Postgame Spread
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Guess I Have Bloodlust This Week    

Jesus Goddamn Christ.  If it's not the MVP race, or the disaster that is the St. Louis Cardinals, it's friggin' sabermetrics.  From the previous post's comments, from The Hardball Times via Jesse (emphasis mine):

Clutch* (only considering players in contention, measured as previously listed above more than once)

1. Thome 7.0
2. Jeter 6.7
3. Dye 4.5
4. Morneau 4.2
5. Manny 1.3
6. Hafner -.3
7. Ortiz -6.3
8. Sizemore -7.0

* From THT: '"Clutch" is the name we've given to the portion of Bill James's Runs Created formula that includes the impact of a batter's batting average with runners in scoring position and the number of home runs with runners on. The specific formula is Hits with RISP minus overall BA times at bats with RISP, plus HR with runners on minus (all HR/AB) times at bats with runners on. This stat is not a definitive description of "clutch hitting," just one way of looking at it.'

Well, unless I've missed something obvious, that "one way of looking at it" is entirely ignorant.  Sir, step away from the spreadsheet, and put your hands above your head where I can see them.

"Clutch," as defined by the ad wizards at Hardball Times, reflects performance with runners on base.  It does not take game context into account.  In other words, A-Rod's RISP dominance during 15-1 blowouts counts towards his Clutch factor.  Bra-fucking-vo.  How long have these people been watching baseball?  Three weeks?  A month?  I wasted an hour and a half on this post because they don't understand what a fucking clutch situation is???!?!?  (I love channeling my inner Bluth.  "I... am going to trial... because you don't understand what a BLOOPER is?!?")

I'm willing to accept that David Ortiz isn't as good as he seems.  It's a situation where success is bound to overshadow failure.  In fact, I remember seeing data showing that Ortiz isn't particularly great after the 7th inning, at least on a year-to-year basis.  I forget who and where, but it directly addressed the question of Ortiz' prominent status as a late-inning hero.  It was an argument.  I don't agree with it, but I at least respect that there was proper evidence behind the argument.

What I can't abide is redefining the question to suit the answers.  If the question is "Is David Ortiz really a clutch hitter," why would a suitable response be "well, he hits poorly with runners in scoring position"?  Call me old-fashioned, but I like folks to answer the fucking question.  If you can, I'll give all due credit.  If you can't, tough titty for you and your spreadsheet.

There are many, many situations that can be described as "clutch."  Two outs with RISP is a classic indicator of effectiveness in a tight spot.  This one situation is what THT's stat represents.  However, down one runs, man on first, no outs in the 9th inning is much, much more clutch in every sense, and it is not represented anywhere in said stat.  Any statistic that claims to be "clutch" needs to reflect, in an abstract sense, a hitter's performance with his back against the wall.  How does he hit when he knows it's probably his last chance of the night to win the game for his teammates?  Stats that don't consider situations where the tying/winning run would be due up in the current inning, which is the 7th inning or later, do not reflect clutch performance.  End of story.

And yet the THT gives its ill-conceived attempt a misleading, all-encompassing name, cloaked with the transparent caveat that it's "just one way of looking at it."  Oh, well never mind then.  Come on!  What's next?  What if someone published a fallacious proof of Fermat's theorem based on simple algebra, but with the caveat "this is just one way of looking at it"?  Or if THT had run similarly half-assed numbers for measuring defensive prowess.  They would be fucking eaten alive by the sabermetric community.  Don't put it out there, with that name, if you're not ready to take it seriously.  You think it reflects clutchness.  It's a complete crock of shit.  Don't backtrack.  Don't hide behind asterisks.  Own your work.

