Tuesday, December 17, 2013

4 comments Murray Chass Still Hates Statheads and Still Hates WAR; Probably is Just Being Intentionally Stupid at This Point

Murray Chass is not happy about the response he got from the stats community after writing his latest column about Jack Morris and how he is going to vote one final time for Morris to enter the Hall of Fame this year. Murray received responses on why he was wrong to vote for Morris, wrong about how wins are an important statistic, and overwhelmingly just wrong. This makes Murray a sad little man, so he writes about how he would rather play the game War than hear about WAR. I'm not sure Murray understands that this is sort of the point many of his critics have, that he isn't open to new ideas simply because he doesn't want to learn anything new. It's all about Murray's ego. He has to feel like he is a baseball expert and new baseball concepts makes him feel like he isn't an expert and so he naturally has to dismiss these new concepts in order to feel like the game isn't passing him by. So Murray writes about how WAR sucks and how stats-fiends are evil on his non-blog. It's like a blog, except Murray hates blogs so he doesn't call it a blog. Much like his distaste for advanced statistics, Murray thinks reality can be blunted by simply denying the existence of his site as looking like a blog.

If I am guilty, as charged, with demonstrating disdain for the stats patrol (notice I didn’t say geeks or nerds),

Congratulations, now that you are a senior citizen you have successfully managed to stop verbally bullying those who disagree with your opinion. Who says nothing was learned from Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito?

I blame their arrogance for prompting such feeling.

Of course it is their fault. Anyone who disagrees with Murray or challenges his worldview is prone to pissing Murray off and making him start calling this person or people names. Because this is how a debate regarding sports should be handled. A person has his opinion challenged and immediately starts calling the other party names as a way to demean their opinion. I can't wait for sportswriters who can't even handle a simple disagreement without attempting to demean the other party through the use of name-calling to go away. Murray Chass is probably the worst among these name-callers. He absolutely can not accept that a person would disagree with him.

My dictionary defines arrogance as “disposed to making claims to unwarranted importance,” and that describes the vast majority of statistic zealots who inundate me with critical e-mail.

Then Murray Chass is also arrogant because he displays the same characteristics that the stats zealots he dislikes so much display.

There are no two ways with the stats patrol. It’s either their way or no way.

This is incorrect. The "stats patrol" simply wants Murray Chass to acknowledge that advanced statistics can be used to measure a player's performance as opposed to Murray simply dismissing advanced statistics because he doesn't understand them.

No method other than theirs can be right. Those who don’t accept their numbers can’t possibly know what they’re talking about.

The irony of Murray Chass complaining the "stats patrol" is incapable of seeing any numbers other than their own as being correct is fantastic. He is missing the point completely. I'm pretty sure the point that is trying to be proven is that Murray is completely dismissing the use of advanced statistics and the "stats patrol" is simply trying to ensure that Murray understands there is a place for advanced statistics in baseball analysis as well. Murray refuses too understand this because he hates change. He's old and set in his ways.

Mention intangibles, and those who aren’t dictionary challenged might know that an integer is a number but an intangible?

Only numbers count with the stats patrol.

The reason "intangibles" don't count is because intangibles are...wait for it...intangible. You can't measure them. It's impossible to quantify something that isn't quantifiable.

If it’s not a number, it doesn’t fit into the formulas that determine WAR and other such rankings. 

This isn't true. It's just you can't use intangibles to determine WAR because intangibles aren't quantifiable. Any moron knows you can't include an intangible into the formula for WAR. It's a formula, it requires hard data, not an arbitrary ranking of how "clutch" a player is. I really believe the school system that Murray grew up attending has let him down in terms of his math-based knowledge. These are very basic math principles he fails to comprehend.

Baseball-reference.com, an in-depth baseball research site, has the results of each year’s Hall of Fame voting, including columns of statistics for each player on the ballot. 

The column headings include WAR, WAR7, JAWS and Jpos. Nowhere is there a column headed I for Intangibles, but they exist and often in a meaningful way: 

Intangibles may exist, but they don't exist in a quantifiable manner. If you don't know this, then you are stupid and should immediately stop writing, have another glass of V-8 juice and get back to wondering when Larry King will come out of retirement.

The very definition of intangible shows why there can't be a column for "Intangibles."

how a player performs in critical circumstances, for example.

Great point, Murray. Baseball Reference should include how a player performs in critical circumstances (of course this could be displayed in terms of "late-inning hitting" or some other variation of this, but let's not confuse Murray further). I don't know why they don't include this. How about this? You email Baseball Reference how Jack Morris performs in critical circumstances and they can include what calculation you have come up with into their Hall of Fame voting statistics. Go ahead and do it now. Or you can just tell us the "Intangible" number for any MLB player. Just pick one and tell us how this number exists in a meaningful way for this player. I would love to know, because obviously you know something I don't know, and I'm sure Baseball Reference would love to see you give them a numerical amount for intangibles. After all, they exist and often in a meaningful way, so let's see if Baseball Reference will add this column on their statistics for each player who received a Hall of Fame vote. Since you know these intangibles exist, go ahead and email Baseball Reference with your Intangible calculation for Morris so they can add it for this year.

