Category Archives: Articles

The History of the Decline and Fall of the FanGraphs Empire

I am sick and tired of FanGraphs. Their player pages remain the gold standard, both in information and usability. But it’s their “stories” that really bother me. What happened to actual analysis or discussing interesting baseball issues? Questioning the conventional wisdom? Nowadays, the author picks a player, spends 15 minutes looking at his player page, decides whether to highlight his xFIP, BABIP, LD%, or HR/FB, and spends another 10 minutes writing up why Player X is underpeforming/overperforming because his Stat Y is so far from the league/his career average.

Unless it’s Dave Allen or Albert Lyu, in which case the author spends a couple of hours writing an R script to perform a local regression of swings, home runs, or ground balls by plate location. Having done that, he picks a player, spends 10 seconds updating his script with the right player IDs, runs it, takes 2 minutes uploading his graphs to WordPress, and 5 minutes explaining what’s in said graphs. It’s important to avoid giving anything that could be construed as an opinion in this last step.

As “FagGraphs” said succintly in a comment on another post here, “You might as well have just posted a link to his player page.”

(I won’t ape the Pozterisk, but to play devil’s advocate, it’s nice to know that sabermetrics has grown to the point where someone can now earn a good amount just by mailing it in with some vaguely-sabermetric articles. Mainstream acceptance, here we come!)

I looked over the 30 or so most recent posts. And only those written by Dave Cameron, Carson Cistulli, or Alex Remington didn’t neatly fit into my overly-simplistic description. That’s pretty sad. There was word vomit on Matt Stairs, Juan Uribe, the Rockies, Madison Bumgarner, Will Venable, Zach Greinke, P.J. Walters and James McDonald, Robinson Cano, Pedro Feliciano, and Carlos Lee, to name a few. And not one has any analysis I could see.

As for the writers who break the mold, in Remington’s case, it doesn’t matter in the end since his articles were–as always–super boring and on the intellectual level of a middle schooler. Cistulli’s writing often crosses the Kahrl Line, but he has his fans (graphs! I hate myself). And everyone knows that Dave Cameron is the rock of the FanGraphs blog.

The decline of FanGraphs may be overshadowed in intensity by the decline of the Hardball Times or in longevity by the decline of Baseball Prospectus, but it was a site that held promise to be everything  a SABR could hope for and didn’t strive to appeal to idiotic mainstream fans. That the blog is now nearly indistinguishable from TMI activates the weeping circuit in my robot motherboard. If the FanGraphs overlords could manage to fire a few (or all) of the other contributors, SABR everywhere would have reason to smile.

Attention, Daves: for $10 a post, I’ll rip all the SABR out there a new one. Hell, it’s got to be better than Jack Moore finding the world’s stupidest correlation.

Predicting Strikeouts with Wh- zzzzz…

In his article today throwing down the gauntlet against FanGraphs (and their Swartzianly-boring writers), Matt Swartz penned some of his finest prose yet:

For every one percentage point above average in the previous year’s strikeout rate, the following year’s strikeout rate is likely to be about 0.73 percentage points above average. However, for pitchers with the same strikeout rate the previous year, a pitcher with one percentage point higher swinging-strike rate only will have a 0.12 percentage point higher strikeout rate, which is not statistically significant.

Fascinating!

He even included six really killer tables, including something I can only call a Super Table:

The Super Table

Even more fascinating!

But then Tango had to go and kind of spoil the fun.

Anyway, BP was really strong today, as Will F**king Carroll led with “One of the hardest things I have to do is explaining [sic] what I do.” How about something like, “I write about sports injuries”? But that wouldn’t capture that certain je ne sais quoi of Under The Knife.

He went on to say, “The outright arrogance of some statheads and the inability to market any of the tools they’ve developed have held things back.” Can’t… write… irony… too great.

Tango Rushes to Summary Judgment

It’s surprising that the always-contrarian Tango is so upset that some unimportant Cub was injured by a flying piece of a broken bat since that position is so, well, trarian. Isn’t Tango the champion of letting the employees settle their own workplace safety issues? And being hit with sharp pieces of wood in the workplace seems like a workplace safety issue. (I especially like his line, “This is a workplace issue. Keep your righteous indignation to yourself.” Oh, the irony.)

I don’t necessarily think that things shouldn’t change, but I’m a little surprised no one has called out Tango on this (there are no comments on his post as of this writing). The Tangettes are slaves to Tango’s will, sure, but aren’t they also slaves to disagreeing with public opinion?

End of story.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

MGL calls Dayn “Dayne” Perry “supposedly smart” and then says his article is “dumb”. And he misspells his name to boot! The cherry on top, though, is this gem from the comments:

The sad part is that Dayne Perry used to be one the regulars at BP. Surely he knows this is poppycock…

It turns out he has a history of declaring things poppycock. So don’t get too excited, Dayne. Nevertheless, I’m excited to break out the “poppycock” tag here for the first time.

This Post Brought to You by “The Unsubscription”

Are you sitting down? Because Will Carroll has a potentially revolutionary idea which he calls “the unubscription.” As I understand it, visitors to a site will be presented with a choice, either watching a sponsor’s commercial before getting to the content or paying a small subscription fee to avoid the ads.

It’s genius because it’s so simple. How has no one thought of this before? Will F**king Carroll is a man of ideas.

You Disappoint Me, Internet

Your search - "kristi dosh" "rule 34" - did not match any documents.

I’m not proud.

