James: Judge and Altuve

From SABR member Bill James at Bill James Online on November 17, 2017:

The bedrock assumption upon which all sabermetrics is founded is that the importance of each statistical accomplishment depends upon its connection to wins and losses. It was a belief of sportswriters and baseball professionals, in the pre-analytical era, that individual player statistics could be dismissed because they had little to do with wins and losses. The connection between individual player statistics and wins and losses was not well understood, in 1970, by any of us. In 1974 the Oakland A’s hit just .247, second-lowest average in the American League, but the team won the World Series and was third in the league in runs scored. It was easy, at that time, for people to use statistical anomalies like that to dismiss the significance of individual batting statistics. See here; here’s a team that was just about the worst-hitting team in the league, but they won the World Series. Batting stats don’t mean nothin’.

Without valid statistical analysis, they could make any argument that they wanted to make. RBI are the game’s most important stat. The stolen base is the key to the modern offense. Walks are things that the pitcher does, not things that the batter does. The sacrifice bunt is a great play. Pitchers can be evaluated by won-lost records. Johnny Bench is not an all-time great catcher because he never hit .300. One argument was as good as another.

Modern analysis, sabermetrics, whatever you want to call it. . . .we overcame that kind of thinking by making two critical assumptions: that each statistical accomplishment acquires its significance by its connection to wins and losses, and that every statistic must be looked at in the context of its outside influences. The most critical assumption was the first one, that each statistic acquires its importance by its connection to wins and losses. When we were moving out of the primordial soup, that was the first and most critical step.

We come, then, to the present moment, at which some of my friends and colleagues wish to argue that Aaron Judge is basically even with Jose Altuve, and might reasonably have been the Most Valuable Player. It’s nonsense.

Read the full article here: https://www.billjamesonline.com/judge_and_altuve/

Originally published: November 20, 2017. Last Updated: November 20, 2017.