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Ryan Zimmerman thinks “nerds” should not do playoff projections

May 31, 2013, 9:13 AM EDT


Tom Boswell’s latest column has a bit in it about the Nationals and Orioles’ chances of reaching the playoffs, as calculated by ESPN and Baseball Prospectus. Ryan Zimmerman is not impressed at the dire projections for the Nats:

“How did that [model] work out for them the last couple of years? Not very well, right?” said Zimmerman. “That’s why nerds shouldn’t do that stuff.”

Well, considering most of the nerds picked the Nats to win the NL East this year, no, it’s not working out very well at all, Ryan.


  1. Liam - May 31, 2013 at 9:14 AM

  2. chill1184 - May 31, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    So I guess Zimmerman would prefer “writers” who use cliche’s such as grit, will-to-win, heart, clutch, etc to make predictions?

    • conjecture101 - May 31, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      It’s more cliche now to talk about writers using those terms than them actually using it. Do you really think those are the only qualities observable to the trained eye? How about speed, range, plate discipline, plate coverage, power, velocity, movement, pitch control, etc. etc. etc. The biggest misconception is that people who don’t used advanced statistics only prefer “gritty” guys with alot of “heart”. It’s complete nonsense.

      • DJ MC - May 31, 2013 at 7:09 PM

        Actually, the most visible things of all are the words the writers use to describe players. And those words tend toward those in chill’s post far more than those in yours. The eye doesn’t even need more than a basic level of training to notice that.

        Baseball people might be the ones you are describing, but they are also the ones using both scout observation and statistical analysis to make decisions. The writers on the other hand? Not even close.

  3. indicanuk - May 31, 2013 at 9:21 AM

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    And I’d like people who don’t understand math to not comment on things. Wonder which side gives up first?

    • apmn - May 31, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      If they don’t comment, then how will they ever learn from your response?

      (not sarcastic)

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        It’s one thing to ask questions, to learn about something you don’t understand. It’s another thing to open your mouth and show how ignorant you (universal you, not you specifically) are. For instance, Joe Scarborough, and the many other political pundits that bashed Nate Silver, because they didn’t understand how probabilities work. When Silver published his last predictions, estimating that Obama had a 70%+ chance of winning, he wasn’t saying that he was going to win with 70%+ of the vote like Scarborough and others thought. Silver was saying that Obama had a 70% chance of winning 51% of the vote.

        Like I mentioned in the comment below, there’s a difference between making a prediction prior to the season, and running a Monte Carlo simulator 100,000+ times to give estimates on how likely a team is going to make the playoffs. Zimmerman is commenting on the latter, not the former. It shows he’s ignorant of math and how those predictions work. If he wants to learn more, than ask.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 9:55 AM

        And presented without any additional information, per one of the commentors on the Boswell piece:

        Presented without comment.

        Ryan Zimmerman’s 2012 PECOTA line: .285/.350/.473

        Ryan Zimmerman’s actual 2012 stat line: .282/.346/.478.

      • apmn - May 31, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        Yeah, I understand the difference between saying something stupid and asking a question. But, we have the choice to respond to ignorance with frustration, or to respond to it as an opportunity to educate.

        Sorry, sometimes I just get an idealistic feather up my behind. :)

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM

        Sorry, sometimes I just get an idealistic feather up my behind.

        I enjoy educating people, if they want to learn. The problem is, from my experience (and yes anecdote isn’t the plural of data), many don’t want to learn. In this blog alone, the only person I can honestly remember asking what goes into (r/f)WAR and how to calculate it was Chris F during the many Ryan Howard articles. Far too many people bash it without understanding it (insert Edwin Starr song here).

    • anxovies - May 31, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      After reading L.C. Parnault’s “Dimensions in Mathematics” numerous times I feel very qualified to comment on math.

  5. charlutes - May 31, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    You sure told him Craig….Pointing out his major league baseball team is underperforming. Score one for the people who earn a living off the same professional athletes they talk down to.

