A friend asked me if there was a point to the “Moneyball” movie coming out now, several years after the book. All of the lessons its insights have long since been coopted and mainstreamed, my friend said. It’s kind of old news.
I considered the argument for a minute and, as I often do, I randomly surged the web as I thought. I somehow landed on Jerry Green’s column in the Detroit News, lamenting the fact that “narrow-minded” baseball writers will “gyp” Justin Verlander of the MVP award because they’re under the spell of voodoo baseball metrics:
The problem is with the voters, the select journalists in the Baseball Writers Association assigned to the voting. Two from each franchise city. And the problem is that this exotic math known as Sabermetrics has contaminated baseball’s once-neat statistical system. We have cryptic designations such as WHIP and WAR and OPS thrown about by stats geeks who believe themselves to be geniuses with ciphers.
And you know exactly what’s next. No, not some call for a more subjective criteria for MVP. A desire to insert drama and good stories into the mix. I could at least understand that kind of argument as an appeal for something different. No, what comes next is Green saying “all of these stats are awful” and proving the point by citing … other stats:
I prefer the ancient meat-and-potatoes stats — a better mixture. Batting average, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored for the position players. Victories, earned run average and strikeouts for pitchers.
And what I do know is that Justin Verlander has won 22 games this season against five losses. His total projects to 24 or 25 victories. No other pitcher in the major leagues is anywhere near him. And I know that his strikeout total, 232, is the highest in baseball and that his ERA, 2.24, is tied with Jered Weaver’s for the lowest in the American League.
All that is in the baseball’s ancient stats info. You could look it up — as this ancient did.
As always, these arguments are not about statistics. Or even about baseball. They’re about politics. Tradition vs. modernity. Fear of change in a changing world. Baseball statistics are simply the McGuffin in this grand debate. It could just as easily be music, hairstyles or the height of one’s pants.
It started with a no-good St. Louis Cardinals fan being a troublemaker. That no-good Cardinals fan was Drew Silva, who began things innocently enough, noting that, despite their dominance this season, any team can theoretically beat the Chicago Cubs in a short series because that’s just how baseball goes:
Cubs fans started giving him guff for that, so Drew gave some back:
And with that it was on like Donkey Kong (a super old video game which was not invented for another 73 years after the Cubs last won the World Series). I tweeted this:
And with that, my followers went crazy. Here’s a sampling of some of the best ones:
And, for that matter . . .
Too soon. Unlike the last Cubs World Series title.
Like I said, this was just a sampling. I’ve retweeted a ton more on my timeline and those I didn’t retweet can be seen in the replies here. My favorite one may have been “literally the invention of sliced bread,” which debuted in 1912, but I can’t find that tweet.
Please, Cubs fans, have a sense of humor about this. You have a wonderful ballpark that is not named after a third tier mortgage company, a grand history that is fantastic even if it hasn’t featured any championships and a future that is as bright or brighter than any other team out there. Maybe even come up with some of your own in the comments! History is fun! As is self-deprecation! What I’m saying is don’t be salty about this sort of thing. Salty is a bad look.
In other news, the Morton Salt Company was incorporated in 1910, two years after the Cubs last World Series victory.
Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers have “rebuffed offers” for Yasiel Puig.
Heyman says teams “appear to be bottom feeding for Puig,” making lowball trade proposals. The Dodgers may not have big future plans for Puig, but nor are they gonna sell low on him. And heck, maybe they have bigger plans for him now than they did a couple of weeks ago. He’s batting .396/.448/.698 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 14 games since his demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma. The guy who replaced him, Josh Reddick, is hitting .143/.211/.157 in 20 games since the Dodgers acquired him.
I doubt Puig steps foot in the Dodgers clubhouse before the end of the year, but it’s not like they can’t hold off and trade him in the offseason when teams can imagine him looking good in their uniform next spring.