Questioning Advanced Metrics, Hall of Fame Character, and Other Bullets

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Questioning Advanced Metrics, Hall of Fame Character, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs
Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward slap gloves between innings.
Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward slap gloves between innings.

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday weekend, or, even if you don’t celebrate any of the holidays, I just hope it was a great weekend. We had a really nice time with family, and I’m in the afterglow this morning.

I am also in the after-effects of way too much holiday dessert, so I’m going to try something I’ve never done before: an intentional week off from dessert. I was getting a headache the last two days (and this morning) from too much sugar. Can’t have that. I’m not going to go crazy and try to cut out all sugar or anything – one key to achieving goals is to keep them reasonable – but I am going to try not to have any dessert or dessert-like item for the next week (New Year’s Eve, I’m back on it). That might not sound like much, but understand that I am a person who literally – in the actual sense of the word literally – has dessert every single night, typically ice cream adorned with some kind of additional sweet crumbled or baked stuff. This will be a serious challenge for me.

Last night, I wrapped up all of our leftover holiday sweets and froze them. They await me in the new year. Heh. I just realized it’ll be like a reverse new year’s resolution.

  • The Hardball Times has a lengthy read on advanced defensive metrics, with first-hand thoughts from players and managers on their efficacy and utility. As you might expect, there’s a mix of feelings, particularly where a player’s advanced stats don’t match the league-wide eye-test consensus (including that player’s own belief). Some of that is due to the relativity of the stats (if every shortstop is great defensively, some will look “bad” relative to the best of the best, but your eye test is still going to tell you that the dude looks good). Some of it due to the fact that we seem to need REALLY large sample sizes (ideally, multiple seasons if you’re going to use it to project future performance) on advanced defensive stats to really reduce the noise, and get some strong signal.
  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon was among the many who offered thoughts to The Hardball Times, and I definitely appreciate his position: “Here’s where I’m into the numbers – it’s for the guy that’s not so obvious, the guy that hasn’t made his mark yet,” says Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “If you can accumulate enough information about that particular guy, and you can tell me why he’s going to be good in advance of him being good, that’s where I like the number. But I already know who’s good. You know who’s good, he knows who’s good, we all know who’s good. To what extent he’s good, maybe this gives you a little bit greater indicator of that, but a lot of the sabermetric numbers for me are about acquisitions – they’re acquisitional tools that I think unearth the guy that’s been hitting a little bit and hasn’t gotten the big play yet.” Maddon went on to point to exit velocity, as a nice number to which you might point if a guy has been having bad luck in his results (that’s not about defense, obviously, but I thought it worth sharing, since it goes to Maddon’s opinion on exit velocity).
  • The Cubs’ outfield, and the interplay between Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler (whose numbers spiked last year), is explored a bit in the article, with more from Maddon.
  • Jerry Crasnick writes about the relationship between Curt Schilling’s controversial social media habits and his Hall of Fame candidacy. You wouldn’t think one would have anything to do with the other (for me, Schilling is a slam dunk obvious Hall of Famer*), but that pesky “character clause” has been wielded by writers for a long time to exclude players they deem unworthy of enshrinement, despite their baseball accomplishments. Unlike many other controversial “character” guys (almost exclusively a steroid issue), Schilling appears to be losing voters this year, and it could be especially tied to a single tweet, when Schilling expressed approval (he later deleted the tweet and said he was being sarcastic) of a meme that suggested lynching journalists. In the current era, that’s a pretty dangerous thing to joke about, so I understand some voter ill-ease (even if, for me personally, I’d probably still be voting for him). And, when you take the whole of what Schilling has put out into the world in his post-playing days, I can’t argue with anyone who refuses to vote for him on character grounds, even if I’d vote for him. But that’s because, for me, I think it’s easier *for me* to stay consistent if I just focus on whether a player was among the very best of the best in his era, considering the context of that performance.
  • *(Even if you ignore Schilling’s postseason success, this is a guy who excelled during the PED era, posting a solid 23.5% K rate and tiny 5.4% BB rate (his FIP was 24% better than league average during his career) over parts of 20 seasons and 3,261 innings. He was worth a whopping 79.8 fWAR during his career, exceed 4.0 WAR in 11 different seasons, and reached at least 6.5 WAR five times. Throw in 133.1 postseason innings with a 2.23 ERA? On the merits, he’s a Hall of Famer.)

  • A heads up for the post-holiday savings shoppers:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.