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Willful Ignorance Theater: Red Sox managerial search edition

Nov 29, 2011, 9:30 AM EDT

Bobby Valentine

The Sox really need to hire a manager. If they don’t, we’re just going to see more columns in which people perpetuate the curious notion that in baseball, unlike any other field of endeavor, it is somehow not embarrassing to ignore advances in the field:

People sometimes ask my opinion of sabermetrics. I tell them I accept the concept. I also hate it. The use of advanced statistical data, better known as sabermetrics, is very much in Red Sox news these days … Being considered for the job still requires a bow to the metric shrine. Look at Valentine, 61.

If a reporter for a trade magazine for, say, manufacturing was that disdainful of the latest developments and trends he wouldn’t have a job long. But it’s OK in sports writing.  I’ll never understand that.

  1. bgeary8 - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Holy death by one-sentence paragraphs.

    • rollinghighwayblues - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      Beat me to it. That is without a doubt one of the most obnoxious pieces I have read just by him simply pressing the enter button twice after every 12 words.

    • Ralph - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:38 AM

      When did Bill Plaschke start writing for

    • Charles Gates - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:45 AM

      It’s almost written as if he was composing, and I use that term loosely, that piece (of shit) on Twitter.

  2. sdelmonte - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Ilike Bobby V, but I don’t think of him as being much with the metrics. Am I missing something here? Or was he fired from MetsLand before anyone not named Michael Lewis was writing about them?

    • atteckus - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      You are missing something. Bobby V was one of the first managers in the MLB to actually use advanced metrics, beginning in 1985 with the TX Rangers. He’s not a slave to them, but he considers them and often uses them.

  3. rollinghighwayblues - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    Something I mentioned a few days back: what about Larry Bowa for consideration? Any arguments? I feel like he would be a good guy for the gig, I may be wrong.

    • Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      He would certainly make that Sox clubhouse… interesting…

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:54 AM

        He’d make yelling at umps prevalent again, at least! Larry always reminded me a little of Earl Weaver.

    • atteckus - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:46 AM

      Larry’s a good baseball guy, but his personality is scary. He’s one of those obsessive/ compulsive people. That’s good if you want attention to detail, and not much else.

  4. ras1tafari - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Isn’t it obvious Valentine is just paying lip service to sabermetrics? “Oh its just fine, I’ll use it…sure I will”.

    This guy would say he slept in Yaz footy pajamas if it helped him get a job. WHAT A JOKE.

    • atteckus - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      Not at all. He was a pioneer in use of sabremetrics at Texas in 1985.

  5. amhendrick - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    “If a reporter for a trade magazine for, say, manufacturing was that disdainful of the latest developments and trends he wouldn’t have a job long”

    I don’t know – I read a tech article not long ago where the writer said touch screens were a bad development. People in every field criticize the latest developments.

    • Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      That reminded me of an article a tech guy wrote about the iPhone, that it was going to be a flop “because people liked to feel their buttons” so they could type and text by feel. Obviously that guy had no idea what could be done with a touch screen in terms of applications.

      • Old Gator - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:28 AM

        I find touch screen phones obnoxious. Aside from my incipient cantankerousness – I won’t buy an I-Phone or a Droid simply because everyone else has one, and I hate the LG Microsoft phone I “upgraded” to because it was a freebie – I refuse to pay the bloated monthly fees for most of the available services because I’ve gotten by just fine without GPS (getting lost adds spice to life) or weather apps (getting caught in a downpour is a sacrament). But the worst part is, the screen gets covered with oils from our hands and fingertips, which in turn collects dust and grim from the air or any surface you put the accursed things down on, and when you try to wipe them off they schmear. Pretty soon they’re vectoring plague germs from continent to continent. Mark my words: the next great plague will be spread by someone’s touchscreen cell phone. Yeccchhhh.

      • kiwicricket - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        Gator, I will buy you a new fishing pole if you drag yourself onto Fox News and rant about this eloquently.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        Screens carry less dirt than the crevasses in between phone buttons actually. Gator, it’s ok if you like buttons better. You know what would be really cool though? A rotary cell phone….. My grandmother would LOVE IT!

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:16 PM

        Something like this Jonny?

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 29, 2011 at 3:34 PM

        That’s pretty awesome actually…. But where’s the damn rotary dial???? Whippersnappers…

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2011 at 5:05 PM

        I’m willing to bet you could make a touch screen app that gives you a rotary dial! XD

        To each his own. I actually have a blackberry. In the future I may explore something else.

