Bill James speaks; everyone listens

For different reasons, merchants, community activists await promises of a new stadium
Blue Jays columnist takes Opening Day loss in stride

The good folks at the Freaknomics blog recently got a hold of Bill James for some quality Q-and-A time. They opened the floodgates to their readers and received a lot of questions. In typical Jamesian fashion, the baseball analysis guru answered nearly all of them. Take a look; he talks about Yankee prospects, defensive stats and the overall state of baseball analysis. It’s a good read.

For different reasons, merchants, community activists await promises of a new stadium
Blue Jays columnist takes Opening Day loss in stride
  • CB

    Best quote from this interview:

    “Q: Can you tell us about a time when you thought numbers were misleading and why?

    A: I would say generally that baseball statistics are always trying to mislead you, and that it is a constant battle not to be misled by them. ”

    That’s a very sound quote. Many sabermatricians put more trust in numbers than they should.

    Another interesting thing from the interview – James uses Excel to do his statistical analysis.

    That’s like saying you’re a huge video game fan and you’re gaming on an Atari 800.

    Excel does not have the capacity to do many advanced statistical analyses used in most other fields. No serious statistician working today would ever use Excel as a primary analysis tool.

  • Jamal G.

    The most non-baseball related answer in the whole Q & A, but something that I took from it.

    “Q: What unanswered questions (either baseball-related or not) are you thinking about right now?

    A: Why does American society always perceive itself as becoming constantly more and more dangerous — and thus devote ever more and more effort to increasing security — even though almost all measurable dangers, including crime rates, have been falling throughout most of my lifetime? And … is this a good thing?”

  • bkight13

    While I find James’ works interesting as a baseball fan, his influence is being greatly exaggerated. Stats are a great part of baseball and allows you to compare eras, but finding talented players takes a lot more than a computer. He even admits as much. The Red Sox have won because they can spend money on good players, just like the Yankees. And don’t underestimate the good luck of Ortiz turning into a superstar overnight.

  • Back Bay Yankee

    Quote of the Article:

    Q: Has looking at the numbers prevented you from actually just enjoying a summer day at the ballpark? Have we all forgotten the randomness of human ballplayers? By reducing players to just their numbers can we lose sight of the intangibles such as teamwork, friendships, and desire.

    A: Does looking at pretty women prevent one from experiencing love? Life is complicated. Your efforts to compartmentalize it are lame and useless.

  • Mike R.

    Wow! I want to be like Bill James when I grow up, with the exception of his greatest flaw. (Working fr the Sawx)

    • steve (different one)

      i thought you meant his facial hair.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph M

    I thought Bill’s suggestions on rule changes as they relate to relief pitchers was interesting, unworkable but interesting. James pointed out that in 1970 there were 1.75 relief pitchers used in a game. today it’s 2.97. His suggested change, no pitcher could be replaced mid-inning unless he gave up a run or was injured. A team would be allowed one free change during a game (a pitcher could be brought in to face one batter for example). Now I don’t think this is workable but it did give me a chance to think about it. I must admit I am getting concerned with the increasing use of middle men on a daily basis it seems earlier and earlier with each passing year.

    I thought a better rule change might be limiting the number of pitchers carried on the active roster. I would cap the number of pitchers a team could carry to 10 with the umpire approving the game day roster to avoid any tricks (for example on the day Hughes pitches Wang is listed as an outfielder, on the days Wang pithes Hughes is on the roster as an outfielder). Limiting the number of pitchers would if nothing else slow down the steady back and forth flow to the mound and might force starters to work deeper into games.