Monday, March 18, 2013

6 comments Jerry Green Puns it Up, Goes to War on WAR: Part 2

Many of you may remember this column from October 2012. In that column Jerry Green advocated for Miguel Cabrera to be named American League MVP over Mike Trout, mostly because Jerry Green doesn't like the use of advanced statistics and advanced statistics were used by many to support Trout's argument for American League MVP. Jerry Green has written a sequel to this masterpiece where he again uses a bad pun in the title and continues to blindly and ignorantly argue against the use of advanced statistics. I say Jerry Green ignorantly argues against the use of advanced statistics because I feel like he doesn't completely understand how these statistics can be used to evaluate a player. He doesn't understand mostly because he doesn't want to understand. For Jerry Green to accept advanced statistics as being useful would be admitting there are parts of baseball he doesn't understand and would make him feel like less of an expert. It's a fear of being left behind that causes many of these baseball writers to have such disgust for advanced statistics. The train is moving though, so they better get on or get left behind.

He had all the five tools that make ballplayers excel, to reach stardom and above. Five tools in a single package are rare and precious. The five tools apply to Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds (in the before segment, not the after), Roberto Clemente, Ken Griffey Jr., Henry Aaron, perhaps Ty Cobb.

That weekend in Anaheim, Trout led off the first ballgame with a double, then the second and, again, the third with home runs. He ran the bases with the wind at his tail. He saved a ballgame by climbing above the fence to steal a home run from Prince Fielder.

Yes, but what Mike Trout failed to do was be drafted by a team in the AL Central so that his team made the playoffs. Big mistake on Trout's part. He's got to lead his team to the playoffs to be considered for the MVP race, and even though Anaheim won more games than the Tigers in a more difficult division, Mike Trout wasn't quite the winning winner that Miguel Cabrera was. 

It was September and the Tigers left Anaheim confronted by doom. They were marked as an overrated, defeated, pretender of a ballclub.

We prejudged.

You mean sort of like how you (Jerry Green) prejudge those people who use advanced statistics to evaluate a baseball player's performance as basement-dwelling, numbers-loving nerds? 

War between the traditionalists — the baseball purists — and the new-fangled Sabermetricians, those who contaminate the sport's statistics with contrived numbers.

I don't like how traditionalists are "purists," as if there is something pure in using elementary statistics and nothing pure about using advanced statistics. Also, all statistics used in baseball are contrived. Don't believe me, Jerry? Grab the dictionary from your "study" down the hall. Don't look at me funny, I know you have a hardbound dictionary you use down in your "study." It's probably on the top shelf next to a group of encyclopedias. Look up the meaning of "contrived" and see the definition is: 

Deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously.

All statistics, including Jerry's precious RBI's, wins, and ERA, are contrived because they don't arise naturally. They have to be calculated or figured by someone. So advanced statistics are more complicated, yes, but they are no less contrived than the calculation for RBI's or ERA. 

I left Anaheim that weekend last September convinced Miguel Cabrera deserved to be the American League Most Valuable Player.

The challenge hit me immediately from the Sabermetric fantasizers.

They claimed Trout should be the MVP.

The horror! Not only do people disagree with Jerry Green, but they disagree with him using a methodology he doesn't care to understand, and frankly, a methodology that is too damn new-fangled to be taking seriously by a student of the game like Jerry. Well, Jerry is a student of the game as long as you don't expect him to learn anything new from the past 30 years of advanced statistical methods. Jerry is a student of the game of baseball in name-only. In reality, he shuns any advanced statistical methods. Because these advanced statistical methods are part of baseball now, he really isn't a student of the game. It's hard for me to take the opinion of a person who absolutely refuses to acknowledge advances in his chosen professional field.

Of course, the traditional, old-fashioned MVP voters among the baseball writers selected Cabrera based on his Triple Crown — as batting champion, home-run champion and RBI champion.

I have a lot of respect for a guy who wins the Triple Crown. It's hard to argue against a guy who won the Triple Crown when discussing MVP candidates. I don't care about the AL MVP race at this point. I'm over Mike Trout losing the AL MVP award for three reasons: 

1. It's a postseason award which I only care about in regard to discussing arguments as to who should win the award. Otherwise, I don't care too much about postseason awards. 

2. I don't really care. Just overall. I'm not a Tigers or Angels fan. I have no dog in this fight. I do have a dog in the fight when writers start criticizing the use of advanced statistics to evaluate a player's performance.

3. Miguel Cabrera deserved the MVP. I don't think he deserved it over Mike Trout, but it isn't a travesty he won. I can't speak for others who like advanced statistics, but in late February I think many are over Mike Trout losing the MVP award. The same can't be said for Jerry Green. He still wants to take the time to bash Sabermetrics, because he's clearly not over the very idea of Sabermetrics existing. 

