Chemistry is a hot topic amongst the Red Sox nation right now, but I am not sure it as much a factor in baseball as it is when the ball/puck has to be passed such as in hockey, soccer, and basketball.
Heh, yes, there sure is a big difference between 200 million and 36, but there is also a difference between playing in the Al East and West and the A’s are also currently handicapped by their stadium and other issues that contribute to their lack of income, in a very relative way. Baltimore has shown that throwing money around doesn’t guarantee anything, better to be a Twins fan than an O’s over the last decade or so.
Chemistry is one of those things people like to talk about because they can as it is unprovable, not that it definitely doesn’t play a factor, but the emphasis on it suggests magical thinking as much as reasonable expectation. Fans tend to overvalue the effect of single players and certain statistics at the expense of others which are often harder to prove like defense and the like, so talking about teamwork and chemistry makes up for some of that by suggesting that it isn’t a skill as much as an attitude which can be developed. Much of the success of some teams in a number of sports in recent years can be at least partially attributed to improvements in statistical measurement, according to some of those in the know, but since teams have started keeping much of that info proprietary it si hard to say what they actually are looking at and which teams are using what measures to judge. And of course luck still plays a significant factor in all sports too.
“Sabermetrics is the attempt to measure the factors that go into winning and as such is also fairly opposed to concepts that are almost entirely subjective.”
This is partly why I’m suspicious of sabermetrics. Part of the fun of sports is the numerous variables and that any team could conceivably win each year. I think this is less the case with baseball than with other sports like football because of the salary cap but regardless even in baseball, sometimes the smaller teams do well (like the Giants last year). Hell, didn’t the Rays get into the playoffs this year over the Red Sox?
“the A’s are also currently handicapped by their stadium and other issues that contribute to their lack of income, in a very relative way.”
This is the irony though, isn’t it? If they had the big name star, they might be able to attract more fans and therefore they could build a new stadium. Do you think the Giants would’ve ever gotten Pac Bell Park if they didn’t have Barry Bonds on their roster?
Dude, the concept of money does not inherently = greed.
Yes, that was my point—for I thought you were railing against people for making that equivalence, and I was trying to explain how that wasn’t necessarily the case. (We got a failure to communicate here, and I’m not saying it’s all your fault, either.)
You cannot make it a black and white issue and you cannot divorce cost from production.
I agree that one way of looking at failure/success is by looking at value in terms of cost and production. But I’m suggesting that is not the only way to view failure/success. My sense is that the Yankees had some successful teams—i.e., winning WS—with many overplayed players.
Matt, what you say is literally true, but it is a little more questionable if he would have been a fringe major leaguer if it weren’t for his high draft position as in an absolutely fair system I’m not sure his production would have warranted the promotion to the bigs.
I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying he would have been a very good player if he weren’t drafted so high? And are you suggesting he simply got promoted to the big leagues because of this misjudgment, rather than actual production?
Oh, and the “chemistry” thing is debatable at best given how many teams with “bad” chemistry won titles.
It’s debatable, but many judgments are debatable—that doesn’t mean chemistry shouldn’t be considered. I’ve played against and on teams with more talent, but didn’t perform as well as less talented teams, and I think chemistry is a factor, at least in my experience.
Given no team, not even the Yankees has unlimited resources, managing those resources wisely is what the GM does. Saying in a world without payroll concerns they might have preferred to keep Giambi is fine, but that doesn’t have much to do with the game as it is played.
You mean in the real world a team like the As couldn’t keep a player like Giambi? As for GMs, managing resources is crucial, but when you a payroll like the Yankees and you’re willing to spend it, sometimes poor use of resources can still translate to a successful season.
I’m saying that Beane wasn’t really good enough in the minor leagues to have been assured a promotion based purely on his playing. If he had been drafted in a lower round it seems likely that he wouldn’t have had the same sorts of chances to play in the majors as he did.
