How not to criticize sabermetrics

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I like the idea of Bill Simmons’ new Grantland site.  I think we need more deep-thinking, longer lede sports writing.  Someplace where folks who consume their sports news in 35 bloggy bits a day (ahem) can go and breathe a bit. But really, if you’re gonna go through the trouble of building such a site, make sure it has a bit more rigor to it, will ya?

Setting me off is Jonah Lehrer’s piece today in which he criticizes sabermetrics.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those people who get all angry when someone criticizes stuff to which I’m partial. Everything is better when put to constructive criticism.  Only, Lehrer doesn’t do that. He offers criticisms that are completely unsupported with any reference to observable fact:

My worry is that sports teams are starting to suffer from a version of the horsepower mistake. Like a confused car shopper, they are seeking out the safety of math, trying to make extremely complicated personnel decisions by fixating on statistics … coaches and fans use the numbers as an excuse to ignore everything else, which is why our obsession with sabermetrics can lead to such shortsighted personnel decisions.

Except there isn’t one example cited in the entire article where an “obsession with sabermetrics” has led a coach or a general manager astray.  Not one “team that has suffered from a version of horsepower mistake.”  He notes that the Mavericks got a lot out of some players who aren’t statistical darlings, but his citation to the Lakers — who he appears to be setting up as one of those stats obsessed teams, but doesn’t quite come out and say it — is horribly wrongheaded given that they, you know, had won the previous two championships and previous three conference titles.

In the end, this is an aimless, cranky complaint at best. It’s a misleading strawman argument at worst.  If you’re going to accuse sabermetrics of leading organizations astray, shouldn’t you be obligated to cite a single example?

Paul Janish retires

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MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports that the Orioles granted infielder Paul Janish his release from his Triple-A contract. He will retire and join the coaching staff at Rice University.

Janish, 34, played parts of nine seasons in the majors with the Reds, Orioles, and Braves. He hit .212/.280/.284 over his career, providing most of his value through his fielding and versatility. While he logged most of his time at shortstop, he also played third base and second base and also pitched on two occasions in blowout losses.

Yasmany Tomas to undergo season-ending core muscle surgery on Tuesday

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The Diamondbacks announced that outfielder Yasmany Tomas will undergo season-ending core muscle surgery on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Tomas has been on the disabled list since June 3 with right groin tendinitis and experienced multiple setbacks during his rehab.

Tomas, 26, was in the midst of a disappointing year before the injury, batting .241/.294/.464 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 180 plate appearances.

The Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez from the Tigers a month ago to help fill the gap in the outfield. Prior to that trade, Chris Herrmann and Daniel Descalso were handling left field. The D-Backs entered Monday’s action holding the second Wild Card slot in the National League by 2.5 games over the Brewers and trailed the Rockies by one game for the first slot.