Monday, October 11, 2010

A Response to Will Carroll

On Monday Will Carroll had some interesting comments to make about statheads (Found Here and their alleged unwillingness to embrace the narrative over the quantifiable. It was disappointing to see someone whose injury coverage I’ve enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) take such a misguided approach. Carroll is under the impression that Sabermetrics need to be brought to the masses, and I don’t think he could be more wrong.

Carroll is under the belief that the most cutting edge of the statistical analysis won’t ever be able to find a mainstream audience. I can’t say I disagree, but why is this an issue? Show me one instance of a writer saying that all fans need to subscribe to the statistical heavy approach that helps me and countless others connect to the game we love? I would never tell somebody that because they don’t know how WAR works that they watch baseball wrong, but I do expect them to understand that I get more out of the game from understanding it better, and stats help me (and many others) do that.

Carroll makes the point when he says there isn’t much in the way of easy to pick up reading on sabermetrics, but a quick Google search of a given stat’s definition will generally turn up results. I know that Fangraphs also has explanations for WAR and wOBA, and I’m guessing many more. The fact is, if people want to learn about sabermetrics, they can, and if they don’t, I don’t want them to have to. But as I said above, there seems to be a group with a vested interest in me not looking at a players wOBA so he can tell me about his intangibles, because that’s what he’s done for forty years, and all of a sudden, his job is less secure. The idea of a “keyboard jihad” as you called it against traditionalists is not one that is rooted in reality. If anything, there’s a “Jihad” against those who embrace stats coming from those who do not. This is often rooted in their fear of being supplanted by a new generation that looks at the game differently. The reason some take issue with this is because it’s not the live and let live approach that I propose in this post. It’s a kill or be killed attitude, and it’s unnecessary. Sabermetics is a relatively new niche; it’s not a replacement for things like scouting or game experience, we know that.

Carroll uses a modified “From you mom’s basement” approach towards the end of his article, saying, “The Phillies are headed deeper into the playoffs and somewhere in their front office, they have a guy that understands the most advanced numbers, has Fangraphs bookmarked, and will help Ruben Amaro this offseason. The players? They just have their big paychecks, big houses, and might someday sit where Joe Morgan or Mitch Williams is sitting now. The statheads? Unless they find their story or their storyteller, right where they are now.” Carroll isn’t incorrect in saying this, but he’s missing a critical detail. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I’m fine with where sabermetrics is today. Any team worth a damn is using it, and more information is available to me on my MacBook than anyone could have ever imagined ten years ago. I’ve accepted the fact that this is a niche field and Will Carroll should too. This site has 634 page views since it’s inception, and while I’d like to have more, I’m pretty content with the fact that this is a hobby for me (not that I’d turn an inquiring team down, just saying).


  1. I accept your points. I'm not saying everyone should agree or even understand. I'm saying that explaining, in a reasoned, understandable way, to include more people, to not exclude by tone or by education, to help bring a more factual, nuanced approach to baseball is what we need. If you're happy where it is today, ok. That means you don't care about educating the current fans and worse, the next generation. I'm calling for a blended approach, a middle ground. To do so, we have to call out both extremes.

  2. I think you're misinterpreting my position. It's not that I don't care about educating, it's that I don't want to force advanced statistics on people who don't care to delve into them.

    I do think calling out the extremists is a good thing, though (in baseball and in life).