the results aren’t a coincidence.

Going forward, that doesn’t mean every team in the top two categories will be successful and every team in the bottom two categories preordained to be awful. Plenty of variables other than the use of analytics are important. Traditional teams can win and advanced teams can lose. But sub-par use of analytics appears to function as a strong headwind for an organization to overcome.

Data architecture isn’t destiny. But it appears that ignorance born from resistance to change is.

67 thoughts on “A numbers game

  1. The tears after reading this article made my Frosted Flakes soggy this morning.
    Reds are busy getting their computer systems ready for the Y2K virus bugs. Got to get all their Commodore 64’s protected.
    Notepads instead of iPads.
    No. 2 pencils with the extra eraser add-on tips.
    To the Reds front office the SABR monster is like Big Foot. Maybe it is real, and maybe it is not. Skeptics.

  2. It seems to me, being hear in l a, that the angels are overrated(deputo leaving over frustration of mgr not sharing info with team-dumbingit down). I think the angels are one toe in. The dodgers seem to be all in. I wish the reds would at least get their feet wet.

    • Agree. The Dodges seems to be all-in in terms of their front office staff, however, their spending habits (due to the sheet magnitude of their cash flow) are still somewhat old school.

      Overpaying for a guy who might help the team isn’t really a bad play if you have nearly unlimited funds.

  3. Paging Mr. Castellini…Paging Mr. Castellini…Paging Mr. Castellini…

    We have an urgent message for Bob Castellini…

    Paging Mr. Castellini…

    • You’re on the right track there Cossack…are we sure the batteries in his pager aren’t dead?

  4. With the big market, deep pocket organizations (Boston, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Baltimore, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, etc.) now joining the ranks of the small market, low budget teams as SABR converts and believers, the Reds are being isolated in a small (and shrinking) minority of teams paddling upstream against a strong head wind. No matter what moves the Reds make this offseason, the future will not look bright or even promising until Castellini cleans house and replaces the entire antiquated baseball operations organization with personnel and management who can compete with the other modern baseball organizations.

  5. To have a complete take and have a fair debate, some data that´s been left out:

    .- 50% of the ALL-IN teams did not make the playoff, some with a top payroll like Bos. Of those who made the playoff, NONE will be playing in the 2nd round if Hou loses today.

    – Hou, Cubs, Pitt and Rays lost 100 plus games for many years, drafting in the top 5 and enduring shame for over 10 years to finally being in the post season. NONE of them winning anything yet. In the case of Tampa, once they started winning and drafting low they have not been in the post-season. Oak is still waiting to be in a WS since 1990.

    . From the “believers” group: Wash, who lost as many games and was lucky enough to draft one Strasburg and one Harper, beside having the richest owner in MLB. WS: 0, postseason: No. The Dodgers and their 300MM payroll, analitycs or not, haven´t won in 27 years. Mets, since 1986. We´ll see. SD and their much hyped Guru, biggest disappointment this season. Tor: See LA DODGERS, above. KC: After being the American laughingstock, drafted in the top 3 since forever finally gathering a nice core. They decided to go all-in (Biggest flaw in Jocketty´s tenure) I´m rooting for them. Ned Yost is as old-school as you can find in the business.

    From the Rest: The Rangers -amazingly- are there despite an incredible rush of injuries. Been twice in the WS in the last 10 years. DET with a down year after dominating their division even their league. PHI got old after being the big dog. But none is more of a dramatic example than the “one-foot in” SF GIANTS and their absolute dominance this decade.

    And our beloved Reds are TWO years removed of a very nice 5-years rush yet somewhat underachieving, winning 2 NLCD (over the best team in baseball 🙂 ) and a 2nd wild card in MLB´s toughest division.

    • You’re presenting a lot of mistaken and misleading information here.

      I’m pretty sure the Cubs are in the second round, for example. Two others were knocked out by an All-in team. So that’s a terrible point. And maybe Houston.

