Chass goes off again

Yes, Doc Halladay did, in essence, admit that win totals should matter; after all that’s why they’re paid to pitch.  But wins don’t always tell the best, whole story. Said Halladay:

“Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive, but ultimately they look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you find ways to win games. Guys who are winning deserve a strong look no matter what Felix’s numbers are. When teams bring pitchers over, ultimately they want to win games.”

Halladay doesn’t say that wins are the determining factor.  He says guys who win deserve a strong look and they sure as heck do. They get the first look.  People naturally look towards win totals, along with strike outs and inning pitched among their first columns of data. Stopping there is incomplete.  Failing to use the resources at hand these days is tantamount to negligence.  Choosing to ignore/denigrate these resources is ignorance.  Which brings me back to Chass…

Murray was all too happy to take an extra swipe at his old paper, the NY Times, for their increasing usage of statistics beyond Wins, RBIs and Errors. This bugs me because there aren’t too many better guys covering this great game than Tyler Kepner and to slam him for using stats bothers me.  Nevermind that Chass had to veer into Jeterville (unnecessarily and unrelatedly) to deliver his smack on Kepner and the NY Times:

Probably the most visible sign of the metric takeover of baseball coverage is the frequency of its use in The New York Times, for whom I covered baseball for four decades with nary a mention of Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average.

That mouthful – or eyeful – of a metric, according to Tyler Kepner of the Times, tries to calculate each player’s overall contribution on defense.

The Times has increasingly used statistically-based columns, often at the expense, I believe, of the kind of baseball coverage it used to emphasize. But Kepner’s use of “Total Zone Total Fielding” was the clincher, demonstrating that the Times has gone over to the dark side.

Kepner, the Times’ national baseball writer, used the statistic in reporting that metric men were critical of the selection of Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ shortstop, as the Gold Glove shortstop. The Total Zone formula, Kepner wrote, rates Jeter 59th, or last, among major league shortstops.

This isn’t about Jeter or King Felix. It’s about the progression of and encroachment of second and third order analytics into what was once a very basic and simplistic way of looking at the grand old game. Curmudgeons like Chass, who I once read eagerly and daily, are free to ignore this.  Heck, my eyes sometimes glaze over when trying to figure out what someone’s saying when fWAR or xFIP is the stat of choice.  Getting away from “the basics” is uncomfortable.  It’s almost as if Chass were a physician, he’d still recommend the use of leeches because the newfangled medicines and methods weren’t used when he went to medical school.  To use another analogy, if Chass were a detective, it seems as if he would simply read the Miranda rights to the first guy he thought committed the crime.  Why is additional examination necessary when the first answer is so obviously the right answer?  Who needs due diligence when the first answer is always the right answer? Chass has willingly, almost gleefully, chosen to ignore the resources at his disposal to make a more informed, intellectual decision.  With age is supposed to come wisdom. When the intellectual curiousity stalls or ceases, you get what Murray Chass has now become.

[Warning: rant coming]

As time marches on, technological advances both help and hinder us. Newer isn’t necessarily better just as the good old days weren’t always good. Let’s hear it for no air conditioning, no power steering, no airbags, no treatments for all treatable ailments, no DNA testing…and three cheers for tiny baseball gloves, rotary dialing, polio, cholera, small pox, scurvy, black-and-white television, walking uphill both ways!  And conversely, the Mel Allen’s of baseball are FAR better than the John Sterlings. The truth lies somewhere in the middle and relying on the extremes is also foolish.

/end rant

Wins do matter.  Are they the only thing that matters?  Of course not.  You and I and Murray Chass are free to choose what we put the most value in when deciding things like these awards.  We’re free to mock each other for our choices and reasonings.  But Chass’ approach of flatly ignoring and outright dismissing any new way to evaluate such things is just archaic.


And just because it’s so deliciously awesome on so many levels, have a read of Chass’ “About This Site“. Here’s my favorite:

Otherwise, this site will most likely appeal primarily to older fans whose interest in good old baseball is largely ignored in this day of young bloggers who know it all, and new- fangled statistics (VORP, for one excuse-me example), which are drowning the game in numbers and making people forget that human beings, not numbers, play the games.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

7 thoughts on “Chass goes off again

  1. I don't see the point in worrying about what this guy says anymore. It's just keeping him relevant.

    • Agreed, but that doesn't mean we should ignore him and guys like him

      • Mark Smith

        With guys like Olney, Heyman, etc., I read for the rumors and what's being said about what's going on in the game, but once they start analyzing performance, I turn off.

  2. moooose

    Wins do matter, but what does Chass think these statistics are trying to predict? Is it a coincidence that teams with better stats win more games? Of course it isn't; that's what advanced metrics are designed to do. If he wants to cook by only examining the final dish, that's his prerogative, but I want the recipe, thanks, even if it's not entirely clear.

    • Jason@IIATMS

      Well said, Moooose

      • Mark Smith

        Forgive me, but are we talking about pitcher wins or team wins? Team wins I definitely (obviously) agree with, but pitcher wins are useless unless you want to use them for an historical exercise. I know it sounds hard to do, but pitcher records don't tell us a thing other than A) pitcher pitched in the number of games lost and at least 5 innings in the number of games won and B) if it's a winning record, that he pitched reasonably well. Other than that, we really need to just not include the stat for anything other than trivia.

        • billtpa

          Yeah. It sounds good and all, but WHY do (pitcher) wins matter? I'm a fan of the middle ground and avoiding extremes and all that, but I don't think it's possible here. Wins are kind of interesting (just because they've been a part of the game, I suppose), but, as far as I can tell, totally meaningless.

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