  6. thefalcon123 - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Here is my biggest problem with people who crap all over cyber metrics and call them a bunch of math nerds in the mom’s basement….baseball already has a slew of statistics…it always has! People will cite how stupid WAR is or FIP, and then cite batting average and ERA and lay out some ad hominem attack on you. They make no attempt to back up their claims, just say they’ve been around longer so it must be correct.

    Do you folk, I offer this challenge. Hate WAR and love batting average? Fine…then show me batting average correlates to runs scored better than OWAR. Love ERA and think FIP is stupid…then show me how ERA is more predictive of future performance than ERA. These people don’t just pull these numbers out of their ass. They create them, test them with historical data to see that they make sense and then write about them. And somehow, these people read about them and manage to totally ignore it.

    • thefalcon123 - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:55 AM

      “Here is my biggest problem with people who crap all over cyber metrics”–

      Cyber metrics? Apparently my brain and fingers aren’t on the same page as far as baseball terminology is concerned.

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:16 AM

        I think FIP is poorly named. It should be called FNP, Fielding Neutral pitching. That’s what you really want anyway: no pitcher can truly pitch independently of his defense! XD It has good uses but also limitations, there more data the better, but I don’t trust it much with rookies, they may be accurate or inaccurate as they develop. It’s far better suited to pitchers with several years of data. Those guys aren’t going to change much.

      • scatterbrian - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:24 PM

        Haha, I guess that would make someone who craps on sabermetrics a “saberbully”?

    • Chris Fiorentino - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      falcon, I don’t think sabremetrics are stupid or wrong. I think sabremetrics is great when looking at future performance. Like right now, today, sabremetrics would be my #1 way to show how well I think a guy like Vance Worley is going to pitch in 2012. If I were a GM, then I would absolutely look at a pitcher’s FIP and BABIP before giving him a $10 million contract coming off a season in which his ERA was 2.50 but his BABIP was .180. DEFINITELY. No question about it. It’s common sense.

      HOWEVER, where sabremetrics loses me is when people will try to explain to me that pitcher a had a better year than pitcher b when the following happened…

      Assuming 200 IP…
      Starting pitcher a had an ERA of 2.00 and a BABIP of .150
      Starting pitcher b had an ERA of 4.50 and a BABIP of .400

      Was pitcher a luckier than pitcher b? Absolutely.

      Would I break the bank for pitcher a? Probably not, even if you look at his other peripheral stats, he had a pretty lucky season, and that low of a BABIP probably won’t happen again.

      Would I pay break the bank for pitcher b? Maybe…depending on his peripheral stats maybe I would pay for a guy like him, who, with even average luck, would bring his ERA down to sub-3.00.

      But there is zero sense in denying that for this one season, lucky as it may have been, pitcher a had a better year than pitcher b. That’s where sabremetrics loses me. When they try to make the case that pitcher a didn’t have as good a season as pitcher b. You want to tell me that pitcher b will be better in 2012 than pitcher a? Fine. I’m with you 100%. But for 2011, it is what it is. Pitcher a had a better season.

      • Old Gator - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:30 AM

        I prefer MXYZPTLK. Say it forward and it’s predictive; say it backwards and it goes back where it comes from.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:35 AM

        Most of the stuff you mentioned Chris was essentially using sabrmetrics, just without the math :)

        Pitcher a had a better season.

        The big issue in these debates isn’t whether Pitcher A > Pitcher B, but how much credit which should give to either pitcher. If Pitcher A pitches behind the ’08 Seattle defense or recent Tampa Bay defense, should he get all the credit for having a super low era (or pitching in Petco)? Or in reverse, if the pitcher pitched in front of the early ’00s Yankees teams, should he get docked for having a terrible era?

        Lots of advancements in sabremetrics the last few years has been about assigning credit where it’s due. People may go a little overboard in it, but it’s far better than saying the entire reason A happened was because of player B and not a combination of factors.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:58 AM

        church, like I said, I am not anti-sabremetrics and certainly don’t think it is stupid. But to be frank, once the 2011 season is complete, I don’t care about whether pitcher a deserves all the credit unless I am a GM looking to sign the guy for 2012 and beyond. Too many “Yeah buts….” when looking at past performance.

        I like sabremetrics for future performance, but I don’t care that A-Gon didn’t hit as many home runs and drive in as many runs while he was in San Diego. He did what he did and his numbers were what they were. When he came to Boston, he did more. Of course he did. But that doesn’t mean his numbers while he was with San Diego should magically increase. Sorry, A-Gon, but you didn’t hit the lottery and get to play with better players in a more hitter-friendly park so your numbers are what they are.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:34 AM

        Gotcha Chris, but it’s baseball and the season is over so we’re stuck with either reminiscing about what happened in ’11 (not fun, as a Yanks fan and I’m sure not fun for you as a Phillies fan), or get excited about ’12, which is all about predictions (and fights over who’s is going to be better).