Plus carrying a ballclub to an unexpected pennant.

Plus, this is somewhat irrelevant. The Angels won more games than the Tigers. So while the Tigers played well in the postseason, they wouldn't have made the postseason if they played in the AL West. Facts are facts. 

But now loving baseball — and the spring training speculation and boasts — from afar, I wonder if Trout could ever duplicate his rookie season.

Jerry Green is afraid Mike Trout will suffer the dreaded sophomore slump, huh? 

The sophomore slump is a huge pile of baloney, in my judgment.

So Jerry Green doesn't believe in the sophomore slump, but he's afraid Mike Trout will never duplicate his rookie season? It may be unrealistic to expect Trout to duplicate his rookie season after pitchers have had an offseason to adjust to him and find ways to pitch to him, but I would assume (barring any injuries) Trout won't have a problem adjusting to what pitchers throw him and could easily duplicate his rookie season a few times during his career. It's not like he will peak at 20 years of age (barring injuries of course). 

Great ballplayers have outstanding second seasons.

DiMaggio did. Mays did. Al Kaline won a batting championship in his second full season.

We're talking about comparing Mike Trout to Hall of Fame players. Let's step back just a little bit and not necessarily expect him to be quite at that level on a consistent basis. I have to think Jerry Green is setting expectations for Trout excessively high in order to point out his regression when it happens. This will give Jerry Green a chance to say, "See, I told you Miguel Cabrera should have been the 2012 AL MVP," as if the MVP measures a player's career performance rather than an individual year's performance. I'm on to you, Jerry. You can't fool me.

"Willie Mays had six tools," Kaline once told me.

"Huh? Six tools?"

"All five, plus enthusiasm," Kaline said simply.

He played stickball in the streets with kids in Harlem. He giggled.

I didn't know Willie Mays was a 12 year old girl at a One Direction concert. I'm starting to lose respect for Mays now. Let's not say Mays "giggled" as if the idea of him playing the game like a child makes him more alluring. It creeps me out a bit when sportswriters insist on referring to adult men as children. There's just something a little "off" about this. I get that kids like to have fun and are enthusiastic, but it's insulting and slightly creepy to want grown men to be children. 

He ran from under his cap.

Mays wore his cap too big so that it would look like he ran faster. So he didn't run from under his cap, he just didn't wear his cap to completely fit. 

He reported in shape, conditioned for his second season.

Right now, according to all reports about Mike Trout from the Angels' spring camp in Arizona, the wind has more tail to push.

Mike Trout is now fat in the opinion of Jerry Green. Interestingly, this it seem to hurt Miguel Cabrera in any way when he got fat after coming up to the majors as a 20 year old rookie. If Jerry Green really wants to start comparing players who got fat as they got older, look no further than Miguel Cabrera. Notice Green doesn't compare Trout to Cabrera on this issue, because if he did then the reader may realize a player's weight gain doesn't always hurt him from being a great baseball player. 

The Angels list Trout at 210 pounds. He reported at 241.

Not so svelte.

Muscle weighs more than fat by the way. Trout may not run as fast as he used to, this remains to be seen, but simply because an athlete has gained weight doesn't mean he has lost his athletic ability. Look no further than college basketball and NBA players. The first thing a young player generally tries to do is put on some weight in the form of muscle. Basketball is a different sport, but the principle of weight gain not necessarily affecting athletic ability (especially if the weight gain is in the form of muscle) stands as true. 

Trout, himself, on several sites claimed he is not fat and he would lose poundage during spring training.

So basically it's a non-issue that Jerry Green thought was enough of an issue to bring up in this column. 

The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter across the country to do a feature earlier this month on Trout in his hometown, Millville, N.J. Trout snubbed the guy, refused to talk then to the LA Times, a publication that covers him with exaggerated passion.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't the right of the media to speak with whoever they want to speak with whenever they want to speak with that person. Jerry Green is being a bit careless with his wording when he says Trout "snubbed" the Los Angeles Times. From the article: 

Obliging everyone would leave little time to eat and sleep — much less to prepare for a baseball season — which is one reason Mike Trout declined to meet with The Times. But ignoring everyone invites jealous whispers that Trout has gotten too famous for his homespun hometown.

If you read that article then you will notice the Los Angeles Times sent a reporter out to Millville, New Jersey to talk about Trout and the town he grew up in. It doesn't appear Trout agreed to an interview. Nowhere in that article is there any semblance of a sentence saying, "Mike Trout agreed to speak with us and then declined once we had flown out to New Jersey." 

