Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two more quick things...'s amazing to be the disparity between the stat/sabermetric/reasonable thinking/whatever you want to call it baseball community and 95% of baseball writers/broadcasters...I'm so used to reading and talking to people who are, if not up to date on second and third order pitching stats, at least know that wins are meaningless, that clutch hitting doesn't exist, that runs scored and RBI are incredibly team dependent, and that baseball is a largely individual game and players shouldn't be faulted for what the other members of their teams do. So it still blows my mind when I leave that community to for some reason read an article where someone, who, regardless of whether they are into the mathematical side and regressions at whatnot, are at least are willing to think about baseball in a sensible matter. has made a killing out of crucifying these writers and their refusal to even give an iota of credit to a statistic that didn't exist before the 1950s. So when I read an article by Jon Heyman (who has done this thing many times before) where he specifically dedicates a section to how VORP is a worthless statistic that should come nowhere close to MVP voting I am still for some reason stunned how people who are such close-minded are allowed anywhere near the opinion pages of a major (I suppose the major) sports magazine. In just these couple of paragraphs are the same tropes we see over and over - David Wright shouldn't have been in the MVP contest last year because the Mets choked, even though, as we know, baseball players have very little (if any) influence on one other in the lineup, and Wright did about everything he damn could to make the playoffs.

Heyman of course disparages the notion that we shoudln't count clutch hitting. Now, although I'm not a big fan of it - I can live with doing it in a retrospective sense - see who had hit in the clutch in counting who was best over a past year, and the best way to do it is probably win probability added, something Heyman would surely blast if he possibly knew what it was. But just counting it retrospectively is not enough for Heyman. He must add this little footnote as an extra stab at stat guys - "oddly enough, some stat people think that's just luck, anyway" - I love the preface of "oddly enough" as if he's kind of pointing his head to his friends sitting at his cafeteria table to a bunch of nerd crazies in the corner, and adding the anyway at the end to be extra dismissive. Does he attempt evidence? Proof? Nope. Has he read any comprehensive arguments by any "stat people"? I doubt it. Even if he did, would he even open his head to the possiblity it could be true? I doubt it either.

Forget VORP. That's not what this is about. VORP is a great stat, but by no means the only stat one must use - there are plenty of tools out there which measure different things about the player, and there's plenty or room for argument. What it's about is being reasonable, and being open minded to conclusions that don't jive with what you've thought since you were a kid. That if you grew up believing in clutch, thus that's the way it is, and it will never be otherwise. And that if you still believe in it - you can show it through a well-reasoned argument rather than just acting as if everyone who doesn't agree with you is an out and out idiot. All right, done with that rant for now, but it just pisses me off. The day of reckoning will come when common sense enters the mainstream.

Now, my other item is something entirely and completely unrelated.

I recently was watching the second half the Seinfeld episode The Cigar Store Indian. You know, the one where Jerry calls his girlfriend an Indian giver, and the TV Guide.

One of the greatest cameos in Seinfeld history (perhaps sitcom history?) has got to be Al Roker and his two lines at the end of the episode.

Elaine and Jerry are on the subway at the end of the episode, Elaine holding the TV guide, when Jerry gets out to get a gyro. Jerry tries to make it back, but ends up sticking his hand with the gryo through, which Al Roker takes, and Jerry pulls his arm back and misses the train. Al Roker sits down next to Elaine, and utters his first line (copied from earlier in the episode, from Ricky, the creepy TV guide guy played by the guy who plays Ted in Scrubs, but far better when Al Roker does it):

"Guess your boyfriend's gonna have to catch the next train"

To which Elaine replies as before, "He's not my boyfriend."

Now here's where it gets amazing, Roker replies, "He's not? Interesting." - but what makes this so good is the cartoonishly sheepish grin he gives after the line, and the way he says interesting. What also makes this so great is the perfect choice of person - I can think of few others who would work well as Al Roker - someone famous enough he's recognizable, but not so famous that everyone on earth would recognize him, and someone famous as a zany weatherman, rather than as charismatic or attractive or anything like that.

Also adding to it is the reaction of Elaine as she looks at the TV guide and see Al Roker's face and makes the connection.

Brilliant television.

1 comment:

AndrewEberle said...

That episode is amazing! Roker's grin is so shit-eating and incredible, I kind of feel like watching it right now.

In regards to the larger half of your post, as usual when trying to slam the (admittedly true) idiocy of the Heymans of the world, you go way too far off in the other direction. Oh well, I still agree with you more than I do with the "other half".