Who was better in Game 1: Halladay or Lincecum?

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This may be the first time I’ve ever said “shove your stinkin’ stats! I know what my own eyes tell me!” and wasn’t being snarky. But Dan Rosenheck’s piece in the New York Times concluding that Tim Lincecum’s 14 strikeout performance was better than Roy Halladay’s no-hitter actually has me saying it.

It’s not that I disagree with Rosenheck’s results, as such. He’s not, I don’t believe, making value judgments here. He’s using defense independent pitching analysis. He’s looking at Win Probability Added. The numbers, as far as a luddite like me can tell, add up. I’m not sitting here like some octogenarian newspaper columnist misusing that “lies, damn lies and statistics” quote while shaking my cane.

No, it’s not a case of me — a fellow traveler of many a stat-head — rejecting sabermetric orthodoxy. It’s just
a case of one fan — me — finding his own limit of the utility of statistical
analysis and saying: “Hey Dan: neat article. But it’s totally beside the point.


Sure, I suppose if I wanted to attack Rosenheck’s analysis I could get into the strength of each pitcher’s opponent. Or I could try to break down each pitcher’s command. Or I could actually track batted-balls and find some error in his approach. Or I could question the utility of using DIPS in a single game in the first place.

But I need not take any issue with his analysis to conclude that Halladay was better. I’m
merely sitting here as a baseball fan who watched the entirety of both
performances. I’m merely declaring — gleefully — that Doc was better than Timmy, no question about it, bub, and don’t you dare try to tell me any differently.

I usually cringe when someone tells me that statistical analysis has its limits and that looking at things from beneath a green eye-shade is an awful way to try and understand the game. But in this one instance, yeah, my inner-Joe Morgan is coming out.