If Baseball is Russia, then Bill James is Joseph Stalin. I know that is a stark analogy, and maybe even a little unfair, but it is true.
James is one of the most brilliant baseball men around, but his introduction of analytics into the sport will be the downfall of baseball. He has reduced one of the most beautiful sports around into a jumble of numbers. Making certain players a lot of money, and others looking not so good.
Something has to be done about this. There is something to be said for the eye test in baseball. I mean you know a great ball player when you see one, regardless of his WAR, FIP, BABIP or PERA says he is.
An entire generation of fans is being introduced to the game in the worst possible way, by thinking Sabermetrics is the way to judge ballplayers. I am not saying the analytics are not a good tool to help decipher some things, but they should not be used as the major factor in determining who is a good ballplayer and who isn’t.
I will give you several examples of why they are overrated. Which player would you rather have:
Player A: .281/.359/.444 17 HR 68 RBI 9 SB 69 R 5.12 WAR
Player B: .313/.353/.459 15 HR 66 RBI 38 SB 86 R 4.49 WAR
Going by the analytics, it seems pretty obvious that Player A is the better of the two players, which is exactly why analytics are killing the game. You see, Player A is 2015 Logan Forsythe while Player B is 2015 Jose Altuve. I do not think there is a single GM in the game who would rather have Forsythe than Altuve (no offense to Logan, but be real here people).
Ok, here is another one:
Player A: .263/.298/.420 10 HR 40 RBI 18 SB 62 R 7.38 WAR
Player B: .250/.377/.536 40 HR 114 RBI 8 SB 108 R 5.09 WAR
In this example (both players with right around 500 AB’s BTW), Player A is more than two games better than Player B in WAR. By all rights, there is no way you should want Player B over Player A. That is of course until I tell you that Player A is Kevin Kiermaier while Player B is Jose Bautista.
Now tell me which one you would rather have?
Final example, and for this one we will go historical:
Player A: 13-8 3.32 ERA 1.08 WHIP 147 K’s 50 BB 5.62 WAR
Player B: 16-6 2.62 ERA 1.20 WHIP 118 K’s 45 BB 4.38 WAR
These stats are taken from the 2002 season, and it seems pretty obvious that Player A should be the pitcher you want, I mean his WAR is almost 1.5 games higher than Player B. According to all those great Sabermetrcians, there is no question who is the better pitcher. That is until you find out that Player A is the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer and Player B is Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
All of a sudden, Player A doesn’t seem so appealing does he?
So there you have it folks, three glaring examples (and there were a ton more) of why basing things on just these analytics is ridiculous and is ruining the great game of baseball. Bill James has brought this scourge on us (and I really do have all the respect in the world for him), and now we need to make sure it is just a passing fad.
If it stays with us for a long time, I am sad to say that the sport is doomed.