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What Sabremetrics Don’t See

I remember when, not too long ago, the world operated via the "3-slash" stat line. Your value as a player was determined by your batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.

During, managers would make pitching changes based on gut feelings, and defenders would shift left or right depending on the hitter's swing and the pitcher's repertoire, among other factors.

ESPN analysts would make comments like, "you can just tell he's feeling good at the plate based on the way he steps into the box."

Now, they say things like, "His Iso power, BABIP, and wRC+ during day games on week days from innings five to seven are all top five in the league!"


Nowadays it seems like a player's game is being predicted before it even happens. Pitcher's with 97 mph fastballs are throwing 55% off-speed pitches, and teams are putting seventeen guys on one side of the field because a nerdy front-office guy said so.

Call me old fashioned, but sabremetrics doesn't tell the whole story.

I'd like to think I'm not alone in this statement. In fact, I know I'm not alone. Former Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks told MLB to "stop messing with our game" when asked about implementing pitch clocks - only he didn't say "messing."

I think in many ways sabremetrics causes us to miss the fine innuendos of baseball. After all, you can't quantify a pitcher tipping his pitches, or the intimidation factor of someone like Mike Trout causing the pitcher to make more mistakes to the rest of a lineup because he is so focused on the guy at the top of the lineup. You can't put a stat line on the leadership role someone like Derek Jeter brought to the Yankees, even though, according to the front-office all-stars, he was a below-average defensive shortstop.

You can put a number to the percentage of times a shift works, but you can't quantify the momentum shift when a left handed hitter lays down a drag bunt to lead off the inning and no one is there to field it, leaving an aura of frustration hovering over the pitcher's mound.

You can quantify results, and you can quantify numbers, but you can't quantify people - and that's what makes the game so beautiful. You just don't know. Ball players surprise us every year, and we never manage to predict it.

So stay on your toes and watch a baseball game. Learn from the players, not the numbers.

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