Ah, another former player who just won’t stand for these numbers taking over the game of baseball!
Jayson Werth went on the Howard Eskin Podcast to rail against the numerous front-offices in the MLB that use sabermetrics and advanced statistics to help guide the future of their franchises.
Werth had this to say:
“They’ve got all these super nerds, as I call them, in the front office that know nothing about baseball but they like to project numbers and project players.”
Credit to Jayson Werth for coming up with that term on his own. The world has failed at coming up with a nickname for people who stereotype as “smart people who suck at sports” for as long as I can remember. Thanks to Jayson, we can now have that term: “Nerd.”
So you can imagine how Jayson feels about the folks he is referencing when he tosses a “super” in front of his new word. Gasp! This guy means business!
Jayson goes on to say:
“When they come down, these kids from MIT or Stanford or Harvard, wherever they’re from, they’ve never played baseball in their life,” Werth told Eskin. “When they come down to talk about stuff like [shifts] … should I just bunt it over there? They’re like, ‘No, don’t do that. We don’t want you to do that. We want you to hit a homer.’ It’s just not baseball to me.”
Mr. Werth wants you to believe that front office staff of major league organizations, in reality, come to him and others players and say things like “…we don’t want you to [bunt]. We want you to hit a homer.”
I am willing to believe that there are numerous organizational front offices that do stupid things, make decisions I would constantly disagree with, and generally run a team in a fashion that places priorities in the wrong place.
Are there a bunch of front-office staff running around telling players that instead of bunting in this bunting situation, they should just go ahead and hit a homer?
Um… no, I don’t. Because I’m not an idiot. Jayson says this to make his point about how these people just don’t understand the game. He is “paraphrasing” to be generous, a collection of ideas and things he has seen or heard into a nicely packaged message to prove his ill-founded point: I did it this way, it worked for me and others, so the way they are doing it now is wrong.***
Jayson Werth, like everyone who inexplicably finds it necessary to take up this argument, just doesn’t get it.
And Frankly, It’s So Simple
Look. Intuition and visual examinations of a baseball players skills is absolutely an important part of determining current ability, and especially future potential in a baseball player. You need guys who have seen the full cocooning of a raw prospect into a consistent contributor or star at the major league level.
They need to know what qualities a raw prospect has that have a history of success at being refined and converted into bonafide MLB-level skills. They need to understand the processes that were taken in numerous scenarios to help that raw talent transform into ability.
And ultimately, it is crucial that they are able to identify consistently which of these raw talented prospects has the makeup physically and mentally to climb the mountain that is taking a raw ingredient and refining it to a point that it is considered elite enough to demand a spot on a big league roster.
None of these things can be accomplished with statistics alone.
But it would be overkill to rehash too deeply the opportunities and knowledge that advanced statistics unlock for a team. The traditional statistics that were highly valued at one point (ERA, Batting average, etc.) have been proven to reflect much less accurately the contributions a player makes within a team aspect.
And where a player with Jayson Werth’s mindset on the subject would thump his chest and stand proudly behind his greatness if he were to, say, hit .360 one year (and rightfully so), it breaks my brain trying to understand how these guys don’t seem to grasp in the slightest way how MORE information about MORE aspects of the game and a players performance does anything but help a team gain a better understanding of how to direct their future.
THE SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS SOLUTION
Statistics, especially of the advanced kind, reflect performance. They are essential to evaluating both players and teams true performance on the field, and how they look to trend in the future based on thousands and thousands of comparable measurements of those that have come before them. On the other hand, they are not great at evaluating the potential of a player and whether they have the tools to become something greater.
Observation is essential to evaluating potential of prospects, which skills have the potential to translate into major league assets, and how a guy contributes to a team’s chemistry. On the other hand, observation alone is putrid at providing a real look at a team or player’s overall contributions on the field to team success beyond the readily apparent.
As much as these guys who subscribe to the anti-sabermetrics theory want to believe they know better because they PLAYED THE GAME NERDS, all they do is make a fool of themselves to anyone and everyone that is able to understand the simple solution to all of this:
YOU USE BOTH. THEY AREN’T MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. AND THIS SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BE EXPLAINED TO PEOPLE–FORMER PLAYERS ESPECIALLY–ANY LONGER.
Figure it out Jayson Werth.
But too balance out the Jayson Werth negativity, I present one of my favorite clips of all time where he makes me laugh. RIP Jose Fernandez. Loved watching that guy play.
***It’s usually either this, or a player not liking the way advanced statistics portray and thus discounting their usefulness