Monday, November 17, 2014

4 comments Steve Dilbeck Uses His Column To Make Fun of Stat Geeks And Embraces His Ignorance

Steve Dilbeck, fresh off wanting the Dodgers to bench Yasiel Puig, has decided he is going to make fun of stats geeks and anyone else who wants to use numbers to help evaluate baseball players. I struggle to think of another industry where ignorance is embraced so wholly as it is in the sportswriting industry. Sportswriters like Steve Dilbeck wear their ignorance like a badge of pride. They will NOT be a person who uses new methods to evaluate baseball players, and in fact, will mock and bully those who do use statistics to evaluate baseball players. It's funny, because if someone in my office tried to use a typewriter instead of a computer that little charade wouldn't last long. In fact, we only are allowed to keep our computers for three years and then we have to upgrade to a newer, faster computer that has (gasp!) new technologies one must learn to use on it. For sportswriters who cover a sport, refusal to learn new methods teams use to evaluate players is a badge of pride. Ignorance is cool and progress is to be avoided. I can't imagine why the newspaper industry is struggling.

So Steve Dilbeck mocks Andrew Friedman and the string of new front office hires the Dodgers have made. Really, he calls them names and essentially bullies them for evaluating baseball players as they do. Interestingly, since Steve Dilbeck was obviously a journalism major in college I'm guessing he wasn't dating the head cheerleader and wasn't part of the cool crowd that he so desperately seems to want to place himself among in this column. Hey, maybe he was. I'm sure journalism majors are among the jocks and cool kids at some colleges and universities.

And of course the most geeked out picture they could find of Andrew Friedman is the picture that ran with this column. I'm pretty much criticizing the entire column, because (a) it's short and (b) it's really fucking terrible writing.

The nerds have officially taken over the world. Just give into it.

A lot of people have given into it. The people who aren't giving in to it are those who write angry columns about how they are not learning anything about advanced statistics no way, no how. Not going to do it. Those people are you, Steve Dilbeck. Also, nerds haven't taken over the world, they are just more prevalent in the world. Clearly new ideas (not even "new" at this point, but more alternative ideas) are a disturbing trend that must be stopped immediately. Stats geeks haven't taken over baseball, it's just some of the ideas that are statistics-based are more prevalently being used to evaluate baseball players. 

All those guys who used to sit in the back of the classroom with their black horn-rimmed glasses, pocket calculators and clothes their mommies picked out?

It seems that Steve Dilbeck still has fantasies of being a high school jock and giving wedgies to the smaller kids after gym class. Not that it's pathetic or anything like that.

I always thought it was the jocks who sat in the back of the class because they wanted to be as far away from the learning as possible. Wouldn't it make more sense for "those guys" with the glasses and calculators to sit up front since they are so interested in learning? More importantly, whoever Dilbeck's editor is should be embarrassed. There's really no excuse for allowing writing like this to appear in any newspaper or online. Is this the type of writing that the "LA Times" wants to be associated with? Any idiot can bully and mock others using boring stereotypes about high school losers who love math and science. What the "LA Times" should be looking for is a nuanced and fair criticism of Andrew Friedman and his hires. If there is no one on the "LA Times" sports staff capable of doing this then that says a lot about their choice in employees doesn't it?

They run things now. They’re making the decisions and signing the paychecks. All those years spent cozying up to the jocks and the popular kids just wasted.

Not really wasted since the jocks and popular kids are actually playing the game of baseball. For all of the criticism that stats geeks forget that the actual players play the game of baseball, it's interesting that Dilbeck seems to forget the stats geeks run things for the Dodgers, but the jocks and popular kids are the ones playing the game of baseball. 

The Dodgers have been undergoing an amazing transformation the past few weeks, going from a mostly old-school front office to one brimming with guys who know “analytics” and “sabermetrics,” which I think are the same thing, but I’m not taking any chances.

Yes, rather than actually understand the sport you are paid to cover, it's best to simply make assumptions and run away from any new knowledge you might gain. Seems like the safe bet.

I'll say it's amazing to me how new knowledge or progressing one's knowledge is frowned upon by so many sportswriters. In any other industry, the refusal to gain new knowledge or adapt is a sure way to no longer be an active member of that industry and be searching for a new job. As a baseball sportswriter, it's encouraged. There's no way this article should be printed by the "LA Times" because it has absolutely zero useful information or informative data contained in it. It's simply an ignorant mocking of a large group of people because the author refuses to adapt to a changing world. Yet, the "LA Times" allows it to be printed. It's not shocking, but very disappointing. They prefer an ignorant mocking of stat geeks rather than a nuanced retort to why the new direction for the Dodgers isn't the right direction. Of course a nuanced retort would require Dilbeck to gain knowledge he is vehemently opposed to gaining.

