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Are you experienced? Who cares?

Oct 4, 2011, 12:32 PM EDT

Experience

Dan Szymborski — who I will call “Baseball Think Factory’s Dan Szymborski” even though he’s writing this piece for ESPN Insider — has a good column up today.  In it he breaks down playoff performance by players with “playoff experience,” which we are told by so many commentators matters this time of year.

Of course, if Dan had found that playoff experience matters, he probably just would have chucked the column on the basis of no one wanting to read a dog-bites-man story.  His conclusion is contrary to that, however:

In summary, while having playoff experience never will actually hurt a player or a team, it’s generally a non-factor relative to the skills of a team or a player. Put the best team on the field and hope they have a better game than your opponent — isn’t that the way it ought to be?

So there goes one more argument for believing that A.J. Burnett will be dominant tonight. Pity.

  1. Old Gator - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Why did Mitch Mitchell always look like he’d just been sucking on a lemon? I know English food (heh heh, almost wrote “cuisine,” didn’t I?) is awful, but hell, he got to travel a lot and eat tandoori in other countries, didn’t he?

  2. halladaysbiceps - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    I think there is something to be said for a team that has been in the playoffs before. They don’t tend to have the butterflies that a team that’s never been there before has. Experienced teams are more relaxed. So, to say that experience means nothing is being a little naive.

    • b7p19 - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      I would say it means very little. I will take the better player with no postseason experience over a lesser player with 4 WS titles any day of the week.

    • Alex K - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:31 PM

      I think experience can help calm nerves ect., but I’m not sure that it really matters. There have been lots of players who excel with zero playoff experience and lots who fail with vast playoff experience. There has also been players who were great in the playoffs with no experience and then were bad in later playoffs after the experience was gained.

    • scatterbrian - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:45 PM

      Most of the dudes on the Giants and Rangers last year hadn’t been to the playoffs at all, and both teams went to the World Series. Experience is nice to have under your belt, but it’s nowhere near necessary for success.

    • jplum831 - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      Well, actually, it’s not being naive. It’s being accurate, because that’s exactly what the article shows – that it doesn’t mean anything or that at least the meaning is insignificant. You can say all you want about “butterflies”, but apparently they don’t have an effect. You see, the article investigates whether “butterflies” or anything else having to do with inexperience matters, and shows that it doesn’t. Once you do your research proving that it does, post it here. Otherwise, I’ll just stick with actual data.

      • scatterbrian - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:02 PM

        No butterfly effect?

        sorry…

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      But….he just wrote an entire story, with facts and statistics to back it up to show experience in the post season doesn’t matter. I….just…GAH! F*ck it ‘ceps, just f*ck it. I can envision the following taking place

      Person to Biceps: Ham comes from pigs
      Biceps: No it doesn’t
      Person to Biceps: Yes it does. Here, come with me to the slaughter house and see them turn this pig into delicious ham (cue happy music and animal slaughter montage. Person and Biceps dance around merrily a-la Mr. Burns and Smithers in the Power Plant in that one Simpsons episode where there is a strike at the plant. You know, it was in Season 4 I think).
      Person to Biceps: See, I told you. What do you have to say now that all the facts have been lay out directly in front you.
      Biceps: I don’t know. It seems pretty naive to say all ham comes from pigs.

      • uberfatty - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:43 PM

        you have your opinion, I have mine. Bacon comes from angels.

      • nolanwiffle - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:17 PM

        And I suppose you’d also have us believe ham, bacon, and sausage all come from one magical animal.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        You got me pegged, Falcon. Yeah, because I don’t put a statistical analysis on every single thing means I’m also wrong about this little thing called playoff experience.

        It’s so presumptuous to assume that a statistic can be used to prove that there is no such thing as experience and how people react differently when the pressure is on in a playoff game. Unbelievable.

      • nolanwiffle - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:46 PM

        For if any man who never saw fire proved by satisfactory arguments that fire burns. His hearer’s mind would never be satisfied, nor would he avoid the fire until he put his hand in it that he might learn by experiment what argument taught.

        – Roger Bacon

        (seemed topical on multiple fronts)

      • 18thstreet - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:48 PM

        Me, I’d rather have Brooks Robinson up there. So much experience. Not like that Longoria kid.

