Thursday, June 25, 2009

Collins & Lyons Like Oscar & Felix

Eric Collins and Steve Lyons, from last night's telecast:

Collins: I was talking last inning about Gordon Beckham and his OPS. OPS, some people just kind of gloss over that. But it is fairly indicative of a quality player. You look in the history of baseball, you look at the on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, and without fail, the top ten players are all the elite of the elite in the history of major league baseball.

And I know it's college baseball, but Gordon Beckham last year as a college player, middle infield, shortstop, an OPS of 1.323. He had an on-base percentage of over five hundred percent. Five hundred! Slugging percentage over eight hundred.

To put that in perspective, Albert Pujols is off to a great start this year. Just a great start with St. Louis. His OPS right now is 1.159. Two hundred percentage points lower than what Gordon Beckham did last year as a collegian.

Lyons: See, that's why I gloss over it, because I don't know what 1.300 means. It's a number.

Collins: Anything over a thousand is, you're an elite player. Currently in Major League Baseball, Albert Pujols leads the way. He's at 1.159.

Ben Zobrist, I don't know if people have even thought about this. The guy in Tampa Bay, he's playing second base right now — as James Loney gets himself a knock — Ben Zobrist is second, a little over a thousand. Kevin Youkilis, up there. Another over a thousand would be Raul Ibanez.

Collins: "You can't fudge slugging percentage and you can't fudge on-base percentage."

Lyons: There's a player. But without going through the gyrations of OPS and the 1.300s, can't you just look at Raul Ibanez, your boy Zobrist, and just say, "Those guys are pretty good players."

Collins: Yeah, but there's some holes in some numbers. You look at batting average, guy's hitting .315, but it's a hollow .315. This tells you if a guy's hitting something, it's legit. You can't fudge slugging percentage and you can't fudge on-base percentage.

Lyons: Do you follow some of the other whacked-out statistical categories that are nouveau to the game of baseball?

Collins: I do. It's —

Lyons: What are they?

Collins: Well, you got defensive — for the first time ever you have —

Lyons: The WHIP —

Collins: For the first time ever you have categories that measure defense. The UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating. It makes a difference. Everyone talked about it last year. Tampa Bay making it to the post-season because of pitching and defense. Defense matters nowadays.

Lyons: It's fictional.

Lyons: "Is he a gamer? Does he get dirty? Does he go out there and play hard? Is he a good teammate? None of that stuff tells me any of that."

Collins: I'm telling you, we're going to be head-to-head on this all season long. There is a place —

Lyons: There is a place, a very small place, for the computer geeks that are now taking over the game of baseball. There is a place, but it's a small place. We're seeing way too much of it.

Collins: Now I'm going to fight that battle.

Lyons: None of those numbers — that UZR-mum thing that rates defense —

Collins: UZR. Ultimate Zone Rating.

Lyons: UZR. And your WHIPs and your OPSes. They don't show me what kind of heart the guy has. BABIP?

Collins: Batting Average on Balls in Play?

Lyons: Stupid. Doesn't tell me if the guy is a player. Doesn't tell me if the guy can play. Is he a gamer? Does he get dirty? Does he go out there and play hard? Is he a good teammate? None of that stuff tells me any of that. That's the guy I want.

Collins: That would be your Derek Jeter, we were talking about an inning ago.

Lyons: I'll take your computer and I'll toss it right off this balcony here.

Collins: "If you put yourself in the best possible situation through percentages, theoretically you have a better chance of winning games."

Collins: Every computer ever designed would have told you that Alex Rodriguez was a better defender than Derek Jeter when he first came to the Yankees, yet Derek Jeter continued to play shortstop. And that didn't help the Yankees at all defensively.

Three-one pitch.

But Derek Jeter is a gamer and he's —

Lyons: I'll let you take that up with Joe Torre.

Collins: I bet he'd have an interesting thought on that. Maybe that'll be my task for tomorrow.

Lyons: I hope you still have a job after that conversation.

Collins: I'll ask nicely.

Three balls and two strikes to Russell Martin. There are Dodgers on in front of him. This ball is hit fairly well to center field, but they've got a man there. Brian Anderson makes the play. Two outs here in the eighth.

Lyons: Now I will give you that in the game of baseball, down through time and part of the great history in the game of baseball, is based on its numbers. No question about that, there's no getting around it, there's no getting away from it. I'm kind of the traditional number guy.

Lyons: "The problem with computer rankings is they're trying to put a logical spin on a game of baseball that just isn't all that logical."

Collins: But batting average means nothing.

