Skip to content

Deep Thoughts: Sabermetrics and my annual checkup

Feb 13, 2013, 12:56 PM EST

LDL

I went for my annual physical this morning. I’m OK and stuff, but I am NOT in the Best Shape of My Life. And the entire conversation I had with my doctor about it made me realize how silly and stupid old school, anti-sabermetric arguments are.

Note: I warn the medical professionals among you that I am going to refer to some things in a very hamfisted way. Please feel free to correct my mistakes and misleading statements in the comments.

Most of us know that you really don’t want to have a high cholesterol number. We probably had it ingrained in our heads since the 1980s at least that if your “cholesterol” — the term usually used generically, but also known as “bad cholesterol” or LDL-C — is pushing 200 or more that you’re in a bad place and at risk of heart attacks and all of that.  So, dude, lower that cholesterol!

Except it’s not that simple anymore. In the past few years general practitioners have increasingly moved away from talking to their patients about that old bad cholesterol scale to more sophisticated and refined measures. Measures which have a much greater correlation with heart health than the old numbers. I’m sure it’s way more complicated than this (really, talk to your doctor), but for our purposes, LDL-P is a WAY better measure than the bad cholesterol/LDL-C measure. Indeed, you may very well have a low LDL-C number but still be at serious risk of a heart attack because your LDL-P number is too high.

This is where I am. I get a physical every year. After a not great one in 2010 I bought a treadmill, cut out sweets, cut back on beer and lost weight. I lost about 25 pounds or so, in fact. I went for a physical in December 2011. My “bad cholesterol” number was much improved. In the healthy range. As far as I knew, I was in the BSOML.

Since last year, however, my doctor began, as a matter of course, testing LDL-P levels. I am way, way too high in my LDL-P levels. This is true even though I’m still down in weight from where I was back in 2010 and despite the fact that my bad cholesterol numbers are still in good shape. The old metrics are misleading! They were failing me because they were not telling me and my doctor about my heart attack risks nearly as well as the newer, more sophisticated metrics.

After getting lectured by my doctor about how I need to change my diet, I began to laugh. I began to imagine myself as an old school baseball writer listening to this. I began to formulate a rebuttal to my doctor that could have easily shown up in Jon Heyman’s Hall of Fame column or something, switching out WAR for LDL-P:

“LDL-P. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.  Look, doc, you can bury your head in your spreadsheets and clinical studies which purport to show correlation between dying of heart attacks and your fancy acronyms, but bad cholesterol numbers are widely accepted and understood by people who aren’t doctors. If they were good enough for the doctor I had in 1984 they’re good enough for me. I prefer the eye test anyway. I look in the mirror and I see a much thinner me than I saw two years ago. I see that my 34 jeans are actually loose. I see my breakfast each morning and note that I’m eating way more cereal now than eggs, and my 1984 doctor told me that’s what I should do.  I don’t need some abstract number to tell me something which goes against all intuitive sense. You’re using LDL-P as an argument-ender, and frankly, the tone of you LDL-P people has gotten extreme.”

Science and math is science and math no matter what you apply it to. If people in any other field besides baseball treated scientific and mathematical metrics with the sort of willfully ignorant disdain that many baseball writers treat advanced baseball metrics, they’d be laughingstocks. And while, yes, it is an extreme example, if doctors did so in the medical field more people would die.  Baseball isn’t life and death of course, but I’m glad my doctor doesn’t approach his field of study like Jon Heyman and guys like him approach theirs.

Anyway, end of deep thought. I’m off to chuck all of the cereal, bread, crackers and pasta I have into the garbage and begin steeling myself for egg-white omelets, fish and a lot more lentils and things. If that makes me a dietary stathead who needs to get his head out of his laptop and eat some damn bagels once in a while, well, so be it.

