Monday, July 28, 2014

9 comments Welp, Now Stats Geeks Have Ruined No-Hitters for Jerry Green

I hope Sabermetrics geeks are happy. They have ruined no-hitters for Jerry Green by trying to quantify what was the best pitched game in MLB history. What seemed initially like a silly exercise to quantify the best pitched game in MLB history has now ruined no-hitters forever and drawn the ire of Jerry Green. It's bad enough statistics exist and there have been new ideas introduced into MLB that confuse and vex Jerry Green, but now he needs to teach a history lesson about George Bradley and how Kershaw's no-hitter wasn't even a no-hitter. 

George Bradley was a right-handed pitcher who once upon a time pitched the greatest game in history.

Jerry Green doesn't like the Sabermetric geeks (and again, remember, it's perfectly fine to act like a bully and call Sabermetricians names...name-calling is mature and the same sportswriters who are shocked Richie Incognito bullied Jonathan Martin don't mind bullying those who don't agree with their point of view) only pay attention to statistics and have no regard for the history of baseball. He hates how they use statistics to back up their argument. Meanwhile he uses his opinion of a game he never saw as the basis for his argument that George Bradley may have pitched the greatest game in history.

On this day, pitching for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, Bradley held the Hartford Dark Blues without a hit in a 2-0 victory. It was the first official no-hitter in the history of Major League Baseball.

You could look it up.

The date was July 15, 1876.

A less mature writer would make an age joke here and claim that Jerry Green was at this game. I will do no such thing. 

This was considerably before Bill James learned to count to two.

And who taught Bill James to count to two? Probably a computer and that's why Bill James worships computers and numbers. A Speak & Spell helped me identify words, play hangman, and learn numbers. To this day, I prefer computers to humans. This is why computers, progress and numbers are evil. 

So it was somewhat before the creation of Sabermetrics with its collection of numbers freaks.

Again, I love the use of bullying words when discussing Sabermetrics. Would this be acceptable if Jerry Green said Jackie Robinson integrated baseball after those "equality freaks" complained? I get it's not entirely the same thing, but you get my point. It's fine to call a group of people a name as long as those people "worship numbers." 

This is the group of baseball intelligentsia who pay homage to James with the mystical belief that statistics never mattered until such arcane data as WAR and OPS were concocted.

I'd love to see some example of a Sabermetrician paying homage to Bill James and saying statistics never mattered until WAR and OPS were concocted. I would bet Jerry Green can't find an example, so he is absolutely lying in assigning Sabermetricians these qualities. I guess once you have been in the sportswriting industry for a while you can just make shit up. I can't wait until I've been writing on this blog for fifty years and I can accuse sportswriters of random shit I made up simply because I don't like them. 

Bradley’s gem also was somewhat before Clayton Kershaw’s recent no-hitter for the Dodgers was classified as the second-best baseball game ever pitched. If not the best. This was proclaimed in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, by a so-called expert on CBS Sports’ website and by a writer with ESPN.

I'm pretty sure all of these sites and newspapers were reporting this information based on the same source information, which is the metric Bill James had created in order to determine these sorts of things. Bill James is simply trying to quantify something. Personally, I find it interesting but don't necessarily take stock in what he is saying is fact or not. It's just a fun metric to use in order to attempt to quantify the best game ever pitched. There's no need for adult diapers to get in a wad or for dentures to come flying out of anyone's mouth (see, it sounds sort of mean when I bully in this manner). 

Their claim was based on Game Score, a metric that James conjured up to gauge pitching efficiency. He did it by gathering such facts as strikeouts, walks, hits allowed, outs recorded, etc., and placing them into a blender.

I love how these old school writers just can't stand it when two numbers are thrown together. They have no issue with strikeouts, ERA, batting average on their own, but once those numbers get thrown together into one formula HOLY HELL WHAT DO THESE STATS GEEKS THINK THEY ARE DOING BY PLAYING WITH FIRE LIKE THIS? INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS WERE NEVER MEANT TO BE COMBINED! 

It included nothing about quality of opponent.
Then simply dismiss James' metric. Don't turn this metric into another boring screed about how Sabermetricians are geeks. 
So does Jerry Green mean that if Bill James had included the quality of the opponent in the metric then he would recognize the validity of Game Score? I seriously doubt it. 

The result is, according to Game Score, that only Kerry Wood had pitched a better game in the 138-year history of Major League Baseball than Kershaw did June 18, 2014. And Wood actually pitched a one-hitter.

One-hitter or no-hitter doesn't matter because the Game Score metric doesn't measure only games where a no-hitter was pitched. As Jerry Green mentioned, strikeouts, walks, and outs recorded are also factored into the metric. So the best game ever pitched according to Game Score could be a one-hitter.

For some peculiar reason that has eluded the Sabermetricians, there has been a glut of no-hitters in recent baseball history.