They moved Ned Colletti out of the general manager spot and brought in the Rays’ GM and lover of all things numbers, Andrew Friedman, as president of baseball operations.

By the way, Andrew Friedman has been hugely successful as a GM. This is a very important part that Steve Dilbeck leaves out on purpose.  

Now he has reportedly hired Farhan Zaidi from the A’s, where he was Billy Beane’s latest king of statistics, 

That's not a job title. At least show enough respect to use the proper title that Zaidi had.

to be the new GM and is poised to add Josh Byrnes, a two-time fired GM who prizes statistical analysis. And Gabe Kapler, a former major leaguer who has become a big booster of all the new numbers, may be coming.

At this point, I'm not sure the numbers are even "new" anymore. They are newer than older statistics like RBI's and ERA, but advanced statistics have been around the game for over a decade now. 

The Dodgers have formed their very own Geek Squad. 

HILARIOUS! Just like Best Buy has a Geek Squad!

I mean really, this is an article that is worth posting on the "LA Times" site? What redeeming value does name-calling and celebrated ignorance have? If you ask me, it has none, but apparently Steve Dilbeck is so proud of how he can call other people names he wanted to make sure everyone who read the "LA Times" sports page could read the steaming pile of crap he's produced.

Not exactly sure how much baseball wherewithal they actually have, but I know where I’m taking my laptop the next time it has a virus.

Jokes aside, you don't know how much baseball wherewithal they have? Josh Byrnes has been a GM for two MLB teams, Farhan Zaidi has worked with a successful A's team, Gabe Kapler PLAYED THE GAME (isn't that what these old school writers want?...players who have played the game calling the shots?) so he probably knows a little bit about baseball, and Andrew Friedman's record in Tampa Bay speaks for itself. He's been competing against Wal-Mart with the budget of a regional retail store.

You remember the last time the Dodgers committed to the sabermetric approach? Over 10 years ago McCourt hired Paul DePodesta, then Beane’s numbers specialist, from the A’s. 

Again, that's not a job title in the same way "Crotchety man who hates things he doesn't care to understand" is not a job title. 

Jonah Hill was apparently unavailable.

It's a "Moneyball" reference! No article about advanced statistics is complete without a reference to "Moneyball." Why the constant references to "Moneyball" you may wonder? Because that's the only thing (outside of WAR, which is easy to spell for sportswriters, so that's the advanced statistic of choice) writers like Steve Dilbeck know about Sabermetrics. You know, other than they don't like Sabermetrics because it's an idea they don't understand and threatens their standing as perceived baseball experts. That's the real reason Steve Dilbeck is so immature about the hiring of Andrew Friedman. He's afraid of ideas he doesn't understand. 

DePodesta – pleasant, well-meaning and overmatched -- lasted 20 months before McCourt fired him and hired Colletti.

And obviously no non-Sabermetrics GM has ever been fired and every GM who utilizes Sabermetrics is due to suffer the same fate as DePodesta. 

And Beane liked to say he was more concerned about losing Zaidi to Google than another team. That connection doesn’t make you nervous?

It probably wouldn't make me nervous. He's a smart guy and his job is to look at the Dodgers roster from the perspective of someone who just worries about the information he collects without making an emotional decision. Anecdotal story...I tend to do very well in fantasy hockey leagues because I know very little about the individual players as compared to my knowledge of other sports. My bias is gone, so I won't hold on to Kyle Singler too long or draft Devonta Freeman because I think he is the guy to watch on the Falcons depth chart at running back. I pay attention to the numbers the players put up. Now obviously, fantasy and real sports are totally different and there is no comparison. My comparison only comes in that PART of the decision-making process has to be a neutral, bias-free evaluation of the Dodgers' roster. That seems to be what Zaidi does.

Let's also clear up one other thing that Dilbeck leaves out. Andrew Friedman is not firing every scout in the Dodgers' organization. He is no longer choosing to pay zero attention to what scouts say and the opinion of someone who has followed and evaluated a college or high school pitcher for a long time. It's just that Friedman makes an effort to include statistical analysis in his evaluation of a player. Much to the contrary of what gets written, the entire decision-making process is not based on statistical analysis. PART of the decision-making process will be numbers-focused. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but in order to further their "Numbers are killing the sport of baseball" narrative sportswriters like Steve Dilbeck have to pretend the ENTIRE decision-making process will be stats-based and every current Dodgers scout will be fired. Dilbeck wants his readers to believe scouting will now consist of a line of computers spitting numbers out when this isn't at all the truth. 

Zaidi has a bachelor's from MIT and a doctorate (corrected) from Cal, both in economics. Forget my laptop, I’m wondering if he does tax returns.

Well, Dilbeck probably needs to wonder first how a person who has an economics degree should be qualified to do tax returns. It can happen, but generally accounting or finance majors are considered those inclined to go into the field of doing tax returns. It's a fallacy to assume a person who deals with economics does tax returns as well. But typically, Steve Dilbeck is proud to show off his lack of knowledge for the world to see. Look at me! I'm ignorant! I lack knowledge and prefer to base my information on any assumptions I might make!

