VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – TSSSSSSSUP!
That, friends, is the ear-splitting sound of the fun being sucked out of sports by sabermetricians and analyticals.
And an annoyed MAS finds his senses assaulted far too often these days by their ilk.
He is constantly bombarded in print, on his computer and over the airwaves with all their annoying, marginally relevant, if at all, statistical acronyms.
Example: baseball’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), PECOTA, DICE, VORP, XR and on and on ad nauseam.
Want to know how vital a stat BABIP is?
The National League champion New York Mets had the worst BABIP in the NL last season (.287).
Didn’t need a good one to reach the World Series.
Can you say silly and irrelevant analytic?
MAS doesn’t want to put you to sleep as well. So, he’ll skip explaining what baseball minutiae the other ridiculous acronyms stand for.
Give MAS good ol’ meat-and-potatoes acronyms like HR, RBI, ERA, SO, BB, SB and a few other MEANINGFUL ones and he’s happy as a clam in mud.
Take the ones that the sabermetricians are hawking and stick ’em where the sun don’t shine.
Whenever one of those hip-to-be-square spoilsports starts spewing such gibberish, MAS can’t turn the page, hit the delete button or change the channel fast enough.
Who cares about such millennial-spawned buzz kill?!
Don’t get MAS wrong. He respects analyzing opponent’s tendencies and devising strategy accordingly.
And any other such cerebral activity that produces truly useful fact-based data.
But don’t bother MAS with scientifically skewed, wet blanket analytical gobbledygook.
Especially when the space and time could be filled with more meaningful and interesting info on the game and players.
Like, you know, FUN STUFF!
Sabermetricians and analyticals are the kind of people who just can’t seem to appreciate baseball, football and basketball mainly for their inherent beauty and the joy they bring.
Instead, they have to nerd up a given sport to derive their jollies from it.
It’s sad, really, when you think about it.
Not to mention, pathetic.
Curse you, Bill James.
You’re the one who started all this with your sabermetrics tome, Baseball Prospectus.
Because the Boston Red Sox hired you and then finally won a World Series many brought into the validity of your stat geek’s errand.
At first, analyticals were cute, like the furry little creatures in the movie “Gremlins.”
But like their cinema counterparts, over the years, they have grown into sinister, self-serving deconstructors of the time-honored games we love.
MAS recognizes that, at least initially, some of James’ statistical takes on strategy gave ball clubs pause to think.
Practices like wasting precious outs on sacrifice bunts and failed stolen base attempts at least made some sense, if one is inclined to think that way.
And with the subsequent success of the Red Sox and Oakland A’s, sabermetricians had something to hang their hats on for a while.
But, with the BoSox finishing in last place three of the last four years and the A’s finishing in the cellar last campaign, those ballclubs’ earlier success purportedly while applying sabermetrics may have simply been a matter of coincidence.
Ken Harrelson, former big league All-Star performer and now the TV voice of the Chicago White Sox, noted sarcastically: “In the movie ‘Moneyball’ (which glamorized Oakland’s use of sabermetrics), not once did they mention the three dominant pitchers the A’s had in Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson (57 combined wins in 2002).”
What the admitted old schooler and sabermetrics-doubter Harrelson was leaving the viewer to realize on his/her own was this: standout pitching had much more to do with that A’s success than analytics.
But it was when sabermetricians meandered into the Stat Twilight Zone, officially known as “Advanced Analytics,” with its slew of unprovable inventions like WAR (Wins Above Replacement) player ratings, that things became really bizarre.
WAR hypothesized how many more games per season the team of a certain player would win than if he was replaced by an average player.
Scientifically valid ratings for a ballplayer’s individual contribution?
MAS thinks not.
Rather, pure speculation and guesstimation.
The workings, I reiterate, of a mind that simply cannot enjoy sports for sports sake.
Thus it was that initially scientifically plausible research began wandering into a world of hocus-pocus that just continues getting curiouser and curiouser.
MAS doubts very much that MLB execs make use of these silly advanced analytics.
When was the last time a personnel person said “We signed Joe Schmo because of his excellent VORP”?
MAS will supply the answer: NEVER!
Thank goodness, MAS is not alone in his reaction to these useless and silly, minutiae-laden stats.
Sports Illustrated, in its annual MLB preview issue, included “analytical projections” (i.e. predictions) for the players in every team’s likely batting order and starting pitching rotation.
How in Hades can you predict with any certainty what a hitter’s average will be and how many homers and RBIs he’ll have?
Or his number of wins and losses and ERA?
In response to this clear waste of valuable space, the howls of annoyed readers came through loud and clear in the mag’s letters-to-the-editor section and its comment boards.
From baseball, the machinations of these Ned Nerdlinger types then spread like a sinister virus, infecting other heretofore previously pure American athletic activities.
Like football and basketball.
A WAR-type equivalent was developed for football quarterbacks, the QPR (Quarterback Passer Rating).
This analytic is really just all the key QB stats (TDs, completion percentage, interceptions,yardage, etc.) being thrown into a hopper which then churns them and belches out a synthetic, highly arbitrary number.
Who’s to say which component stat should carry the most weight?
Almost predictably, the NFL’s best QBs rarely rank at the top of the QPR list.
Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady ranked ninth, 10th and 11th, respectively, in 2015.
So, is QPR REALLY an accurate measure of a QB’s performance?
Don’t make MAS laugh.
And when the never-wore-a-jock strap, pocket-protector-wearing brigade tries to quantify the blocking ability of an offensive lineman?
Well, that’s truly sidesplitting stuff.
Meanwhile, the hot analytic in NBA hoops right now is “Wingspan.”
ESPN the Mag devoted half an issue to said measurement, proclaiming it the key to hardwood success these days.
Teams gotta play “long” now.
Your center or power forward is a couple inches short of a stretched-out condor?
Then fuhgedabout winning an O’Brien Trophy.
Now, don’t get MAS wrong, modern science and technology are wonderful and helpful things.
Advances in many areas of life have resulted from scientific and technological research, sports included,
For instance, better nutrition, training methods and injury treatment and the like have been developed and proven to be very helpful.
But other scientific modifications have proven to be harmful.
Anyone for a salad with an insecticide-laced tomato?
MAS thought not.
Same holds true in sports, which are now being poisoned by sabermetrics.
So, yo, Nerd Herd, knock it off with your annoying guesstimation acronyms. And keep those dealing in marginally relevant minutiae to the barest of minimums.
Stop ruining the delish, organic taste of our fun-n-games.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org