      You can say that Houston Chicago and Pittsburgh haven’t won anything yet, but it sure feels like they had a different season than the Reds. Sabermetrics (and other non-math paths to win) work in the regular season. People have been saying that for years. The postseason with short series (one game play in) is pretty random. It’s getting to the postseason and winning a division that matter. The fact that the LAD and NYM are in the postseason is what matters. The Dodgers only recently hired their analytics front office. Yes, spending $300 million helps. That was all included in the post.

      I believe it does matter whether a team invests in knowledge. You’re basically nickel-and-diming the overall point, which is an obvious correlation between analytics and success, at least in 2015. The last thing the Reds need is to operate based on the premise of what you’re saying – nothing wrong here, steady as she goes.

      • I am sorry if providing facts are considered mistaken or misleading by you. Other than considering the wild card game a “round” or not you cannot argue nor deny a single fact stated.

        Yes you can say Hou and Pitt have a different season than lets say the Reds or the all-in teams like SD OR BOS. Things were a little different in 2010-2013, weren´t they? especially since counting the Cubs in this conversation is kind of funny. That´s baseball, sometimes up, sometimes down, even in the SABR era.

        My issue against you guys – respectfully- who preach analitycs as the salvation of the Reds or baseball for that matter is that you bought too much into the “Moneyball” movie. You use the word “old-school” as a bad thing and despise 30 plus years of baseball expertise thinking that it can be replaced by a 20-something whiz with a nice software, but you cannot take away those 2 WS rings and many accomplishments Jocketty´s got. (even with his mistakes)

        Finally, like I´ve said many times, it´s good to have modern tools – and use them- but you cannot replace baseball saavy, experience and dogout culture. Those you don´t learn in MIT or Harvard. The Reds need that experience, better Players, Managers, coaches, health, some luck and yes, an improved baseball operation Dpt. to be contenders again.

        • This isn’t about Moneyball. That’s so 10 years ago.

          You said “Of those who made the playoff, NONE will be playing in the 2nd round if Hou loses today.”

          I pointed out that was mistaken. The Chicago Cubs are playing in the second round. I believe I saw they won last night. And they are in the All-In category.

          When you cited 27 years of Dodger failure etc. you seem not to grasp when these teams made their analytics turn. The Dodgers revamped their FO last October. The Cubs and Mets recently, too, same with Houston. Pirates in 2013. All those teams have turned around and won in short time. Analytics was part of it.

          Don’t create a false argument. No one says the goal should be to replace “baseball savvy, experience and dugout culture” – but it is important to scrutinize all those practices to see if they make sense. Like using pitcher-hitter history to make lineup and playing time decisions.

        • No one is saying that this has to be one or the other. The issue is that the Reds DO NOT EMBRACE analytics. They cling to the old-school way of doing things while their competitors are way ahead in the space race.

          Savvy, culture, and experience are important, but to bury your head in the sand when it comes to analytics? That’s a losing proposition every time.

          Let’s keep calling for the sac bunt – because that’s old school – and see how that goes. Ugh.

    • I am with Todd there is nothing shown in this data that suggest any correlation to success with Sabremetrics. I am glad the Reds are shunning this fad and acquiring mediocre arms and targeting poor defenders who strike out a lot but can hit the ball far 20 or times a year given enough opportunities

      • Love sarcasm, but when you are talking about “poor defenders who strike out a lot but can hit the ball far 20 or times a year given enough opportunities” I guess you mean Adam Dunn and his almost .400 OBP right? 🙂

        • Nicely done. 🙂

          I am not a skeptic of data, but I am a proponent of sample sizes and I’m not quite convinced that we get a big enough sample in a year’s time to be predictive. There are so many variables. Exit velocity data has me really excited as it could be the silver bullet that explains the BABIP/luck fluctuation.

