Monday, June 30

Not even going to pun on the name "Uggla"

I read an article in Sports Illustrated about Dan Uggla, the free-swinging Marlins 2nd-baseman who, according to the article, is a pretty easygoing country boy who doesn't put too much stock in overanalyzing the game - he sort of just goes out there and hits. Kind of like Manny Ramirez, only perhaps less wackier. This, I have no problem with. Go Dan Uggla!

But the SI author, Michael Farber, somehow conflates Uggla's personality and approach to the game with the whole modern-stats-analysis vs. old-time-baseball-wisdom argument. He writes that Uggla is "a dinosaur in this age of IsoP and the rest of the sabermetric alphabet" and that Uggla's "see-the-ball-hit-the-ball" approach should "delight non-seamheads." Ugh. I could see this out of some hack blogger, but you're writing a feature piece for America's flagship sports magazine, Mike! How can you know this little about statistics and the men who love them?

First off, why are so many traditional media writers so afraid of numbers that require more than one operation to calculate? You're professionals - adapt to the new knowledge, incorporate it, retain your old salty wisdom and writing skills, and you'll be an even better writer who won't have to say silly things like "sabermetric alphabet." It's fascinating to me how professional baseball writers have, almost to a man, fled from this Sabermetric Godzilla.

Second, Uggla's non-cerebral approach at the plate (though he continues to improve his walk rate, which the article completely glosses over) is irrelevant to those who look at numbers. You think Baseball Prospectus' crew looks at Manny Ramirez's career OPS+ of 154 and gives a fuck that he's a goofball on and off the field? It's more the traditional fan who cares about that stuff. Likewise, a non-stats-valuing fan is more likely to undervalue Uggla, a player who strikes out a lot and hits a lot of home runs, and overvalue some guy with no power who doesn't walk but hits .310 and can be described as "scrappy." It's actually the sabermetricians who first tapped into the hidden value of slugging percentage and the not-so-badness of the K.

Finally, and most importantly, even if you had never once even seen baseball and didn't know anything about the players Uggla is supposedly a throwback to, you could look at his baseball-reference page for like five seconds and conclude that he is, in fact awesome. The dude ranks 4th in the league in OPS and is slugging .632, AND plays second base! That's phenomenal! Your average "seamhead" doesn't care at all that he strikes out a lot, or is absent-minded, or whatever. He's just a great hitter, and this is lazy writing by Farber by somehow inferring that baseball fans who look deep into the numbers wouldn't love this guy. He seems pretty cool to me both as a fun guy to watch and a really productive hitter, even though I despise the Marlins. Come on, Mikey, if you're going to take shots at us fancy-pants numbers guys, at least try to understand instead of churning out this silliness.

No comments: