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November 4, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Rereading Nate Silver: 1. GMs Getting Smarter

by Sam Miller


A note about what follows: I've long been a fan of consuming an artist or author's complete body of work. Reading everything, the hits and the deep cuts both, seems to reveal deeper themes and tendencies. I once committed six months to reading all 27 works by a notable American author, and it was (and remains) deeply satisfying. I tried the same with another author a couple years later and ran out of steam. This offseason, I'm trying something different: I'm going to knock out Nate Silver's BP archives. He wrote 241 times on this site. Some were maintenance posts, or game recaps, or other articles that were really only valuable in the moment. I'll be reading and reviewing all of the rest, at a rate of about one per day.

Silver was, before becoming an Aspen Ideas speaker and a Nobel Prize winner (no link yet; I'm projecting), the best baseball writer in the world. In my opinion at the time, at least. His topics were forward thinking, his tone was measured, his writing was funny, his statistics were both professional-grade and accessible. I've long wished to revisit many of my favorites; shoot, I've long needed to, for the purposes of my own writing, but have been putting it off because 241 is an intimidating number. I don't know exactly where this is going to go, if these recaps will all be brief synopses like the one below, or if I'll be inspired to write more (or even less). I imagine they will usually be brief, but that they will often lead to follow-up research, reading, or some other longer response. We'll see. You're invited to read along.

***

The 2003 Free Agent Market
Published January 3, 2003

Abstract: The apparent downturn in free agents’ market value during the offseason leads Nate, in his BP debut, to compare cost per projected win with that of the previous offseason. He measures projected wins using players’ previous three WARP totals, weighted 5:3:2. (The site’s more nuanced and brand new PECOTA system, he fears, won’t align with major-league teams’ assessments techniques of the day.) Comparing that year’s dollar-per-projected-wins figure with the previous year’s free agents, he finds that the league was spending 13-14 percent fewer dollars per win and giving out fewer long-term contracts, suggesting the league’s front offices weren’t optimistic about the game’s future —revenue and that the belt-tightening was making them smarter. “Downward economic pressure has been observed to induce this trimming-the-fat effect in a variety of economic contexts.”

Key quote: “The one hypothesis that probably can be ruled out on the basis of this evidence is that of an explicit attempt at collusion. A collusive market, although favorable from the perspective of ownership, does not operate efficiently. Because collusion imposes an artificial constraint on the number of bidders for any given player, the market is not as well equipped to estimate each player's value accurately.”

Charmingly outdated: The projection for Jason Giambi to produce 12 WARP that season.

Tables: 3
Graphs: 2
Equations: 5

On The Nate Silver Must-Read Scale: 1 (out of a possible 3)

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

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Prospects Will Break Y... (11/01)
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BP Unfiltered: Scoutin... (10/25)
Next Column >>
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The Week in Quotes: Oc... (11/04)

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