Over the weekend, there were two pieces on Boston.com that caught my eye.
Both were on the ever controversial subject of Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR for short. One was very well reasoned and objective. One was, well, less so.
Abe’s article discussed the ups and downs of UZR, and highlighted something that few, especially the latter writer (Dan Shaughnessy), seem to realize:
“UZR? That stuff seems like a lot of mumbo-jumbo to me,’’ Drew said. “Do those guys even watch the games?’’
Every play of every game, several times over, in fact. The data used to compile UZR and other advanced statistics comes from Baseball Info Solutions, a company in Coplay, Pa. Owner John Dewan hires only former college or professional players and trains them to chart games via video and record the specific characteristics of every batted ball.
I’m going to repeat that: UZR is compiled by former players who watch every play of every game many times over.
“What if you have a bad hamstring and you can’t get to a ball up the line?”
Then your range will be diminished, which will show up in the stats.
“We’ve got too many stats in this game today.”
How about we just get rid of all stats. The only record of the game will be the eyes of Tom Giordano. Since he’ll have to attend every game, the season will now last three years. Of course, the smart guy that he is, I’m sure that he’ll develop some sort of short-hand way of keeping track of things. For instance, some numerical notation for keeping track of things like the times someone gets on base or doesn’t make a play, but like I said, having to develop a numerical system to keep track of games will be worth it just to get rid of all those damn stats!
While baseball is played on green grass in fresh-air stadiums, an army of geeks will be holed up in their basements, under a naked light bulb, crunching numbers and finding new equations to measure something that simply can’t be quantified.
Like the amount of times that a sportswriter denounces stats as a threat to the game of baseball? He’s right. Quantifying the arrogant ignorance of most sportswriters today is like dividing by zero; one cannot simply calculate infinity.
I don’t trust the defensive numbers.
Seriously. I mean, what do they have to be defensive about? JUST WHAT ARE YOU HIDING UZR?!?!? Drug dealing? Gun running? Death Panels? Oh god…the call is coming from inside the house! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! IT’S THE DEFENSIVE NUMBERS!
Instead of going through Shaughnessy’s article piece by piece, I’ll simply say that this type of article is everything that is preventing advanced metrics from gaining leverage in the mainstream baseball world. Closed minded ignorance–make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is–helps no one. Hopefully, a lot more people read Petey Abe’s article over the weekend. Articles like his will help the casual fan understand something that isn’t so scary after all. I applaud Peter Abraham for stepping out of his comfort zone a bit and attempted to grasp something new; let’s hope it catches on.
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