    Zimmerman is right btw, it’s pretty meaningless when spectators project the playoffs. I wish sports media would just report happenings more and inject themselves into the story less.

    • sportsdrenched - May 31, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      Actually, they earn a living off advertisers who want to get in front of people who read their work. You clicked on the story, read it, and then commented on it. So, really it’s on you (us).

      • heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2013 at 9:47 AM

        I use this same argument when people complain about the price of gas/oil.

        Line up a muscle car, SUV, pickup, and a hybrid: which do you choose?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Zimmerman is right btw, it’s pretty meaningless when spectators project the playoffs.

      You do realize there’s a difference between when ESPN experts predict who will make the playoffs before the season starts, and the updated computer simulations that PECOTA predicts each day? Zimmerman is going after the latter and couldn’t be any more ignorant of how it works. How about you?

      • waiverclaim - May 31, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        You do realize opening a reply with “You do realize” is the most condescending thing anyone can say to anyone on the internet, right?

      • cur68 - May 31, 2013 at 11:09 AM

        You do realize that paraphrasing someone for the sake of insulting them is EVEN MORE condescending than what COPO did, right?

      • waiverclaim - May 31, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        you’re a bright one

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        You do realize opening a reply with “You do realize” is the most condescending thing anyone can say to anyone on the internet, right?

        Well I wouldn’t say it’s the most, but yes it’s up there. However, there are at least three common mistakes a lot of people make on this blog (not reading the article, conflating the indented part which someone quotes as the bloggers actual words, and assuming that DJ/Matthew/Aaron are all pseudonym for Craig).

        In this case, the phrase seemed justified considering what I quoted. Zimmerman isn’t right because Zimmerman doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

      • indaburg - May 31, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        I would say using that overused pic of Condenscending Wonka is more condescending. Correcting someone’s grammar or spelling when it is clearly a typo is also up there. That’s what we need. A list of the most condescending internet things. Where’s El Bravo? When you need a list, he’s your guy.

    • raysfan1 - May 31, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      Then don’t read blogs and Op-Ed articles, charlutes.

  6. paperlions - May 31, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    It seems like every year fans/media of every team that isn’t projected to do as well as they all hope during the bliss that is spring training rip model-based projections….then every fall when projections based on the models are compared to those provided by various media outlets, the projections are shown to be FAR more accurate….and dynamic projections that continue to take into account the underlying performance, and current place in the standings are going to be more accurate than any “if everything goes right from here on out”-based hopes….because even though everything does go right from time to time, it isn’t the norm.

  7. heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Zimmerman is just lashing out. he’s having a rough go at it…. you know, remembering how to field a ball and throwing it to first base and all. It’s a struggle we can only dream of. /s

  8. charlutes - May 31, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    I like to know what’s happening as I love baseball, and I’ve said many times, the PBT mobile forum is by far the best that I’ve ever found. That doesn’t mean the writing is always excellent. Although Craig is far more thoughtful and intelligent than most sports writers, I still find it fair game to point out when I think he’s veering away from baseball and into TMZ waters.

  9. charlutes - May 31, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    The players pay everyone’s salary as they attract the consumer dollars. Everything else flows from that including advertising.

  10. aceshigh11 - May 31, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    What is this?? High school??

    Give us a break, Zimmerman. Just play the damned game.

    • waiverclaim - May 31, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Will you and everyone shut the hell up if he does? He is partially right, people are reading too much into a game that relies more than a little on pure luck.