Yes, sometimes poor use of resources can still translate to success, luck is also out there and some gap in resources can’t be easily overcome, but it success is more likely when your resources are used wisely. The Yankees have more room for error than other teams, but they have shifted their way of building teams since the beginning of the sabermetric era in the eighties where they spent money foolishly and had little to show for it. The relative success of smaller teams and larger success of sabermetrics in predicting outcomes shifted the value of players and changed the way the game is understood. The Yankees, like most other teams, adapted to that model, that ever shifting model I should say as the awareness of the information changes the value of it and causes the relative worth of players and strategies to constantly change. Game theory and all…
In most sports the main thing is to get to the playoffs as that is where the money is and what can be most easily build for. Once you are in the playoffs the rules change slightly and prediction of result more difficult. A team built to reach the playoffs may not be ideally situated to win them, but some luck in a short series is more likely to occur so expending too much on getting there and also on maximizing one’s chances in a short series could be too burdensome, so you pick the first option as that makes the most sense. A team like the Twins has done well by getting to the playoffs fairly regularly for a long time by structuring their team to do well in their division and to focus on the long term. The Yankees can afford to keep shifting resources to short term goals, but they still need to keep a farm system to feed that desire, both for their own team and for trades. The way they evaluate players also seemed to change during the Torre years, which makes sense since he came from teams that were more advanced than the Yankees in team building.
Anyway, that’s all going off the point, but the thing to keep in mind is that Moneyball doesn’t represent the beginning of an systematic shift in thinking as much as it does the culmination of a change that started back in 81 or so. Actually, the Red Sox winning the world series is what really finalized the shift, but by then it was pretty much fully accepted.
Red Sox winning the world series is what really finalized the shift,
Yes, it finalized a shift, but whether it led to the 2004 win is debatable.
Bill James hired in 2003:The Red Sox did not follow James’ idea of a bullpen with no closer, but with consistent overall talent that would allow the responsibilities to be shared.
Here’s an article claiming sabermetrics the winner in April 2004
Seriously, the team already existed ….
It wasn’t James that signaled the full acceptance of sabermetrics, that was just sort of a hat tip to the man who basically started it all, it was the hiring of Theo Epstein in November 2002 as GM that fully formalized the direction the team was headed in as a team devoted to more advanced statistical measurements. It was that world series win that finally ended the debate on the merits of the shift for all intents and purposes. As to the team already existing, Curt Schilling might be unhappy to hear you say that…
Was sabermetrics responsible for picking Schilling?
He was a known quantity. He helped lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993 and won World Series championships in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He played for Tito at the Phillies.
The Red Sox did not follow James’ idea of a bullpen with no closer, but with consistent overall talent that would allow the responsibilities to be shared.
I’m from Boston and yes (!) they most certainly did have a Pen with no closer….in 2003. Not 2004 (cause Keith Foulke took over as closer in 04).
But in 2003 they did not have a closer. The experiment was dubbed: “closer by committee.” It was lampooned in the media and it was wholly unsuccessful.
Considering their had been a number of studies on pitchers and aging, which pitchers maintained their value longer, I would imagine that statistical analysis played a role in singing the 37 year old Schilling as he was coming off an injury prone year. It also surely had an effect on them signing Bellhorn and, for the future of the team, not trading away Youkillis as Oakland was dying to get him. I think it’s pretty safe to say that all their signings and trades were viewed through the lens of advanced statistical research and then matched to the possible choices and the budget. I mean that’s what Epstein was brought in to do after all.
They got some good years out of Schilling, but not because he was aging well – so yeah. he had some value left.
Any of his injuries could have ended his career, stats can’t predict that.
Sats can’t explain a guy like Millar and for Schilling – who knew he would lose game one and the win game 6 with a broken foot – he had the fire in the belly and he was destined for the Yankees or another NL team. The reason they got him was luck – he wanted to play for Tito again.
Theo’s trades have been horrendous in the last 3 years. Sabermetrics makes sense for team with no money, but for a team with money it is an excuse to make wild-ass guesses. It is like driving a car forward while looking in the rear-view mirror.