      • thefalcon123 - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        “It’s so presumptuous to assume that a statistic can be used to prove that there is no such thing as experience and how people react differently when the pressure is on in a playoff game. Unbelievable.”- Biceps

        What statistics can show is if players overall perform better or worse than normal in the postseason depending on their experience. What it showed is that…no, it doesn’t matter.

        And it’s not “presumptuous”. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. He didn’t just presume. He studies it, got the numbers they showed that experience doesn’t lead to better performance and lack of experience doesn’t lead to worse performance. Seriously, I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about this. It’s not terribly complicated.

    • jwbiii - Oct 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

      “I think there is something to be said for a team that has been in the playoffs before.”

      You don’t seem to be any good at thinking. Perhaps you should give it up.

  3. mkd - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Weren’t there like 4 guys in the World Series last year who had previous playoff experience? Everyone else was a total noob.

    • Old Gator - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      Noob?

      Gimme my daily neologism….

      • ditto65 - Oct 4, 2011 at 5:55 PM

        Noob: Short for Noobie or Newbie, referencing someone that is new/ineperienced/naive.

        Hope that helps, OG.

  4. nolanwiffle - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    Hey, Joe Girardi certainly wishes the little wing hanging from Burnett’s right shoulder had more playoff experience. At the very least, he’s counting on Burnett not being a wild thing. Optimally he’d like him to pitch like a 1983 Astro Man, namely Nolan Ryan.

  5. evanhartford - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Craig, this is an example of a GREAT argument on paper that lacks real-world applicability. I think sabermaticians/staticians consisently miss the big picture when they make this type of argument. Instead of asking “does playoff experience matter?” They should be asking, “why do managers value playoff experience?”

    Sabermaticians like to use “conventional wisdom” as the starting point for most of their arguments. Meanwhile, they rarely take into account the real-world argument that has to be made to players, owners, fans and the media by the manager. Lets say you have a no-name utlility guy that bats .290 vs righties and a 10 time all-star that bats .265 vs righties (with loads of post-season experience. Lets say EVERYTHING else about them is the same (defense, position etc). If they’re about to face a right-handed starting pitcher, Sabermaticians would argue that you should play the no-name guy. Meanwhile, the moment the manager does it his ONLY upside is if the player performs exceptionally well and doesn’t blow any big chances. If the player doesn’t do well or blows any big chances, the manager will be second-guessed (rightly or wrongly) and could risk losing his job. That is how the real world works.

    • jplum831 - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:00 PM

      I’m going to play the guy who I think gives us the best chance to win, regardless of “stature” or “all-star games”. Using your batting average example in lieu of offensive numbers that are actually important, yes I’ll always choose the high average guy, and if I pick the better player all the time regardless of stature, I’ll win more games than I would have picking a player based on all-star appearences. And if I win more games, then I’ll be considered a good manager and won’t lose my job. See, I’ll always pick the guy who gives me the best chance to win. That is how the real world should work.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      So much of your argument is wrong on it’s face, it’d be really nice if people who purport to argue on the side of statistics didn’t do so badly.

      First, as mentioned in the first reply, no one would use BA. However, even if they did, they’d know enough about whether the .290 vs .265 gap was meaningful or not. Is it over 3000 PA or is it a record vs a specific pitcher. If it’s the former, that’s useful information, although not that large enough to make a significant different. If it’s the latter, it’s a garbage “stat” that shouldn’t be used because the sample size isn’t large enough.

      Meanwhile, the moment the manager does it his ONLY upside is if the player performs exceptionally well and doesn’t blow any big chances.

      Or the player in question performs to his above stated ability. Why are you creating an argument and intentionally messing it up. Almost like you want to make the statistical argument look bad. Oh wait…

      If the player doesn’t do well or blows any big chances, the manager will be second-guessed (rightly or wrongly) and could risk losing his job. That is how the real world works.

      Not really, as Joe Torre was fond of doing stupid things like taking a person’s 15 bat statistics vs a pitcher and using it (Enrique Wilson vs Pedro Martinez comes to mind). In fact, Torre, for example, had many years worth of mistakes and was kept by Yankee brass until they finally realized they should part ways.

      • evanhartford - Oct 4, 2011 at 6:49 PM

        Leave it to the stat guys to not see the forest for the trees. I should have expected you to criticize BA and miss the whole argument, but no biggie.

        If it makes you feel better, lets say that No-Name player is slightly better than All Star vs righties (OPS/BA/OBP/SLG). The reason you play Mr. All Star and not Mr. No-name is same reason Derek Jeter is the greater Yankee ever.