        • Marlon Byrd, Boesch, Duvall, Dominguez, Suarez might even be playing OF next year and I would think he be a bit on the less favorable side of the believers

    • EXCELLENT point about most of the current successful teams SUCKING for a decade plus to get good. The Reds haven’t sucked completely in 30 years until this year, so getting a stud player or two was possible, but less likely.

      The Astros, Cubs and MEts would NOT be good right now, if they had not sucked for years and drafted some big guns in the top 5 of the draft SEVERAL times.

      Some of the same successful teams will suck in a few years, probably due to an over-dependence on analytics and not enough common sense.

      I do think the Reds need to gut the front office and revamp scouting and development as it is obvious there is a below average track record of success since Jocketty joined up (his solid trading aside). Krivsky and O’Brien were better, but only slightly so.

      I get the use of stats, and there has never been a time some kind of stat wasn’t used. The non-believers (Phillies, Marlins) do use stats, so not sure how you call them non-believers. If you mean they don’t have a half dozen horned-rimmed glassed geeks bumping into each other in the front office, sucking up revenues, sure, I get that.

      The Reds could stand to get a geek with a plan, but don’t let him be all SABR or we’ll be worse than ever.

    • The stats are widely available…for free. All you need is the man in charge taking them into consideration when comparing some prospects or free agents or trade targets. You don’t have to have an entire department wasting money unnecessarily, you just need someone not so old-schooled that they don’t have internet access or refuse to login to email daily.

  6. Nice article, Steve

    Reading this caused me to think about why Walt J. was fired in St. Louis. By any historic measure, his tenure there was a tremendous success….but, to DeWitt’s credit, he saw the future and Walt wasn’t the guy who could lead an organization focused on developing baseball players.

    The Cards use data well, but they also invest huge sums in people. Instructors, nutritionist, strength and conditioning personnel, psychologist etc. By investing millions on development, they save tens of millions in MLB payroll. The Cubs are on a similar path. The Reds seem to few developmental cost as an expense….it needs to be an investment

    Walt is a very good MLB Gm…..but the business has changed and he hasn’t.

  7. With the new front office regime in Milwaukee, you can probably move them up one category to “Believers” now. That really puts the Reds and their front office squarely behind the 8 ball now.

  8. SHCHI is right on in saying Bob must clean house and start over.Measurable data is used by all successful companies to stay ahead of their competition and the fact the Reds still use the gut and eye test is beyond belief.Thanks Steve for once again pointing out the obvious with data.I remember a saying on a wall at GM that read Trust IN GOD but everybody else speak with data.

  9. Very nice article and certainly portrays in data form what many ‘sense’ is happening. There could be confounding factors that are not controlled in your demonstration. One curious random occurrence, that can only be assessed over time I suspect, is the validation of sabermetrics and the conclusion (loosely applied) of the steroid era. As previous posters have obliquely mentioned, many of these successful teams today were pretty bad for awhile, accumulating draft picks, some of which (many if you’re the Cubbies / Royals) have become superstars. Their youth blossomed just as all the old, slow slugging veterans had to stop using steroids – thereby (effectively, again loosely) sort of forcing a youth movement on the entire league. With a scarcity of slugging % now available, those with young talent waiting for call-ups had an even larger advantage. Perhaps that advantage will dissipate some over time as we get further and further away from the roids. I dunno. Also – another confounder – there is much of the game saber metrics doesn’t quite measure effectively yet. That unknown adds randomness (actually in favor of your stats but I figured I’d throw it out there). Ok I’m done. Provocative read!

  10. The list does seem a bit arbitrary, though. For example, take Seattle and KC. When this list was made, Jack Z was the GM of Seattle. He was one of the first to really use fielding metrics in his evaluations. Meanwhile, KC has an absurdly old school manager and a GM who was the whipping boy for analytic sites for years. And yet, KC is in the second tier ahead of Seattle who is in the third.

