I have always had great respect for Mitchel Lichtman, known more widely as MGL, sabermetrician extraordinairre. He’s a really smart guy who is able to cut through a lot of baloney when it comes to baseball stats. Most of my experience with his work has been me looking blankly at what he says or writes, failing to comprehend it and then, some time later, be it ten minutes or two years, saying “wow, that was pretty damn insightful.”
But I have to be honest and also admit that, if any sabermetrician comes close to fitting the stereotype that non-stats people throw at them, it’s Lichtman. He has a fierce dedication and seriousness to his craft which, intended or not, comes off as humorless and lacking in larger perspective. Specifically, the perspective that baseball is, you know, kind of fun and cool sometimes, even if the fun and cool stuff causes us to lose sight of the nuts and bolts of it from time to time.
Maybe his best ever example of this came in a series of tweets last night:
A mediocre pitcher who issues lots of walks, gives up lots of HR, and throws a lot of WP has almost as good a shot at a no-hitter as anyone.
— Mitchel Lichtman (@mitchellichtman) June 25, 2014
I seriously can’t believe that anyone with a baseball IQ over 50 would defend a claim that Lincecum is still a good pitcher.
— Mitchel Lichtman (@mitchellichtman) June 26, 2014
I don’t think anyone reasonably thinks that Tim Lincecum is the same pitcher today that he was three or four years ago. And I don’t think appreciating his no-hitter yesterday — or even his messy no-hitter last year — requires one to make a judgment about his overall quality. Yes, people will go overboard when stuff like that happens, but c’mon.
Put differently: lighten up, Francis. Maybe pick a different battle? That game was as fun as hell to watch and seeing an outstanding performance from someone who has lost the thread in his game in many ways is way, way more uplifting and inspiring than seeing someone at the top of their game remain at the top.
Put differently again: Mitchel, let’s go get a beer sometime and just enjoy a ballgame on a shallow, entertainment-first level. We can really do that once in awhile.