Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Boz Bugs Me

I haven't read a Tom Boswell chat in months, but I clicked on one today and instantly got annoyed. Good to see he hasn't lost that affect on me.

Here's what set me off:

The stat guys, among other things, still don't grasp the inherent advanatages of groundball pitchers. They get far more GIDPs. Lannan's very high in that. Few stats even touch GIDP. Anbd batting average on balls in play is almost always lower for sinkerballers.

So, yes, Lannan is better than his FIP __every year. His biggest liability is that, even pitching vastly better against lefties, he still has big trouble against the Phils and the big RH bats of the Marlins. When you play 72 games inside your division, you have to look at matchups. Lannan got stuck facing the Phils six times this year. Davey loves the idea of three LH starters in '12, if that's how the competition falls out. But Peacock's stuff and Wang's pedigree as a penant-race Yankee certainly put them in the picture.

The value of groundballs has been sabermetric conventional wisdom for decades. Take this 2006 post from U.S.S. Mariner. Or this 2004 Nate Silver piece on Baseball Prospectus. That's just what I found in a couple minutes of Googling.

Saying statistical analysts don't appreciate the value of the groundball is like saying stat guys don't sufficiently despise the bunt. (Come to think of it, it's exactly the same.)

And then he adds embarrassment to insult by claiming that groundball pitchers have lower BABIPs. It's just the opposite, and that's another basic sabermetric observation established long ago. Groundballs become hits more often. But they're better for pitchers because they never become home runs. That's all there is to it.

But what really bugs me isn't so much how Boz is wrong--I got over that a long time ago. It's how smug he his, how completely oblivious to the possibility that he may not have mastered everything there was to know about baseball by 1980.

If he's not going to even try to keep up with the times (as is so painfully obvious), he should at least offer a touch of humility when dismissing the people who are still working hard to advance our understanding of the game.


Jon said...

Agreed on all points. I guess you saved your best for the last (day of the season).

Steven said...

I thin what Boz was trying to get at is that the stats still under value things a ground ball pitcher is more apt to do, like induce GIDPs. To an extent, that's true, it doesn't show up in a lot of stats (there's no bonus for it in BAA, OPSA, FIP, WHIP, BABIP, etc.). According to all the metrics, Lannan should be a worse pitcher than his results indicate. It's an apparent failing of the metrics, and I think that's what Boz is getting at.

Also, your linked articles are from within the last decade. I imagine there is older research out there, it's probably just harder to find, but you may wish to find it if you are going to jump on Boz if you are going to make the "decades old" claim.

On another note, the Nats finished 80-81. Not bad.

Anonymous said...

But the stat guys still have a hard time explaining Lannan's degree of success. So, in that Boz is right to say he always looks on the edge of disaster against the Phillies or any decent hitting team. Fangraphs pretty much claimed that should be the case?