Friday, October 25, 2013

Bill James: Not A Yasiel Puig or Amanda Bynes Fan

Found this tidbit in the October 14, 2013 issue of ESPN the Magazine (the Bay Area issue), in which Peter Keating looks at the small sample size around Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson, alluding to Yasiel Puig and Bill James along the way (link insider only; emphasis mine):

The thing is, hits and runs allowed, WPA, wins, losses -- they all look backward. To zero in on a player's future, we should consider stats that measure true-outcome skills and aren't affected by batted balls. And since 2011, [Jim] Johnson's core performance has been amazingly consistent. He's had a strikeout-to-walk ratio around 2.75-1; an xFIP (Expected Fielding-Independent Pitching) around 3.50; and SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA) around 3.15, all with little variation. He's not as good as he seemed last year, but he's not nearly as bad as he appeared this season.

Now, we need to handle these predictive metrics with care. Analysts who toss aside all backward-looking stats run the risk of interpreting actual results out of existence. Here, for instance, is Bill James on a player having a very different type of streak than Johnson's: "A portion of the public is for some reason disproportionately enchanted by [Yasiel] Puig's piddly-ass little hot streak, in the same way many of us are proportionately interested in the Zimmerman trial and/or Amanda Byrnes [sic], whoever she is … We choose random things to get all worked up about, far beyond their real significance."

I would point out that the results of Puig and Johnson, however determined by luck, have had real impacts: They have influenced games and helped decide pennants. But James is right that streaks don't predict future performance. And predictive stats say Johnson's bad mojo likely won't continue in 2014. That's great news for the O's, not least of all because their record in one-run games mirrors Johnson's results in high-leverage situations: from 29–9 in 2012, the best in the modern era, to 17–30 through Sept. 23 of this season, second worst in MLB.

Puig's streak may have been short this year but it's undeniable that he had an impact on the Dodgers' 2013 playoff run, perhaps as the most important contributor behind Hanley Ramirez. I don't see Amanda Bynes' career stats ever reaching the postseason.


Steve Sax said...

man, the difference in those pictures is scary.