Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Link to a Polite Response to the Sickels Article on Sabermetric Disillusionment

I wanted to link to a post by Dan Turkenkopf over at Beyond the Boxscore. It's a reply to the John Sickels article published a few days ago. Sickels explained his disillusionment with baseball statistical analysis. This was simply an opinion piece by Sickels...simply a look into his mind and his preferences for enjoyment of baseball. Unfortunately, some found it appropriate to respond in a relatively rude and overly defensive manner, making useless value judgements about Sickels' preferences. How dare he!?! Turkenkopf does not do this, and his article (though called a "Rant") is very well thought out. I responded with the following:

"Dan,

Thanks for the great post here. While you claim it's a rant, I think it's one of the most well thought out posts on this subject (others have been fairly offputting or rude, despite Sickel's polite remarks simply about his opinion/preferences in baseball analysis). I love the lead in as well, and you seem to recognize where the problem could lie.

I find almost all analysis informative in some way. Some is boring (short little studies I've done myself are admittedly boring as hell), but just skimming those pieces and looking at the conclusion usually points me in some new direction. HOwever, I think you hit it on the nose when you discuss the creativity issue. Because Sabermetrics is often performance as a hobby, it is in many instances used to feed intellectual curiosity. This is great, because I have my own curiosities; however, in the scheme of the reason for sabermetrics and applying it to baseball, the 'WHY' seems to have been lost in many articles. Convince me that your research is the most important thing to come about in the last 100 years of baseball.

We have this really neat data, Pitch F/X. We can plot it and see what's going on. But I have yet to see a great reason WHY we do this communicated to readers (I can think of plenty of my own reasons, but focusing on this part of the analysis would be very beneficial). In most places, especially in a business where application is king, the WHY is the most important part. If it cannot lead to being useful in the workplace/ballfield, then people are going to ask what the point is. I think that effectively communicating this simple point would go a long way in disillusioning some from the area. It's difficult to spark new ideas without knowing why we would want to do them. Everyone has bad ideas, and many more have great ones. Knowing hte reason for the analysis may help to dissimenate one from the other.

If I'm reading new things about PCA on batting and pitching skills, I want to know why this is helpful (I actually really enjoy these multivariate techniques). I would really like to know how Pitch F/X can be applied and integrated into coaching and on field performance. I want to use UZR to position my players correctly. Once I do this, the technical stuff becomes much more interesting to me. Once I know the question (what), I want to konw how it applies (why), and if I'm convinced, I definitely want to know the ways in which it was calculated (how).

Again, thanks for the level headed and polite post. I truly enjoyed it."

I, too, get tired of my endless statistics classes and programming assignments. I tell my professors this. They don't get offended...they understand. Dan's understanding is articulated well, and I think others should take his response technique to heart.

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