    Also, biometric data? I’m sure there is some great research being done, but I haven’t really heard of it paying big dividends yet. We still don’t know how, or if it’s even possible, to predict or prevent pitcher injuries. Maybe it could help a player get that extra little bit out of his talent, as so much of baseball is about energy transfer throughout the body and efficiency of movement, but hitting and pitching coaches already know the basic parts of the swing and windup. Just seems kind of strange to judge them on that.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that the teams who are winning now are mostly doing it with homegrown depth. The Cubs young hitters, the Mets young pitchers, the Astros, etc.. Not coincidentally this is the same way the Reds won from 2010-2013. Also not coincidentally, they stopped winning when that young talent dried up.

    All that said, the Reds could definitely use a more data driven outlook. For me, it’s all about identifying value. How do you get the most bang for your buck? And the last couple years, Walt has been throwing money away.

  11. There seems to be two opposite viewpoints. I think that SABRmetrics should be used like any other tool, IMO baseball is more than an equation but I am becoming a big believer in the modern analisys. The issue is still money, if you have ex amount of dollars for operating cost is it better spent on crunching numbers or looking at Latin or Asian ball players? I will say this that a team who has a very poor manager that would rather have information in notebooks instead of a tablet tells me that the Reds have some serious issues about technology.

    • You are absolutely right. It´s mostly about money. OAK is the poster boy for moneyball. Never made it. Boston did because their payroll is top 5. What “small market” team has won this century?.
      SABRMETRICS is just a tool. As much as a good hitting coach, an experienced scout or a saavy trader like Walt Jocketty. USE THEM ALL, but don´t try to sell it like they invented “modern baseball”. Unless they hit with an iPAD.

  12. Losing en masse for 5-7 years while collecting high draft choices and being able to spend a ton of money when those draft choices made it to the bigs makes you saber friendly. Who knew?

    • That might be a partial explanation for the Cubs and Astros. What about all the other teams?

    • I suppose the smart thing for the Reds to do is just pretend its the 1970’s. Players are paid whatever you want to pay them….you’re near the top of the revenue chain because no one has much of a local TV deal and you draw a million fans more than the average. You can trade your way to prosperity because most GM’s are former players or the drunk brother in law of the owner who couldn’t be trusted to run the cracker factory. All you need is a reasonably intelligent person running things and its difficult to fail.

      The modern business of baseball is filled with people who 15 years ago would be working at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs. There is certainly a place for the “savvy baseball man”…..but you can’t run an organization the way Bob Howsam did. Its an entirely different business.

      • Your observation about people in baseball who could be working at Mckinsey or Goldman is absolutely correct. One of my MBA students who took a job with Baltimore faced intense competition for the position. Students are even honing their skill through competitions like this:

        http://sabr.org/analytics/case/

  13. Keep the young home grown talent coming and sign them to longer deals at good value.Of course its easier said then done but we have to do it this way.We don’t have the bucks to go after the big FA and as TCT said what little we have Walt goes out and signs players to expensive 2 year deals.Nobody would have paid Skip,Ludwick,Parra and Badenhop what he did.He paid more for Byrd this year then he would have two years ago when we were good.

  14. It doesn’t take a sabr genius to realize the top end talent assembled in Toronto would mash. The Mets strategy of acquiring young talented pitching predates sabr thought and the Reds strategy of doing the same is panned here and elsewhere. The Dodgers can spend like drunken sailors. I’ll give you Pittsburgh but a lot of their talent was due to draft based sucking too. There are also a lot of teams in the sabr friendly camp that sucked or under performed. If you go back 3 to 5 years a lot of these are flipped flopped. Maybe it has to do less with sabr friendliness and more with the cyclical nature of baseball and the ability to spend money. Just look at the Reds from 2010-2013. High draft picks peaked. I get you like to push the sabr thing and it’s an important tool but it’s not the only factor and is often over emphasized as a cure all.