I don’t follow or know baseball so well—and I certainly don’t know Beane’s minor league numbers, but are you saying his numbers were really mediocre? While I don’t know his numbers, I do know that his physical tools were pretty exceptional, and my sense is that no one—not even Beane—questions this. The problem wasn’t his ability, but the more mental part of his game—which is extremely difficult to know or predict. If a player is incredibly gifted in terms of physical athleticism and skills, I can understand a high draft choice or moving such a player into the big leagues, even if the minor league stats weren’t stellar. (I really don’t know the normal conditions for moving players up.)
But players with exceptional physical ability are understandably drafted or rated high—partly because these abilities are rare and hard to teach (e.g., someone who can throw in the mid-90s). But taking a player like this from HS is a risk—but it’s an understandable one—and not entirely foolish, imo. However, for small market teams, the risk might be too big, and therefore foolish. But for a wealthier team or team with enough good players, the risk might be worth it. (We’ren’t A-Rod and Griffey were drafted out of HS, no?)
_The Yankees have more room for error than other teams, but they have shifted their way of building teams since the beginning of the sabermetric era in the eighties where they spent money foolishly and had little to show for it. _
So the sabermetric era started in the 90s? I thought it started in the early 2000s—around the time the As showed success with the approach. Is that not right? Some of those great mid to late 90s Yankee teams weren’t using that approach—or am I wrong about that? That team—from ‘98-2000 was on of the best teams I’ve seen. (I hate the Yankees, too.)
“Heh, yes, there sure is a big difference between 200 million and 36, but there is also a difference between playing in the Al East and West”
Tampa Bay’s competing in the AL East sitting right around $41 million, so . . .
“So the sabermetric era started in the 90s? I thought it started in the early 2000s—around the time the As showed success with the approach. Is that not right?”
There’s not really a true inception date, but the Oakland GM prior to Beane, Sandy Alderson, starting apply some principles of sabermetrics to the A’s roster when the team changed ownership in 1995 and wanting to drastically reduce payroll.
But were teams besides the As using the approach—and did the As use the approach in the same way we understand now?
Hard to say given the changing nature of payroll, differences from market to market, individual to individual, etc. Craig R. Wright was employed by the Rangers specifically for this purpose going as far back as 1981. Was he doing the same thing as Beane was twenty years later? Probably not because a lot of analytics where developed in the intervening time period.
I’m sorry Robert, but that is just nuts. Sabermetrics has become so fully integrated with baseball that to not pay attention to it would put any GM at a substantial disadvantage when it came to putting together their team, setting payroll, or predicting the likelihood of certain events. Advanced statistical methods don’t guaranteee anything, but they can give a much better sense of probabilities of success regarding almost every part of the game, from player production to the chances of injury and returning to the same level of production after injury. This has been an enormous systemic shift of knowledge in baseball, which is likely what attracted Sorkin to the script as it matches some of the concerns shown in The Social Network. one simply can’t ignore it as it has both proven its value and has been adopted by virtually all the clubs in the league in differing ways and degrees. That last point is why Epstein or any other GM can’t put it to the same sort of use as was possible in the nineties since when everyone is aware of the advantages it equalizes and any advantage found will be much smaller or come from seeking to maximize a different edge of what is known. There is always luck and gambling involved as statistics can only give probabilities not certainty, so, for example, drafting a high school player may be riskier than taking a college player, but there may also be a greater possibility of a substantially higher upside. At the time of Moneyball, college players were dramatically undervalued so focusing on them in the draft could provide a large advantage as there was greater certainty in them making the majors. Several years later, so many clubs had become aware of this advantage that drafting high schoolers became a more sensible proposition as they had started to be undervalued in comparison. The key was understanding the risks and possibilities and balancing that with the needs and resources of the club over whatever term was of interest.
