Winter: A time for statistics


Buster Olney has an interesting blog post today regarding statistics and baseball (the relevant part is free). His thesis:

Summers belong mostly to the scouts. That is the time of year when they have their greatest influence, when they are the eyes and ears for their organization, when they see the day-to-day changes and adjustments, when they see that an arm angle has dropped or that a swing has been shortened.

But the winters, on the other hand, have become a domain of numbers. Scouting reports are valued, for sure, but in November and December and January, statistics have an even greater influence in player evaluations, because they are immovable points of reference. You can talk all you want about a kid’s leadership ability, but in a conference room in the dead of winter, what stares everybody in the face is the .312 on-base percentage. In the winter, more than at any time during the calendar year, you are what the numbers say you are.

Reflecting on that, I can see what he means. It’s not just front offices, though. It seems we as fans seem to focus more on a player’s aggregate output during the dormant winter months. This winter in particular we saw the introduction of another useful statistic, and a reminder of a more efficient way to judge pitcher strikeouts.

It makes sense. We have no games to judge in the winter. All we have is a ledger of what each player did during the season. Because those ledgers are so long, though, we tend to go with the aggregate. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. It leads us to talk about generalities, which can lead to some false conclusions, but we’re still talking about objective data.

Yet when the season rolls around we’re not so apt to talk about aggregate statistics. For instance, Jason Giambi had a bad April, but once he started to heat up in May we focused on that rather than his stat totals. We talk more about the last game, or the last week of games, than we do about the season as a whole. Hence, scouting reports — that is, what we’ve seen — become more important.

This is pretty natural. I think it’s nice that we have a period where we’re talking about the here and now, and another time when we reflect on what happened. It only adds to the enjoyment of the game.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Jamal G. says:

    For instance, Jason Giambi had a bad April, but once he started to heat up in May we focused on that rather than his stat totals.

    Really, Joe? “We”, huh? That’s odd, I swear I remember one, singular person on this blog defending Jason Giambi while the masses tried to burn him at the stake. ;)

  2. John says:

    Here’s an interesting stat from that article:

    The guy who ranked fifth in the majors in OPS against left-handed pitchers remains unsigned — Ty Wigginton, who absolutely hammered lefties in 2008, posting a .424 on-base percentage and a .631 slugging percentage.

    can we get him on a minor league deal? haha….probably not but he’ll be cheap

    This is just sad:

    Even if you include pitchers, Andruw Jones is one of the worst hitters in the majors against right-handed pitching. He had an OPS of .436 in 2008 against righties, with one homer in 136 at-bats. That was a lower OPS than that of hitting immortals Tim Lincecum, Aaron Cook and Matt Cain.

    • 27 this year says:

      I agree on the Andrew Jones point but Wigginton is useless considering he is only a corner infielder and so really, would you rather have him or Arod and Tex? Also, the Carlos Zambrano tidbit is pretty funny, he is the best hitter with RISP.

      • John says:

        hey im just saying, he’ll be a nice backup since no one else wants him

        and the Zambrano fact is really great.

        • 27 this year says:

          he would make a decent backup depending on price. He is looking for starter money and with his numbers he could probably do better than a minor league deal as long as he lowers his price.

  3. erik says:

    whats the next prospect profile? or a hint?

  4. What about a stat that measures how efficient a pitcher is?

    Like one that rewards pitchers that get k’s on 3 pitches instead of 6 or 7, and takes into account how often the pitcher can induce the GIDP…

  5. Bonos says:

    Mo already did that 3 pitch thing to Manny. Oh wait, that was Manny doing it to Mo.

  6. Mike Pop says:

    NERDS!!!!!! haha. wOBA is awesome though. Love that stat.

  7. BJ says:

    It actually makes sense to not look at stats in-season because often the sample size is too small for it too really be telling you anything, and even anything statistically significant could be explained by a minor or unreported injury or the player being off mechanically or mentally for one reason or another, and once this problem is fixed production will return to expected. In this way, the small everyday things that we notice, that are often highly context dependant, have more meaning than aggregate stats, as they show which direction the player is trending within what the range of production that his ability allows.

  8. A.D. says:

    The winter allows fans to reflect on players whole season, not just the “what have you done for me lately”

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