The Diamondbacks recently wrapped up a series in the Bronx against the Yankees. Starter Brandon McCarthy’s struggles continued, as he allowed three runs in four innings during his start on Tuesday. The adversity prompted Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay to suggest the right-hander’s struggles are related to his use of statistics as opposed to a small sample size, slight mechanical issues, or anything else significantly more likely an explanation than a brain overload.
Via Nick Piecoro, here was the exchange on the YES broadcast:
Michael Kay: “You mentioned earlier the information that McCarthy has at his disposal and we’ve also heard this saying, which is true in a lot of sports, ‘Paralysis by analysis.’ Does he have too much information out there?”
Al Leiter: “Just for me — I prepared with video and would want to know some stats — but yes. Yes. In the end, you’re throwing a baseball. You know, identify that Lyle Overbay is a good low-ball hitter, whatever you come up with, looking at video, looking at swings. He mentions that he looks at heat maps, the velocity data, the movement data, all sorts of different Fan Graphs.”
Ken Singleton: “Heat maps?”
Leiter: “I didn’t even know there was a heat map.”
Singleton: “Does it have something to do with the weather?”
Leiter: “No, it has to do with pitches and velocities and how they vary …”
Piecoro followed up with McCarthy, who dismissed Kay’s theory:
“Whether or not he’s right or wrong isn’t the issue,” McCarthy said. “It’s that you don’t know if you’re wrong. The heat map part is what’s weird to me. If you don’t know what it is and you can’t speak about it, how can you say anything against it?
“I also laugh at the ‘paralysis by analysis.’ I analyze very, very little. There’s some self-analysis when I need little checks and balances, but I really don’t go in-depth with breaking down teams. There’s resources of information that I know how to get to, that I trust more than other things, but that phrase is never the case.”
McCarthy went on to say he has someone who compiles some stats for him and gives the relevant info to catcher Miguel Montero and pitching coach Charles Nagy, not to McCarthy personally.
It would be nice if more in the media would take the time to learn and understand the stats and various methods of analysis before offering opinions on them. At the very least, they could supplement the soliloquy with a “but I could be wrong” rather than speaking matter-of-factly.
Update: Upon review, it’s worth clarifying that Kay may not have been blaming McCarthy’s struggles solely on statistical analysis and was speaking more generally about how players utilize statistics. The ensuing discussion still deserves criticism, however.