Quiz show

Let’s play a game – you like games, don’t you? That’s fantastic.

Here’s the game I want to play today. I’m going to ask you a series of simple questions, multiple choice. You can answer them any way you like, doesn’t really matter. Just know that I’m basing everything off what’s available from the Baseball Prospectus statistics page, based upon performance in the 2008 season. Then, after the jump we’ll meet up and see what we’ve got. Ready? Great!

  1. Who was the most productive hitter in the American League, adjusting for position?
    1. Alex Rodriguez
    2. Joe Mauer
  2. Which qualified starter on the Tampa Bay Rays was the best hitter per plate appearance, ignoring position?
    1. Carlos Pena
    2. Evan Longoria
  3. Who of the following was the best hitter per plate appearance, ignoring position?
    1. Jack Cust
    2. Jorge Cantu
  4. Who of the following was the more productive hitter, adjusting for position?
    1. Jack Cust
    2. Jorge Cantu
  5. Who was the most productive relief pitcher, in both leagues?
    1. Mariano Rivera
    2. Brad Lidge
  6. Who was the most productive starting pitcher, in both leagues?
    1. Cliff Lee
    2. Johann Santana

I’ll confess something wicked right now; this is rather gimmicky. The fact is, none of these can be answered conclusively based upon BP’s stats reports.

  1. Alex Rodriguez has the highest VORP in the American League, at 65.6. Mauer only places eighth in AL VORP, but he leads it in Runs Above Replacement Player (available in the Equivelent Average reports) at 61.6.
  2. Longoria has the top MLVr (the rate stat on the VORP report page) on the Rays, at .174. Pena leads in Equivelent Average with .306, compared to Longoria’s .302.
  3. The two are nearly twins in MLVr, with Cantu leading by a hair – .122 to .118. Cust’s .303 EqA absolutely blows away Cantu’s .277.
  4. Again, the two are very close in VORP, with Cantu holding a slim lead – 31.7 to 30.1. In RARP, Cust dominates, leading 34.9 to 22.9.
  5. Rivera leads all relievers in VORP and Adjusted Runs Prevented, Lidge in WXLR (Expected Wins Above Replacement Level, adjusted for lineup).
  6. Lee has the highest pitching VORP, while Santana has the highest Support Neutral Lineup-adjusted Value Added.

Certainly I’ve touched on these topics before; my issues with VORP in particular. Looking at the values on offense, and my own linear weights, I’d have to side with EqA over MLVr – Pena leads the Rays in park-adjusted wOBA, and Cust beats Cantu. I don’t currently have any figures adjusted by position, but we know already that EqA values the walk better than VORP does.

We can also take a look at Jinaz’s total value system. According to his figures, BP isn’t even identifying the two best pitchers from their respective leagues – Roy Halladay and Tim Linceceum take those honors. Rivera sound trounces Lidge by his figuring as well.

I’m not trying to pick on Baseball Prospectus here – okay, well I am, but I’m not doing it just to be petty or spiteful. I’m doing it because I started out as a sabermetrician by reading the articles on Baseball Prospectus and pouring over the stats reports pages. If it weren’t for the work of BP writers – particularly guys like Nate Silver, Dan Fox and Clay Davenport – none of this would exist because I wouldn’t be this sort of a baseball fan.

So I write this because I care about Baseball Prospectus, I really do. I want it to represent the best of sabermetrics, not just the best of sabermetrics from five years ago. I want it to be relevant to the hardcore sabermetric community – the sort of people who are now quoting Jinaz’s stats report, when they would have been quoting VORP and EqA and WARP just a few years ago. I want it to be better than it is right now, because it can be better than it is right now.

(Credit where credit is due – I borrowed the idea for this from a post by Sky Kalkman of Beyond The Box Score.)


5 Responses to Quiz show

  1. Pizza Cutter says:

    First off, Carlos Lee isn’t much of a pitcher (pretty good, if overpaid, hitter though)… Cliff, however, is a cracker jack pitcher [/indians bias]
    Second off, sadly, a lot of those first generation hardcore stat-based BP writers that you mentioned aren’t really working at BP any more. Nate Silver’s doing the political thing. Keith Woolner and Dan Fox went corporate. Now all they have are guys like Eric Seidman…

  2. Colin Wyers says:

    I went in and fixed my stupid mistake – thanks.
    I really do think that BP has shifted away from being hardcore stats guys – I do appreciate what guys like Goldstein and Caroll bring to the table, but they’d be the first to admit that they aren’t pure numbers guys. Davenport’s probably their one hardcore number cruncher outside of Silver, and he seems to be pretty far in the background.

  3. Sky says:

    I see your readers didn’t hand you the amount of vitrol they did me when finding out the quiz had a trick.
    I’m pretty sure BPro is aware of all their stats weaknesses, but realize (probably properly) that they’ll be more popular and make more money by not addressing them.

  4. Colin Wyers says:

    I can think of two reasons:
    1) My quiz was shorter.
    2) I think I have fewer readers, or at least fewer readers who post comments.
    That is a depressing idea, to be sure. What really strikes me is how rarely BP’s own writers dip into their own stat reports. They use a lot of the triple slash stats.

  5. Eric Seidman says:

    Honestly, when I started contributing to BP, I asked if there were any rules regarding stats or usage of metrics that I needed to follow, and the answer from Joe Sheehan and Christina Kahrl was: “use whatever stats best tell the story of your article.” They suggested the stats don’t have to be in-house originals, but whatever best told the story would be better. Now, there are certain times where they would prefer you use their version, which makes sense, as in the Equivalent Baserunning Runs over Bill James’ baserunning score, etc, but it’s not like I get my hand chopped off if I use Leverage Index instead of their Leverage stat.

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