Tampa Bay, knowing it couldn’t match the Yanks and Sox dollar for dollar spent a lot more time focusing on their draft looking for those sorts of high reward players, which they could since they had a lot of draft picks, and high ones at that. Teams can play the rule five draft and the free agent market to further maximize their draft choices as picking up a free agent then losing then the next year can gain you picks depending on how the player was rated. (Or at least that was how it used to be, I’ve lost track of changes in the last few years so things couold be different now.) A team like the Red Sox is also handicapped by the high salaries they have to pay many of the players they want as that can limit your options when it comes to trades later on. There are so many individual factors to look at that the job of a GM isn’t nearly as easy as it may seem on talk radio as determining the right length of contract, the pay, when to go to artbitration, when to trade, when to mortgage the future for the now, a particular issue for top level teams, who to put on the forty man and who might be able to sneak through waivers undrafted and on and on, and that’s simply thinking of the players as widgets, heh, not even going into how they will fit together as a team, who will play where, how the defense will be affected, what the manager is likely to do with the players given to him and so on. I don’t know what Epstein has or hasn’t done in recent years, but the times continue to change so his initial advantages, already somewhat less than those of only a few years earlier have largely evaporated in any large sense so he would have to rely on smaller edges or take bigger risks to gain the anything like the same sort of juice. Given the expectations of the Boston fans, he has a pretty narrow set of possibilities as contending every year in a division with the Yankees in it has a unique set of problems to be solved. It might be that he isn’t the best man for the job anymore, but I wouldn’t be too sure that it simply isn’t just the nature of his club causing the problem as much as anything else.
I sort of touched on the high school draft thing already, but, yes, there can be a big upside to taking a high school player, but the way they are evaluated has changed, and the inherent risk in them not developing is always something to consider, which is often position dependent. Part of the problem with a guy like Beane is that he may have had the tools, but he didn’t have the skills to put them to use. That was one of the main points of the earliest statistical challenges to the old baseball system, talking about skills versus tools. Some of those skills can be learned to an extent, but they certainly can’t be fully adopted by most players as their style of playing becomes pretty ingrained by the time they are able to be in the minors, so trying to change that style is very difficult and tinkering with what a player has had success doing can sometimes harm a player as much as help so “fixing” them isn’t something that can be counted on by any means. What I was saying about Beane was that by the system of measurement he used as a GM, he wouldn’t give a player like himself the sort of chances he himself received as a player as he didn’t have the skills to be a successful big league player regardless of his supposed tools. That isn’t uncommon for tools players, most don’t develop into superstars, and often not even into viable major leaguers, the few that do make some of the gambling worthwhile as long as one is aware of the risks and looks beyond raw tools to see what else is there.
@ Greg Sabermetrics has become so fully integrated with baseball that to not pay attention to it would put any GM at a substantial disadvantage …..already somewhat less than those of only a few years earlier have largely evaporated in any large sense so he would have to rely on smaller edges or take bigger risks to gain the anything like the same sort of juice.
Okay, we agree, so I am not nuts. Over time, more participants recognize the pattern and the benefits of the pattern deteriorate. Thus, bigger risks must be taken, risks that are out of proportion to returns: it is an excuse to make wild-ass guesses.
“Sabermetrics has become so fully integrated with baseball that to not pay attention to it would put any GM at a substantial disadvantage”
Yeah, but there’s actually still a lot of disparity between “paying attention” and the degree to which teams actively try to apply statistical analysis to their own personnel decisions. The Twins, for example, are cheerfully luddite in this regard . . . and, not surprisingly perhaps, their payroll has ballooned from near the lowest in the league to among the top ten.
Hall of Famers’ Sabermetrics Rankings
HALL OF FAME PITCHERS
89.9 Walter Johnson
77.0 Cy Young
62.9 Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander
59.1 Lefty Grove
56.3 Christy Mathewson
56.2 Kid Nichols
51.4 Warren Spahn
49.1 Tom Seaver
44.9 Bob Gibson
42.5 John Clarkson
40.2 Carl Hubbell
37.7 Ed Walsh
37.2 Whitey Ford
37.2 Hal Newhouser
37.1 Hoyt Wilhelm
36.7 Amos Rusie
35.6 Tim Keefe
34.3 Jim Palmer
34.0 Bob Lemon
33.5 Ted Lyons
33.2 Steve Carlton
32.8 Gaylord Perry
32.7 Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
32.4 Don Drysdale
31.6 Bob Feller
31.5 Charley Radbourn
31.2 Red Ruffing
30.3 Ferguson Jenkins
30.3 Eddie Plank
30.3 Robin Roberts
29.8 Dennis Eckersley
29.2 Phil Niekro
29.2 Dazzy Vance
BELONG IN THE HALL: Bob Caruthers (33.6), Wes Ferrell (31.2), Bert Blyleven (31.1), Dizzy Trout (29.7), Rich “Goose” Gossage (29.5), Clark Griffith (28.3; Griffith is in as an executive; could be in as a pitcher), Tommy Bridges (27.3), Urban Shocker (27), Dolf Luque (26.2), Billy Pierce (25.6), Dave Stieb (25.1).
