L.A. Times writer ignorantly bashes “statistical gobbledygook”

45 Comments

Bill Dwyre was the sports editor of the L.A. Times for a quarter century and now writes columns. And he’s apparently quite proud of being an ignorant, uncurious know-nothing which, when thinks about it, should be disqualifying traits for a journalist. But hey: this is sports journalism and newspapers apparently don’t care if the folks who do that work are embarrassments. Indeed, some papers apparently embrace it.

The column he wrote which fully justifies the charges above came out in Friday’s paper and concerned Dwyre’s visit to the SABR Analytics conference in Phoenix. He went to hear Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto speak, but spent most of his column bashing statistical analysis of baseball, which he calls “statistical gobbledygook.” You’ve seen columns like this before, but this is particularly egregious example of the genre.

I highlight Dwyre’s column less to bash it in its own right, however, and more to highlight a couple of responses to it that I find particularly apt in insightful. Less so for what they say than for who is saying it.

The first comes from Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present. He writes an open letter response to Dwyre.  Graham is a member of the Los Angeles chapter of SABR and he speaks from the perspective of someone who once had some meaningful interaction with Dwyre which helped shape his views on sports writing and now finds himself disappointed in what this person now seems to champion. The second comes from former L.A. Times staffer Matt Welch, who once worked for Dwyre and offers a thorough rebuttal over at Halos Heaven.

Both Graham and Matt do more than mock this silly stuff, which is what I’d be inclined to do if I were to offer my own specific rebuttal to it. They explain, with some degree of sadness it seems, how unfortunate that this is what passes for journalistic curiosity and insight from a major figure at a major daily newspaper. These are two people who, one presumes, represent no small part of what was once newspapers’ customer base but which have now lost faith in the institution in one way or another. As time goes on — and if nothing changes in the approach of people like Dwyre — they will be joined by many more.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
3 Comments

You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.