Tag Archives: dave allen

I Wish Dave Allen Was Never Born

What the hell is this crap?

Look at that mess. What the hell is it? Apparently, it has something to do with Ryan Theriot’s swings, but you can’t be sure.

I know what it really is, though. It’s just another in a long parade of terrible heat maps created by people who shouldn’t be allowed to use R. (I mean, really? It’s impossible Ryan Theriot is at his best on swing two feet past the outside edge of the zone.)

Ever since Hephaestus axed open Zeus’ head and Dave Allen sprung forth, the SABR community has enjoyed lots of neat charts. And as was bound to happen, the man co-opted Allen’s ideas and now anyone can simply copy and paste a heat map into existence on their computer. An understanding of how to smooth and regress is not required.

Carl Craword 2010 Strikeouts, from Baseball Prospectus

This blood splatter analysis is originally from an article by Mike Fast at Baseball Prospectus about how BIS blows. That article seems to be gone (Bed Jedlovec and his Beatdown International Syndicate probably got to Steven Goldman), but discussion–and the charts–live on at The Book blog.

Brett Gardner's something plotted by something, from Fan Graphs

The usually-not-crappy Jeff Zimmerman posted this, along with a mind-boggling number of other terrible heat maps on Fan Graphs.

Ryan Howard's fly ball distance on soft stuff thrown by right-handed pitchers... sure

We can thank TruMedia for this. As you can clearly see here, Ryan Howard’s fly ball distance against soft-throwing righties… is… well, the trend is obvious. Pitchers have been tie-dying the zone in an effort to contain Howard’s mammoth raw power.

Mark Buehrle's fastballs to righties, from Fan Graphs

Even FanGraphs has gotten in on the bonanza. But they’ve taken it to the next level: create your own heat maps. Shown here is a typically-incomprehensible one from Mark Buehrle’s page. And when this feature was announced at the end of January, the readers went nuts:

  • “I have such a huge boner for this.” –The Nicker
  • “Heat maps rock my world. FanGraphs rocks my world.” –shibboleth
  • “This is cool. I’m just starting to understand pitch fx so what do these maps mean?” –MauerPower

I’ve saved the best for last.

Curtis Granderson's "old" swing, from Pending Pinstripes Curtis Granderson's "new" swing, from Pending Pinstripes

These come from Pending Pinstripes, and I think the article is about how Curtis Granderson’s new swing is making everyone throw up? I’m not sure.

Sabermetrics got along well without heat maps for a long time. I know it seems that pitch location data is just begging for them and they’re just so darn easy to make, but cool it, people. It’s played.

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.