Zaidi said he liked to chart player tendencies for the A’s during games, which I don’t believe is a serious selling point on your typical GM resume.

Really? Charting player tendencies isn't a selling point for a GM? Charting player tendencies is very basic scouting shit. It's not even "stats-based" really. MLB teams have been trying to figure out the tendencies of the opposing team and their own team for decades. It's called "scouting" and Zaidi just does it a different way. So yes, charting player tendencies is a crucial part of scouting and a serious selling point for a GM's resume if he is successful at charting these tendencies. 

Oh, come on, who are we kidding? Friedman’s the GM with a fancy title and Zaidi is his chief of numbers.

Yes, who is Steve Dilbeck kidding? Absolutely no one. That is true. 

Zaidi spent 10 years with Beane and the A’s and last season told The Times’ Kevin Baxter:

“One of the things that I grew to learn is nobody has this game figured out. There’s no one vantage point whether you’re an analyst or whether you’re a player-development instructor or whether you’re a coach on the big league staff. There’s no one vantage point that will lead you to every answer. So I think it comes back to the fact that it’s a collaborative process.”

Collaborative suggests different points of view, which I’m not certain you’re going to get from this group unless the debate is over the best PC processors.

Knowing the best PC processors, doing taxes, and fixing laptops. It sounds like the new stats geeks really actually are pretty useful to have around. Of course, none of that deals with baseball which is why the Dodgers will be a failure much in the same way Zaidi helped the A's fail and Friedman was an utter failure in Tampa Bay as their GM...well, maybe both teams were a failure in Dilbeck's mind. That's what he would prefer his readers believe.

Unfortunately for him, the reality is that both Zaidi and Friedman seemed to have done good work for successful teams working on a limited budget. Dilbeck would still prefer to paint both Zaidi and Friedman as inexperienced working in a front office setting and doomed for failure because they lack baseball pedigree to run a successful team. Dilbeck wants to talk so much about a typical GM resume, but Zaidi and Friedman's success at their previous stops show that their resumes speak for themselves. No matter how much Dilbeck wants to paint them as being too numbers-focused, Zaidi and especially Friedman, have shown their methods can work the major league level. Does this guarantee they will be a success with the Dodgers? Of course not, but they aren't computer geeks who don't understand baseball as Dilbeck so desperately tries to paint them as being.

Not sure how much fun all of this is going to be, but it will be different.

And of course doing the same thing the Dodgers have done with the payroll they have was a lot of fun and had the benefit of not being different. Ned Colletti was by no means a failure as the Dodgers' GM, but going in a different route with a GM that has a proven track record of building a farm system (which seems to be the intent) isn't exactly the worst idea. I find interesting that giving a baseball player $35 million for five years doesn't seem like a big deal, but giving a proven team-builder like Friedman that amount of money to build the Dodgers' team is seen as a huge risk. There is a difference because the change of direction could hurt the franchise for years to come, but when choosing to make a change in direction, there are worse choices than Andrew Friedman to be the man leading that change. 

All they inherit is the largest payroll in American sports history, which if nothing else, is a lot of numbers.

And all they understand is numbers, so this should work out fine.

What a terrible piece of sportswriting. This is embarrassing for the "LA Times" that they allowed this to be printed. It lacks perspective, nuance, and any semblance of analysis as to why this direction the Dodgers have chosen to go in should be questioned. It's just a mean, name-calling, bullying, lack-of-think piece that would be better off going in the garbage. Of course, Dilbeck used a computer, a PC processor and a laptop to write the column so obviously he doesn't hate technology as much as he takes pride in his lack of ability to glean new knowledge about his chosen profession.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog frequently for quite time some and have to say that this is probably the worst piece you have ever covered. The fact that this guy gets paid a lot of money to write shit like this is just beyond me.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, wow! That's saying a lot because I have covered some crappy material. He even wrote a follow up which I didn't cover. It basically said Stat Geeks are getting their feelings hurt and they misunderstood him. Then he reinforced the same point he made here.

Mojave Ned/R.Marcotte said...

Dude give it up already. Your going to blow yourself out, if you already haven't. What dirt layeth on your hands, to go beyond the very insulting you've done nothing but here, becoming the very hatred for your own lacking needs...........???!!! This is NOT about Dilbeck, its all about your own neurosis, and probably jealousies too. What happened, did Dilbeck land a job you wanted, or did he refuse to hire you. This isn't worth a blog.

Bengoodfella said...


Actually, Dilbeck is my father who never paid attention to me. I wrote about him in an effort to get his attention. Thanks for your feedback and I'm sorry this isn't worth a blog. I probably should have thought about that seven years ago.