FanPost

Early Season Leaders and the limits of Advanced Stats (SSS ALERT!!!)

Just for fun, I went to FanGraphs to see the MLB WAR leaders and other such completely ridiculous SSS metrics (Why, you ask? Because baseball season has started and that's awesome!).

Things are as you'd expect in general. I went ahead and wanted to see who was leading the league in baserunning (BsR) as well. (Link) As you might expect, David Wright and his 2 SBs lead the way with 0.4. Tied for second at 0.2?

Rickie Weeks. He of the day consisting of

1) Getting thrown out by a mile at second trying to stretch a routine grounder into a double. In front of the 2011 NL MVP and 2012 NL MVP runner-up.

2) Getting credit for a SB when he was also likely out by a substantial margin but the throw got past. (Note: did not advance to 3B, so no error.)

3) Getting home on a SF that pretty much any non-Molina in the league probably scores on.

Sure looks like the 2nd best baserunner in the league, right?

As another fun fact, even though UZR numbers aren't available yet, we do have DRS data already. As you might expect, Carlos Gomez is already awesome - the Brewers apparently would have lost yesterday without him in CF, since he is +2 DRS already. I was surprised, however, to see that Alex Gonzalez is right at +0 DRS. So apparently, the play he made in the 4th to not only avoid a pickle or an unforced error on a throw over to third, get an out, and ensure that the runner stayed at 3B (which became very important when the next batter grounded out to end the inning) was your run-of-the-mill play that every 1B in the league or replacement 1B would make.

Obviously, over the entire season, these types of stats even out and are very useful (hence the SSS alert in the title here). I am in NO way trying to start a BUCKS-style flame war (or WAR?). I just thought others might find it interesting as a point of discussion. Shouldn't AGonz play have been worth at LEAST 1 DRS? Did he make some other negative plays that negated that and I just missed it? For Rickie and BsR, I think this shows the limits of sabermetric stats that only take into account game states and the officially scored plays, because if there were a DRS-style equivalent for BsR (which I'm sure there is, but I don't pay for any advanced stats sites), you'd have to believe that Rickie's day would have earned him near the bottom of the league in baserunning, not near the top. (Incidentally, that honor belongs to Angel Pagan, Carl Crawford, Gerardo Parra, and our own Carlos Gomez for picking up a CS yesterday).

None of this really means anything, but it does reinforce my general trepidation to believe wholeheartedly in a stat like BsR that is just based on numbers with no adjustments based on human analysis. As always, advanced stats are tools to help determine value, not answers to the question "Exactly how valuable/good was Player X?"

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