        God how long until pitchers/catchers report?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        Just like last year, it really is hard to get excited until October. The Phillies are going to once again dominate the division with their ridiculous pitching and then once the NLDS starts, it will be another question of whether they can get a hit.

  7. Kevin S. - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:53 AM


  8. uyf1950 - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    I can just see all the stat geeks thumbing down this post almost immediately. But I’ll say what’s on my mind anyway.

    You don’t need sabermetrics to tell you in advance that Halladay, CC, Lincecum and King Felix are great pitchers. You didn’t need it to tell you Gonzalez was going to have a better year moving from Petco to Fenway and the examples go on and on. What you need is all these so called “new” predictors that see into the future to tell you why they were so wrong on players like Carl Crawford and Ivan Nova. Why teams like Arizona who no one predicted with their fancy formulas would make the post season did before hand.

    I admit I am no stats geek. Sometimes the best way to predict things are the simplest ways. That’s just my opinion.

    • Lukehart80 - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:42 AM

      And just what is this “simple” predictive tool you know of that is never wrong about anything? I’m sure the rest of us would love to know about it.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:46 AM

      What you need is all these so called “new” predictors that see into the future to tell you why they were so wrong on players like Carl Crawford and Ivan Nova.

      A couple of reasons, for one, there is only so much people can predict. They can’t predict how a player will react the first time they struggle (Crawford). Also, many were against the huge signing, like myself, due to Crawford’s peripherals (he doesn’t walk, at all, and most of his value is tied up in his legs so if hits don’t drop, he doesn’t steal, value goes kaput).

      As for Nova, you also can’t predict a player when he makes a huge change. Pre-slider Nova was essentially league average. He couldn’t get through an order more than twice, wasn’t striking anyone out, and has a high GB% around a somewhat terrible infield. He goes down to AAA, starts throwing his slider more, and when he comes back his K rate increases while his walk rate drops. It’s like how Cliff Lee got demoted to the minors, came back throwing fball/change/cut instead of a curve and is now one of the best pitchers in baseball. There’s no way to predict that.

      Why teams like Arizona who no one predicted with their fancy formulas would make the post season did before hand.

      A couple of reasons. One, Arizona finished 94-68 but with their run differential they should have finished around 89-73 (5 game difference). While that still would have lead their division, this is how they would have stacked up against other division leaders (expW-L)
      Philly – 15 GB
      NYY – 14 GB
      Texas – 11 GB
      ML – 2 GB
      Det – Tied

      Anyone know where to find the 2011 projected standings? I know ZIPS and Marcel do players, do they do teams?

    • atteckus - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      I’m not a stats geek, per se, but certainly think advanced stats are one objective way to gauge player performance. The instances you cite re: world class pitchers and an MVP-type hitter are the easy cases. So, wow, you have amazing predictive skills because you can inherently predict the way that these 5 guys will perform. What about the other 600+ guys? GM’s and fans are out here trying to make choices about guys who aren’t so clearly reflected in the radar, who aren’t nationally recognized names. Which Type B free agent 3B is the best to offer a mid-term contract to? What’s the trade value of a 29 y/o utility guy who had a .784 OPS and +4.7 UZR/150, albeit he had only 287 PA’s and played in only 700 innings? I don’t believe in relying exclusively or even mostly on such statistics. I think one’s eyes and subjective views are just as important. But to bring some science and objectivity to the evaluation process is also essential.

      To answer on Crawford and Nova, there are external factors at work that transcend the statistical models. Crawford is/was adjusting to a new environment. Nova was not such a surprise to the Yankees, as their player development people were aware of his positive development and personal make up. But a factor that no one can quantify came into play with Nova. Poise. You can’t predict it. You either have it or you don’t. Nova has it.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:46 AM

        atteckus – if you will allow me to quote you ” I think one’s eyes and subjective views are just as important”. I couldn’t agree more.

        Please understand this is just my opinion but it seems there are many I won’t say most but certainly many not only on this board but on several of the blogs that tend in my opinion to rely to heavily on sabermatrics. And some perhaps not many who see it as the panacea, and I just think that’s wrong.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:58 AM

        I think one’s eyes and subjective views are just as important. But to bring some science and objectivity to the evaluation process is also essential.

