March 1, 2007

Murray Chass & VORP

From Tuesday's New York Times:
On Baseball
As Season Approaches, Some Topics Should Be Off Limits
By Murray Chass

Things I don't want to read or hear about anymore ...

* Statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics.

I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn't care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn't know what it meant either.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don't ask what it means. I don't know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that's their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don't.
I don't have much to say about this -- beyond a bit of bolding. I didn't want you to miss it. Keep in mind that this is the senior baseball writer at the most important newspaper in the United States.

The stunning depth of his ignorance is matched only by his obvious pride in that ignorance. Even when he finally mentions VORP in his writing, he can't be bothered to define it. ... FJM has more. ... BP's Nate Silver responses to Chass.

But Chass doesn't run screaming from all stats. Not at all. Here's a snip from an article regarding last season's AL MVP vote:
After the games of June 7, the Twins were 25-33 and were 11.5 games from first place. Morneau, playing in 53 of those 58 games, was hitting .237 with 11 home runs and 38 runs batted in.

In the final 104 games, all of which Morneau played, the Twins produced a 71-33 record as he batted .361, hit 23 home runs and drove in 92 runs.
Batting average. Home runs. RBI. Games played. ... As author Alan Schwartz showed in The Numbers Game, the more progressive baseball minds 120 years ago knew that these methods were woefully inadequate in measuring a player's value.

Yet here's Murray Chass resting his arguments on methods that were outdated before Ty Cobb was born! ... Sadly, he has plenty of company.


chief said...

Seth Mnookin jumped all over this too. He's got a thing about Murray Chass though, so that's not surprising.

Love your writing. I stop by multiple times every day.


L-girl said...

In what other area can a writer get away with saying "I don't know what this is, and I don't want to know"? Saying this in public, in his professional capacity as a writer who covers this area - and it's perfectly ok to do so?

"How thrilling. How absurd." This is how you evaulate the worth of something that comes to your attention. You find out what the acronym stands for and then you dismiss it.

Mind boggling.

Love your writing. I stop by multiple times every day.

You are a smart person. :)

Pokerwolf said...

This is another chapter in the Old Guard vs. New Guard in baseball history.

A large number of people thought Billy Beane was a total idiot for using OBP to select his players until they saw how consistently his team was contending for a division title.

Patrick said...

The name "Baseball Prospectus" says it all. Prospectuses (or is it Prospecti?) are for stocks or real estate, not baseball.

redsock said...

The name "Baseball Prospectus" says it all.

Judging a book by its cover? That seems fair.

(Sports Illustrated. So why do they have words in that magazine? It's supposed to be illustrations!)


MLB did not recognize OBP -- which measures the ability of a player to get on base, kind of important if you want to score runs, which I assume most teams do -- as an official statistic until 1985. 1985!

The most shocking thing to me is that Chass is on BP's email list. If he has such contempt for them, why is he still subscribed?

L-girl said...

The name "Baseball Prospectus" says it all. Prospectuses (or is it Prospecti?) are for stocks or real estate, not baseball.

Joy of Sox? Sometimes the Sox don't bring joy, sometimes they bring frustration and anger. I guess the title of this blog is incorrect, or else please only post about joyous things from now on.

Woti-woti said...

VORP? Equa? So THAT'S what's undermining my enjoyment of the game. Thank god. I thought it was the fucken liberals--or the terrorists. Or Bud making me either buy a dish or sit in front of this new age computer screen for another 3 hours a night.

9casey said...

Just to clarify

Prospectus:something (as a statement or situation) that forecasts the course or nature of something .

Illustrated:to make clear or intelligible, as by examples or analogies; exemplify

It's is kind of like arguing stats...Besides win or loses they are all very debateable.