Crizer: Toward a better baseball language

From Zach Crizer at Baseball Prospectus on March 7, 2018:

As [Michael] Young quickly makes clear, he’s not trying to hearken back to the good ol’ days. He has a nuanced case to state–about how the crusade to improve on batting average’s often-misleading conclusions might have buried some actual understanding–and his success in finding common ground with the stat-savvy respondents feels inspiring, but unfortunately rare. As we–the quants–continue to utilize our (well-earned) sway in the game, we shouldn’t forget how elusive a shared understanding of the game once felt, and how desperately we once wanted to just talk with the almighty players. To tell them something and have them tell us what they thought, to simply be conversant.

Young gets there with a hypothetical: High-leverage situation, at least one runner on base, two outs. Someone is on deck. Maybe a .250 hitter whose patience gets him to a .380 on-base percentage. Or a .330 hitter who likewise runs a .380 OBP. Young would prefer the latter, and he argues pitchers would feel more pressed against him.

Summoning such a hitter from the realm of reality is more of a struggle, but Young isn’t talking about someone batting .330 in that instant. He’s talking about a .330 hitter–a hitter of strong repute. Virtually no one in today’s game fits the overly literal translation except for super-duper stars, who have nothing to do with the underappreciated group he’s trying to take up for. Though the identifying features are likely obscured in his mind’s eye, Young is advocating for a contemporary version of himself–someone he fears has been marginalized or sent away.

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Originally published: March 7, 2018. Last Updated: March 7, 2018.