Latest Posts
  1. Giants casting “wide net” that includes Max Scherzer

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:12 PM EST

    max scherzer getty Getty Images

    Max Scherzer, a client of Scott Boras, seems comfortable with slow-playing this market. We’ve seen loads of rumors and reports involving the other prominent free agent ace, Jon Lester, but it’s hard to identify which teams are in the running at the moment for Max. The Giants may be one …

  2. Lucas Harrell, Jim Adduci both sign contracts in Korea

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:47 PM EST

    kbo logo

    Via Jeeho Yoo of Seoul’s Yonhap News, right-hander Lucas Harrell and outfielder Jim Adduci both agreed to one-year deals Tuesday in the Korea Baseball Organization — Harrell with the KIA Tigers for $900K and Adduci with the Lotte Giants for $650K.

  3. Diamondbacks “among teams pushing hardest” for Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:51 PM EST

    yasmany tomas getty Getty Images

    Arizona has been mentioned before as a potential landing spot for Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, but it was never really considered a strong likelihood. Maybe that perception should be changing …

  4. Red Sox announce four-year, $88 million deal with Hanley Ramirez, DFA Juan Francisco

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:38 PM EST

    red sox logo

    The Red Sox have officially introduced Hanley Ramirez and his new four-year, $88 million pact. Juan Francisco was DFA’d in the process.

  5. Yu Darvish has been cleared to resume throwing

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:40 PM EST

    Yu Darvish AP AP

    Darvish missed the final six weeks of the season with an elbow injury.

  6. The Senate will hold a hearing about domestic violence in professional sports

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:25 PM EST

    Capitol

    Possibly well-intentioned, possibly grandstanding. But it’s hard to see how this is in Congress’ bailiwick.

  7. Indians interested in Chase Headley

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:46 PM EST

    Chase Headley AP

    What would happen to Lonnie Chisenhall?

  8. The Cubs have offered Jon Lester “north of $135 million”

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

    jon lester getty Getty Images

    Based on what we know at the moment, the Cubs’ offer is the richest one out there.

  9. Twins drop arbitration eligible Anthony Swarzak

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:15 PM EST

    swarzak getty Getty Images

    Swarzak was due for a raise to around $1.5 million via arbitration.

  10. How Twitter has changed baseball coverage. Which is part of the story, anyway.

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:03 PM EST

    Typewriter

    Technology itself hasn’t changed how reporters do their jobs. Rather reader demand, newly obvious by technology, has done so.

  11. Daisuke Matsuzaka is going back to Japan

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:47 PM EST

    Daisuke Matsuzaka Getty Getty Images

    Matsuzaka spent the past two seasons with the Mets.

  12. Dave Martinez is leaving the Rays after being passed over for manager

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:20 PM EST

    Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon Getty Images

    Martinez served as Joe Maddon’s right-hand man since 2008.

  13. The Mariners have spoken with the Red Sox about Yoenis Cespedes

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    cespedes getty Getty Images

    They’ve been linked to Justin Upton and Matt Kemp. But another power bat is a possibility.

  14. Red Sox designate Ryan Lavarnway for assignment

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:46 PM EST

    Ryan Lavarnway Getty Images

    Lavarnway was once a top-100 prospect.

  15. Mets interested in Craig Breslow

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:15 PM EST

    Craig Breslow Getty Getty Images

    Breslow spent the past three seasons with the Red Sox.

  16. Let go of your Troy Tulowitzki fantasies, Yankees fans

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:03 AM EST

    troy tulowitzki getty Getty Images

    At least to the extent you still have them. Because it ain’t happening.

  17. More Hall of Fame ballots like Adam Rubin’s please

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    10 METS FAYTOK

    The first rule of Hall of Fame Ballot Club: Use all ten slots on your ballot. The second rule of Hall of Fame Ballot Club: USE ALL TEN SLOTS ON YOUR BALLOT.

  18. Phillies sign Chris Nelson

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:15 AM EST

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v New York Yankees Getty Images

    Nelson was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft.

Featured video

Maddon has high hopes for Cubs
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. P. Sandoval (5628)
  2. Y. Tomas (3851)
  3. H. Ramirez (3625)
  4. J. Lester (3171)
  5. J. Upton (2206)
  1. A. LaRoche (2195)
  2. J. Bruce (2170)
  3. T. Hunter (2014)
  4. I. Davis (2013)
  5. G. Stanton (1732)