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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

For the love of stats... 

Sitting down and reading Michael Lewis' Moneyball has been a relevation to me these last few weeks:

-Most of the people who read A Citizen's Blog or I'm Not An Athlete, or Phillies Fan or Shallow Center are, I suspect, exactly like me: I love the game of baseball. I love stats. As a kid I loved sitting down and jotting down BA, runs, RBIs all from memory. There was always something powerful and interesting about numbers: what it told you about the game, what it told you about the players, etc. And for kids like me who didn't or couldn't play baseball well or even at all (me: one spectactularly awful little league season consisting of a BA probably under .100 and an inability to throw to first base without sending the ball sailing into clump of tree next to the field), watching the game and recording all of the stats are our way of appreciating the game.

(Don't confuse a love of statistics with an aptitude for math: Law School, I've decided, is where History and Political Science majors go to get jobs that don't require knowing algebraic formulas.)

To see the A's utilize stats in their day-to-day operations as much as they do is impressive. The A's management seems more like fans than your typical vision of the GM as being an ex-player. There is a certain sensation that comes over people when they read Moneyball, a kind of Walter Mitty-type feeling that had me imagining myself sitting in Ed Wade's office explaining what I'd do as the Phils GM ...

I admire Bill James and the rest of those who have developed sabremetrics. This is a world that, until I began reading baseballprimer.com last year, I had barely begun to appreciate. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that a page of history is worth a volume of logic, and after reading about the origins of sabremetrics I understand the mindset and thought-process at work.

Because of Moneyball I've been keeping track of new stats like Gross Productive Average (GPA) and Isolated Power (ISO):

The GPA formula is simple: (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = GPA; it is a pretty nifty formula to measure a player's contribution to his team's lineup by measuring his ability to get on base and his ability to knock in big hits. (The ability to get on base and avoid making outs being prized over power.) Aaron Gleeman developed the stat (many thanks to Bill Liming for the source) and my understanding is that it is followed by the L.A. Dodgers new GM John DePodesta, formerly Billy Beane's No. 2 in Oakland.

ISO is simple too: .SLG - .BA = .ISO; the idea of ISO is to strip away a player's singles from their hits to measure the rough percentage of extra-base hits a player makes. I like ISO because it is so basic (even a math-phobe like myself can do it) and I don't think many people keep track of it.

A third, very interesting, stat I've been trying to keep track of is Runs Created (RC). Runs Created were originally developed by Bill James to measure a player's contribution to a team's offense. There are many formulas for RC used (click here for an article about a modified version developed by James), but I use the one developed by baseball-reference: (H + BB) * (TB) / (PA). (PA = AB + BB + HBP + SF + SH.) ESPN.com, whom I've discovered has a pretty terrific stat page once you figure out what all of those acronyms actually measure (and, more importantly why those things are important), uses a different formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) * (TB + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] / (AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF)= RC (See, ESPN's stat glossary.)

ESPN's RC yields an interesting surprise: The Phils most valuable player isn't Jim Thome, but Bobby Abreu.

RC: (as of June 10, 2004)
Abreu: 51.8
Thome: 46.5
Burrell: 38.6
Bell: 31.6
Rollins: 28.0
Lieberthal: 21.4
Byrd: 17.4
Polanco: 12.3
Utley: 11.7
Glanville: 4.6 (again: why?)

The flipside of that is that using GPA and ISO, Thome edges Abreu out:

Thome: .351 ISO ; .353 GPA
Abreu: .284 ISO ; .335 GPA

I'm certainly not the only Phils blogger keeping track of usually little-thought of stats: Phillies Fan does a terrific job calculating the Phillies "win-shares". I am awed by those who can understand complexities like Voros McCracken's DIPS ERA.

One more word about stats: I am still stunned by Lewis' description of James 1977 Baseball Abstract's attack on the fielding percentage statistic. More than anything else, I think that section of the book (Chapter Five, I think) encapsulates what sabremetrics is all about: the effort to render clean, unbiased, objective information about the game and those who play it. I am still fascinated by the idea of objectively quantifying defensive fielding stats. The latest and (seemingly) best one I've found (actually it was suggested to me) is ZR, or "Zone Rating", which is developed by STATS, INC. to measure the percentage of balls that enter a fielder's "zone". (See, ESPN's stats glossary again.) I haven't the faintest clue how accurate the data actually is, but it seems like the best measure of a player's defensive abilities I've found.

(Phillies fans, I am sure, will be less than thrilled to know that we are ninth of sixteen teams in ZR.)

Many thanks for wading through my sometimes digressing thoughts. More material after the weekend on the White Sox series and the Tigers series.

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