Leaked MLB Financial Documents Claim their First Victim

It’s not completely clear in his latest post whether Phil Birnbaum is aware that George Steinbrenner died a month ago. Why else the strange, repeated use of present tense with his thoughts or actions? That doesn’t speak well of a true SABR. He may be flirting with severe avoidance of sound sabermetric principles here.

Nevertheless, Birnbaum’s Sabermetric Research blog remains the preeminent place on the internet to watch shoddy academic work go up in flames. And my Burn-Baums page is the first and only compilation of his greatest hits. Though it’ll likely remain forever a work in progress.

MGL Channels Travis Bickle

“Do your research; find the actual memo next time.”

You talking to me? What exactly did I get wrong? Not that it matters in the least. Who the hell are you?

And that’s why he gets to be in the header. MGL hasn’t written a more devastating put-down since this gem (one of the best paragraphs on the internet, in my opinion):

Spike, chill! I don’t get a “pass” because I am MGL. My projections are annually in the same league as the best on the planet. That is why I get a “pass.” And because I am considered one of the pre-eminent sabermetricians in the world. You? I didn’t catch your name?

AndrewN, you’ve been MGL’d.

This Week in SABR War

The Tangettes are revolting. Over on The Inside The Book The Book — Playing the Percentages in Baseball Blog (which reminds me of the Official Stephen A. Smith My Blog), you can witness the uprising in comment form against the God-King Tangotiger.

For those too squeamish for uncensored carnage, Tango said something about Stephen Strasburg and how he (that being Tango) is always right. And then we get to the comments. Here are highlight selections, in chronological order.

Mike Fast:

I don’t know what lesson, if any, I’d take from such a small sample, but it certainly would not be the lesson you [Tangotiger] are proposing.

Ken:

I don’t see how you can beat your chest on this topic, if anything I would expect you [Tangotiger] to post a “my bad”

Mike Fast:

Could your [Tangotiger's] rule of thumb still be right, despite Strasburg’s performance? I suppose it could be. But to try to use his performance as proof that you were right is involving some major arm-twisting and severe avoidance of sound sabermetric principles.

Tangotiger:

This is how it works guys. That’s why the Tom Seaver Rule is needed.

David Gassko (with an instant 2010 SABR Comment of the Year candidate):

Tom,

No, no, no, no, and once more, no. You CANNOT say that Strasburg was lucky, because we are not having this argument ex-post. The question of how Strasburg would do came up before he had ever thrown a major league pitch—therefore, there is NO reason to “correct” bias in his numbers. That would be like regressing to the mean twice. If a pitcher posts a 2.00 ERA in a season, maybe his likeliest true talent projection is 3.00. If a pitcher posts a 3.00 ERA, maybe his likeliest true talent is 3.75. But if a pitcher posts a 2.00 ERA, it does not follow that his likeliest true talent is 3.75. Which is what you are currently trying to argue. Strasburg was a pre-selected subject. Therefore, there is no reason to expect bias in his numbers. What happened happened. Oliver was right. You were wrong. End of story.

Tangotiger:

End of story.

You can say all the rest, but don’t say that.

Nick Steiner:

I agree with many of the points you [Tangotiger] make, but this is incredibly disingenuous.

Tangotiger:

And I’m saying that we observed 75% keeps the conversation open. Telling me “end of story” is the same thing as telling me to shut up. I’m talking, and I’ll keep talking, thanks.

Jeremy Greenhouse:

Tango, this doesn’t feel right. I think that you should take a few steps back from this argument and start running some numbers. Brian’s projection of Strasburg is something he should take pride in, and it seems like you’re summarily dismissing his work without evidence of your own.

And Tangotiger gets the last word (for now):

I was fair then in that thread, and I was fair in this thread.

The Seidman Challenge

I took the Seidman Challenge today. First I had to make it up and then I took it. The Seidman Challenge is to read every word in an Eric Seidman article (no skimming) without interruption.

My opponent was his latest column, “Seidnotes: Those Who Don’t Need Support”. Here’s my running commentary.

  • One paragraph in. This is painful.
  • “Usually, run support is mentioned in passing, as if it is an ancillary character in the tale, a Lloyd Braun or a Kenny Bania. In actuality, the evidence suggests that run support is more or less a Costanza in fueling the end result of a pitcher’s W-L record, the measure relied upon by many in award season.” Even for a BP pop culture reference, that’s horrible.
  • This is a contender for best Seidmanism of 2010: “In addition to listing the wild-card era trailers in run support, I also looked into pitchers with solid winning percentages in spite of the poor run support, which led to an interesting suggestion in the comments section: what if I looked at the opposite topic?”
  • Seidman writes screenplays. He also writes things like, “Yes, the journeyman right-hander who was about as generic of a pitcher as they come, the kind that would result in a video game if the create-a-player feature was left purely on default settings, went 17-4 that season while receiving 6.96 runs of support per nine innings.” To make a joke like that, he has to be the worst freaking screenwriter on the planet, right?
  • Seriously, I think MGL has a better sense of humor.
  • I feel very bad for Christina Kahrl, Steven Goldman, John Perotto, or whoever at BP pretends they copy edit these articles. They really should just try to teach Seidman to write in English (or, as MGL would say, “English”). To wit: “Now, one aspect to keep in mind is that receiving run support doesn’t automatically invalidate the reputation derived from a winning percentage.”
  • Almost there.
  • FREEEEDOM!

It was pretty grueling, but I made it. Do you have what it takes? Are you a true SABR?