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Normally I don't waste my time with an RG column, but I did peruse his latest "work".

Sir Richard's latest attack is all over the place - frequently, it is difficult to see how one paragraph relates to the next. Worse, RG displays a superficial understanding of SABR, sabermetrics (which he doesn't mention by name) and Bill James.



"The saviour of small-market budgets and the bane of scouting has been SABR, this statistical society of baseball researchers, with clearly defined formulas for judging offensive players and projecting future contributions."

SABR is not a statistical society; it's a research society. A lot of the research it does is historical (not statistical) in nature, along the lines of a humanities discipline. The above paragraph makes it sound as if SABR is all about producing Baseball Prospectus-like projections for the upcoming season. This is not true: the focus of the organisation is and has always been research of baseball's past.

"There are key formulas, which have in common power stats and on-base percentage, underplaying batting average and speed. The first such formula, devised by stats guru Bill James in the early '80s, uses the mathematical sentence: Runs = (hits + walks) x (total bases) divided by (at-bats + walks). He called it Runs Created. There are others."

First, calling Bill James a stats guru is like calling Leonardo Da Vinci a designer of helicopters. James was and is interested in baseball truth. Sometimes he used statistical analysis to aid in the search for that truth, other times he's interested in a particular player or time in baseball's past (I heartily recommend his 3 "Baseball Books" of the early '90s).

Second, Bill James' Basic Runs Created Formula (which RG refers to above, but not by name) wasn't the first attempt to estimate run scoring based on various offensive elements.

Third, run estimation formulas do not "underplay" batting average and speed. The term "underplay" implies that the formulas have a bias against these things. Nothing could be further from the truth: run estimation formulas have always been about developing a more accurate picture of the way offence in baseball actually works.

"Clearly, the easiest positive statistic for mediocre hitters, one that requires keeping the bat glued to your shoulder, instead of the traditional hand-eye induced ball-whacking (which is far more exciting), is the ability to draw walks."

Here RG lapses into superficial moral judgements. Drawing walks is what mediocre hitters do, you see. Pray tell, RG, how can big league hitters draw walks if big league pitchers throw them strikes? The best hitters in baseball are, by and large, the ones that draw the most walks. Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas... are these the ones that RG considers mediocre? The main reason these hitters draw a lot of walks is because pitchers are not always willing to challenge them by throwing the ball in the strike-zone and they aren't stupid enough to swing at pitches outside their hitting zone. Regardless of how it fits into someone's moral universe, a walk is worth what it is worth.

Then, as if to undercut his own diatribe, RG switches gears and notes that Jays pitchers Aquilino Lopez and Trever Miller were acquired based on "computer-scouting". The two best relief pitchers the Jays have had this year were acquired on the cheap from the pool of freely-available talent. That's a bad thing?

After that there are the predictable pot shots about young baseball fans getting more pleasure out of studying boxscores than going to a game, and about sabermetricians being unable to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of a baseball game.

One wonders how many members of the SABR "cult" RG actually spoke to before he decided they were humourless and intolerant.

Griffin does a hatchet job on SABR | 24 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Shane - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 10:19 AM EDT (#93769) #
One wonders how many members of the SABR "cult" RG actually spoke to before he decided they were humourless and intolerant.

Isn't this where he was refering to himself and Phil Rogers? I think it was a typo.
_David Armitage - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#93770) #
Nothing like waking up Saturday morning to see what kind of weekly hatchet job Griffin or Baker do on the Jays. Griffin, it seems to me continues down this path because he enjoys annoying anybody who knows something about the game while trying to convince more casual fans that this is the REAL reason the Jays are not the Yankees, Braves, etc.

It must have been really difficult for Griffin to twist Fregosi's arm into saying something negative about the Jays system. A) Obviously ex-employees are going to be biased towards their former employers, and B) If Fregosi, in the position of a scout, said anything other than "The best teams are still the teams with the best scouting" he'd being a disservice to his own employment status- who in their right mind would question the utility of their own job?
Craig B - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 11:48 AM EDT (#93771) #
Richard Griffin has the biggest inferiority complex in the Toronto media.

What I find rather humorous is the fact that SABR is really just a big collection of people who *love* baseball. I find it hardly suprising, though sadly predictable, that someone who hates baseball as much as Richard Griffin seems to, would attack the organization.

I took the liberty of forwarding the article to SABR-L, hopefully the Star will be kind enough to give the response some prominence. I'm going to pen one myself.
_Richard Griffin - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 11:50 AM EDT (#93772) #
If I was writing a piece and I needed more back-handed ammo for my hate articles, and I needed some cookie cutter scouting views to plug in, wouldn't you interview a crusty old fart like Jim Fergosi too? I would. Do they get any more blood & guts and 'Old School' than Ol' "Punch up" himself?
_Ryan - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#93773) #
It's funny how Griffin talks about intolerance in others when he's the most intolerant baseball writer I've ever seen. Anyone who dares to believe in the statistical side of the game or happens to disagree with his beliefs gets blasted regularly in his column.