I'm hereby calling for a national moratorium on stats that debunk Ortiz' late-game heroics without limiting themselves to the question at hand: late-game situations where he (allegedly) thrives.  No more RISP-based stuff.  No more two-outs-only.  And for the love of God, no more stats predicated on the farcical claim that game context is irrelevant when it comes to scoring runs.  Please spare me that ignorant shit.  "Guuuuuh, runs in duh furst inning mean duh same thing as duh runs in duh ninth inning, durrrrrrrr."  Go play with your fuckin' toys.

6 Comments:

  • For the record, I completely agree. I searched for a long time trying to find season-long WPA numbers for everybody because I wanted to include at least one different definition of clutch (and an obviously much better one at that). I couldn't find them though. And I thought it would be a fun provocation.

    It doesn't really make me think any less that the Hardball Times is an amazing resource and generally not that pretentious or annoying. But it's a bad stat with a misleading name. The fact that they use it the way they probably mostly indicates that they don't really believe in "clutch," so one bad formula is no worse than another to them. But it's weird.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 1:14 PM  

  • I'm glad you had fun provoking me. Lick 'em.

    Here's the WPA rundown. Please note that Ortiz's numbers are 33% higher than Jeter's. Over an entire season. 33%. Ain't that a bitch. And it's not likely that WPA is skewed against Jeter in any particular way, given that he's #2 on the list. That, my Jeter-loving friends, is what I like to call the end of the discussion. Ortiz led to more wins.

    It gets worse. WPA includes putouts and assists in its calculations. So Jeter's "defense" is mostly accounted for. Anyone want to step up and argue that Jeter had enough defensive contributions beyond putouts and assists to merit an extra, unaccounted-for 2+ WPA over an entire season? Anyone? Hello???

    For what it's worth, note that Santana's WPA is around 4. That seems about right for a guy who pitches 1/5 of the time.

    Also of interest is Clutchiness, which you can find on the WPA table. It's basically the differential between a player's WPA and his OPS-based "wins above average per plate appearance." At the very least, it reflects the difference between predictive stats (WAA) and results-based stats (WPA). Here, Jeter leads Ortiz, 2.58 to 2.29.

    Score one for Jeter, right? Slow down. The difference between those two guys' Clutchiness numbers is miniscule compared to their WPA difference. Hell, compare it to the gap in straight-up statistics like HR and RBI. The onus is on Jeter to prove that what he lacks in stats, he makes up for in overwhelming fashion in other areas. A mere 0.29 in Clutchiness points won't cut it.

    In other words, still waiting for the number that overwhelms all the others.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 4:08 PM  

  • Santana faced more batters than any of those batters had plate appearances, so the 1/5th time thing is horseshit. If anything, my Santana-MVP-post-in-the-works has just made me believe the best pitcher is pretty much always more valuable, so maybe they should be different awards.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 2:24 PM  

  • Also, I'm pretty sure if you look at the stats Jeter hasn't really been all that clutch at any point in his career (until maybe this year, his best).

    What do you make of Runs Created? That's where my desire to refuse Jeter's MVP case runs into its biggest hiccup.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 2:27 PM  

  • I don't know. I can't say I understand why anyone would equate the scoring of runs with the magnitude of one's hits (OBP*TB). Pretty much random.

    It's also worth noting that the numbers you posted on the other thread take ballpark into account; if you want to railroad Ortiz, ballpark effects are the way to do it. (Of course, that ignores the fact that he tied a Sox record for most road HR this season.)

    At the same time, Bill James is no idiot. So I think it's just an interesting way to look at it.

    Also, I'm more inclined to believe WPA is a crock of shit, from the pitcher's perspective, than I am to believe Johan's number has any bearing on his value relative to hitters. A reliever might be able to pick up big WPA points by putting out fires, but a starter? Their job is to preside over normalcy and keep the Win Expectancy at the level established by his teammates at the plate.

    Finally, your Johan post is the Chinese Democracy of Postgame Spread posts. We'll never see it.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 3:23 PM  

  • Oh my, it's actually up... mea culpa!

    By Blogger Jeff, at 3:24 PM  

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