The reason there is no sentence like that in the article is because it didn't happen that way. The Los Angeles Times flew a reporter out to Millville, New Jersey to do a story on Mike Trout without having an interview lined up and/or fully knowing they may never get an interview with Trout. I haven't snubbed anyone who shows up at my front door wanting to talk to me when I tell them I don't care to speak right now. In this case, there's no snub involved because Mike Trout apparently never agreed to speak with the Los Angeles Times or the Los Angeles Times never had an interview lined up before sending their reporter to New Jersey. 

The bottom line is Mike Trout doesn't have to speak to the sports media if he doesn't want to, so Jerry Green needs to stop acting like Trout does have this obligation. 

Hurrah, he did provide quotes to the Times after he arrived at the Angels' camp in Tempe, Ariz.

He was at Spring Training, so of course he provided quotes to the media then. In the offseason, when a newspaper reporter knocks on Trout's door he isn't obligated to talk to that newspapers reporter. 

But as spring training continues, Cabrera and Trout have become cover-page fodder for an issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Oh my God! Mike Trout did an interview with ESPN The Magazine but didn't do an interview with a Los Angeles Times reporter! How dare he pick and choose which media entities he speaks with!

"WAR is the answer," ESPN The Mag declares as the headline to the feature article.
It is the answer to what?

A bad pun. It is the answer to a bad pun. 

The Sabermetrics professors fail to get it straight among themselves.

Again, this is a CRITICISM of Sabermetrics. It's a criticism that those people who use Sabermetrics are educated and are "professors." Apparently ignorance is cool. I don't understand how indicating a person who uses Sabermetrics to evaluate baseball players is very educated can be a criticism, but it seems I don't understand Jerry Green.

Sites such as, and Baseball Prospectus have different versions.

But there are certain unifying principles that each of these sites use to calculate WAR. The results are slightly different, but the principles used are the same. This is important to know. 

Generally, WAR includes all the traditional batting vitals and meshes in speed, stolen bases, defense, ballpark configuration, contributions and so on into a whirling blur.

It's not a whirling blur. WAR is several statistics meshed into one larger statistic. I don't get why some people are so intimidated by WAR. It's like sportswriters have never taken a statistics or calculus class. Can you imagine one of these anti-advanced statistics sportswriters storming out of a statistics class because the professor is meshing in too many calculations into one statistic? 

And the replacement is regarded as the average bench dweller in the majors or some ordinary minor leaguer — nobody identified.

Because if someone was identified then it would ruin the metric. This is basic advanced mathematics principles. There is a fictional average "replacement player" upon which current baseball players are measured. It makes sense to do this in order to come up with a constant so that a player's performance can be measured around this constant. 

"For Mike Trout supporters, WAR was simple and unimpeachable evidence of a perfect player performing at a nearly unprecedented level," Sam Miller wrote in ESPN The Mag. "For Miguel Cabrera supporters, WAR was the joyless and inscrutable tool of eggheads, trolls, all of us who never played the game."

And thus, the blather rolled on, extolling the marvels of WAR.

How is saying Cabrera supporters (like Jerry Green) think WAR is "the joyless and inscrutable tool of eggheads, trolls, all of us who never played the game" an inaccurate statement? Guys like Murray Chass and others in the anti-advanced statistics crowd are using terms very, very close to what Sam Miller uses in this column. Miller has paraphrased much of what the anti-WAR crowd says about the statistic. This isn't extolling the virtues of WAR, but paraphrasing criticism made by those who use WAR to measure a player's performance. 

How many times have we read that baseball is best left to those who "have played the game" or had an "old school" sportswriter call the Sabermetrics crowd a bunch of nerds? Maybe it's not stated in not so many words, but we've all probably read something like this. Sam Miller seems to be accurately summing up the opinion of guys like Jerry Green, but Jerry sees it as extolling the virtues of WAR. 

And God forbid someone actually writes a column in favor of WAR, because we all know the 10,000 articles about how WAR sucks written by elderly baseball writers aren't readily accessible on the Internet. Jerry Green's monthly column about how advanced statistics stink is Pulitzer Prize-winning kind of material, but any column about how WAR isn't so bad is just blather. Way to be open-minded to change. It sucks how the Internet doesn't allow ignorant sportswriters to control the message anymore, doesn't it? 

Admitted again — I am old-fashioned, proud. I respect tradition and believe in baseball purity. The sport is an American treasure.

Hey, me too! I also respect different ideas and don't immediately shoot them down because I am too lazy or too much on an ego-trip to adjust to any type of change in ideas or methods of measuring a player's performance. I don't think using WAR takes away from baseball's purity in any way. To indicate using advanced statistics takes away from any sport's purity is just ridiculous. 