\SABR has admittedly contributed many legitimate new ways of looking at statistics, but like most cults, one who disagrees with their beliefs is considered inferior. No tolerance\

Some time back Griffin mentioned visiting an online forum and discovering someone thought he was a moron. I'm not sure what forum that was (there are several forums where he's called that on a daily basis), but I think the above statement could be pointing to that.

Richard, if by chance you are reading this, it's not just the sabermetric community who has a problem with you. Many baseball traditionalists think you're a buffoon. You haven't demonstrated a solid grasp of any aspect of baseball. Just about every baseball community has little patience with people who make silly statements without a shred of supporting evidence, and you are one of those people. The sabermetric community is just one of many like this.
Mike D - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 12:16 PM EDT (#93774) #
Ryan, I don't know about this. I actually think that the biggest PR problem the sabrmetric community faces is due to the superiority complex of some of its adherents.

In contrast, when you look at Rob Neyer, either in ESPN chats or in his writing, you'll see someone who demands empirical evidence for his findings and expresses strong views. But he also identifies counterarguments and takes them at face value, before he explains why they're not as strong as his points. Rob's also obviously a fan of the game, throwing subjective assessments into his generally objective work.

But there are other writers -- not many, but some -- who are indeed not only intolerant of dissent, but view it as a sign of sentimentality or even stupidity. It's not a problem with SABR per se, but it is a problem among some stat-oriented writers which Griff clumsily lumps together with the organization.

Arrogance isn't persuasive, and isn't always appealing to open-minded baseball fans interested in understanding the game better. Of course, it's much more persuasive and appealing than Richard Griffin most days -- today's sloppy column in particular.
Mike D - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 12:54 PM EDT (#93775) #
I might add that Reed Johnson thinks we "know our baseball." In your face, Griffin!
_Ryan - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 12:58 PM EDT (#93776) #
Oh I agree there's a number of arrogant people in the sabermetric community, but I think there's just as many people like that among baseball traditionalists. We will often read or hear similarly arrogant, dismissive comments from traditional-thinking GMs, scouts, players and members of the media. Arrogance isn't a criticism that can be aimed solely at sabermetricians.
_BJ Birdy - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 01:38 PM EDT (#93777) #
The fear is that today's young generation of baseball fans gets more pleasure out of poring over boxscores than from attending ball games and watching teams battle it out the old-fashioned way.

He's right. With all the time I've spent fussing over box scores, I've only managed to make it to 62 of the Jays' 62 home games. If only I'd discard my Bill James Historical Abstract, erased my bookmark links to Rob Neyer, baseballprimer and battersbox, I'd be much more interested in "attending ball games and watching teams batlle it out the old-fashioned way."

You'll excuse me while I head down to the ballpark. Not to watch the game, mind you, but to figure runs created for both twenty-five man rosters. I can't do it without the smell of beer nuts.
_jason - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 02:04 PM EDT (#93778) #
Some of this was surprising to me.
Coach - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 04:20 PM EDT (#93779) #
Once again, the Star has a "theme" today, as Geoff Baker also takes some cheap shots at sabermetrics and the home team:

The numbers also raise doubts about whether teams trying to emulate Oakland's winning formula first and foremost the Blue Jays can do so without landing their own trio of bona fide Cy Young Award contenders.

Baker uses some convoluted "logic" to portray the Ricciardi plan as a mistake. He mentions that J.P. has built the league's second-best offence, only to dismiss that accomplishment because the Jays remain in third place. Toronto's young pitching talent is still developing in the minors, and Oakland's hitters have disappointed. On a fraction of their rivals' budgets, neither team is perfect, which shouldn't surprise anyone, but leads Baker to conclude that they are doing everything wrong. Geoff's been hanging around Griffin too much.
_jason - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 05:25 PM EDT (#93780) #
Weird. Maybe a lot of the anti-Blue Jays stuff comes from these Star writers having had personal relationships with the former Blue Jays scouts? Were these guys this negative during Ash's tenure?
_Ryan - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 06:16 PM EDT (#93781) #
Griffin was always negative. He was really tough on Ash, even making fun of his weight at times.

Baker was pretty bad, too. Being a beat writer mostly, there usually wasn't much of an opportunity for him to state his opinion, but he was tough on Delgado for not being enough of a leader after he signed his contract extension.

Elliott's negativity started after the scouts were dismissed, although he's always been clueless. I've had a couple of E-Mail exchanges with him in recent months and any respect I may have had for him has vanished.
_Grimlock - Sunday, August 24 2003 @ 11:03 AM EDT (#93782) #
A friend of mine asked me Grimlock if me Grimlock had read the articles yesterday, and he said that the articles were right -- it's Oakland's pitching NOT their hitting that has gotten them far, and that sometimes SABR guys goes "too far", and that balance is a better way to build a ball club, after all what's wrong with stealing bases? And that it's good to have some non-SABR-type players. I mean, look what Pat Gillick has done in Seattle!

