In the Yankee Stadium press box, I sit directly between Mark Feinsand and Marc Carig. Let’s just say they view advanced statistics … differently. And I am appropriately somewhere in the middle.
I like advanced stats. I like that there are people out there trying to come up with defensive metrics that work, and I like the idea of a nice round number to tell us a player’s overall value. When I voted for the American League MVP this season, WAR factored heavily into my ballot. I think these stats mean something, and like Matt wrote in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, I think they’re important to our understanding of the game (and can become important to our enjoyment of the game).
But I also think they’re only part of the bigger picture.
Part of the reason that traditional statistics are so prevalent is that they’re simple — you don’t need a formula to explain RBI or runs scored — and I think people who are accustomed to traditional stats are turned off by the notion that they’re “wrong.”
Of course RBI is a bad way of determining baseball’s best hitter, but it’s not an awful place to start. Last year’s RBI leaders in the American League were Granderson, Cano, Gonzalez, Teixeira, Young, Konerko, Cabrera, Ellsbury, Beltre, Bautista and Martinez. By any statistical measure, that’s a pretty good group. Not a perfect ranking, but a pretty solid snapshot.
Wins are a bad way to measure a pitcher, but there aren’t many “bad” 20-win seasons. There might be a 12-win season that’s better than a 20-win season, but as the sample size gets larger, wins become more relevant. It’s not the best stat to quote, but it’s not meaningless, not in a large enough sample size.
As for me, I always like the triple slash line for hitters. I feel like it gives me a chance to determine how good a hitter is, and what kind of hitter he is. That’s just my personal preference. Plenty of people prefer WAR because they don’t care what kind of hitter a guy is, as long as he’s productive. Some prefer RBI because they don’t care about the other factors that contributed to getting the job done, as long as the job was done.
Ultimately, I’m glad we all see the game — and its numbers — differently. And when it comes to advanced stats, I’m happy being somewhere in the middle.