I don't understand the wording of this sentence. I don't think Sabermetricians have tried to quantify why there has been a glut of no-hitters in recent baseball history, so I'm not sure why this had "eluded" them. If Bill James did quantify why there were more no-hitters in recent baseball history would Jerry Green even listen to the reasoning or would he just blindly state the reasoning is based on new-age statistics that were created in a blender? 

Thirteen of the 285 no-hitters, the list started by George Bradley, have been pitched in the past three seasons. Seven of them in 2012 and three last year.

Let's do some math! 

There have been 285 no-hitters since 1876. That's 138 years of no-hitters, and on average (don't worry Jerry, I'm doing basic math, not combining two different formulas together), that's 2.06 no-hitters per baseball season. 
I'm going to ignore Jerry's small sample size and go with the number of no-hitters thrown in recent baseball history, which I will interpret to mean the last decade. That's fairly recent baseball history. Since the 2005 season there have been 30 no-hitters thrown, which comes out to 3.0 no-hitters per year. That's a definite increase over 2.06 no-hitters thrown per season.

Let's look at the decade prior to that. From the 1995-2004 season there were 17 no-hitters thrown. That's 1.7 no-hitters per season. Could it be because of the Steroid Era? Who really knows? My point, and I do have one, is it's almost impossible to determine with the information we have why there have been more no-hitters recently. Even if a reason was given, it would involve numbers and Jerry Green would dismiss the results due to numbers and a blender being involved. 

Kershaw was praised nationally for his poise, the fact that he has won two Cy Young Awards in the National League plus the claims that it might have been the best pitching performance ever.

See, here is the beauty of Bill James' metric. It doesn't factor in whether Clayton Kershaw has won 17 or 0 Cy Young Awards. So James' metric only measures what's happened in that specific game during that specific pitching performance. So no, Kershaw's Cy Young Awards have nothing to do with this specific pitching performance and Jerry Green fundamentally misunderstands the metric he is criticizing if he thinks it does. 

By coincidence, Lincecum also happened to have won two Cy Young Awards for the San Francisco Giants. Before Kershaw won his two.

It is a coincidence because how many Cy Young Awards each has won has nothing to do with the Game Score metric. 

And beyond that, Lincecum matched Christy Mathewson by pitching two no-hitters for the Giants’ franchise. Mathewson pitched his two for the New York Giants in 1901 and 1905.

I don't understand the relevance of this other than to note that other MLB pitchers have thrown two no-hitters before, which isn't being disputed. Space-killing is fun though. 

History is wonderful — even if WHIP and ERA+ did not exist when Mathewson and Joss were pitching three decades after George Bradley. And a century plus a decade before Kershaw and Lincecum.

Yes, history is wonderful. I don't think Bill James was saying that history isn't wonderful when formulating his Game Score metric. He was simply trying to quantify the best game ever pitched and if Jerry Green doesn't like the results then he can simply say that rather than fire up the old typewriter and start talking about how Sabermetricians are geeks. 

And despite Game Score classifying Kershaw’s performance as No. 2 in all the 300,000 and more ballgames ever pitched, I have one nagging doubt about it.

The game wasn't pitched in 1906! Dammit, that's when REAL no-hitters were pitched. 

Did a magnificently pitched one-hitter become a slightly smudged no-hitter?

I bet Bill James didn't think of this! His formula in a blender never factored in events that didn't occur during Clayton Kershaw's pitching performance that resulted in a no-hitter. How can the stats geeks respond to this? If the Game Score is an all-knowing metric then how come it doesn't factor in something that didn't occur during a specific game? Yep, a point goes to Jerry Green (in his own mind). 

Kershaw was aiming for a perfect game into the seventh against the woebegone Colorado Rockies. Then Corey Dickerson hit a slow grounder toward shortstop. Hanley Ramirez dashed forward and fielded the ball. Ramirez in a flash threw toward first. The throw pulled Adrian Gonzalez off the bag and the ball bounced to the fence. Dickerson wound up at second base.

Where is "errors committed" in your Game Score, Bill James? If that, as well as quality of competition, were included in this Game Score metric then Jerry Green would have no problem admitting he still thought your metric was bullshit and created in a blender. Why? Because new things are scary and numbers combined with other numbers is what will lead the United States into World War III. 

Even Vin Scully, the beloved TV announcer of for the Dodgers, hesitated. Wondering. Briefly. Then the call of the official scorer quickly was announced. An error.

Perhaps Scully hesitated because the official scorer had not announced whether it was an error or not? No, that would make too much sense. Obviously Scully's hesitation means this was really a hit-and-an-error that was called just an error. 

If the play had occurred in the first inning, it well might have been called the classic hit-and-an-error by the official scorer.

Or it might not have. Either way, Game Score only includes information that actually occurs during a specific game, which normally is something I would think Jerry Green could get behind. After all, how many times have I read the argument Sabermetrics doesn't pay enough attention to what happens on the field? Now, Sabermetrics pays attention to what happens on the field and the criticism from Jerry Green is Sabermetrics didn't factor in what didn't happen on the field. 

