Author: Craig Calcaterra

Bill James

Bill James: not a “statistical guru,” not impressed by WAR


Over at NBC SportsWorld, Joe Posnanski has a profile of Bill James. The man often described as the father of sabermetrics and, at other times, described as a “statistical guru.”

Guess what: he hates that label. He freely admits that he’s not particularly great at math and data processing and that, contrary to the accusation often leveled at him, he doesn’t much care about statistics. At least not as ends. To him they are means to understand baseball better and, most importantly, to cut out the b.s. that informs so much baseball thinking, mostly from insiders.

And you wanna know what else? He’s not at all impressed by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), the stat that has become a proxy in the larger battle between stat-oriented people and traditional baseball people:

“Well, my math skills are limited and my data-processing skills are essentially nonexistent. The younger guys are way, way beyond me in those areas. I’m fine with that, and I don’t struggle against it, and I hope that I don’t deny them credit for what they can do that I can’t.

“But because that is true, I ASSUMED that these were complex, nuanced, sophisticated systems. I never really looked; I just assumed that the details were out of my depth. But sometime in the last year I was doing some research that relied on these WAR systems, so I took a look at them, and … they’re not very impressive. They’re not well thought through; they haven’t made a convincing effort to address many of the inherent difficulties that the undertaking presents. They tend to get so far into the data, throw up their arms and make a wild guess. I don’t know if I’m going to get the time to do better of it, or if it will be left to others, but … we’re not at anything like an end point here. I assumed that these systems were a lot better than they actually are.”

There may not be a more important figure in baseball analysis. But there may not be a more misunderstood figure than Bill James. Go read Posnanski’s piece to get a better handle on what James has been up to for the past 40 years.

Wanna blame something for the Giants’ loss? How about Kansas City barbecue?

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo drops this nugget in his story about Game 6:

It’s unlikely the Giants will delight in another pregame treat of Z-Man sandwiches from the unparalleled Oklahoma Joe’s barbecue joint, as they did Tuesday afternoon. Fifty of the sandwiches – beef brisket, smoked provolone, two onion rings and pickles with a touch of sauce – found their way into San Francisco’s clubhouse, and whether it was Kansas City’s smoked-meat kings sending some good vibes the hometown team’s way or simply a coincidence that Z-Man consumption coincided with pure lethargy, their presence is no longer welcome.

I know they’re athletes and require a lot of calories in order to make their bodies do what they do, but Christ on a crutch, on what planet does that kind of a meal make sense a few hours before running and stuff is required. I thought I was gonna need a defibrillator after eating one of those the other day.

Jose Canseco shot his middle finger off

Jose Canseco

The most interesting news that broke during last night’s rout was that Jose Canceco was accidentally shot. Now we have more details:

Actress and model Leila Knight told the Daily News that Canseco was cleaning one of his four guns in the couple’s kitchen when it discharged and blew off the middle finger of his left hand.

His girlfriend said Canseco “blew away an artery and a big bone chunk,” and that even if they do reattach it, it’ll be useless.

Without getting into the political, just sit back and absorb the notion that we live in a country in which a person with Jose Canseco’s judgment and responsibility is allowed to own four guns.

World Series Reset: Game 7: For all of the marbles


The Game: World Series Game 7. Series tied 3-3
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
The Channel: Fox
The Starters: Tim Hudson vs. Jeremy Guthrie
The Upshot: If you think this is really going to be decided by Hudson and Guthrie, you’re crazy. It’s Johnny Wholestaff vs. Everyone, and given that Herrera, Davis and Holland didn’t pitch yesterday, assume that each of them will pitch two innings if need be. Same with everyone on the Giants staff. We’re past the point of predictions. Past the point of analysis. It’s now all down to one damn game. And whoever executes best is the winner. Baseball in its purest form.

Good news for the Giants? Game 6 only counted once.

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KANSAS CITY — True Fact: Tuesday night’s Game 6 did not count as two games. It only counted as one. It doesn’t matter how badly the Giants got slaughtered. Losing 10-0 did not mean that the Royals won the World Series. And did not, in fact, dictate that the Royals will win Game 7 on Wednesday. I realize it may feel that way to some Giants fans, but it really didn’t.

Such is the randomness of life, baseball and especially short series baseball, that the Giants could just as easily beat the Royals 10-0 tomorrow as they were beat in that fashion this evening. Nothing has gone as expected this postseason. Indeed, it has taught us that we really shouldn’t expect anything.

Our logic tells us that, by virtue of the blowout, the Royals top relievers are well-rested for tomorrow. But our logic also told us that the Royals couldn’t score runs to save their lives. Our logic tells us that Jeremy Guthrie is no one’s idea of a Game 7 starter, but our logic also told us that the Giants having Yusmeiro Petit around to bail out a faltering starter would help the Giants avoid disaster innings. Most of all, our logic told us, months ago, that the Royals had no chance at the postseason and, weeks ago, that they’d never advance. And that the Giants didn’t have the horses to hang with the Nationals or the Dodgers or the Cardinals.

But here the Royals are, poised to take the World Series in Game 7. Or maybe the Giants are poised to do so. That’s the thing about Game 7s. Our logic doesn’t matter anymore. We just have to — get to — watch them play the game. And now, somehow, we have to make it through 20 hours of anticipation to get there.

One more baseball game in 2014. That’s it. That’s all we have left. And unlike everything else that is scarce, we can’t wait to consume it.