Bill James-Mandatory Credit: bronxbanterblog.com

The Way It Was, And The Way It Should Still Be: Sabermetrics

Today in baseball there is no bigger debate than what is the proper way to measure a player’s value and ability. A system ever growing in popularity are the sabermetric statistics that can tear apart every player in the game and really identify how good they are. The reason it’s so popular is because IT WORKS! It really does. Organizations have built championships by using this system and even movies have been made based off the world’s sabermetric superstar. It’s an extremely useful tool and all Major League Baseball front offices are using it to build their teams. No, this article will not be a plea to baseball to abolish sabermetrics because that’s not a smart idea at all. But, I am a fan and not a general manager and I have no idea what the hell anyone is talking about when they throw out some fancy statistics. Also, as a fan, I have a few problems with the way sabermetricians go about things.

Look, I understand that individual wins for pitchers really don’t matter at all. A lot of factors that are out of the pitcher’s control can hurt or enhance his chances of winning. I get that and I don’t value the win like people did in the past. But the whole “Kill the Win”movement is overkill. Why take away the win? It’s been here for over a hundred years and just because we have figured out a new way of thinking we need to destroy the statistic? That’s not how it works. A little boy looking at his favorite team’s ace pitcher wants to see that he won 20 games! “Wow! He’s great!” The same little boy will look at the statistic “FIP” and not have a single clue what it means. You’re right to say that individual wins do not matter when it comes to evaluating players, but to a fan and to a sport that is sentimental by nature, the pitcher’s win/loss record is very valuable. We need the pitcher win just like we need RBIs and home runs. We need that.

Now for the big one. WAR! What is it good for? Well, a lot depending on who you ask. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement which is the measuring of how many wins a player provides to a team compared to how many wins a nonspecific minor league player provides to a team. According to sabermetricians it is the single most important statistic in all of baseball. My problem with it is that I don’t know how to calculate it, I don’t know who calculates it, and sometimes minor leaguers impress. To start, I don’t know about you but I don’t watch baseball with a calculator (Some of you may and that’s okay!) and with the amount 0f time it takes to calculate it I’d probably miss 3 innings (I’m not the best at Math) of the game I’m watching and that would be upsetting. Secondly, because I can’t calculate it I have to take the word of whoever actually can and that’s taking my normally tight trust to a very elastic level. I don’t know where WAR comes from! I can count RBI and homers and stolen bases. That’s easy enough to do. Lastly, if you want to talk replacement players you might want to bring up the most famous one of all. His name was Henry Louis “Lou” Gehrig and in 1923 he replaced Wally Pipp at first base after an unforeseen injury forced him out of the lineup. Gehrig would be the “R” in WAR meaning that he shouldn’t perform as well as Pipp. In 1922 Pipp’s WAR was 4.6 and he was a key player for the Yankees. Then, Gehrig came in and he became the greatest first baseman baseball has ever seen. Pipp had a decent career but he’ll be remembered most for being replaced and later overshadowed by Gehrig. This is the main case that can prove that WAR is a little too flawed to be the most important stat in baseball.

Okay, so we all know that in 2012 Miguel Cabrera won the American League Triple Crown and the American League Most Valuable Player. 2012 also saw the emergence of Mike Trout who, according to sabermetricians, should have won the most valuable player. Let me tell you something, and you may disagree, but anytime someone wins the Triple Crown it’s a pretty big deal! It doesn’t happen often at all and Miguel Cabrera had an amazing season. I don’t care if Mike Trout was a better defensive player or that he was faster than Cabrera and stole more bases. It doesn’t matter to me if his WAR or whatever else was better. I get it! Trout had an amazing rookie season in 2012. But, Cabrera’s season was absolutely incredible. Never, as a fan, had a player ever struck fear into my heart when Miggy stepped to the plate against my team. In 2013, I’ll admit I was leaning towards Trout to win the MVP but Cabrera won it because he was still the most feared hitter in baseball. That’s all it takes.

You may think I’m against the evolution of the game but I’m not. I think front offices should use every available resource to build their teams and compete in baseball. But, I’d really appreciate it if sabermetrics wasn’t forcibly shoved down my throat. I know how valuable they are to baseball but I’m not part of a baseball organization. I’m a fan and writer and I’m not particularly fond of math. I watch baseball to be entertained and math gives me headaches and that’s the last thing I want to see in a baseball game. I like pitcher wins because I’m a sentimental person in a sentimental sport. I like home runs and doubles and strikeouts because they’re entertaining. I’m not asking to eliminate sabermetrics I’m simply saying that it needs to be toned down a bit. Sabermetricians aren’t here to “fix baseball”. They can’t do that because baseball isn’t broken. Let’s remember that it’s the little boy’s game and try to keep it that way. Play ball!

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Tags: Editorial New York Yankees Sabermetrics

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