    • Great post. You’re right, why the cyclical nature of baseball contention is being completely ignored makes little sense, except that by using the 2015 season as a snapshot you can point out that sabermetrics are the main, perhaps only, reason why the teams got to where they are.

      Much of the success this year is from young players, in many cases acquired in rebuilds before the current regimes even took over. Several of this year’s contenders at the end stages of painful long-term rebuilds. The Mets drafted Harvey, DeGrom, Matz, and Niece before Sandy Alderson took over. Familia also predates the current regime, as does David Wright. Highly regarded top prospect Syndergaard was acquired (with d’Arnaud) years ago in a great rebuilding trade of RA Dickey. Many seeds planted before Alderson took over, or rebuild moves, are now paying off. Why? SABERMETRICS! Like, seriously? That’s what I’m seeing in this article. They went through a cycle, with the low point being ignored and the high point being credited. It sure looks like confirmation bias.

      I agree that sabermetrics should be relied on and supported and everything, but it’s really over-simplying things to look at 2015 as a snapshot of everything good being due to it, and everything bad being due to a lack of it. The Reds rebuilt from years of struggles to put up winning seasons in 2010, 2012, and 2013, and are now cycling back through. There were, and are, many factors at play… not just acceptance of sabermetrics. The 2015 season is a great snapshot for sabermetrics success, but says far less than the bold claim that sabermetrics has brought about all that success.

      • “Everything good comes from sabermetrics and everything bad is due to a lack of it,” said no one, ever.

  15. I have to slightly (but only slightly) disagree with the criteria Baumer used to rank the ballclubs:(1) the strength of each franchise’s analytics staff, (2) the club’s buy-in from executives and coaches, (3) the team’s investment in biometric data, and (4) how much the organization’s approach is predicated on analytics. For #1-3, they mean nothing if one doesn’t actually implement the data. For, a number that I would also use is not only on the team’s approach but also on how much money they use on getting those players. For instance, Boston and the Yankees being All-in? They have two of the biggest payrolls in the league, and only the Yankees were good enough to make the WC playoff game. Especially the Yankees, they’ve been known to give some of the biggest contracts to wash-ups in the history of the league. The Dodgers and Padres being believers? The Dodgers still have the highest payroll in the league, even after they got rid of several of their higher-priced players to the Padres. And, only one of them made the playoffs.

    As a matter of fact, shown by the number, being all-in is still no guarantee to make the playoffs. For instance, from the All-in’s, only 5 of the 9 made the playoffs. For the top two levels, it makes it look like if you are a believer or all-in, some could think that you have a 9 times better chance of making the playoffs. Where, in actuality, given these numbers, 9 of 16 teams made the playoffs, where the “one foot inners” were 1 out of 5, which would mean this season being a believer or all-inner gave you less than a 3 times better chance of making the playoffs. Also, given that one of the “one foot inners” having won 3 of the last 6 WS, that still isn’t that bad a place to be.

    Even with the Reds, essentially the only differences between 2010-2013 (when we had so much success in making the playoffs) and now are no Arroyo, Latos, and Baker. Arroyo was getting to old, no longer being effective and thus not worth that money. Same with Latos. And, if anyone was accused of not being a numbers guy, it would have been Baker. Either he wasn’t (couldn’t even get a weather report on his own) or he tried to be too much (making a lineup based on a guy’s history of 5 AB’s against a pitcher in 2002; minutia). So, one could easily make the argument that we are a better numbers team now than we were. But, we have had less success the last 2 seasons.

    Now, what I would like to know is could some of the numbers be in direct correlation with the money like the broadcasting contracts. For, I do not know when all the franchises renewed their contracts. For, without the money, a team may not be able to bring in the players and personnel with the better numbers, which could be one reason why the Reds could be so non-active in the FA market and unloading payroll with our most recent trades; we haven’t renewed our broadcasting contract yet. We don’t have the money to be in the market to get the better-number players.

