The save stat and perverse incentives

52 Comments

Ted Berg flagged something pretty darn illuminating this morning.  The quotes of the principles in yesterday’s Yankees game, happy that they failed on offense so that Mariano Rivera could get his 602nd save:

“I couldn’t believe they were cheering me for hitting into a double play,” Swisher said. “I said: ‘Whoa, what’s this? And then I looked at the bullpen and saw Mo coming out and I said: ‘Now I get it!’ This was the greatest double play of my life.”

“Runners at first and second…it was unbelievable,” Rivera said. “I don’t ever want my teammates to do bad so I can pitch, but this time I was happy for the opportunity. I’m listening to the fans and I said: ‘Wow, these guys are into it!’”

The most common critique of stats and stat-oriented analysis is that it allegedly elevates that which isn’t truly important over on-the-field baseball.  Yet there is nothing in baseball that does that more than the save stat, which non-stats oriented analysts love about a zillion times more than the SABR-nerds.

Tyler Moore: the ballplayer everyone is talking about

Getty Images
2 Comments

For those who don’t know, Alexa is Amazon’s digital assistant product. It’s Amazon’s version of Siri or Google Home, but you can use it for a lot more stuff if you have a device such as the Amazon Echo. With simple voice commands it can turn on your lights, turn up your air conditioner, play your music, order stuff you’re running out of, answer questions you have and a bunch of other things. It may also snitch on you to the CIA, but that’s a topic left for another day.

Anyway, Amazon is pretty proud of its product and today sent me a press release touting how fans use Alexa to “get player stats, team records, starting lineups and more!” Amazon also gave me a list telling me how baseball fans have used Alexa in the past year:

“As we enter the MLB playoffs this year, we wanted to share a snapshot of the most asked about MLB players and teams among fans throughout this season, according to Alexa.”

Cool! I love lists. Let’s see who Alexa users are searching for!

Top 10 Asked About Players this MLB Season:

1. Tyler Moore
2. Albert Pujols
3. Aaron Judge
4. Mike Trout
5. Bryce Harper
6. David Ortiz
7. Alex Rodriguez
8. Anthony Rizzo
9. Clayton Kershaw
10. Chris Young

I don’t have any problem with 2-9 on this list, but I gotta tell ya friends, I’m not sure that America’s most searched-for ballplayer is a guy who Baseball-Reference.com lists first as a “pinch hitter” who is sporting a line of .206/.247/.377 for a team ranking 28th out of 30 in attendance this year. I’m also skeptical of Chris Young at number ten, and that’s even if you put the search totals for BOTH Chris Youngs together and count them as one.

It’s possible that there is far greater national curiosity for Moore and Young than I realized.  It’s also possible that Moore and Young’s parents are just heavy duty Alexa users.

I suspect though, quite strongly, that Alexa — or the P.R. staff touting its abilities — is having trouble distinguishing between Tyler Moore and Mary Tyler Moore, who passed away back in January and was likely the subject of many more people’s curiosity than the Nationals’ 2008 16th round draft pick. Though, I’m sure, if given the chance, Tyler could turn the world on with his smile too.

All of which might be a bit distressing for Amazon, given that it’s their business to make sure customers get what they’re looking for. It’s good for us as human beings, however, because it suggests that, perhaps, we are much farther away from the Rise of the Machines than we sometimes suspect.

Brad Ausmus seems to know he’s a dead man walking

Getty Images
8 Comments

The Tigers have been terrible and the embarked on a rebuild this summer, shipping off Justin Verlander and multiple other players. Miguel Cabrera is hurt and may never be his old MVP-level self. It is, without a doubt, that the Tigers and their fans are about to begin a new chapter in the franchise’s history.

Such new chapters usually involve new managers. Fourth-year manager Brad Ausmus is still at the helm and the Tigers have made no public statement about his future. Ausmus, however, is a lame duck, with his contract ending a week from Sunday. He is also no fool. He seems to know very well that he’s not going to be around next year. From Katie Strang of The Athletic:

Ausmus, of course, has been on the hot seat several times. When Detroit exercised his option for this year, their refusal to extend it sent a pretty clear signal.

If this is the end of the road in Detroit for Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager, it will end with him having missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons at the helm of a star-studded team that was expected to Win Now, as they say. Yes, there were a lot of issues with the Tigers — their bullpen has always been a problem and the brass made a lot of questionable choices in signings and trades over the past few years — but there is no escaping the fact that Ausmus’ Tigers under achieved.