Lyons: Show me an average. Show me — it means something —

Collins: Runs batted in means nothing. You could be leading your team in runs batted in, but if you're hitting, whatever, .195 when you're doing it, you're just getting more opportunities than other people.

Lyons: Yes, but that's a different way of thinking about the game. You're hopefully getting more opportunities because you're put in the spot in the lineup where those opportunities will fall in your lap. And that's why your manager is hitting you there.

The problem with computer rankings and all this stuff is they're trying to put a logical spin on a game of baseball that just isn't all that logical. You're saying the guy's getting more opportunities to drive in runs. Well, is that his fault? It's just the way the game gets played.

Collins: Baseball, you mentioned it before, it's a numbers game. It's a game of percentages. And if you put yourself in the best possible situation through percentages, theoretically you have a better chance of winning games.

Ozzie Guillen is with you. You guys are teammates to the core. He is a feel-guy, a gut-guy, and I don't think he looks at too many of the things that the seamheads toss his way.

Lyons: What?

Collins: We call ourselves "seamheads."

Lyons: "Seamheads"?

Collins: Yeah.

Lyons: I thought you said "sea-meds."

Collins: This ball, crunched to left field! Podsednik looking up, it's gone! Dodgers are right back in it, a three-run shot from Matt Kemp! There's life in the boys from Los Angeles yet. Oh-two pitch hammered deep into the night, home run number nine.

Lyons: We're going to take a good look at Matt Kemp's swing from the side. There's just not a whole lot of effort there. He just drops the head on there, as soon as he's coming out of the batter's box. I almost think that maybe he thought he didn't get enough of it to get it out of here, but he sure did. Now there's a classic example of, he's a big strong guy, no question. But he just put a nice easy swing on a ball that was up in the zone and that thing jumped.

Why don't you recalculate his OPS now?


Josh S. said...

I know I groused about them earlier in the season, but this pairing is finally growing on me.

Booger said...

im not sold on Collins yet, he doesnt have that legendary voice or very good insight.

How come Kevin Kennedy isnt on Dodgers live anymore?

Anonymous said...

I officially don't like Steve Lyons anymore. And although I haven't seen many games lately (didn't hear this conversation) Collins kicks ass already. IMO.

Mr. LA Sports Czar said...

I started reading it, but it was too long and I feel I got the jist of it.

Collins: You look at a guys OPS, it can be very indicative of his performance. It provides a lot of insight that most numbers can't.
Lyons: I don't care, it's stupid.

Mr. LA Sports Czar said...

And I'm supposed to find that man's opinion valuable?

rbnlaw said...

Say what you will, maybe it's my age, but I find myself siding with Lyons on this one.
Too many stats clog the mind. As Mark Twain once said, "There are liars, damn liars, and statisticians."

midnightdrive said...


Why can't Vin Scully call every game?

Anonymous said...

rbnlaw-Empirical evidence doesn't cloud anything.

Anonymous said...

I love how these guys ramble on and on about how they are baseball guys and they understand the game, but when it comes down to it, they don't even understand that very well, like from a mechanics/fundamentals perspective that has nothing to do with statistics.

It amazes me that they are still employed while Orel Hershiser (who actually gives great mechanics/fundamental/strategy insight) is relegated to LLWS and CWS broadcasts.

MR.F said...

Props to Collins for arguing his point, not getting pushed around, not being defensive, and being civil.

Seeing too many stats at once may be overwhelming and hard to make sense of. But closing your eyes and pretending they don't exist won't make things clearer. It's just less information to make an evaluation. There's nothing wrong with that, but the evaluations won't be as accurate.

Brandon said...

How long did that take you type out? Whatever the duration I'm glad you did. A very nice read. Collins gains some points in my book with his intelligent, non confrontational, demeanor.

Lyons should start small (OBP, SLG) and work his way up like I am trying to do. Familiarize yourself with a new statistical measure every month or so.

Mr. LA Sports Czar said...

Anyone who uses "stupid" in an argument has lost my respect.

Steve Sax said...

How can Lyons not like baseball stats? If I'm not mistaken, Lyons still leads the majors in all-time DPOFDP (Dropped Pants On Field During Play).

DanGarion said...

I really recommend Baseball Prospectus' book Baseball Between the Numbers, it's awesome!

cigarcow said...

I liked this back-and-forth between them. And I think it highlights an important point: BOTH statistics AND old school baseball know-how should be used to evaluate players. They're both right. Can't they just work together, like peanut butter and jelly? Yes. You're welcome.

Unknown said...

@Booger- Kevin Kennedy does color commentary for the Rays now

big baby giv said...

if you find yourself siding with steve lyons you should find yourself a shotgun and ram it down your throat and find a way to pull the trigger