clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Objection! A rebuttal to Lee Judge

New, 146 comments

We're not stupid, Mr. Judge.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Lee Judge,

Your secret is out, Mr. Judge. We know you know who we are. We know that you read Royals Review, or that you read Royals Review once. If you would like to join our group, you are most assuredly welcome to do so. It's free to join; you can click the 'sign in' button on the top right of your screen and choose a few different options.

Unfortunately, Mr. Judge--Lee? Can I call you Lee?--it seems that you do not think highly of us. We know that, in the past, you made fun of bloggers like us. In a post which is unfortunately lost to the ether of the internet*, you painted a caricature of us wherein we lived in our parents' basement, asthma-stricken and eating pop tarts, sniping at anyone and everyone through internet forums because we could.

*EDIT: Thanks to Tyler Hillsman, who sent me a working link from the Way Back Machine, we can now see exactly what Lee said about our type:

Tell a sabermetrics guy that Getz is a better all-round ballplayer than Billy Butler and he’ll have an asthma attack and ask his mom to bring him a fresh box of Pop Tarts.


Read more here: http://web.archive.org/web/20120111215450/http://www.kansascity.com/2011/07/16/3018430/judging-the-royals-midseason-review.html#storylink=cpy

So making fun of asthmatics is cool now? I did not know that, Lee.

I know that this was merely a botched attempt at humor, a move cunningly deployed from your career as a political cartoonist, but it came off as rather spiteful and, frankly, untrue. I'm a married man with a college degree. I'm proficient at multiple musical instruments. I can juggle, Lee. Three. Balls. At. The. Same. Time. As you can clearly see, I'm a reasonably personable and intelligent guy. And here I am, writing about the Royals.

Now, back to the real matter--your recent pieces at the Kansas City Star. When you discussed a website that did not like the Kendrys Morales signing and has roughly 700 comments, some of which contained hurled insults, zero sensemaking, and discussion of obscure stats, I know exactly which article of which you speak.

You are not pleased with our website and community, it seems. Take a comment like this, for instance.

Reading 700 internet comments will give you a dim view of humanity.

Or this.

...and one guy said RBIs were a worthless statistic because all they did was measure the ability of the people in front of you to get on base.

When I read that comment I thought: "Now there’s a guy who hasn’t played much baseball."

Lee, surely you can imagine that some fans who didn't like a deal would be angry. To classify an entire group of fans as a 'dim' group of humanity is somewhat harsh. Nay, very harsh. And here we come to the main objection of your recent work, Lee, and most of your other work for that matter:

You have an obsession with appeals to authority and a resulting arrogant attitude that pervades your writing.

Here's a definition of appeal to authority, brought to us by Grammarist.com:

The appeal to authority fallacy is associated with attributing truth to a statement based on the authority of the speaker or on the authority of someone who supports the statement. This is fallacious because it assumes truth to be a function of power or prestige rather than objectivity. An authority, simply by being authority, cannot will truth into existence.

The tricky thing about an appeal to authority is that authorities are so for a reason; in this specific case, baseball players and coaches are the authority on their own game.  Unfortunately, authorities are not necessarily correct.  We test these authorities through data and as scientific methods as we can.

This isn't just a baseball thing.. If you were prone to the use of overuse of the word 'defenestration' in your articles, your editor might not mind. I certainly wouldn't (speaking of which: Shaun and Kevin, I hereby declare a contest about who can use defenestration most times in one article, and the winner faces the victor of Minda and Ward). But just because your editor is an authority doesn't make him right. Lee, if you use defenestration as your go-to verb seventeen times per article for three months in a row, the authority's opinion is mitigated.

Between this and your Kendrys Morales article, you appealed to

  • Rusty Kuntz
  • Mitch Maier
  • Dayton Moore

The main issue is that you don't just appeal to them; you take their word as law. You ask Rusty and Mitch what they think and refuse any other opinions, illustrating how worthless your own point of view is with your grass story.

At that point Rusty looked me in the eye and shared his words of wisdom: he told me to get off the grass.

Reporters are allowed to stand on the dirt warning track, but the grass is for players and coaches only. It’s how they get away from reporters like me; they go stand on the grass and if they stand far enough away from the dirt, you can’t talk to them.

...So guys who have played the game at a high level think driving in runs takes some skill; at least one guy who leaves comments on the internet doesn’t. I think I’m going with the opinion of the guys who have played the game — even if I have to walk out on the grass to hear it.