    Now, what is obvious, at least if you agree with who is actually using “the numbers” that, yes, they have more wins on average than those who don’t. But, also as shown, that’s no guarantee that “your team” is going to have more wins than others or even a 500 record. You still have to play the games. You may have your team set up on paper. But, again, what the numbers won’t do it bat for you, pitch for you, play the situation ball for you, etc. A pro-numbers person on here even (at minimum) implied a team should spend a couple million on a RH-bat bench player who has success PH against LHP; and just how many times does that come up during a season, for that kind of money? The players still have to go out and execute. The ball still has to bounce your way. 6 out of 16 (believers and all-ins) teams still finished with essentially a 500 record or lower, definitely a significant number statistically. With those 6 teams, being a believer or all-in didn’t work out so well.

    • Again, I’ve said on here, I would definitely use numbers in team creation, just not solely. For, those who solely rely on “the numbers” are just as foolish as those who solely don’t rely on “the numbers”. You should never put all your eggs in one basket. For, once you do, you realize you don’t have enough eggs for all the baskets that come up.

      • If you’re not using “the numbers,” what are you using? Are you just arguing that teams should pick players judged solely on their personalities?

    • “Sabermetrics guarantees a team will make the postseason,” said no one, ever.

      • Strongly hinted in the article that they are a determining factor and that teams that use them are entirely more likely to make the playoffs. I don’t think anyone is saying that sabermetrics make you a lock, just that they aren’t a panacea and other factors aplly.

  16. At its core, Baseball is a game of failure. In the short run, its almost completely random…over the course of a season, its incredibly consistent. Analytics is simply the science of finding objective and empirical data in order to remove as much of the randomness as possible.

    Like any good thing in life, you need science, but you also need art. I want the Reds to have as many facts as possible……I also want them to have creative, pragmatic, problem solvers using that data.

  17. If the Dodgers win tonight it will be 4 “Believers” in the two LCS series, not that it has any statistical merit.

    However, I think I personally fall into the “Believer” category and feel like ultimately we will see that those who enter into the “All In” category by and large will not keep up with those who are believers in the validity and importance of analytics but also understand they are just a part of the picture and do not define the game.

  18. At the end of the day, baseball is always a game played with a round ball that comes in a square box.

    BTW, the super-sabrs Astros are out too. Better yet, knocked-out by our own developed Johnny Beisbol Cueto and old-school Yost. 🙂

    • Kind of unfair to edit my post just because someone does not agree with my opinion, isn´t it?. Especially since I´m always respectful and provide facts and opinions in a civil manner to generate a debate. I have not violated the site´s guidelines whatsoever. If disagreeing with some opinions is against the guidelines, please say so.

      • The vast majority of your comments are still here, unedited. Even in the comment that was edited, the parts that were about baseball/Reds and not other commenters or writers were retained. So you can cut out the sob story that you were censored because of your views. That’s garbage. One thing that will get you banned is trolling. If we judge that all you’re doing is trying to stir up controversy instead of making legitimate points, we have no tolerance for that.

        • I understand. If I don´t agree with you, I´m a troll or just try to stir controversy is that right? I´m sure many of my points have been valid and very well supported. They have even generated a smart debate among knowledgeable baseball people.

          And one more thing, I always post respectfully something your respond has really missed out. Have a nice day.

  19. By the way, even precious NFL football is all about big data and competitive advantages. Every player has rfid tags on their shoulder pads this year, indicating speed when in motion, field position within six inches of where they are, and other impact data points. If people don’t think teams are going to turn that into means of identifying trends, contract talking points, and value, you’re mistaken. If you think that is just fine for football to do, then ask why isn’t it for baseball?

    • Agree. I have read in neither article that a computer can win the world series for you. However in about every sector of business, technology and analytics, are used to enhance productivity, etc. Sales for example is still about relationships but the best salesmen use all the tools (ie. analytics) to their advantage. It simply stands to reason you need to use both analytics and baseball savvy to build a winner. The two are synonymous is the game today.

