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"...and the tough-luck loser in tonight's game is..." We hear the above quote in dozens of post-game wrap-ups every year. A starting pitcher goes seven or eight innings and gives up only one or two runs, but his team's offense can't produce anything, so he gets stuck with an "L" next to his name in the box score. The fact that "tough-luck loser" is such a commonly invoked cliche suggests that it's widely recognized that the "L" isn't doing a very good job of measuring the starter's contribution, at least in those situations. But that still doesn't stop the W/L record from being possibly the most prominently used statistic to evaluate starting pitchers in major media baseball coverage. The idea behind the pitcher's W/L record is flawed on its face. Wins are a team thing, after all, not a pitcher thing. If the offense fails to put runs on the board, or if the bullpen melts down in the late innings, the starter won't get the win no matter how well he pitches. Conversely, if the offense is having a great night (or if they're going up against the Rangers, which is pretty much the same thing), the starter doesn't have to do anything more than last five innings to get the W.

We hear the above quote in dozens of post-game wrap-ups every year. A starting pitcher goes seven or eight innings and gives up only one or two runs, but his team's offense can't produce anything, so he gets stuck with an "L" next to his name in the box score. The fact that "tough-luck loser" is such a commonly invoked cliche suggests that it's widely recognized that the "L" isn't doing a very good job of measuring the starter's contribution, at least in those situations. But that still doesn't stop the W/L record from being possibly the most prominently used statistic to evaluate starting pitchers in major media baseball coverage.

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February, in the baseball world, is the month of predictions. Every analyst, writer, web site, undefeatable computer program, guy with a beer, and book (some better than others) will spend the next month looking over the offseason wasteland and espousing conclusions. The method behind these processes varies more widely than Johnny Depp's acting roles; some are based purely on numbers, some purely on empirical data, some purely on names, and some purely on nothing. So what can you count on? For one thing, you can count on me not offering you any spectacular predictions, guaranteed to be more accurate than anything on the market. If you want that, read up on BP's own PECOTA projection system. Instead, the aim will be to lay a basic groundwork for your expectations of the consistency of basic statistics from season to season. Surmising the volatility of various metrics, and their consistency from year-to-year, is the primary goal.

For one thing, you can count on me not offering you any spectacular predictions, guaranteed to be more accurate than anything on the market. If you want that, read up on BP's own PECOTA projection system. Instead, the aim will be to lay a basic groundwork for your expectations of the consistency of basic statistics from season to season. Surmising the volatility of various metrics, and their consistency from year-to-year, is the primary goal.

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Before delving into those harrowing inhabitants of the Baseball Prospectus statistics page like VORP, RARP, EqA or any other acronym that sounds like a debutante sneezing or something uttered on Castle Wolfenstein circa 1986, it's worth asking: What's wrong with those comfy traditional offensive measures like RBI, batting average and runs scored? This Baseball Prospectus Basics column is going to address that question and, ideally, demonstrate why the traditional cabal of offensive baseball statistics tell only a piece of the story. Later, someone smarter (but shockingly less handsome) than I will take you on a tour of the more advanced and instructive metrics like the aforementioned VORP, RARP and EqA. For now, though, we'll keep our focus on why we need those things in the first place.

This Baseball Prospectus Basics column is going to address that question and, ideally, demonstrate why the traditional cabal of offensive baseball statistics tell only a piece of the story. Later, someone smarter (but shockingly less handsome) than I will take you on a tour of the more advanced and instructive metrics like the aforementioned VORP, RARP and EqA. For now, though, we'll keep our focus on why we need those things in the first place.

Read the full article...

"Stathead." "Stat-drunk computer nerd." "Rotisserie geek." You can earn a lot of derision when you look at things in a new way, and the people who have applied statistical tools to evaluate baseball players and teams have heard the above epithets and more. The work of people such as Bill James, Craig Wright and Clay Davenport has often been dismissed as the mind-numbing analysis of people who need to put their slide rules away and get out and watch a game once in a while. Their efforts, which have been dubbed "statistical analysis," have expanded and improved the body of objective baseball knowledge, and their work is even beginning to penetrate the insular world of baseball front offices. But the term "statistical analysis," as applied to baseball, isn't descriptive enough. Actuaries analyze statistics, and while the work pays well, it is pretty dry stuff. Life-expectancy tables and risk/benefit workups aren't going to get your average Red Sox fan excited, nor should they: baseball fans care about their teams, and the players on them, not a series of numbers. But baseball statistics are not numbers generated for their own sake. Statistics are a record of performance of players and teams. Period. Benjamin Disraeli's oft-quoted line--"There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics"--just doesn't apply.

"Stathead."
"Stat-drunk computer nerd."
"Rotisserie geek."

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If you're not familiar with Baseball Prospectus, here's what we're all about: understanding the game better, and innovating in order to do it. Everyone at BP loves the game of baseball with a passion that most people just don't understand. We feel that this greatest of games is so compelling that we want to know everything about it. We always want to improve our understanding of the game--each player, each play, each pitch, each throw, each hit--what does it really mean? Those arguments that take place in bars about the relative merits of different players? We really want to know the definitive answer to those questions. But we don't want to kill the joy of the game while we're looking. To help better understand what we're all about, we're launching a series of articles, entitled "Baseball Analysis Basics." The series seeks to make our work more accessible to new readers, and to remind those familiar with our work of the underlying concepts. As Keith Woolner's recently published "Hilbert Questions" article noted, there is much work still to be done.

To help better understand what we're all about, we're launching a series of articles, entitled "Baseball Prospectus Basics." This series seeks to make our work more accessible to new readers, and to remind those familiar with our work of the underlying concepts. As Keith Woolner's recently published "Hilbert Questions" article noted, there is much work still to be done.

Read the full article...

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