  11. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Somone had to “out stupid” Danny Espinosa

  12. recoveringcubsfan - May 31, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Craig’s been trolling all the Nats fans, all the live-long day…

    Seriously, Craig, go to the Braves clubhouse and ask BJ Upton what he thinks about the fact that he’s setting new lows statistically *despite* the rather rosy projections “nerds” set for him this year, and I’ll bet you get a pretty similar answer to what Zimmerman said. Would you rather that athletes answered, “we’ll just have to outperform the projections … uh, somehow … and have one of those blind-luck winning streaks that nobody can account for, statistically-speaking”? That IS the answer to the question of how the Nats can make the playoffs, right? And if that happened, would this same reporter have the balls to go back and face Zimmerman and get his “I told you so” even if Zim really (really) is, in fact, totally ignorant of why the projections are legitimate in the first place? I think no good comes of this, nor of perpetuating the jocks-vs-nerds stereotype that got old, oh, about the same time that movie left theaters.

    Or just to put a finer point on it, what would anybody (in any profession) say in response to a smartass waving a stats sheet in his face and, with the strong implication that you are being baited and you suck because math) saying, “gee, ___, you are lagging behind your projections and aren’t on-pace to perform at the level some analytical program says you should, so what do you have to say for yourself?”

    • donal145 - May 31, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      How about they be grown men and admit they are under performing? What about the fact that they are under performing what the “old men of baseball” predicted as well?

    • jwbiii - May 31, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      If you look at ESPN’s projections, the Nationals were a favorite with both the nerds (Dan Szymborski, Dave Cameron, etc.) and the grizzled veterans (Nomar Garciaparra, Rick Sutcliffe, etc.)

      As for Zimmerman himself, as church and Boswell’s commenter GK2008 pointed out, he’s right on his PECOTA projections. ZiPS and Steamer are about as close. Tim Kurkjian had him winning a gold glove in his best case scenario, though. . .

    • natslady - May 31, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      ESPN has this CY Young predictor. For the AL, they have Joe Nathan and Addison Reed on the list. Now, given that Mo Rivera is the only reliever who has a SHOT at the Cy Young (and that’s mostly because he’s a sentimental favorite), how much would you give for their projections? Not much.

      They have THREE relievers on the NL List, Jason Grilli, Craig Kimbrell (who has been human this year) and Edward Mujica (who just got the closer’s job).

      In what world are they?

      My point is, if you looked at most projections, they had the Nats and Tigers for the WS (some had Atlanta in the NL or the Reds). Well, the Nats are injury-plagued and the bench is not performing. Tigers–hello? Reds–hello?

      In all sincerity, what these guys (mostly guys) do is look at last year’s season and they see if the GM didn’t do anything completely stupid over the winter (which Rizzo didn’t, Span, Soriano and Span are working out just fine).

      Myself, I have a lot of optimism. It won’t be every series that you get six runs and JZimm implodes along with your best reliever, and then the next night Dan Haren pitches excellently but Freddy Garcia pitches better. The team Rizzo built is still there.

      • natslady - May 31, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        Not to mention–Dodgers, good-bye. Jays, good-bye, and Angels, LONG way to go.

      • natslady - May 31, 2013 at 2:49 PM

        Sorry, should have been Span, Soriano, and Haren. Haren’s been iffy, but he’s improving and all you really ask from you No. 5 is a .500 record and some innings.

      • jwbiii - May 31, 2013 at 5:13 PM

        ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor is very different than the preseason predictions of their, um, experts. From their site

        In The Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers — co-authored by Bill James and’s Rob Neyer presents a method, based on past results, to predict Cy Young balloting. This page provides an in-season snapshot of the Cy Young “race,” as figured by the following formula: Cy Young Points (CYP) = ((5*IP/9)-ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + Shutouts + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + VB (see below).
        VB: Victory Bonus is a 12-point bonus awarded for leading your team to the division championship

        What Neyer and James were trying to do was reverse engineer Cy Young Award voting patterns and cast them in a statistical framework. It works well for the winners: The last four, five of the last six, seven of the last ten, etc. I haven’t looked, but it probably does not work so well for the down ballot guys. It’s just another Bill James tool.

  13. donal145 - May 31, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Oh hi, Ryan. I didn’t see you there in David Wright’s shadow.

    I guess much likes balls to your right side and Adam LaRoche’s mitt, you’ve missed the mark on what these projections are for.

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