      • Exactly. And as Steve has tried to address in some of his posts above, it sure seems there is a large base of people who when they hear “analytics” they keep hearing “this is an infallible system that always works all the time” and use when instances that it hasn’t worked to prove none of it works. What the? Why the? How the? Ugh. It’s not infallible, it’s not perfect, and it never will be. It simply improves efficiency and odds of making the right choice more often.

        So help me the next time I see someone say “The A’s are still waiting to win”… that is not the point. Not. At. All.

  20. This kind of debate always confuses me. I don’t actually know what the people arguing against “numbers,” are arguing for. Guessing? Darts? Rolling dice?

    I think we should replace the words “numbers” and “analytics” with the words “looking at events in a game.” All that baseball statistics are is a recording of things that happened in the games. It’s not like Jocketty doesn’t use facts when he signs free agents. Really the debate is just about what numbers you use when you decide who you want to pay to be on your team.

    The more modern approach is to look at the processes that go into creating outcomes, rather than the outcomes themselves. I think this makes sense because an outcome in baseball (a run, an out, a double, etc) is actually the result of a complex interaction of multiple processes. For example, an RBI double is the result of a pitch’s speed, location, and movement, the batter’s swing, the batter’s speed, the defender’s positioning, the defender’s speed, the ballpark, the defender’s arm strength, the defender’s throwing accuracy, and the base runner’s speed. At the very least.

    In the older way, of looking at that event, the RBI was the most important thing, because that was the ultimate outcome. It was what you wanted, so you measured that, and it led to the idea that some players had a lot more control over that complex interaction than they really do. The RBI guys that just willed RBIs into being.

    In the more modern of looking at the RBI double event, all of the different pieces are important, and that is what creates the vast amount of data that Steve talks about. As we have learned more about the game, we’ve learned that the processes are more repeatable than the outcomes, because the interacting processes are so complex. The “sabermetric” GMs are looking for guys that repeat the processes that they value. The old school GMs are looking for guys that have good baseball card numbers.

    The other side of this is players’ personalities, and there will always be some GMs that value that more than others. Billy Beane has famously traded away players that he just didn’t like. So there’s really no new school/old school split as far as that goes. Overall, I think that that part of the issue is much less of a factor than the split between valuing outcomes vs. process.

    • Well said. If you boil it down to its simplest terms you are trying to use all the tools available to you in the evaluation and decision making process. With that said. WHY wouldn’t you “look at all the events in the game”?

  21. Right. I don’t think anyone has ever said that traditional baseball thinking and looking at a player’s “makeup”, and raw tools don’t have a place in the game. I just think that the shift is to more analytical thinking and a deeper look and analysis into all the data that is available as compared to just the traditional numbers (Avg, RBI, HR, ERA, pitcher W/L, SB, etc)

    As Jeremy said above, it’s more about how the outcome was arrived at rather than the outcome itself. A deeper dive into all the data. I don’t think anyone has or will dismiss the eyes of experienced scouts to help spot trends. In fact, I think it all works best when everyone is on the same page and values both sides of this highly. When your traditional “baseball people” and your “analytics” people are working together, you get the best results.

  22. You don’t have to be all-in, in fact that would be detrimental to be sure. The Braves dominated the 90s and no SABR was used. This is proof a plan and using your own eyes is enough, even now. The trouble now is this, with the internet age, teams spend less and less to actually send scouts around the country. Instead they have them parked at home internetting, where you can’t get any sense of a players actual abilities and whether they might project to the MLB level.

    SABR, which is just stats outputted from ever fancier formulas, has been around a while and beside the obvious fact , it isn’t some magic bean solution in itself, but the general idea is that the more information you have the better your decisions, so stats and its more nerdy twin, SABR, have some value, but need other parts to be useful (common sense, good instincts).

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