Monday, June 26, 2006

Joe Sheehan sums up what I've been trying to say...

In Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). Here's the pertinent quote:

The assembly of a baseball team and that team’s approach to the game have no moral element. All that matters are runs, scoring them and preventing them in sufficient quantities to win, and the paths to doing so are well-trod: get guys on base and hit for power, and prevent the other team from doing so.


In my blog earlier, I tried to make a similar point.

Baseball had to at last acknowledge some of the sheer randomness of the game. The fact that, if player X has a one in three chance of getting a hit in inning one with the score tied, he will have a one in three chance of getting a hit in inning nine down by one with two outs and men on second and third. There is nothing that player can do to improve his ninth inning abilities over his first inning abilities. No moral reason why he may get a hit in one situation and not in another.


Hopefully, the reporting community will realize they are writing to and for a shrinking population and begin writing for people who can understand the subtleties of baseball without having to be told there is a moral reason one team wins and the other loses. Basically, one team wins and another loses because one team is the better team. The Yankees didn't win all those world series because they made the most sacrifice bunts. They won because they hit, pitched, and played defense better than the other teams. That's all.

8 Comments:

At 3:02 PM, Blogger John Salmon said...

Many people, for whatever reason, want to see the result of sporting contests as tests of character. This is parhaps understandable for the players, who have their lives invested in their sports in a way fans don't. For the rest of us, it ought to be obvious that if, say, Brett Myers (!) strikes out Scott Rolen that fact doesn't make him a better person than Scotty.

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous BenJah said...

i understand your point, pawnking, but to say that a player's personality has nothing to do w/ his play is quite a leap. i've played my whole life (only 25 yrs, but still) and coached teams that ranged in age from 9-15, and i cannot for a second discount the effect that personality has on play. i believe that luck does tend to even out, and i believe that there is no real sabr way to effectively measure "clutch" (whatever that is), but some players like to be up w/ the game on the line, and some don't. seems like big-papi does, jeter does, and pujols does. im just guessing, but i think david bell doesn't

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Pawnking said...

benjah, my point continues to be that in the highest levels, pressure and clutch doesn't play as big a part as it does in the lower levels, where talent is lower overall.

You make the point that Papi, Jeter, and Pujols seem to like to be up with the game on the line. Well, you've just names three of the best hitter in baseball, no matter what the situation. David Bell is one of the worst, no matter what the inning or situation. Naturally, the first three will perform better under pressure, because they are better players, period.

Let's take a player universally derided as not being "clutch," A-Rod. Even if we concede that he doesn't perform well under pressure (a very dubious claim that isn't substantiated by any facts), a team of 9 A-Rods would easily win 110+ games a season. Would you take that, or a player you believe is clutch, but with an OPS 200 points below A-Rod? You'd take A-Rod, because he's the better player, period. That's usually what it all comes down to.

I'm not saying that personality doesn't matter, of course it does. But personality is part of what makes a great ballplayer get up at 6 in the morning, eat right, work out 5 hours a day, for years and years, perfecting his skill. Personality makes some great tools players perform so poorly, they can't make it to the big leagues. Personality makes some mediocre hitters into all-stars.

But by the time they get to the big leagues, it doesn't matter how they got there. It's all been perfected and refined by talent, personality, hard work, supplements, whatever. Whatever difference temperament makes after that is so slight as to not really matter at all. Give me a OPS .950 player with a perception of being a poor team player over a gamer with an OPS of .850, and I'll build a winning ballclub.

 
At 12:33 PM, Anonymous BenJah said...

fundamentally, i think we agree, but the details remain, and always will remain, debatable. i do like your point that personality means more at the lower levels b/c it becomes the equalizer when overall talent is lower. however, your .950 ops team might be the orioles of the last decade. personality has to mean something: craig counsell, he of the career .696 OPS, has 2 rings and was a big part of both of those championships. david eckstein has one ring and one other visit to the WS. i'm not saying they were the definative difference makers, but talent isn't the be all and end all in the real world; only in fantasy and video games.

ps: jeter's career OPS is .848. also, cleveland right now has the 5th highest team OPS in the majors and they suck. philly has a team OPS 22 points higher than oakland, and we both know their seasons are headed in opposite directions

 
At 12:51 PM, Blogger Pawnking said...

"ps: jeter's career OPS is .848. also, cleveland right now has the 5th highest team OPS in the majors and they suck. philly has a team OPS 22 points higher than oakland, and we both know their seasons are headed in opposite directions"

For a shortstop, .848 is pretty good, and since a lot of that is OBP, it's even better than it looks.

As you know, offense isn't 100% of the game. Throw in park factors and sample size, and comparing team A's OPS against team B's OPS gets you nowhere.

 
At 1:09 PM, Anonymous BenJah said...

"Give me a OPS .950 player with a perception of being a poor team player over a gamer with an OPS of .850, and I'll build a winning ballclub."

"offense isn't 100% of the game. Throw in park factors and sample size, and comparing team A's OPS against team B's OPS gets you nowhere"

you said it!

i hope you dont think i'm attacking you, but i am enjoying this spirited debate. go phils '07!!

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger Pawnking said...

Huh? Maybe I'm being obtuse, but how does my point that you need good pitching to go along with good hitting prove your point? My basic point is that you need talented players at all positions, and the image of "gamers" is highly overrated, and maybe totally irrelavant.

 
At 6:03 AM, Anonymous BenJah said...

the notion of gamers isn't irrelevant, and will never be until we start putting robots out on the field. as for your questions about needing talent at pitcher and fielding positions, of course i agree.

if personality and intangebles didn't matter, then payrod would be playing ss for the yanks, and jeter wouldn't moved to 2nd a long time ago.

 

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