Aside from their lack of recognition of intangibles,

(Bangs head against the desk)

the stats patrol, in my view, has undertaken a mission to undermine one of baseball’s most significant statistics. Wins for pitchers, the heretics claims, is a vastly overrated and misguided statistic.

Wins is one of the most meaningless statistics that tells us how an individual pitcher has performed in a game. If you can't see this, well, frankly you are either intentionally not understanding this to be difficult or you are stupid. I really can't explain it better. A pitcher gets a win partially based on how many runs his team scores. Wins is a great statistic for a team, but a terrible statistic for an individual player since it takes the performance of that player's team into account.

Writing in response to a recent column about Jack Morris and the Hall of Fame. the writer described himself as a passionate 19-year-old fan.

19-year old? This guy never even saw Jack Morris pitch, so how could he comment on whether Morris deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Wouldn't it be funny if this type of comment transferred to other events that a person couldn't comment on because they weren't around to see it?

(Person #1) "The Holocaust was such a great tragedy. So many lives lost needlessly."

(Murray Chass) "How do you know it was a tragedy? You didn't get to see the Holocaust occur, so you can't judge whether it was a tragedy or not."

(Person #2) "Dinosaurs look like they were pretty scary."

(Murray Chass) "How do you know they were scary? You didn't experience dinosaurs because they haven't been around in your lifetime, so you can't judge whether they were scary or not."

(Person #3) "It's raining outside pretty hard."

(Murray Chass) "You are inside. How can you comment on how hard it is raining when you aren't outside to see for yourself? I'm standing in the rain, so I know it is raining hard and you don't."

The whole "you had to be there to give an opinion" comment sounds stupid when taken out of the context of sports.

One of the main things you bring up is pitcher wins, and how the sabermetric community does not value them much,” he writes. “This is true, but there is a reason for this. A win is awarded when a pitcher goes at least five innings and the game ends without his lead being destroyed. The issue with this is that the pitcher cannot control how his offense plays. In theory, a pitcher can allow one run through nine innings and still lose the game, and a pitcher can allow 7 runs in 5 innings and get the win! 

This is absolutely true. It's the main reason I'm not a huge fan of using the win as a measurement of a pitcher's individual performance. Just like an MVP shouldn't have to come from a team that made the playoffs, a pitcher shouldn't be judged on a metric that factors in team performance as much as the "win" statistic does. Individual performance should be measured by individual measurements of that performance, not a metric that factors in team performance.

“This means that part of a pitcher getting a win is team dependent! How can you measure the value of a pitcher based simply on whether or not his team hits for him or not?

By the way, Murray has no logical response to this point. He doesn't take the time nor does he have the ability to point out where the reader's fallacy is, but instead stomps his feet and starts acting like a child while asking questions like "well, should we just take away Cy Young's 511 wins then?," much in the way a teenager stomps off and says he/she may as well be dead if he/she doesn't have permission from their parent to do something.

Another stats patroller writes,

The term "stats patroller" could not be more silly and dumb sounding. It sounds like there is a group of people dressed up like the police.

“Wins are the combination of pitching, defense, hitting, and baserunning, so giving Morris full credit for 254 wins is not correct. Don’t give Morris full credit for having Whitaker, Trammell, Parrish, Gibson, Chet Lemon, along with Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez at the end.”

So what should we do about, say, Cy Young’s 511 wins? Do we wipe them out of the record book, the history book? Do we change the name of the Cy Young award maybe to Cy Young and teammates award?

Don't throw a hissy fit like a five-year old. No one is suggesting that Cy Young didn't have 511 wins. He earned those wins. It's just that it needs to be recognized that a "win" is a team statistic because it relies on a team's batters to score runs for a pitcher to pick up a win. Don't be a baby.

Do we eliminate the term 20-game winner from the baseball lexicon?

Murray is just being ridiculous. It's hard for me to believe that it is the "stat patrollers" who are being arrogant because Murray immediately dismisses the use of advanced statistics, but he has presented zero fallacies in the line of thought both of these readers are using to show how the "win" statistic is more of a team-based award.

Does the standard become the 13 wins with which Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young award a few years ago? How do we treat Warren Spahn’s 13 20-win seasons and his 363 career victories?

We treat it like Warren Spahn won 20 games 13 times. Noting that the "win" statistic is a team-based award doesn't take away from Warren Spahn, it simply notes that Spahn won 363 games in his career and the Braves team had to score enough runs for him to win 363 games.

Why when Max Scherzer wins the Cy Young award does everyone write and talk about him, in the first sentence, as a 21-game winner? Where is the stats patrol when we need them to make sure we get it right?

Max Scherzer was impressive outside of his win total. So it's not a case of simply dismissing a pitcher who has won a lot of games because he won a lot of games. Wins should just be one statistic that is used to measure how well a pitcher performed and not the sum total of how we determine how well a pitcher performed. It's actually a very simple concept that Murray clearly isn't smart enough to understand.

On an MLB.com program this week, Mitch Williams, the former reliever and now television analyst, disputed the idea that wins don’t mean anything. “Wins mean something” he said. “I’m pretty sure the World Series was won with 4 wins.”


Mitch, the Brain, Williams is right. A TEAM wins the World Series with four wins. That's how many wins a TEAM needs to win the World Series. Wins are a team statistic and this is further proof of this.

Then there is the revisionist criteria aspect of the stats world. The stats guys use the fancy statistics they created to judge players who played before the statistics were created.

But...but...you can still judge these players because the statistics are based on real data that the player accumulated over his career. The statistics are based on the player's real performance in the past, not on having seen the player play the game of baseball and then trying to quantify some intangible aspect of the player's game like clutchiness. That's one of the advantages of advanced statistics over the "eyeball test." You don't have to watch a player play baseball to quantify his performance using advanced statistics.

I really should give up, because it's quite clear Murray isn't ever going to want to get it. It doesn't matter when the player played, because WAR and other statistics are based on quantifiable aspects of what the player did during his career.

How can you judge players on WAR when their careers preceded WAR and they didn’t know from WAR? 

Because WAR is based on data that the player accumulated when he did play baseball. This is a very, very, very, very easy concept to understand. It doesn't matter if the players are aware of the statistic WAR or not. The very existence of a statistic should not affect how a player plays the game of baseball. Barry Bonds didn't play better because OPS+ existed during his playing career.

They knew their batting averages and their earned run averages, but they didn’t know their number of wins above replacement.

This song title is how I feel right now. 

Context, a reader explained, “is taken into consideration. Morris is being judged in comparison to his peers, not arbitrarily.”

Another reader explained, “Stats are historical, so going back and using them to compare players with new formulas, is used to dig deeper into players from past era’s.”

The idea of digging deeper into players is aimed at comparing players from different eras. Lots of fans are obsessed with engaging in such pursuits. I do not share their curiosity. I wouldn’t waste a minute on that effort.

Well, simply because you don't engage in the effort doesn't mean those who engage in the effort are stat heads or the effort is stupid and worthy of derision.

And yet again notice that Murray has no retort to how players from different eras can be judged using WAR. All he says is, "well that's stupid." That's not a retort or any type of intelligent remark in response to the explanation on how Jack Morris can be compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers using WAR and other advanced statistics. Murray is asking these questions, getting a concise answer that explains his answer and then ignores the fact this answer makes sense because he doesn't like the answer. How frustrating.

I know a lawyer who is compiling a list of the 1,000 best players in history, ranked from 1 to 1,000 no less. If his book is published, I will be happy to look at it and see if it is worth writing about. I have never asked him if he has used sabermetrics in ranking the players.

I would think more of his work if he has used his judgment rather than metrics.

Well unless this lawyer is 150 years old he hasn't seen every player in the history of baseball play the game, so he has to be using some sort of statistics and his judgment together. Why not use the best statistic that compares players from different eras? I know Murray would think more of this lawyer if he just used his judgment, but under Murray's very strict "you didn't see this pitcher pitch so you don't know how good he is" metric it is impossible for this lawyer to put together a comprehensive list of these 1,000 players without using some sort of statistics to compare these players.

In the collection of Morris e-mail I received, one began this way:

“I’m not sure how familiar you are with Win Probability Added, but it shows how much each plate appearance affected the chances of winning the game.

“If Morris gave up a run when up 4 runs, he would lose very little value. If he gave up the run with only a one-run lead, it would be a big drop in value.”

This makes sense because it shows how well a pitcher pitches when his team is winning big versus winning by a small margin.

That did it for me. I decided I would be better off playing a game of War with one of my grandchildren than reading about WAR.

Win Probability Added is not WAR, so don't blame WAR for not liking the Win Probability Added value. I would imagine Murray's grandchildren will surpass Murray's grasp on math and mathematical formulas sometime around junior high. 


Eric C said...

Lions weigh nothing. Proof? They don't know weight exists.


Bengoodfella said...

Eric, excellent. That Jack Morris actually says he would have pitched better if he had known that's what people wanted him to do, it only makes me want him out of the Hall of Fame even more.

The entire idea of pitching is to prevent the other team from scoring runs. This isn't a new thing and Morris claiming he would have given up fewer runs is pure bullshit.

Anonymous said...

His last paragraph says....

“I’m not sure how familiar you are with Win Probability Added, but it shows how much each plate appearance affected the chances of winning the game.

“If Morris gave up a run when up 4 runs, he would lose very little value. If he gave up the run with only a one-run lead, it would be a big drop in value.”

That did it for me. I decided I would be better off playing a game of War with one of my grandchildren than reading about WAR.

What's so funny, is this metric is basically evaluating "pitching to the score". Which is what Chase and others have always said Morris has this unique skill to do and why his ERA doesn"t matter. So finally a metric that might support his opinion is provided and he says "That did it for me...."

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I think that's the basic issue at play here is that Murray doesn't understand these metrics so he doesn't understand what WPA would do. It's just a basic lack of knowledge he has in not recognizing that he could use advanced statistics to support a case for Morris.

Another write did something similar recently and I can't remember who it was. He dismissed a metric which would have helped him prove his point as correct. It's probably Terence Moore.