Someone I work with asked me an interesting question today: “Do you know more about baseball than Mike Francesa?” My answer was very simple: “I probably do not know as much about the history of the game as someone like Mike, but I (and many other fans) know significantly more about today’s game than Francesa does.”
The reasoning is very simple. In the last 15 years, new ways to measure, explain, and predict what goes on on the field have come into wide use. Anyone interested in understanding the game better and honing their grasp of the sport can easily gain some measure of understanding of these newer metrics in a matter of hours. Yet, the dinosaurs like Francesa have shown a general unwillingness to change while their profession has changed. Most of the teams are utilizing the numbers and the metrics, and some enterprising clubs have actually begun developing their own metrics. Statistics are not the be all and end all, and if you feel that things like heart, grit and chemistry are important elements of the game and are ignored by most of the stats, that is a fair criticism. However, that does not mean that the numbers should be ignored and even scorned, as they are by many on the radio and shows like Baseball Tonight. You can use the numbers and your perceptions in conjunction if that makes you more comfortable than solely relying on the stats, but to ignore the numbers entirely smacks of professional irresponsibility.
For an example of what I am referring to, I point you to the willful ignorance of Steve Lyons, courtesy of Shysterball
Collins: For the first time ever you have categories that measure defense. The UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating. It makes a difference. Everyone talked about it last year. Tampa Bay making it to the post-season because of pitching and defense. Defense matters nowadays.
Lyons: It’s fictional.
Collins: I’m telling you, we’re going to be head-to-head on this all season long. There is a place —
Lyons: There is a place, a very small place, for the computer geeks that are now taking over the game of baseball. There is a place, but it’s a small place. We’re seeing way too much of it.
Collins: Now I’m going to fight that battle.
Lyons: None of those numbers — that UZR-mum thing that rates defense —
Collins: UZR. Ultimate Zone Rating.
Lyons: UZR. And your WHIPs and your OPSes. They don’t show me what kind of heart the guy has. BABIP?
Collins: Batting Average on Balls in Play?
Lyons: Stupid. Doesn’t tell me if the guy is a player. Doesn’t tell me if the guy can play. Is he a gamer? Does he get dirty? Does he go out there and play hard? Is he a good teammate? None of that stuff tells me any of that. That’s the guy I want.
The discussion is much longer, so give it a read. Where do you stand on the issue?
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