A scorer is supposed to call a play in the seventh just he would in the first or second — even in a pending no-hitter.

The play was put into perspective — by Kershaw himself, who was deservedly thrilled with his achievement.

“Under normal circumstances, that’s pretty close to a hit,” Kershaw said postgam, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

But it wasn't and the call was borderline that could have gone either way. So...................we move on and this has nothing to do with whether Game Score is a relevant, accurate metric or not since it only factors in events that occurred on the field of play.

Kershaw is not the normal pitcher. All of L.A. thinks he’s the best in baseball, with talent close to Justin Verlander’s. All of L.A. could be right. The Sabermetricians will figure it out.

And what's wrong with trying to figure it out? Why is this a bad thing? This is part of the fun of baseball, comparing two players who play the same position to find out which player is better. It used to be ERA, wins and strikeouts were used, but now different, WAY more scary metrics are being used. This makes Jerry Green sad. 

But whether this no-hitter was the second best game ever pitched. Who knows?

Statistics!

Nobody knows. Game Score is just an attempt to quantify the best game ever pitched and I'm not sure anyone, Bill James included, is stating the results are a fact and should never be argued against. 

Reality!

George Bradley posted some. Best game ever? Sure. For awhile. It was the first no-hitter when the National League — and thus MLB — was established in 1876.

That premier season, Bradley won 45 games and lost 19, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He pitched 573 innings. Apparently, managers did not bother with the pitch count back then.

George Bradley also didn't throw as hard and throw pitches that put as much stress on his arm as a modern pitcher might. I realize this is fairly irrelevant, but I feel I needed to mention it. 

Bradley threw 16 shutouts, including the no-hitter against the Dark Blues. He started 64 games and pitched complete games in 63 of them. He had a 1.23 ERA.

Feed all Bradley’s stats into Bill James’s magic metric mixer and what pops out?

I don't know. I'm sure whatever pops out Jerry Green will hate it. Is Jerry arguing against trying to quantify the best game pitched ever or is he arguing against Game Score? I can't figure it out. I don't see the problem with trying to quantify something just for fun. If Jerry doesn't agree with the method used, I wonder which method he would prefer?

I would encourage everyone to read the comments on this article. There is some serious dumbassery present. Comment sections are good for boosting a person's self-esteem and making themselves feel smart.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really have no idea what relevance George Bradley pitching in 1876 has to do with Clayton Kershaw in 2014. I can't even imagine what type of equipment was being used, or what the fields were like. 1876 was only shortly after the Civil War (!?) and somehow this is relevant to something that happened this year? I also love this line:

"That premier season, Bradley won 45 games and lost 19, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He pitched 573 innings. Apparently, managers did not bother with the pitch count back then."

They also didn't bother with penicillin, since it hadn't been discovered yet. What does this have to do with anything?! I'm surprised Jerry didn't find this information, and write a column about how men were men and pitchers were pitchers back then because they could pitch 573 innings in one season.

Ericb said...

Did they include stats from the Negro League into the mix? The fact that African-Americans were not allowed into MLB before the 1950s should put a big asterix on those old games. Everything that's oldtimey isn't necessarily a good thing.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I know, right? There are a lot of things people didn't bother with back then. Pitch count being one of the minor ones.

Eric, that's true, but there will never be an asterisk next to records set prior to integration. It would reduce the hero worship of those players and put them on the same level as the cheating PED users. That just can't happy. Baseball must glorify the past as much as possible, even at the expense of the future.

Ericb said...

If a PED addled pitcher is throwing to a PED addled batter doesn't that kind of even things out?

Bengoodfella said...

Of course not, pitchers don't use PED's. Roger Clemens was the only one...ever.

Anonymous said...

Other than the overall stupidity of the column, here's what stood out to me: Kershaw is not the normal pitcher. All of L.A. thinks he’s the best in baseball, with talent close to Justin Verlander’s. All of L.A. could be right. The Sabermetricians will figure it out.

Talent close to Justin Verlander's? I think if Clayton Kershaw woke up tomorrow with Justin Verlander's talent, he'd do the Ickey Shuffle right off a fucking cliff. (Not really, but sort of)

And then I clicked on the link to the column and saw that this guy writes for a Detroit paper.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, apparently Jerry Green hasn't paid so much attention to this current season. It's not a great year to make the comparison to Verlander. Jerry Green seems to enjoy living in the past so I wouldn't expect him to understand this isn't the year to make a talent comparison to Verlander. All he knows is Verlander has been great in the past, so he must be having a good season.

Anonymous said...

I’m interviewing Financial Analysts to handle my entire retirement portfolio, a really big deal to me. I’d love one to say “ I don’t use these new-fangled statistics and computer models to determine investing. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and my eyes and gut tell me where to invest your money.”….

Bengoodfella said...

If a Financial Analyst said to me, I would say, "You are hired," but only under one condition...he can't invest in any companies that use computers. I want a company that uses American workers instead of a computer. That's all I ask.