In Which Bill Conlin Emails a SABR Nerd
If my memory is correct, which it totally may not be since I assaulted it with beers and Flyin’ Hawaiians for the better part of the summer, this is the third Bill Conlin email string I’ve been sent this year. Either people love to point out One Chair’s curmudgeonly ways… or Conlin doesn’t back down from any grammatical challenge.
Reader Tom sends along an email chain between his buddy, Ryan, and Conlin in which our scriptual friend calls SABR nerds, well, nerds.
I am surprised you are pushing for small ball. Nothing at all supports that is smart baseball. It is so antiquated and erroneous to think bunting, stealing bases and moving runners over is a good way to win ball games. People still believe it but it takes a long time for beliefs to change it baseball. People are finally starting to come around on how insignificant closers are when compared to the rest of the positions on a team. I always figured you to be progressive in your sports thinking.
And I would blame Charlie for not using Madson in either of the late inning losses to the Marlins. I know we were "saving" him for the save, but that is a terrible way to manage a bullpen, because about 50% of the time your best pitcher ( closer) is not even going to pitch in the game. And when you finally do get around to using your closer you are already in the lead and the opposing team is down to their final 3 outs meaning you have a 98% chance of winning that game regardless of who pitches, so why use your best pitcher to pitch in a spot that you are most likely going to win regardless of who pitches?
Ah yes, the classic there is no such thing as a closer argument- a staple of the SABR community championed by Rays manager Joe Maddon, who, ironically, watched his team lose the World Series while a 48-for-48 stopper bore down with a runner in scoring position to cement his team’s first world championship in 28 years (but that’s just anecdotal). It’s a totally logical stance, though. It implores managers to place their best relievers in “high leverage” situations, which often times don’t come in the ninth inning. However, it makes the incorrect assumption that lesser, often inexperienced pitchers are equally equipped to deal with the pressures of facing a desperate team with 45,000 fans shaking their last nerve. Ryan says a team has just as good a chance (or close to it) of winning a game with an average reliever pitching the ninth inning as they do with someone who has previous experience in such situations.
Perhaps in a calculator they do.
Let’s see what One Chair had to say about this:
Oh, really? Well, you don't know one flippin' thing about me. I guess you've spent a lot of time picking the brains of every baseball man, Hall of Fame players, managers, pitching coaches and great scouts to come through here the past 45 years. If you knew half what I've forgotten about the game, you could write a helluva book on how it should and should not be played. Meanwhile, good luck with your managing career.
The hall of famers, the managers, the pitching coaches have it wrong. They have been taught the wrong strategy since day one and they all feed off of one another to perpetuate the wrong strategy. Kind of like if you teach a child the ABC's in the wrong order, and no one ever corrects them, they will always get it wrong. Sorry but the math nerds of this world like Bill James and Theo Epstein have it right. The Charlie Manuel’s and the Joe Torres have it wrong. You could probably read 2 or 3 books on the subject and it would be better then talking to pitching coaches and hall of famers for the next 150 years.
If you'd like I could suggest some books for you to read.
Honestly, I’m not sure if Ryan is trolling here or not. As managers, Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel have won five World Series in the last 15 years. It must feel oh-so-right to be wrong.
There are two or three books worth reading on the matter (The Extra 2% and Moneyball come to mind), but they often come with the unfortunate side effect of turning usually unathletic couch potatoes into chest-pounding know-it-alls. See: Above comma Ryan.
One Chair straightened up:
Stick your books and your math. I'll go with what I picked up covering more than 4,000 major league games over what some sallow, basement dwelling, nerd thinks he knows AFTER the fact. All those acronymic formulas work great until you're up there facing a 95 MPH fastball. So you do what you do and I'll do what I do. I guess the bottom line comes down to: My career against yours: Next time you're in Cooperstown visit the Scribes and Mikemen Exhibit. The formula for getting there is YOE + RR = HOF (Years of Excellence + Reader Recognition = Hall of Fame)
This was punctuated with the above picture. Heh.
I often give Bill a hard time for his sometimes ridiculous assertions and old-world styles, but he may have just won me over. There is most certainly a place for advanced metrics- they help explain and understand a very complex game. They are textbook examples of why thinking outside the box can be beneficial. Hell, those same principles can be applied to any industry. Take "new media" for example: Most seasoned scribes would tell you that in order to accurately report and opine on a story, you must be there in person. I’d tell you that since nearly every press conference, official interview, and a transcript can be watched or read on a team’s website or a local cable channel, I can have a coherent blog post written before Grilled Reuban Frank saunters magnetically to the media food spread. However, I’d be a fool (and Mr. T tells us we should pity those) to say there wasn’t some value in being able to stand beside a player and judge his body language and tone in order to help more accurately understand his words. Any armchair psychologist could tell you that.
That’s sort of the problem with people like Ryan.
Instead of coupling new school methods with tried and true practices (or at least acknowledging their intrinsic value), the seamheads (seamstresses, as I will now call them) uniformly chorus the same soon-to-be-tired refrain about how there’s no place for gut, emotion, and common sense when evaluating a sport played by 25 individuals in front of thousands of living, breathing, and drinking souls in often less than ideal conditions. And that’s all Conlin was trying to say… even if he did it in his typical curmudgeonly (yet somewhat hilarious) style.