[James] prefers to talk about elements of the game that he has not yet been able to measure.When Sara forwarded that to me, she said "Bill James is working on scientifically measuring the "human element"? Good lord, what would the Old Guard say about that?"
For example, there is what he calls “The Dick Allen Problem.”
Dick Allen was a talented baseball player for the Phillies in the 1960s who had trouble getting along with management and many of his fellow players. Many believe Allen was a clubhouse cancer whose antics (he fought with teammates on a few different occasions and once missed a double-header because he was stuck in traffic) cost the Phillies wins.
The problem for James is how to measure the impact of a player’s personality on the team’s wins and losses. He has no idea how to go about doing that, but thinks it will have to involve practices from other scientific disciplines, such as organizational psychology. He sharply disputes the idea that off-field behavior doesn’t matter.
“There are some people who seem to think the things that happen off the field have no effect on teams whatsoever. That strikes me as idiotic,” he says.
I think the Old Guard will say something like "Finally that geek James has given up his cyberball and figured out what we've been saying all along! Character counts and chemistry matters!" Of course when they say that, the old guard will be ignoring that:
(a) James has never said that character doesn't count, and his comments here reaffirm a lot of what he has said in the past;I don't get the sense that James is actually looking at "the human element" as opposed to merely talking about it, but I'll bet that if he decides to do so he'll beat the old guard at that old game just as much as he beat them at the "new" game over twenty years ago.
(b) Even if he did, looking at chemistry/character and looking at stats are not mutually-exclusive exercises; and
(c) Even though the Old Guard may claim that they were right all along in talking about chemistry, that talk has been much like their appreciation of stats: shallow, lazy, and resting on old canards and cliches as opposed to any objective observation.