Thursday, April 19, 2012

ESPN's SweetSpot Blog vs. An Enthusiastic 13 Year Old with a Calculator.

When I was 13 years old, my friend and I created a magazine that reviewed the Phillies 1991 season and looked ahead to the 1992 season.

Using the accepted statistics of the day, I tried to give some predictions about how the 1992 season would turn out for both the Phillies and all of baseball.

If I recall correctly, it was some hard hitting stuff.

I am often reminded of this homemade preview magazine when I visit and read their SweetSpot blog.

The blog's goal is presumably to provide daily baseball coverage with a sabermetric slant.  It used to be run by Rob Neyer, until he decided that was not big enough to contain his douchebaggery, so he left to head up the baseball division at SB Nation.

Replacing him is a committee of writers headed up by David Schoenfield.  Schoenfield seems like a nice enough man.  Unlike some of his colleagues - especially his predecessor - he doesn't come off as snarky or condescending.

And while I can appreciate the difficulty in coming up with new content on a regular basis, some of the blog's posts come unfortunately close to the quality that you might have expected from a preview magazine written by a 13 year old.

SweetSpot's writers use a wide variety of statistics.  But they seem to be used in such haphazard a fashion, that I'm not entirely convinced that they know why they're using them.  It often seems like they just pick whichever statistic will best prove whatever point they are trying to make.  If you ever want a good example of confirmation bias, I recommend you take a look at SweetSpot.

And so, from time to time, I'm going to take a look at a post in the SweetSpot blog, and see how it would compare to the work of an enthusiastic 13 year old armed with the internet and a calculator.

Who can provide better baseball analysis?  The SweetSpot writers or these guys?

For my first example, I'll look at this recent post in which Schoenfield tries to use the Detroit Tigers to disprove the theory of lineup protection.  Or at least that's what I think he's doing.  He doesn't exactly make it clear.

The post points out that Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' perennial MVP candidate, now has another top hitter (Prince Fielder) behind him in the lineup.  If lineup protection is real, then Cabrera should be seeing better pitches to hit.  As a result, his hitting numbers should be better and his walk rate should be lower.

Except that Cabrera is actually hitting much worse than he did last season, and his walk rate has only decreased by a minimal amount.  Which is evidence that lineup protection is indeed a myth.

But then, Schoenfield then goes on to argue in favor of lineup protection.  He mentions that Fielder -who does not have an MVP candidate hitting behind him - is walking at a much higher rate than he did last season.

So what was the point of the post?  Apparently nothing, since Schoenfield prefaced the post by saying it comes after only ten games, which is a ridiculously short amount of time to draw a conclusion from.

So how does this post compare to the work of an enthusiastic 13 year old?

Most 13 year olds are not known for their patience, so they might make a similarly premature jump to conclusions.  On the other hand, if a 13 year old had a point to make, they probably would not immediately contradict themselves like Schoenfield did.

The 13 year old likely would have just stopped once they found some evidence that supported their case and not bothered to share the contradictory information.  So while I give Schoenfield some points for thoroughness, it still makes me wonder what the point of the post was.

Since all of the evidence didn't support his theory, I'm guessing the 13 year old might have decided that the post wasn't worth writing at all.  Since it's hard for me to argue otherwise, I'm going to have to award this round to the 13 year old.

1 comment:

  1. The data on Fielder actually helps his argument, and I really don't understand how you could have thought otherwise. Cabrera's numbers were down, while most people who believe in "lineup protection" may have thought otherwise. Fielder's numbers were up, despite his not being "protected". Both of those point to "lineup protection" not existing.