        1) Baseball is a business. You lose TV Revenue, Jersey Sales and Ticket Sales when you bench Mr. All Star. $$$ is more important than winning.

        2) Perception ALWAYS trumps reality. An army of statisticians, sabermaticians and Billy Beanes might agree with you. But the army of dumb, lazy GOAT blowhards will always outnumber you. In many situations they will second guess you (rightly or wrongly) and they buy more tickets, jerseys and generate more TV revenue than you ever will. As a manager, they control your destiny moreso than the brass/players.

        3) As I said, your upside to playing the slightly better player is that you may increase your chances of winning. The downside is being second-guessed by the masses and raising your potential for being fired if and when you fail. You can be right 99 out of 100 times and the 1 time you’re wrong you can get fired for “being an idiot and not doing something SOOOO obvious to everyone else”. It happens all the time in the real world.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2011 at 8:10 PM

        I should have expected you to criticize BA and miss the whole argument, but no biggie.

        What is your argument, that you should play the worse player because he’s a “star” rather than the no-name better player? You want to relate that to the “real world”? This is one of the many examples of why our country is screwed up. If the person with 20+ years does a worse job than a pleb with 4, management should be pushing more work towards the pleb because his production is better, thus making the company more profitable.

        1) Baseball is a business. You lose TV Revenue, Jersey Sales and Ticket Sales when you bench Mr. All Star. $$$ is more important than winning.

        Prove this. You can’t make a claim like this with no evidence as back up. However, many cliches say the exact opposite. Winning, not stars, draws people to the games.

        Nevermind that in baseball, TV revenue without a RSN is shared across the board, Jersey sales are shared, and money from the gate is split among the two teams.

        An army of statisticians, sabermaticians and Billy Beanes might agree with you. But the army of dumb, lazy GOAT blowhards will always outnumber you

        I don’t even know what this means. Are you trying to say ignorance is a good thing? What does being ignorant have to do with second guessing the manager? You obviously don’t read the websites I do because many stat invested people are killing Girardi for his moves lately. The difference between the former and latter in the first sentence is the former uses information and math to back their arguments, the latter uses emotion and irrationality.

        You can be right 99 out of 100 times and the 1 time you’re wrong you can get fired for “being an idiot and not doing something SOOOO obvious to everyone else”. It happens all the time in the real world.

        Name 1. If a company has an employee who makes one mistake out of a hundred and is fired, they won’t be in business for long. People make mistakes all the time. That’s why there are QA positions, oversight committees, etc.

      • Bryz - Oct 4, 2011 at 8:50 PM

        @ evanhartford:

        Win with a bunch of no-names and they become stars. Lose with a bunch of stars and they become no-names.

      • evanhartford - Oct 5, 2011 at 8:52 AM

        Church, managers WILL play the star over the better player in many situations where the stats would dictate the opposite. In the “real world” most people are irrational and so being a populist can be correct. Your arguments exist in a vacuum where everyone is always rational and is always maximizing efficiency. You can lament about how “this is whats wrong with our country” but you’re wasting your enegery. Best to go pound sand.

        Prove what? That baseball is a business? That money matters more than winning? Look no further than the San Diego Padres, the most profitable baseball team in the last 5 years that hasn’t won a world championship EVER. Otherwise, how many times have the Yankees brought in a pinch hitter for Derek Jeter in a do or die inning? Its never happened as far as I know. And you’re telling me that there has NEVER been a instance where a guy on the bench statistically had a better shot of getting on base than Jeter?

        I’m not saying ignorance is a good thing. I’m saying that in the real world many people are ignorant. You can spout all day about how its wrong or bad but you’re wasting your breath. Better to accept it and learn to live with it.

        The Boston Red Sox fired Grady Little circa 2003 for leaving Pedro in the game too long. They fired him for making 1 mistake. I know they claim that he wasn’t a “stats” guy but in reality he lost the fans. The media tore him apart. If it were a widget factory, he would have been fine but in baseball (like in politics) you lose the fans, you lose your job. I bet your excel spreadsheet doesn’t have a function for that.

  6. 18thstreet - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    “Experience don’t mean shit.” — Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:36 PM

      http://www.scpauctions.com/LotDetail.aspx?lotid=15047 Red Auerbach kept it on his desk.

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