Saturday, May 5, 2012

Intangibles? You talkin' intangibles? Intangibles?

(editor's note (that's me): didn't mean for there to be such a delay between posts, but sometimes "real life" gets in the way.  Remember, no promises!)

(ed note pt II: sorry for ripping off the pic from your twitter feed, Rick... but I believe it's for the greater good and I'm not pimping anything around here.  Hit me up on twitter if you want me to yank it.)

(ed note pt III: yeah, right...)

So this is the post that probably sets me aside as an outcast among hardcore Jays fans.  You see... it's not that I'm against advanced statistical analysis.  It's fascinating stuff.  I'll admit that some of the measurements out there float more than just above my head, and I'll doubly admit that I've invested some time in attempting to understand them all before giving up out of confusion... or boredom.

Here's the gist of it: I want there to be a romantic side of baseball.  I want to believe there's more that goes into becoming a successful team than a simple accumulation of the most statistically attractive athletes.  We've all heard the argument that "I don't care if it's a roster of 25 unlikeable assholes - as long as they win".  I may have agreed with such statements in the past, but my heart wasn't really into it, man.

Isn't it more fun this way, rooting for a team that clearly roots for each other?  Isn't it more gratifying to know there's joy in the dugout and locker room after each win, with the boys slappin' backs and dishing out the praise amongst peers?  You don't care if the old adage of "25 guys/25 cabs" applies so long as the club wins 95 games?  You want to cheer for the 2011 Boston Red Sox?

Well, pardon my language, but fuck all that.   Of course I want 95 wins too, but I want the team to want it for each other as well, and not just for contractual purposes.

Am I an old fool for this?  I dunno.  What I do know is that I chuckle every time I see Brett Lawrie run through his intricate routine of personalized handshakes with each teammate in the dugout, I laugh when Jose and Edwin flex their muscles after a big fly, I enjoy reading Ricky Romero tell Drabek "Shut up Kyle!" over twitter.

I look at and manipulate numbers every day to earn my keep in life; you'd think a stats-based view of this game would be right up my alley.  But sometimes it feels like death by overanalysis.  I'm not saying I'm right, but I guess I'm saying it's time to get back to fun.  I'll leave the advanced metrics to the front office.


Sometimes you run across a post that feels like God's work - whoever your God may be, if you choose to believe in one.  And if you don't, just call it full-on nails.  You can find such words here.  As I type this, my 20 month old boy is wearing his Blue Jays cap with the curved peak pulled down low, just like his dad does.  That's just proper parenting, friends.


@NorthYorkJays said...

You nailed the biggest thing about the Blue Jays the last few years that often goes ignored - they are an entertaining bunch. Sure, we haven't made the playoffs, but any fan of the team who follows on a consistent basis was treated to entertaining, competitive baseball at nearly all times.

Over the offseason and spring training the Blue Jays were dominating the Toronto media scene and the hype was everywhere. A lot of my friends, knowing I'm a big Jays fan, would ask me if they are making the playoffs this year. I'd always answer no, but try to explain that even if they don't this is a fun, exciting team to watch with a fuckton of young talent that puts them in a good position to be competitive for a long time.

I do wonder about the 2011 Red Sox though. I mean, they missed the playoffs on the last day of the year. Do ANY of these sentiments come out if that hadn't had happened? I don't remember Bill Simmons crying from the rooftop about their lack of team chemistry when they were comfortably in a playoff spot at the start of September.

DaveC said...

I read somewhere once that "stats would be the death of the human interest story in baseball", and I don't necessarily agree with it. Statistics help us understand the game, and appreciate it in different ways, but it doesn't necessarily mean that we need to minimize the "romantic" side of the game. I don't like bunts because they're a bad statistical play, but it's still really exciting to watch one. Chaos on the infield, runners coming home or going to second, always a close play at first...

The reason stats guys dismiss chemistry is that it can't be easily measured, and so it's not taken into account. It definitely matters, and I think it definitely plays into how much we enjoy watching a team. It's a fun (if occasionally douche-y) bunch on the Jays, so I hope this team finds success.

Gil Fisher said...

Stats are useful in understanding baseball. But there's no endpoint. It's a journey and I don't think we're very far along on it.

It's like studying the stars to understand our existence - we're around Galileo's time right now. We've just figured out the Earth isn't the centre of the universe and Joe Morgan's giving us hell.

But we shouldn't be running around proclaiming we've figured it all out and that anybody who doesn't think xFIP is 100% predicative of future performance is wrong. Like the Pope or something.

Jipstick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
@JPDelMonte said...

Love it. The stats matter, for sure, but the relationships within the club add such a fantastic dynamic to fandom. I think we're pretty lucky with this club's love of twitter because of the amount they interact with each other. The Drabek-Romero(-and sometimes Morrow) interactions are some of my favourites.
Great stuff again, Ack!

Navin said...

"... death by overanalysis" is a great way to put it.

I like advanced statistics, but only to a point. Baseball's so much more than statistics, advanced or not.

And thanks for the plug on the piece. I hope you own a t-shirt that says "#1 Dad."