A comment in the RAB Open Thread from last night caught my eye, particularly this part:
Then Mike Lupica comes on and opens with a segment on Jeter which was probably the dumbest of the many Jeter segments I’ve heard so far this season. Don LaGreca cited OPS and Lupica was like “don’t get started with the OPS” basically saying stop it now! that’s way over my head!
I’ll readily admit I didn’t listen to the show, but I’ve got no reason to distrust the RAB commenter. If Lupica said that (and is it really a stretch?) or something like that/along those lines, that’s just straight up, flat out embarrassing. I can’t say I’m surprised or anything, but things like this get under my skin. There’s a decent segment of mainstream media guys who are willfully ignorant of “new” tools for baseball analysis. That Lupica wouldn’t want to get into something as simple as OPS is just scary. But, this mini-example is not the worst anti-”saber” comment I remember.
The worst I can remember was in the winter of 2009, right after the baseball awards were announced and Tim Lincecum beat out Adam Wainwright for N.L. Cy Young despite receiving fewer first place votes than Waino. I was driving home from something, listening to Joe and Evan on WFAN. They (well, mostly Beningo) were ranting about how some voters, particularly Keith Law, based their votes on non-traditional stats. Evan Roberts admitted that while he didn’t prefer to use advanced metrics, he was willing to learn and listen on them. Joe Beningo, on the other hand, flat out said he did not even want to learn about them. Again, that’s embarrassing. This is a man who’s dedicated his professional life to studying, analyzing, commenting on, and broadcasting sports. A huge part of that is going to be baseball, simply because of the amount of time the season takes. Baseball is a sport that lends itself to a lot of analysis and that world has certainly exploded over the last few years, and this very blog is proof of that. We have decided to, more or less, embrace advanced metrics in our analysis of the Yankees and it’s made us, in my estimation, better fans. That a man who is paid to analyze the game does not even want to LEARN about advanced metrics is borderline heartbreaking.
I’m not expecting Beningo or Lupica or anyone of that ilk to suddenly begin using solely advanced metrics, but I’m asking that they at least EDUCATE themselves on sabermetics. Whether they like it or not, it’s a field that is gaining mainstream popularity (finally). For example, just this past Sunday, David Cone spent the better part of Curtis Granderson‘s third inning at bat talking about fWAR and he regularly references FanGraphs and cites its stats during his game broadcasts. Hearing that is encouraging. Let’s bring it back, though, to those who refuse to get to know these stats.
Put yourself in their shoes for just a second, if you will. Imagine that at your field of work, there was something new and up-and-coming that was different from what you normally did, but would likely be helpful in making your performance better. If you didn’t at least learn about that thing, wouldn’t your bosses get pretty pissed? Wouldn’t you feel the professional responsibility to look in to what this new method was? To make this personal…as many of you know, I just finished student teaching at a high school. This high school happens to be considering a rather major curriculum overhaul. I may or may not get a job at this school or in this district, but over the past few months, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn as much about this new curriculum as possible, simply because it MAY impact my career. If you were a surgeon and a new variation of a surgical technique was developed, wouldn’t you study it? If you were a carpenter and a new version of an old tool came out, wouldn’t you want to tinker with it? If you were a sportswriter/broadcaster, and there was a new way to look at the National Pastime, wouldn’t you want to, at the very least, scratch the surface of that perspective?
If you don’t want to use sabermetrics or advanced stats in your every day analysis of baseball, that’s fine with me. But do yourself a favor, even if you fall into that category: research advanced stats. Take them for a test-drive. They won’t bite you and there’s no obligation to keep using them. Don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried ‘em. The best thing to do is the same as it is in any other walk of life: be open minded. Do not pull a Beningo or a Lupica and become willfully ignorant.
Totally unrelated: Happy birthday to my late grandfather Louie. He would be 84 today and he is a huge reason that baseball is as big a part of my life as it is. When he died in the summer of 2006, I took solace in baseball and the Yankees; since then, I don’t think I could fill two hands with the amount of games I haven’t followed in some capacity. Every time I watch/listen to Yankee games or sit down at my computer to write these articles, a part of my grandfather is with me.
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