Great Moments in completely missing the point

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Here’s an Op-Ed railing against the Wins Above Replacement stat. One could spend many years consciously attempting to miss a point and not miss a point so badly:

Yogi Berra is, bar none, the winningest baseball player in history. He played 17 seasons, and the Yankees won 14 pennants and 10 World Series. His manager, Casey Stengel, called him his manager on the field. His position, catcher, is critical, touching the ball on every pitch. He won three MVP awards and made 15 All-Star teams . . . According to WAR, Berra is the 97th best player of all time. 97th! By comparison, Jeff Bagwell is rated 35th. Bagwell played 15 seasons, winning one pennant and no World Series. He made four All-Star games and won one MVP. But he is 62 places better than Berra, the winningest player of all time . . . how could a player who contributed to so much more winning be rated so much lower? No offense to Bagwell, who I liked, but does anyone believe he is more valuable than Berra?

WAR is certainly not immune from criticism. It’s got a number of flaws and a number of blind spots. Anyone who doesn’t question stats like WAR or anything else for that matter is abdicating their critical thinking. But it seems like one must actually understand what the hell WAR is trying to explain before bashing it like this. Saying WAR stinks because Berra’s Yankees won more than Bagwell’s Astros is like saying batting average is flawed because it measures above average players too.

I’m not personally a stats guy. I’m a fellow-traveler. A member of the liberal arts wing of the stat people, as it were. I am totally unqualified to do any seriously heavy lifting when it comes to statistical analysis. But I do at least attempt to grok what statistics attempt to explain. To criticize them, to the extent I ever do, on their own terms, not on some invented terms I make up. Why people never seem to do this with sabermetric statistics is beyond me.

If a reporter wrote this ignorantly about economics or general science they’d be fired. Why we allow this sort of thing in sports is beyond me.

(link via Baseball Think Factory)

Yankees trade Chase Headley, Bryan Mitchell to the Padres for Jabari Blash

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The New York Yankees have traded third baseman Chase Headley and pitcher Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Jabari Blash. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to report the trade. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was the first to report that Blash was coming back in return.

Headley, a third baseman, hit .273/.352/.406 for the Yankees last year. He, of course, played for the Padres from 2007 through the middle of 2014, when he was dealt to New York. Mitchell has pitched 48 games for the Yankees, most from the pen, over four seasons, with an ERA of 4.94 in 98.1 innings. He doesn’t strike out many and he walks a lot. He throws hard.

Blash, an outfielder, has hit .200/.323/.336 with eight homers in 279 big league plate appearances. Blash has shown a lot of power potential in the minors, but has not yet put it together in the bigs. Given what the Yankees have in their outfield at the moment, he’s going to be organizational depth or, perhaps, a chit in a future trade.

This would seem to be an exercise in salary clearing by the Yankees in anticipation of another move, as it takes about $13 million off of their payroll. Which is about how much was added to their payroll for 2018 in the Giancarlo Stanton deal. That could get Todd Frazier back for them, perhaps. Or it could help them retain CC Sabathia or go after another starting pitcher. The club likewise maintains an interest in getting under the $197 million payroll threshold which would trigger yet another year of 50% luxury tax payments for the Yankees.