Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Answer Tom Verducci's Mail

In Tom Verducci's latest baseball mailbag, Jon DeMent from St. Cloud, Minn., writes in to say:

I get the feeling that the stats geeks would prefer not to play the games at all, just crank it through the computer, prove their point that Team A is best, and crown them champs, and then let the blogosphere and Internet argue it out, maybe use it for 10 or 12 more Top 10 lists. Maybe if y'all would put down the Bill James and actually watch a bleeping game you'd have a bleeping clue ... [The Diamondbacks and Mariners] play together, play smart, never give up an out, have exceptional closers, and win most of the games that they have a chance to win. It ain't rocket science; it's as old as when the only stats were wins, losses, batting average and ERA.

(For the record, Verducci handled his response fairly reasonably, especially given his predilection to mock and humiliate statheads.)

Well, Jon, thank you for your thought-out and reasoned argument. You must be the pride of St. Cloud. Or is that St. Olaf, because you're about as smart as Rose! OHH HO!!! SNAP!!!!

But're a fucking moron.

You really nailed statheads. You got it exactly right. They have no interest in watching the actual game of baseball...probably because they are all so fat and nerdy that they could never play it themselves, and are bitterly jealous of those who can. No, they hate watching baseball. That's why they spend untold hours analyzing statistics to enhance the enjoyment all of us derive from the game.

Listen, hick (that "y'all" you throw in there betrays that you are probably not originally from St. Cloud): shut your bleeping mouth and don't talk about things you don't bleeping understand. K?

The sheer fear that Jon feels for things he can't comprehend oozes through his diatribe like Icy Hot oozing through Jake Peavy's porous jock. He hates the future, he hates change, he longs for the old-timey good ol' days when computers didn't control our hearts and only white people were allowed to play baseball.

What exactly is the difference between batting average and VORP or EQA? They're both ways of manipulating numbers in an attempt to tell us something about the quality of baseball players. True, the latter two stats are a bit more complicated mathematically, so perhaps people who don't understand Prosepctus/Jamesian stats hate them because it makes them feel inferior. At their heart, batting average and VORP are just facts. Neither lies, but neither tells the whole truth. The more of these ways of looking at raw data we have at our disposal, the more equipped we are to understand the game and its players. If you want to spend the rest of your life only looking at batting average and wins, go ahead; I'm sure you can still enjoy watching baseball that way. But some of us enjoy it a lot more when we attempt to understand what we're seeing, and learn that our eyes can be deceiving at times.

I would have loved to be around in 1884, when Henry Chadwick first derived batting average, so I could read the letter Jon Dement's great-great-grandfather wrote to the Backwoods Kentucky Sentinel:

I wish these stupid numbers-mongers would just stuff a sock in it! Not since German took possession of Cameroon have I been so outraged. This newfangled "batting average" I keep hearing about is horse manure. I don't want to have to do bleeping division when I'm watching my pastimes. That's bleeping bleep. Whatever happened to the good old days, when the only statistics that counted in baseball were the weight of a hitter's bat and the size of the pitcher's bleep?

And since when are Seattle and Arizona the darlings of stathead-hating purists everywhere? Arizona is winning because they've got good players. In fact, three BP writers picked them to win the World Series this year. And the Mariners have ridden a great closer and a ton of luck to their current record. Oh wait, I forgot, it can't be luck. It's because they can bunt well and they love each other a little more deeply than most teams.

Finally, just for you Jon, one of the blogosphere's infamous Top 10 lists!

Top 10 Things Jon Dement from St. Cloud is Wrong About:

1. The Mariners and Diamondbacks win because they play together.
2. The Mariners and Diamondbacks win because they never give up an out.
3. A time existed when the only stats were wins, losses, batting average and ERA.
4. Gravity? I don't feel no bleeping gravity, y'all. Bullbleep.
5. Derek Jeter is the best fielding shortstop in the American League because he won the Gold Glove last year.
6. The Twins aren't winning this year because proven veterans Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson were jettisoned from the rotation too soon, and that feisty little Nick Punto hasn't gotten enough at-bats.
7. 9/11 was a Jew conspiracy run by Photoshop and YouTube. The towers still stand.
8. Bill James hates children, and writes his books (or co-writes them with the robot from Short Circuit, to be totally accurate) to destroy their pure and innocent love of the game.
9. Porn was way better in the days of yore, with magazines and adult bookshops, before the Internet ruined everything.
10. David Eckstein was they key to the Cardinals' championship last year.