Defense, base running — and hitting home runs and driving in runs — matter.

Absolutely, and that's why the WAR formula takes these into account when calculating a player's wins above replacement player. 

What WAR misses, again, is winning pennants, reaching the World Series.

Every single category that makes up winning the Triple Crown (batting average, home runs, and RBI's) doesn't take winning pennants and reaching the World Series into account either. But good try at making a snarky point. I bet sportswriting was much easier when no one could respond in a public way to a writer's silly contention like this one. 

WAR, and every other individual statistics, doesn't take winning pennants and reaching the World Series into account because they are individual statistics, not team statistics. Time and time again it seems certain sportswriters don't understand this.

And WAR fails to factor in weight gain 

If it did, then Miguel Cabrera could have had a higher WAR than Mike Trout last year. If we factored in Miguel Cabrera's weight gain from the age of 20 then his career WAR would skyrocket.

— and sour attitude.

How in the world does Mike Trout have a sour attitude? He didn't do an interview with the Los Angeles Times? The sports media doesn't have a right to interview Mike Trout. This isn't an opinion, but a fact.

Mike Trout was a fantastic rookie in 2012.

That was last year!

What's your point? Miguel Cabrera had a fantastic 2012 season as well. Whatever Trout/Cabrera do in 2013 has absolutely no bearing on which player deserved the 2012 MVP. You don't need to understand WAR to understand that.


Snarf said...

Mike Trout was a fantastic rookie in 2012.

That was last year!

Is this why he didn't deserve the 2012 MVP award? Color me confused.

Good JG takedown as always. I would love to see him attempt to debate the issue with a geeky WAR-crazed stat-loving egghead nerdling. He would get destroyed. I think I have a theory about these "purist" sportswriters, by the way. Jerry Green has always been of the "nerd class" of sports. He's not one of the beer drinking fans, the jacked up athletes or a-hole coaches. Writers have always occupied a relatively erudite niche. Don't get it confused, I'm not calling him smart, just the niche he's been in relative to other portions of the sport. Now that some are coming along purporting to know more about the sport, or at least JG feels that way, he and his ilk are incredibly threatened, thus the hostility.

JimA said...

It's ironic that many of the athletes see writers like Green exactly as he sees Sabermetrics users, as nerds who never played the game and don't "get it". Snarf is so right. It's the guy who was bullied finding someone he can bully.

ZidaneValor said...

Defense, base running — and hitting home runs and driving in runs — matter.

If defense and base running mattered, then Trout would have won the MVP.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, it seems Jerry Green thinks the MVP award is a career award instead of a single-season award. I do agree it is the feeling of being threatened by the new ideas and ideas that they don't 100% understand that causes them to be so anti-stats.

He actually wrote a pretty good column a few days ago. I know he can write, but when he starts going off on WAR it just shows me how he feels threatened.

Jim, that is ironic as well. I know Chipper Jones doesn't like stats guys. I feel like it is mostly baseball players who don't like nerds and guys who use statistics to judge the game. It is ironic.

The most ironic part to me was that if Joe Morgan investigated many of the statistics he fought against then he would see those statistics make him look really good as a baseball player.

Zidane, defense and base running matter until they don't need to matter anymore. See, they matter in terms of that's how the game is played, but they don't matter when they can be used to arrive at a conclusion Jerry doesn't like.

Steve Sprague said...

Jerry Green bitches about Trout's sour attitude. It was Miguel Cabrera who was pouting after the Tigers dropped game 4 against Oakland. So much that Octavio Dotel was imploring him to say something to the team to fire them up, since Cabrera is the team leader.

Dotel also questioned Cabrera's leadership earlier this spring.

Cabrera also got pulled over for a DUI in spring training 2011 and threatened to blow up a bar.

Cabrera also got arrested after a night of drinking in the middle of an important series against the White Sox in 2009 as the team was collapsing.

Cabrera also mocked a teenager for being fat and threatened to get his gun when drinking at a suburban Detroit hotel earlier in his Tigers career.

Who has the sour attitude? More importantly, given how well Cabrera played last year despite these incidences throughout his career, perhaps it doesn't matter at all that Trout turned down an unannounced visit.

Bengoodfella said...

Steve, I thought it was interesting as well that Jerry Green criticized Trout for turning down an unannounced visit, as if he has an obligation to speak to anyone who comes by his house or requests an interview.

See, the point of view that Jerry has is that Miguel Cabrera has matured from those mistakes and is now a good citizen. This is most likely true, but then he also won't allow Mike Trout the benefit of being 20 years old when he ignores Cabrera's behavior before he matured.

It all doesn't matter really, but I don't get why Jerry has any issues with Trout's attitude.