NOT YET ELIGIBLE: Roger Clemens (70.4), Greg Maddux (63.9), Pedro Martinez(50.2), Randy Johnson (49.1), Tom Glavine (39.9), Mariano Rivera (36.6), Kevin Brown (32.8), John Smoltz (33.6), Mike Mussina (32.5), Curt Schilling (28.8), Bret Saberhagen (27.8), John Franco (25.8).
Wow – am I reading this right?
Pedro Martinez seems low – still has the lowest WHIP in the history of BB.
Between Warren Spahn and Tom Seaver seems low?
Add in Roger Clemens (70.4), Greg Maddux (63.9), and he is out of the top 10.
oops miscounted – he is in at # 10 – think he should be in top 5.
You have to take into account innings pitched among other things there Robert. Guys like Johnson and Young pitched a ton, more than twice as many innings as Martinez. Which is part of the reason why there are so many early century guys, or even pre 20th century ones mentioned like John Clarkson, Kid Nichols and “Parisian” Bob Carruthers. (It also isn’t clear if they are taking into account hitting in the total package as Carruthers also played a nifty outfield.) I’m also not sure what method this guy used to tabulate his list and I’m too lazy to research it especially as there have been a number of new ways of looking at statistics developed since I paid much attention.
I haven’t been paying much attention to baseball since 2004 or 05, so I can’t say much about the current Twins other than I imagine they were facing the problem teams have with a local superstar(s) where teams feel they have to resign them no matter the cost for crowd pleasing purposes as much as anything else, not that Mauer or Morneau shouldn’t necessarily have been signed, just that it isn’t an entirely “win” oriented decision. Have they wised up and pulled Mauer from behind the plate yet?
Speaking of Mauer, the Cubs are a good example of a team that could have heeded some statistical studies a bit sooner and perhaps saved something of Mark Prior’s career, but Dusty Baker wasn’t one to listen to a bunch of kids with new fangled ideas warn him about pitch counts when in his day pitchers could throw 300 pitches seven days a week without raising a sweat. Fucking idiot.
Yeah, they pitched more innings and more complete games.
In the late 80’s(?) management adopted the 120 pitch count convention.
After the late eighties in terms of making it a fairly definitive choice as there were a number of studies showing the risks involved with exceeding that amount of pitches, or in certain circumstances anyway, young pitchers being more at risk than older ones and the pitches they threw making some of the difference. The eighties did see declines in pitch counts though as the strategy of pitching had been changing during the seventies when closers became more prominent and teams started to also move away from four man rotations, but there were still a number of hold outs egged on by the “old school” crowd who thought players were being babied.
Ha, you’re right of course, but part of the problem with the Cubs’ recent history with pitchers is that they took guys like Prior and Kerry Wood who thew a ton of pitches before the ever made it to the organization (Wood for example would throw 175 pitches in a high school game or pitch both halves of a double header), then didn’t properly address some mechanical things that should have been a concern, and the team didn’t bother to put a workable bullpen behind them. So, as a manager, with one of the team’s best opportunities to win in the last hundred years or so, there were only so many choices available. Player development has been a problem with the Cubs for years. Hopefully the new owner was the first step to correcting that and a new general manager will be another.
Re: the Twins
I think it had to do as much with their farm system generating fewer legitimate big league talent, so they were forced to pay a premium to keep the players they really valued because there was no one coming up through the ranks to replace them.