Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gene Wang, Step Slowly Away from the BA and RBI

The headline from yesterday's Washington Post Morning Brushback blog post by Gene Wang told us "Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche underscore Nationals’ offensive woes."

I read that and thought, "really?" LaRoche is off to his typical weak start, but I never expected much from him anyway. But Werth?

I clicked over to Baseball Reference before even reading the article thinking I'd somehow missed something. But nope--entering yesterday's action, Werth had a .333 OBP and .435 SLG--both a tick below what the Nationals are expecting but certainly nothing to get worked up over, especially in such a tiny sample. Meanwhile, his walk rate is actually up a bit from 12.6% last year to 13.6% and his K rate is down a bit from 26.5% to 23.5%, and other than Ryan Zimmerman, he'd been the Nationals best every day offensive player by wOBA.

So I went back to Wang's article. His evidence that Werth is struggling? "Werth is hitting .217 with two homers and two RBI in 46 at-bats."

Oy. So, the problem with the Nationals offense isn't that their starting lineup regularly includes guys with OBPs of .154 (Hairston), .174 (Rodriguez), .232 (Desmond), .255 (Ankiel), .282 (Morse), and a pitcher. No, the problem is Jayson Werth's RBIs.

When Adam Kilgore started as the beat writer for the Post, I wrote up a wish list of what I wanted in a beat writer, and mostly he's come through. Good for Kilgore.

But now maybe he'll forward this bit from my wish list to his friend Gene Wang to save us from such saber-stupidity in the future:
4. Familiarize yourself with the basics of statistical analysis. If you haven't already, read Baseball between the Numbers and The Book. I don't want you to write like Tom Tango or Nate Silver, but I do think that a good beat writer can cover the team with an awareness of the most important sabermetric concepts. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times is a great example of a reporter who doesn't do sabermetrics, but he doesn't write as if he's ignorant of it either.

5. Corollary to #4: At all costs, avoid using the very least meaningful stats. Most taboo would be: pitchers' W-L records, batting average, and RBIs.


Bonsai said...

"RBI is a stat that tells you more about the context in which a hitter hits than his actual value as a hitter."

I'm sure that sentence from Kilgore made you cream your pants.

Steven said...

I wonder if you can think of a less disgusting way of saying that?

Yes, Adam does a good job on this score, and I'm pretty sure he included that as a wink in my direction.