The Lost Art of Winning by Trusting Gut Instincts: Sabermetrics in the Game

By Charlie Lichty
Frank Victores – USA TODAY Sports

Evaluating baseball players using some form of sabermetrics is mind-numbing. It’s like buying a car based on the fact it has a dual overhead cam with a great differential, solid double wishbone suspension and an awesome closed crankcase ventilation system. Really?

Another problem is that the average fan doesn’t understand how the numbers are arrived at. Or, for that matter, which figures deserve a ten-year contract for $120 million and which should send the player packing.

Wikipedia defines sabermetrics as, “the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity”. What?

Is that different from measuring “out-game” activity? Wouldn’t you love to see those statistics for certain players?

Bill James, the pioneer of this gobbledee-gook defines sabermetrics as “the search for objective knowledge about baseball”. 

Since when have Philadelphia Phillies fans, San Francisco Giants fans, New York Yankees fans, or any fans of the other 27 MLB teams cared about “objective knowledge”?

If you’ve attended a Phillies game recently, when was the last time the guy behind you yelled out, “Ryan Howard‘s a bum and his O-Contact and Z-Contact percentages stink”?  The guy might have referred to Howard as a bum, but I doubt he knew enough to criticize Howard’s contact percentages.

What has happened to gut-level intuition? Where have all the coaches gone who  yanked a starting pitcher because they had a feeling a certain relief pitcher would strike out the next batter?

Michael Lewis made a great case for sabermetrics in his book, Moneyball, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. His true story of general manager Billy Beane and the success of the Oakland Athletics inspired other MLB teams to adopt sabermetric strategies.

But does anyone, other than the computer geek doing the data input, understand the dynamics? Entire franchises are now at the whim of the guy with coke bottle lenses who doesn’t see the light of day much less know what the infield fly rule is all about.

The next time your baseball pals get together for a game, try some sabermetric terminology on them.  Say something like, “I’ll bet our lead-off hitter’s WAR is going to make a difference tonight. In fact, I’m convinced that our team’s OPS and SLG mean more runs than teams with poor BABIPs.

Then, be prepared to watch the rest of the games this season – alone.

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