How to Look at Baseball Numbers
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On Tuesday’s edition of the Booger and Rich show, Booger asked which Rays hitters have not been earning their keep on the offensive side of the ledger. He brought up Ben Zobrist so I said you know let me take a look at the data for Zobrist and I’ll take a look at his production. Baseball is a great game when it comes to the use of numbers on how to evaluate success on the field. Shushhhh don’t tell anyone, but I am about to share Sabermetrics with you to see who has been doing the job and who hasn’t by looking at a few of my favorite websites. What is this magic that Andrew Friedman uses to create a winner without deep pockets. We are about to take a look inside the numbers. But first let’s figure out how and why we use these numbers in baseball.
I first started learning Sabermetrics when I was working for the Rays, it scared me to death. The first term someone used in trying to explain the process was REGRESSIVE ANALYTICS. Wow, I have no idea if that is even legal in the state of Florida and what if I tried regressive analytics while crossing state lines would I get arrested by the FBI.
So what is Sabermetric Regressive Analytics besides a tongue twister. Well in plain simple English it simply means “It is what it is, and you are what you are”. Hold on, wait a minute, is that it? After watching computer geeks speak on TV talking about Money Ball there has got be more to Sabermetrics than that right? Basically the first step in understanding Sabermetrics means you can’t hide who you are in the long run. There are times when you will see your production increase, and decrease as you get older, or you can see your number crash and burn once you get hurt, but other than that you really are what you are.
Often we see a player have an off the charts month crushing everything he sees. Fans will go crazy, some one will bring signs to the ballpark, and a fan club will be born. People will start calling the show demanding the team lock him into a long term deal before this budding superstar gets away. Then before you know it the numbers will fall and the luster will wear off, before you know it, your future Hall of Famer is back in Triple A hitting 223 for the Durham Bulls. Baseball is the most honest game ever created. All of your flaws will be exposed in the long term, no one can hide forever. The numbers will eventually find you out.
There are a few great web sites I look at to read what other writers have to say. Many use numbers and info to come up with their reasons. I love http://www.theprocessreport.com which I think is the best Rays baseball blog on the net. I also subscribe to Baseball Prospectus which features many writers that will one day be members of baseball front offices, they are that good.
To find raw numbers and doing my own digging I go to Fangraphs.com and Baseballreference.com where we can find raw data such as hits, runs, homers, and strikeouts. You can also find splits which show you what a batter does against left handed pitchers as opposed to right handed pitchers. (When you hear Joe Maddon talking about splits he is talking about splitting the right handed versus left handed info versus hitters and pitchers.
What I look for a lot of times is outlier information. If a pitcher is having a better season than he did last year, I’ll look at his raw numbers and see if there is something he is doing different. Is he throwing more fastballs. Are hitters swinging at more pitches outside the zone. If a hitter is struggling, I’ll look to see if he is hitting more fly balls than he usually does. Is he seeing more breaking balls than he has is previous seasons. Once you isolate the numbers you can come to some idea of why the player is either tearing the cover off the ball for a short time, or why he is slumping. In the end most peaks and valleys in a players numbers over the corse of a season will even out to what he has always been.
Advance Sabermetrics can take the number and adjust for size of a ballpark. They can even out the numbers for launching pads versus a pitchers park. They can adjust for just about everything in the game giving us a chance to really truly measure and compare players.
Next post I am going to take a look at a few Rays hitters and measure up how they are doing this season compared to their career numbers.