# Monthly Archives: July 2011

## Great/Horrible Moments in FanGraphs Trolling

Dave Cameron announced he has acute myeloid leukemia, which it goes without saying, is sad. FanGraphs trolls managed to keep the comment thread respectful for three and a half hours.

Mike:

If you die, can I have your spot on the staff?

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

A lot changes in a year…Mariners from 6th best organization in baseball to the worst. Dave Cameron from alive and well to dead as a doornail.

OMG JUST KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT, DAVE. YOU MEAN SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH TO ME EVEN THOUGH I HAVE NEVER MET YOU BEFORE. YOU’RE PROBABLY THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN MY LIFE AND I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU. WORDS CANNOT BEGIN TO DESCRIBE MY FEELINGS FOR YOU. AFTER EVERYTHING YOU’VE DONE FOR ME AND MY FAMILY, INTRODUCING US TO WAR AND UZR, I FEEL LIKE I’D BE LOSING MY FATHER OR MY BROTHER. PLEASE DONT DIE ON ME CHIEF, I CAN’T HANDLE IT. I MIGHT HAVE TO OFF MYSELF JUST TO BE WITH YOU.

HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU
I WANT TO KNOW
HOW DO I BREATHE WITHOUT YOU
IF YOU EVER GO
HOW DO I EVER, EVER SURVIVE
HOW DO I
HOW DO I
OH, HOW DO I LIVE

Hope you get better. Though this article sucks. Considering statistics will have a meaningful impact on whether you die or not, probably you should choose another anecdote to talk about how statistics are useless. (I’m sure since you don’t use statistics you won’t write a will either. Or make any preparations in case of death. The same as if you were a healthy man in your mid-20s.)

Either way. I look forward to mocking your complete lack of knowledge of personal finance for years to come.

Dave, I just want you to know that I am in your corner and I am rooting for you….TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!

I think Telo summed it up nicely:

And I thought I was the douchebag of Fangraphs. What the hell is wrong with you people?

I must say that I love FanGraphs’ comment rating system. Other sites with an up/down voting system use those votes to determine whether to show or hide a comment and sometimes the order of the thread, too. Even Baseball Prospectus, with a website stuck in 2001 does this. But FanGraphs just displays a big red number next to poorly-rated comments and does nothing else with them. Which is great for me. If I’m skimming through a lengthy thread, I make sure to stop and read all the red ones.

## The Soul of Sabermetrics

Graham MacAree tried to shock the SABR world with his screed “The Problem with Sabermetrics” but I’m not buying it. After wasting a few paragraphs pointing out that baseball analysts can’t conduct controlled experiments (gee whiz!), he drops a few thinly-veiled insults.

Data analysis methods are being misapplied and sold to readers as the next big thing.

Didn’t I just cover this?

Articles are being written for the sake of sharing irrelevant changes in irrelevant metrics.

That sounds familiar, too.

Certain personalities are so revered that their word is taken as gospel when fighting dogma was what brought them the respect they’re now given in the first place.

Maybe he’s just stealing my material. Anyway, MacAree at least has a way to fix the sorry state of sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics shouldn’t be so incomprehensible so as not to call up the smell of fresh mown grass in midsummer, or the crack of the ball off the bat, the blur of seams as an outfielder whips a throw in towards his cutoff man. Statistics shouldn’t be sterile and clean and shiny and soulless. They shouldn’t just be about baseball; they should invoke it. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing the language which makes them so special.

I’m happy someone has finally made this point. What I love most about good sabermetrics is that when I look at

$tRA=27*\frac{K*-.105+BB*.329+HBP*.345+LD*.384+GB*.053*OFB*.046-IFB*.096+HR*1.394}{K+LD*.305+GB*.812+OFB*.830+IFB*.985}$

I see a hit-and-run executed to perfection; I smell the hot dogs and popcorn, chewing tobacco and sweat; I hear the umpire calling “Steeee-rike three!” That’s what makes tRA maybe not the best ERA estimator, but my favorite ERA estimator. And that’s what sabermetrics is all about.

## Baseball Prospectus Disowns the Idiot with the Stats Software Package

No doubt inspired by my comments on Matt Swartz’s harebrained relaunch of SIERA, Colin Wyers officially called out Swartz for his shoddy work and ignorance of statistics. It’s awesome, really. I’m not being ironic when I say it’s exactly what sabermetrics should be. And he managed to do it in 3,000 words, instead of the millions Swartz has written so far about his idiotic stat. I’ll link it again for everyone; please go read Wyers’s article.

## One Idiot with a Stats Software Package

Just when you thought this blog was dead and buried, Matt Swartz comes riding to the rescue. At FanGraphs, he has a new five-part series on everyone’s favorite stat, SIERA. Because last time around, as Swartz trumpets, he and his partner in stupidity crime, Eric Seidman, “didn’t totally appreciate why it worked.” And the name “skill interactive” was completely misleading, too. It’s not like you two devoted more than 10,000 words and its own five-part introductory series on Baseball Prospectus about it last winter. This time, though, Swartz has totally got this.

He isn’t shying away, though. He answers the questions SIERA-atics (like myself) have often asked, like, “Why aren’t there more terms in this equation?” To which he says, in Part Two, “Excellent question. I’ve added (BB/PA)^2, (SO/PA)*(BB/PA), a run-environment variable, and percentage of innings as a SP! And all only because they improve my RMSE!” Swartz even managed to flip the sign on one of the preexisting terms with no explanation why.

I don’t know anything about FanGraphs’ business, but bringing on Matt Swartz and letting him revamp SIERA has to be a waste of money. A one-percent improvement over xFIP would be valuable to a team, I imagine, but to the average fan, it’s worth zero. Maybe less than zero when it’s impossible to explain in English the rationale for the stat.  (Though we’ll have to wait until Part Four to see the comparison between the two, I wouldn’t bet the improvement is close to one percent. And there’s always a good chance that the comparisons aren’t done correctly anyway.) So they’re paying Swartz to blather on about something pointless at best and wasting Dave Appelman’s time in having to add it to their database. The rich grandpa lives on.

Somewhat surprising to me is that the FanGraphs commenters are being uncharacteristically kind to Swartz and his Frankenstein stat. Baseball Prospectus commenters, less so.