Why Looking At Traditional Stats Can Be a Good Thing

Obligatory pause for TBO and DME to get calm down from their frustration

What I'd like to talk about today is just how far this site looks at sabermetric statistics and peripherals and just how much we miss the big picture and the usefulness of traditional stats. Now I am of course guilty of this as well. I have looked at Fangraphs so much over the past few weeks I didn't know the actual MLB leaders right now. I could tell you who I think is GOING to do well, but not who is. I have been looking at Fangraphs so much that it was a HUGE shock to me just how well Joel Pinero is doing right now. I think that it can not last and he will soon blow up and suck, but let's not take for granted that him and others like him have still put up some decent numbers.

The ten main traditional stats are the ones used by major 5x5 fantasy leagues: W, ERA, WHIP, SV, K, BA, SB, HR, RBI, and R. Now individually, all these stats are pretty bad indicators of how good a player is. In 2005, Justin Morneu won the AL MVP solely on RBI's which was pretty lame, but that doesn't mean RBI and the other 9 traditional stats are completely useless either

RBI: We get so caught up in all these statistics that we forget the basic goal of the game of baseball- to face a pitcher in order for a player to round the bases or the prevent players from doing so. And at its core, if a player gets an RBI, he's helping his team win the fundamental game of baseball. Now we are know that great players can have mediocre RBI totals (Pujols) and that not the best can have phenomenal RBI totals (last year Josh Hamilton). But BA of RISP isn't necessarily a bad statistic. If guys are on base, you need to make contact in order to bring those runners home. BA RISP is very close to RBIs and we think that's a decent indicator right? OBP has a causal effect with scoring runs and a guy like Adam Dunn can still get a shit ton of RBIs despite his lack of contact because of his power. Also, I would be very happy with RBI being eliminated altogether. But I don't know, it and its essence can be useful.

BA: As mentioned earlier and something everyone who argues baseball needs to know the great importance of OBP, but BA CAN still be useful. Prime example- 2008 Nick Swisher (also Ryan Howard). Last year both has great walk rates and plate discipline. But both had pretty bad OBP that were frankly unacceptable and this was caused by their poor BA. Also, I don't care if a player hits .200 or .375, a .400 OBP is a .400 OBP no matter. So if you're a guy who can't really walk that well, it's OK to hit the ball a lot because that still helps your team. Obviously, a guy who walks in more prone to stabilizing a .400 OBP versus the .375 BA hitter, but if in 162 games you still maintain a high OBP despite low walks, more power to you.

SB: High SB can suck (Scotty Pods) but high stolen bases while rarely getting caught (Carl Crawford this year), EXTREMELY helpful to your team. Yes, SB alone needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but stealing a lot can be very beneficial to a ball club

HR: Probably the only great (or even pretty good) traditional stat. A HR is a HR, no mater what and a lot of them help your team

W: As Dan Haren has shown this year and as many pitchers have shown throughout the game of baseball, you can pitch just a fantastic game and get the L. But over time, if you generate a shit ton of W, you're pretty good. Just like QB rating in football, just because you're #1 in this category doesn't mean you're the greatest, but you sure belong in the discussion. Look at all the guys who have 300+ wins, all HOF worthy players right (I guess DME can find me one who isn't HOF worthy but that's besides the point). In one game you get the W- probably meaningless. Over the course of time you get W- pretty good

ERA: As The Hidden Game of Baseball overtly mentions, ERA can be so subjective with unearned runs and such. Hell, yesterday, Bartolo Colon only got ONE earned run even though he let in 8. And we look at FIP so much and that we almost discount ERA altogether. However, we almost forget just how useful ERA can be. If you consistently have a low ERA, you're probably a pretty good pitcher. I think minor changes should and have been made to ERA and what really constitutes an earned run and how much defense if blamed by the defense and not the pitcher and all that junk is what makes ERA so problematic, but can be extremely useless. I think we tend to overlook ERA a lot when he delve deeper into peripherals. I mean, why do we look at WHIP and FIP and such for the most part, to see if a pitchers ERA can stabilize, right?

K: Obviously if a player can generate a shit ton of SO, they are pretty good. But a player can be great without striking out a lot of guys (Buerhle) and a player can strike out a ton of guys and suck (Parra). This tends to tell me that K aren't THAT useful as people hype them up to be. In my heart of hearts I want all my players to strike out a ton of guys every outing and as DME has said: Ks have a causal relationship with run prevention. I think this stat is very similar to HRs in that it is widely used and many people use it as an indicator for greatness. In this stat though, I'm going to go the other way and say, as a whole, yes, it can and should be used as a measure, let's take K along with K/9, BB/9 and other stats as well.

SV: As Moneyball has shown us, saves really just inflate the value of a pitcher and I think with the signing of K-Rod and other closers this year, teams are finally realizing saves are overrated. The odds of losing a 3 run in an inning is extremely low and a lot of pitchers can get saves. But 1) I think SV can be like W, one is meaningless but a shit ton is awesome and 2) there are many save situations (like holding a one run lead) ARE extremely useful. While a lot of pitchers (especially those on the Halos staff) could have saved 60+ games like K-Rod did, we still should give the man some props for saving as many one run games as he did. Also, SV should be used like SB, look at a players net value, not outright value. Also, personally, I like saves despite common knowledge and logic.

Now let me get this clear (please read this carefully DME) 1) I am not arguing for traditional stats. I love sabermetric stats, but I think we completely absolutely overlook traditional stats and I think we need to at least keep an eye on them 2) Please look at my broad themes and not my specific examples. I don't need some long winded post about how good Manny Parra is or anything or the sort. If you do, you absolutely missed the point of what I'm trying to say. I think sometimes we look so deep into sabermetrics and Fangraphs and whatnot that we forget the broad landscape and all I'm trying to do is make you see that. And while I have sort of sent conflicting messages, all I'm saying is that sometimes it's OK to look on ESPN's MLB stats page and see how players are doing RIGHT NOW.


The 'Bright' One said...

here is my quick analysis of the 10 traditional stats

RBI - completely useless

BA - Great tool to measure just how skillful someone is at baseball, but not necessarily correlated with scoring runs and winning games

SB - All about success rate. The greater the success rate, the more you are allowed to run. Anything below 65% and you should never take more than 3 steps off the base.

Runs - This is one of my favorites. I would like a stat runs scored/times on base. I believe some guys are very good at scoring when getting on base(ichiro) and some are really bad(konerko).

HR - Obviously very important, despite being rally killers

W - completely useless

ERA - Need large sample size before it means anything at all.

K - My fav pitching stat. I knew cueto would be good because of his k rate.

SV - more useless than wins(if they make "holds" mainstream, i amy quit baseball

WHIP - dont know how traditional, but obviously very good

Sexy Rexy said...

You know, I think you and I have the same argument and the same viewpoint but you look as the glass half empty and I see it half full