There have been numerous posts throughout this season about the laughable attempt by the Kansas City Star to document Royals games on a daily basis using "stats." They assigned Lee Judge, cartoonist and general funny man, to watch every game and attempt to find a way to evaluate the players and comment daily. While this is usually a good read, the scoring system sucks and is hard to take seriously. In fact, it contributes to fan ignorance and to the arrogance of old baseball men and the baseball 'establishment.' On his daily posts online, I've commented a few times recanting how dumb it is when Kendall gets points for nonsense or the same for Betancourt, Bloomy, or others that get points for difficult plays (this is just like assigning errors, in terms of difficulty and accuracy, revealing scorer prejudice and inconsistency). For reference, Betancourt (!!!!) is the team's MVP this year, with Butler and Kendall close behind. Judge used the write-up from yesterday's game as an opportunity to address some criticism of his system (perhaps mine?), and his response was "Get a Life."
I really wished the Star could hire someone to engage in meaningful baseball discussion, not "I'm better than you" style journalism for a daily feature.
For reference, this is the pertinent part of the article.
"If you’re outraged by the idea that Betancourt or Kendall could be considered the most valuable player on this team, I have two pieces of advice: (A.) Get a life (B.) Remember, this system isn’t telling you who the best player on the team is. It’s telling you who has contributed the most. That’s an important and worthwhile distinction. And it’s the difference between how a fan thinks about the game and how an experienced coach thinks about the game.
Ron Polk's system loves Jason Kendall, shouldn't you?
First, if it isn't telling us who the best player is, what's the point of awarding points or saying who is the most valuable? Notably, there IS a difference between the player that contributes the most and the player that contributes the best. Is this your point, Lee? And, if so, the system still falls on its face for arbitrarily quantifying those contributions. Old beer-drinking American Legion baseball coaches have been doing this kind of thing for years, attempting to arbitrarily value certain plays. Yeah, it can be fun to do, but it is not akin to a baseball Bible and won't tell you a lot beyond what the evaluator likes. If we're evaluating players, let's do it right. Thankfully, a revolution that began near Kansas City more than a quarter century ago fixed that "Ron Polk" line of thinking. I was under the impression everyone, especially those paid to follow baseball, was at least aware.
Can't we just use statistics that are legitimate?
Secondly, I AM outraged by the idea that Betancourt or Kendall could be considered the most valuable player on this team. They are clearly two large reasons we suck. Any system that can make the most worthless items seem like the most valuable is a horse-s*** system. Using such a system can make baseball fans dumber, and I am absolutely against that. But perhaps BECAUSE those two players contribute/handle the ball the most is why we are a bad baseball team? Am I wrong? AM I WRONG???
No, Walter, you're not wrong.
This is not really difficult to explain and not just a fan's opinion. STATISTICS, real ones that are wholly different than the ones the sacred Ron Polk came up with, show these two players to be awful (OPS, WAR, Runs created, UZR, and even the traditional stats such as caught-stealing percentage, batting average, RBI, and others which I think have been around forever). Their rankings in Polk's system are simply a reflection of their positions on the field. Of course a catcher and shortstop will handle the ball more than everyone else except a pitcher, they have the most opportunities. These must be the contributions Lee is referring to (he doesn't say they are negative or positive contributions, but there are postitive and negative points awarded, which is... puzzling).
Third, the system awards
retarded points for things that "don't show up in the box score." Such an attempt is admirable and can be fun (See American Legion coaches comment above), but the point value is completely arbitrary, as it is throughout the system. Of course Kendall blocking a ball with a runner on third is important and helps the team, but how much is that worth? We know it's worth a base, so why put some other number on it? A player making a "heads up" play is a rewarding experience to watch, and it has an effect, but why arbitrary points? Are outs and extra bases not good enough? If we're evaluating players, do not evaluate the game and the plays everyone else makes. Kendall's skill is measured against that of his peers, not against the events in the game.
A final thought, because I happen to be an intelligent baseball fan (though certainly not close to the most intelligent here at RoyalsReview) that sees how awful Ron Polk's scoring system is, do not tell me to get a life. I have one. I am a law student and work in a law office (location where I'm writing this post!). I have a girlfriend, and I do not live in my mom's basement. I go out, I get drunk, I play Madden. I have a Royals ten-game ticket package, and yes, I watch nearly EVERY Royals game that is on TV. Yes, I have a life.
My inner Mike Gundy got the best of me.
So Lee, if you have better arguments in support of your system, other than that some old baseball coach made it up, I'd like to hear them (though as most of the readers of this can figure out, my mind is made up). In the mean time, keep watching every game because it is fun, and keep talking about the things that don't go in the box score, the fun anecdotes about our fun baserunning errors or how the umpires awarded Coco Crisp a double or messed up the Mitch/Yuni on the same base play. Those things are good to write about every day and sometimes get lost in the Kaegel/Dutton articles, and as a humorist, Lee Judge does a good job.
We should not trust his evaluations on baseball, however. He should not attempt to pick a team MVP with THAT system. And for God's sake, he should not insult his readers that love baseball and tell them to 'Get a Life.'