Sabermetrics 101: Interview with Craig GlaserMay 22, 2010
For those of you who watch/read “On The Black” regularly you know that I do not incorporate a lot of Sabermetrics into my blog posts. I don’t have anything against the use of Sabermetrics it just hasn’t been my thing. However as I look to try to expand my blogging repertoire I’ve become more interested in the use of Sabermetrics. With that said I reached out to Craig Glaser of Sabometrics with a few questions. Read below as we discuss the basics of Sabermetrics and it’s importance when evaluating a baseball player.
Q. Please tell the readers a little about yourself and Sabometrics.
A. I’m a lifelong Mets fan from Long Island. My first ever favorite player was Gary Carter (followed closely by Keith Hernandez.) I studied Economics in college and went on to a PhD program in Cognitive Psychology. I’ve been interested in sabermetrics for a few years and thought it might be fun to actually do some of my own research. A friend and I talked about it a lot and I started Sabometrics. I try to bring an interesting perspective to baseball statistics from my background in decision making research. Thanks to the magic of the internet some people started reading my research and I was offered writing gigs at Surviving the Citi and The Hardball Times. I am now working at Bloomberg Sports as well. It’s been a whirlwind ride so far and I’m hoping to keep learning about baseball and statistics. Working for the Mets (or another team) would, of course, be really cool but this side of the industry is really fun and exciting.
Q. For those out there who want to learn more about sabermetrics can you give a brief overview as to just what sabermetrics is and is there a good resource out there that someone can use to build a foundation on sabermetrics?
A. To me sabermetrics is all about using statistics to try to understand baseball better. One of the main things which I studied at school is how people misperceive probability and chance. Watching baseball is fun and is obviously really valuable to evaluating players and teams but statistics can tell us things which we can’t observe. They can also show us a more accurate version of what we think we’re observing. Statistics have definitely enriched the game of baseball for me. One of the best resources is Steve Slowinski’s Sabermetrics Library where they have an online introductory course. Lookout Landing also has a great 101 section here. There’s lots of great sabermetric info online. My favorite sites include The Hardball Times, Beyond the Box Score, Fangraphs and a bunch of others.
Q. Why is sabermetrics important in evaluating a player?
A. Sabermetrics is important in evaluating players for a number of reasons. Statistics remove your perception from the equation and let you evaluate players objectively. Since people have problems with probabilistic and random information this is very important. Sabermetrics also tells you how much value each game state and play has. Without this information it’s extremely hard to rate how responsible each player is for a run or a win. Sabermetrics won’t win the game for you but it will help you to get into a situation where you have the best chance of winning.
Q. What are your favorite stats to evaluate a position player and then a starting pitcher?
A. For position players I really like wOBA. It’s a rate statistic, scaled to the on base perecentage scale, which tells you how productive a player is. It takes both OBP and SLG into account and is kind of a more advanced replacement for OPS, applying the proper weights to each kind of result. It’s also related directly to WAR which tells you how valuable a player was for a whole season. WAR also includes defense – though defensive stats are not as advanced or polished as offensive ones are right now.
For a pitcher I like to look at FIP and xFIP. Both of these are similar to ERA (and in fact were designed to predict future ERA better than ERA itself does.) They operate on the principle that pitchers cannot control the ball once it is put in play, so they look only at strikeouts, walks and home runs. xFIP takes luck out of home runs allowed per fly ball. There is also a version of WAR for pitchers.
Q. Since you are a Mets fan, give me a couple Mets blogs that do a good job utilizing sabermetrics?
A. Besides my site (which I don’t consider a Mets site, more of a general sabermetric site, though I do write about the Mets a lot) I would say Amazin Avenue does the best job of integrating sabermetrics with the Mets. There are a few other sites (Surviving the Citi is another smaller site) out there but Amazin Avenue is a great place to start out.
Special thanks to Craig for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Be sure to check him out over at Sabometrics.