Do you not see the pure arrogance of that statement, Lee?  You simultaneously assign infinite value to professional coaches (granted, very smart coaches and, in Mitch's case, also the best relief pitcher to walk the Earth) whilst discounting someone you assume doesn't know anything. Furthermore, you also immediately assume that there can be no reason why that commenter would know anything. Add that to your haughty approach to anything you don't understand--"obscure stats were defended or attacked with obscure arguments" comes to mind--and your critical thinking skills come into severe question.

Your baseball piety extends to criticizing our reactions to Morales' free agent signing.  You get the hindsight potshot ability that all of us lacked when we tried to evaluate it back in December.  We love this team, and we were collectively down on that signing.

Later in the article, you claim that you don't like to 'play GM', which is totally a fair point--except you also deem it good to lecture us on how we were wrong and how one is supposed to build a team:

But if all you can do is look at the numbers and say he sucked last year so why would we want him, you’ll never sign that bargain-basement bounce-back guy. And I’m really glad I’m not the one who has to figure out which guys will bounce back and which guys actually are in an irreversible decline—and it doesn’t look like Kendrys Morales is in an irreversible decline.

Hundreds of people hated this signing enough to get on the internet and say so. I wonder how many of those people went back to publicly say they might have been wrong.

Two things, Lee.  First of all, we're a fourth of the way through the season and an eighth of the way through Morales' contract. Lots of things can happen. Secondly, I think lots of us would say we were wrong. You specifically pick out some of our commenters to excoriate. Here we are in all of our glory:

"Just terrible. Borderline god awful." - Shaun Newkirk

"Indefensible." - just_another_fan

"Worst free agency signing EVER" - jerms311

"This kind of kills the 'Dayton Moore has learned from his mistakes and is improving' argument." - Scott McKinney

"Dayton has re-announced his incompetent presence with authority." - Sweep_the_Leg

I myself called the signing "reasonable" and I was one of the few of us with any air of positivity about the whole thing. Still, "reasonable" is hardly a ringing endorsement and any of us might be right.

But, Lee, the point here is that we have opinions about things. We watch games, read articles from all kinds of sources (including yours, I might add; your piece about Alex Gordon and Kevin Seitzer's offseason training is one of my favorite Royals articles from anybody). If we don't like something, we often have a reason. Some don't have a reason, and I will gladly join you in criticism of clueless fans. But we are not clueless.

This brings me to my second point: you are dead wrong that RBIs are an important statistic. They just aren't.

I know what you're thinking. "He's just a dude on the internet." "I bet he's eating a pop tart right now." "Does he own the donut store?"

Let's get one thing out of the way first:

So guys who have played the game at a high level think driving in runs takes some skill; at least one guy who leaves comments on the internet doesn’t.

I don't think anybody is saying that driving in runs doesn't take skill. On the contrary; driving in runs does take skill Nobody is saying that.  Driving in runs is how you score runs, which is half of the game of baseball.  I don't necessarily blame you for your lack of precision here, as what we say clearly is not important to you. But it's an important distinction.

What we are saying is that RBI is a bad statistic. I mean, the plural is 'RBIs', which would equate to 'Runs Batted Ins,' which saddens the grammatical part of my soul. RsBI should be correct, but then it looks way fancier and more complicated than it actually is.

I digress.

RsBI is bad for a number of reasons:

  1. RBI is extremely dependent upon the production of other players
  2. RBI is situational
  3. RBI is not predictive

Other offensive statistics don't have these issues. Batting average is dependent upon oneself, lacks any situational factors, and is more predictive than RsBI.  On base percentage and slugging percentage are likewise good at describing and predicting.

RBI would be better as a rate stat, as RBI% is actually not bad. But it's not. Put it this way: RBI is a stat driven almost entirely by context and yet ignores all contexts.  A great hitter who hits behind poor hitters will suffer in the RBI category; likewise, a poor hitter who hits behind great hitters will drive in more runs.  In addition, all RBI opportunities are not equal--a runner on third with no outs is significantly easier to score than a runner on first with two outs, but each will count as one RBI.

There are people who have done studies on this sort of thing--and data does not lie.

Is RBI a useless statistic? No. It tells you what happened on the field, and that's just fine.  Is it a good statistic?  No. You don't even have to look at super complicated stuff to find better statistics. Just sticking with AVG/OBP/SLG tells you so much more about a hitter than RBI. To put it another way: RBI will come situationally--what you want are the skills that cause RBI and not the other way around.

I'm not sure if you'll even see this, Lee, or if you will and discount it like you consistently ignore the opinions of those who aren't closest to the grass and dirt.  Regardless: consider this our official objection, Judge.