Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stats Joe Likes

Joe Posnanski has written an overview (keeping in mind a Posnanski "overview" runs about 3,400 words) of the stats he likes. At the outset he places himself in the stats world thusly:
I love the game, and probably spend more time thinking about baseball (my job notwithstanding) than 95% of baseball fans. But I’m pretty lousy at analyzing it, and I obviously have many many many many friends and acquaintances who use statistics, knowledge, sources and just plain good sense to offer ten-thousand-times better insight into baseball than I do.

That pretty much describes me too, and the stats he talks about are the ones I tend to rely on as well.

The post will cover sabermetric principles that most of you will find elementary, but Posnanski could make the owners' manual to a 1977 Vega funny and interesting, so it's definitely worth a look-see.


Unknown said...

His whole 'conversation' on batting average was hysterical. I read this last night and immediately started a debate with my brother about the use and misuse of statistics in baseball.

I finally got him to agree that the only absolute 'truth' in the game (ok, the closest thing to it) comes from watching it continuously (combined with basic stats more to jog the memory about a particular player's performance than to perform comparisons with other players). You read about scouts who have said it: stats just don't tell the whole story...I mean, nobody would have predicted Dustin Pedroia's season in '07 based on his stats, would they?

Debates are especially fun when I can get people to agree to things I don't necessarily agree with...

Anonymous said...

I would hope that a beat writer wouldn't dumb down his column because his/her perception is that their audience can't handle something smart.

Brian posted that in the "Morrissey Goes Luddite" thread, and my first thought, as a long-suffering KC Star reader was, "And how do you think Posnanski survives?"

I guess everyone else in the country has a congeries of asshats of truly Biblical proportions providing their sports commentary for you all to think he is anything remotely resembling a competent sportswriter. I have read many good sportswriters over the years, both local and national (including my late namesake from Los Angeles), and my considered opinion is that Joe is the sportswriting equivalent of Garrison Keillor: devoid of actual talent, coasting on a set of clich├ęs and tics to fill his column whilst providing no actual information.

The statement "I love the game, and probably spend more time thinking about baseball (my job notwithstanding) than 95% of baseball fans. But I’m pretty lousy at analyzing it" alone should disqualify him from commenting on baseball, both for its amazing arrogance and simultaneous admission of absolute incompetence.

Craig Calcaterra said...

I dunno, doc, I think you're being too hard on Posnanski. When he criticize his analytic ability in that passage, he's talking very specifically about his ability to conduct a sabermetric analysis a la Tom Tango or whoever. I hope you don't think the ability to do that is the standard of a good sportswriter.

As for his style, sure, he has some tics and cliches, as does everyone else. But I think you are greatly discounting Posnanski's obvious positive qualities, not the least of which are his use of reason and an open mindedness almost wholly lacking in sportswriters.