Baseball and The Art of Stats

It’s funny when I think about baseball, I think about my two favorite movies: For Love Of The Game and Moneyball.  In many ways, they are so equally opposite examinations of baseball lives.  One is fictional, the other based on a real human; one is set around one game, the other a flowing story; one is about the Detroit Tigers and Billy Chapel, the other is about the Oakland A’s and Billy Beane; a pitcher and a GM; a player and his boss.  

I don’t know that Henry Chadwick thought that baseball would be as big as it is when he was devising his own box score.  When he was watching guys play in the 1870s it was no longer just for fun, these guys were getting paid and he had devised a way to track their stats.  He founded his own box score and he studied batting and pitching to come up with batting average and earned run average.  He is widely considered the first Sabermatrician, leading a long of followers including Beane.

Just recently on Twitter I found Statcast, and if you have Twitter look it up and follow it, but the things they share are amazing.  Major League Baseball is using multiple cameras and angles to watch all the players, coaches and umpires at each game to keep track of performance.  This is all being stored and can be broken down and replayed and studied.  Bat speed, exit velocity, acceleration, top speed and more can be grabbed from these frames.  It’s an amazing feat that fans now have access to see this info and clubs have even more data to study players with.

That’s the whole point though as a fan, I see two sides, I see Billy Chapel throwing strikes in the 8th inning and the perfect game is still intact.  But Billy Beane is looking at the data and the velocity is down and his pitches aren’t moving like they were earlier in the game much less his career.  So now as a fan I’m torn, do I want Chappy to play it out pitch again next year cause I think he can win a ring with somebody else?  Or do I listen to Beane when he tells me his stuff just isn’t there anymore?  Is the answer in the data or the player?