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Friday 15th Dec 2017

Back in Graduate School, I was amused to discover that within the realm of literary criticism lived a "pitched battle" between the Radical Historians (those who feel a book or poem should be read within the context of the language/time it was written) and the Deconstructionists (those who feel a book or play becomes a new work each time it is read or performed).

Of course, we were English students, so "pitched battle" meant sarcasm and innuendo and epithets flung cavalierly at one another, But, as with anything, there are two sides and both are virtually intransigent not to mention contemptuous of the opposing view.

So, I guess it should not surprise me that during a review of one of my DFS pieces, Todd advised me that among serious players, using Batter v. Pitcher (BvP) numbers was really too small of a sample, and not predictable. Rather, he said, lefty/righty match-ups, ballpark factors, and the weather were much better predictors of potential daily outcome than a straight BvP factor.

This puzzled me, and began a pretty good dialogue because for me, the philosophical Zen guy, this makes no sense, while for Z, the I am a Scientist Excel guy, the inverse is so. (I also must admit that first, some of our best conversations are a result of this difference in our perspectives, and also it explains why we make a pretty good team when managing together for we do have a world view.)

Actually, what Todd said was that there have been fierce arguments regarding the fantasy baseball version of the Radical Historians v. the Deconstructionists. In fact, he pointed me to this great piece he wrote for our friends at the Fantasy Alarm.

To be clear, I love statistics, especially baseball ones. And, though I am probably over-educated, I have never taken a Statistics class. But, to me, percentages like OPS and OBP are beyond intuitive, just as is WHIP. OBP tells me whether or not a guy gets on, and WHIP tells me whether a pitcher can keep those same guys off.

That said, there is a fascination I have that transcends that simple interpretation of success and skill, making just looking at the line of a player who has been around a few years hypnotic. And note, if the player did not have a Major League career, a minor league record can be just as fun and goofy and inexplicable and wondrous as can a line from the bigs.

What strikes me as funny within the disconnect between the BvP and Spreadsheet camps is that I would think, by definition, the spreadsheet/stat guys would be all over the fact that Evan Longoria was a good pick last night against Chris Tillman because the Rays third sacker has faced Tillman 28 times with a .429-5-7 line. So, that means Longo has 12 hits off Tillman, and nearly half have been homers, which to me is really a difficult stat to ignore.

In fairness, I agree that weather and lefty/righty, and ballparks do factor in, and should be given some serious credence, but I would have to think it is just as foolish to dismiss numbers like those of Longoria in this situation.

My feeling is if we think of ten at-bats as a minimum, and a player has some success or failure, that is at least worth considering as a tie-breaker. Because, while hits can be flukes as well as victims of circumstance, so can they be the result of a delivery that allows the hitter to simply pick up the ball a fraction enough to be the difference between a fly out and a double in the gap.

Baseball is, however, a more than passive-aggressive environment for such arguments, at least in a larger context.

For, this is the game where if Longoria goes 2-for-5 against Tillman Friday, and scores a run, it will be agreed that the hitter has the pitcher's number (Zen guys). Should Tillman win the battle of the zone, we will say "he was due" (Excel guys).

The truth is, I don't really care as long as my picks keep being correct.

By the way, you can indeed play daily against Rob, Marc, Pasko, Brian, and me at the Mastersball 50/50 Challenge.


0 #2 Lawr Michaels 2015-05-03 13:02
"...every day is like one big math problem."

what a fantastic clause, and one that suggests/promotes the mystery of baseball and numbers and sort of life in general, Oops.

that is something i can indeed get my arms (and head around). it is all a giant puzzle!
0 #1 Al Geelhaar 2015-05-03 03:17
I'm solidly in the spreadsheet camp. I do think BvP has some value, especially as the ABs increase, if the performance is outstanding or awful. There may be some cases where it outweighs most or even all other factors. But much more often than not, it's a relatively minor factor, compared to others that have more statistical validity as predictors (handedness, woba for, woba against, vegas odds and totals, etc). And of course, player salary is a huge consideration. To those of us on the spreadsheet side of the scale, every day is like one big math problem. And that's a large part of the appeal to me.

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