        Depends on the eyes. If you take someone like Kevin Goldstein of BP, or Keith Law, or Jim Callis/Ben Badler/ or other guys at Baseball America, who are trusted scouts, then yes their eyes are important.

        But Joe Sixpack who watches 140-160 games a year? You run into multiple problems. For one, confirmation bias plays into what you see. You think Derek Jeter is a clutch hitter* so you praise him every time he has a big game, but “forget” those days he goes 0-5. Also, there’s not enough time in the day to watch other games. Just watching sportscenter every day is not enough to get a good enough handle on the rest of MLB. You may know the big players, but wouldn’t be justified in your opinions of others.

        Nevermind the fact that memory can often distort what you’ve seen, let alone change it completely.

        *I so wanted to put Ryan Howard in here, but didn’t want to start a fight

      • uyf1950 - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:22 PM

        atteckus – I have to disagree agree with you somewhat about Nova being at least a mild surprise to even the Yankees. You may or many not recall but at the start of spring training 2011 the Yankees has 2 back end spots open for the starting rotation. For those 2 spots they had at the time 4 pitchers competing Nova, Colon, Garcia and Mitre. I would have to say from the start of the season (Spring Training) to the end of the season Nova was most definitely a surprise to the Yankees.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        Advanced Metrics do not, and are not meant to tell the future (even if some people make it sound that way). Advanced metrics only tell the history of a person or team performance, of the past. With this information you can tell how good a player or team is or isn’t in certain situations then make the best guess as to future performance in those certain situations. It’s a complicated but more accurate version of using a LH pinch hitter against a RH pitcher. You know from experience that this is a better match up for the batter (most of the time). Advanced metrics let you know for every individual player the best match ups. Maybe you want a guy who has a high pct of GB outs for lefties on the mound even if he is a RH tosser. Ball players were not all created equally and sometimes the traditional beliefs give you the opposite result than you expect. Stats just help make a better informed decisions.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:36 PM

        J5, it depends on your definition of “advanced metrics”. To me, BABIP is an advanced metric. And if you are saying that BABIP isn’t an indicator of future performance of a pitcher year-to-year, then I have to disagree…see my post above for why I think this.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 29, 2011 at 3:52 PM

        Chris, “A good indicator” is very different from “predicting future performance”

        Basically all advanced metrics can be expected to do is tell you what already happened more accurately in many different ways and scenarios than the traditional baseball stats have in the past. Giving you a better foundation to TRY predict with. BABIP does serve as a good pitching indicator and you can try to judge future performance better by using it. I wouldn’t rely on BABIP for this alone as it’s one of many, such as FIP or even better xFIP. I think advanced metrics should be used more heavily by managers as they can help massively when it comes to match ups, which in my opinion is one of their more important jobs, putting the right guy in the best position to excel. Nothing can predict the future and players can develop and/or change in many ways. Which is why baseball is so frigging awesome to me.

    • uyf1950 - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:38 AM

      Gentlemen, if you have to make excuses why something isn’t accurate why use it. Or I guess a better term would be why rely on it so heavily?

      BTW, if you prefer the term “justify” or “explain” instead of excuse(s) feel free to do so.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:49 AM

      Or I guess a better term would be why rely on it so heavily?

      Who relies heavily on a projection system? No major sports site carries ZIPS/Marcel/or the fan projections. You have to go to fangraphs or baseball prospectus or Tango’s website for them.

  9. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Nice Marlon Brando-like photo of Bobby, Craig. Maybe that’ll be his next dugout costume.

  10. bozosforall - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Loser organization, lame fans, second-rate city.

    • bobwsc - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      keyboard toughguy, clap clap clap-clap-clap

      • bozosforall - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:24 PM

        He says from behind his own keyboard.

        You FAIL.

      • bobwsc - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:16 PM

        how’s the temp in your mom’s basement?

  11. tpxdmd - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    That’s my hometown paper! I’m so proud.

  12. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Nov 29, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    It’s okay for sportswriters to ignore anything they want to. I mean after all 99.999% of what they write is opinion based on linear regressions that approximate non-linear dynamic systems.That said, the sabermetric FCEBDVGQ (fried-chicken-eating-beer-drinking-video-game-quotient) will be help the new Sox GM select better starting pitchers.

  13. bozosforall - Nov 30, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    bobwsc – Nov 29, 2011 at 11:16 PM
    how’s the temp in your mom’s basement?

    She doesn’t have a basement, but the temp in your mom’s bedroom is nice and toasty right now.

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