Thursday, February 21, 2008

Computers Are Heartless Again

Take it away, Kevin Kernan!



If this headline seems oddly familiar, it is. Good thing the computer was wrong about the Sox, right?

"Derek Jeter arrived at his 16th Yankees spring training yesterday labeled the worst shortstop in the majors by some statistical braniacs over at Penn."

What a bunch of assholes, those "extremely intelligent" brainiacs. We should form a mob like in this Simpsons episode and destroy everything science-related. After all, science just ruins the movie for you by telling you how it ends.

"Maybe it was a computer glitch," the three-time Gold Glove winner said of the report. But Jeter just didn't laugh this one off. He defended himself, saying, "Every [shortstop] doesn't stay in the same spot, everyone doesn't have the same pitching. Everyone doesn't have the same hitters running, it's impossible to do that."

Cap'n Jetes has a good point here, but let's not stop there. Every hitter doesn't stand in the same spot in the batter's box or face the same pitchers or defense. Thus, what evidence do we have that Derek Jeter is a better hitter than Adam Everett? Remember, you're not allowed to use statistics to support your case, or you'd just be another brainiac over at Penn.

"Something like that is a disgrace," the scout said. "It made me ill when I read that article. First of all, what pitching staff was out there? Each team has a different staff. Derek doesn't really have a sinkerball pitching staff whereas other shortstops, you sit behind certain pitchers, you're going to get a lot of ground balls."

This might be relevant, except it's not correct. Go here and you'll see that while Yankee pitchers allowed only 43% of balls in play for grounders as opposed to the AL average of 44%, they made up for it by striking out fewer batters, keeping the total number of ground balls virtually the same.

Even if this effect was real, the defensive metrics in question are smart enough to account for it. Oops, there I go again, praising intelligence instead of condemning it.

"You might put some people ahead of him range-wise, but that doesn't mean they are better shortstops. Look how sure-handed he is, look how clutch he is. That makes up for a lot."

Wow, even in an article about computer analysis of fielding, they bring out the c-word.

"Alex [Rodriguez] is as good as they come," Jeter said. "Without him, you'd have to have four or five guys replace him in the lineup."

Wait a minute, I thought we already discussed how statistics (like A-Rod's 54 homers last year) are biased, while clutch-ness and sure-handedness are absolute. Doesn't A-Rod have a reputation as a terrible clutch player? And didn't he develop a nasty habit of committing errors in 2006? You might even call him the anti-Jeter, because he can't do any of the important stuff.

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