This is from someone who is very knowledgeable about baseball. While readers of this site, myself included, may think the articles were atrocious, me Grimlock afraid that the normal Blue Jays fan probably sat there yesterday, nodding their heads in agreement.
_R Billie - Sunday, August 24 2003 @ 05:04 PM EDT (#93783) #
Well the problem is that the Jays DON'T just have "SABR" type players. Delgado, Hinske, and Kielty are obvious OBP player but Vernon Wells isn't necessarily one. Ricciardi recognized his potential despite very mediocore OBP in his limited ML time and signed him to a five year deal. One which should give the Jays a superstar for relative peanuts through 2007.

And what makes people think that improving the pitching isn't #1 and #1A, B, and C on the Jays' to do list for the next three years? Just because they already happened to have a lot of high quality offensive pieces in place and it was relatively easy to add others?

You would think in all their criticism of the Jays following Oakland's plan, that they'd notice the Jays' goal IS to have a similar pitching staff to Oakland's in the future. It's not like they haven't added several legitimate pitching prospects in the last two drafts alone.
robertdudek - Sunday, August 24 2003 @ 11:10 PM EDT (#93784) #
I despise the label "SABR"-type player. What does it mean exactly? Sabremetrics (which isn't SABR - I'm starting to regret that Bill James chose that fine organisation's name for the kind of thing he did) is a search for objective knowledge about baseball. So the only conceivable definition of a SABR player would be a good or valuable player. Good defense is valuable and so is hitting for a high batting average.

Any young centrefielder who can play defense, hit for a decent average and some power is valuable. That's exactly what Vernon was in the spring of 2002. We (the fans) are fortunate that he has developed impressively from that platform and is looking like a potential superstar.
_Nick Gieschen - Monday, August 25 2003 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#93785) #
Small victory. The Toronto Star called me today to say they'd like to publish my letter to the editor in which I ripped Griffin for this idiotic article. I'm curious to see how much of the original letter is intact. They said it will be in tomorrow's (Tuesday) paper.
robertdudek - Monday, August 25 2003 @ 02:44 PM EDT (#93786) #
Nick,

Please post your letter here for those of us who are unable to purchase the Star or those who have boycotted it.
_NIck - Monday, August 25 2003 @ 03:25 PM EDT (#93787) #
Actually, I don't have a copy of it. I just sent it off assuming that nothing would ever come of it. I assume I'll be able to view it online tomorrow, but, since I live in Brooklyn, NY, I certainly won't be seeing it in print. If I find it online tomorrow, I'll certainly cut and paste it here.
_Ken - Tuesday, August 26 2003 @ 09:02 AM EDT (#93788) #

Nick's letter
, and others.
_NIck - Tuesday, August 26 2003 @ 11:05 AM EDT (#93789) #
Well, they extracted just a few sentences of the original letter. At least they were insulting sentences. It's nice to see they posted all those other letters in defence of SABR.
_StephenT - Tuesday, August 26 2003 @ 09:51 PM EDT (#93790) #
As implied by what Zajc and Dorward wrote in their letters, a lot of SABR members (probably a majority) aren't interested in statistical analysis.

At the SABR convention in Denver this July, many of the featured panelists actually expressed negative reactions to Moneyball. I summarized some of their comments earlier.

Research presentations I attended in Denver included a new discovery on the history of the word "fan" (it probably comes from the wind-blowing fan, contrary to the common statement that it's an abbreviation of fanatic), a recounting of a barnstorming team's visit to Denver many decades ago, and a discussion of Judge Landis' rulings. There was an optional bus trip to a minor league game in Colorado Springs. It was a fun time for any baseball fan.
_Gwyn - Wednesday, August 27 2003 @ 09:39 AM EDT (#93791) #
Doug Pappas gets in his shots at Griffin on his blog
_85Jays - Wednesday, August 27 2003 @ 10:30 AM EDT (#93792) #
"Some time back Griffin mentioned visiting an online forum and discovering someone thought he was a moron. I'm not sure what forum that was (there are several forums where he's called that on a daily basis), but I think the above statement could be pointing to that."

That was Fanhome -- the article appeared just days after a thread was posted with the title "The moron does it again", or something to that effect.

Let me make a recommendation to all of you: Don't read the Star. I cancelled my subscription after the White Jays article, citing the long-running Griffin/Baker vendetta against the Jays as a reason. I've been a much happier person since.

Griffin's problem is, simply, that he's mule-headed. He doesn't want to consider a different point of view. He slams statistics, while at the same time talking about probabilities. He believes that if you have an aggressive, base-stealing team, you're more likely to score more runs. But the stats don't back this up -- and if you're going to talk about probabilities, you have to talk about stats.

He's also a fan of bunting. Again, he talks about probabilities. But the fact is that bunting does NOT make it more probable that a team is going to score a run.

And he hates JP. Why? Frankly, there seem to be personal reasons behind it. His attacks have been virtually incessant -- with the exception of the post-White Jays period when he was doing a good deal of sucking up. (Clearly someone above him at the Star had given him a good talking-to.)

Dang, now I'm all riled up. I knew I shouldn't get Griffin in my head again!
Griffin does a hatchet job on SABR | 24 comments | Create New Account
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