What we watched: Nerd fight! Well, okay, not exactly. But it's easy to forget, since we don't always drop into the world of sports analytics, that it's not always placid. Only occasionally—say, when something so odious as Jonah Lehrer's Grantland piece hits the web—do all the nerds lift their glazed eyes from R to respond in unison. Often there's quarreling.
And sometimes, we see pieces like this one, by Baseball Prospectus's Colin Wyers, which ran on Friday:
The logical question was whether or not we were failing to do the job of explaining why SIERA was more useful than other stats, or if we were simply being stubborn in continuing to offer it instead of simpler, more widely adopted stats. The answer depends on knowing what the purpose of an ERA estimator is. When evaluating a pitcher's performance, there are three questions we can ask that can be addressed by statistics: How well he has pitched, how he accomplished what he's done, and how he will do in the future. The first can be answered by Fair RA (FRA), the third by rest-of-season PECOTA. The second can be addressed by an ERA estimator like SIERA, but not necessarily SIERA itself, which boasts greater complexity than more established ERA estimators such as FIP but can only claim incremental gains in accuracy.
Some fights are worth fighting. The fight to replace batting average with better measures of offense was worth fighting. The fight to replace FIP with more complicated formulas that add little in the way of quality simply isn't. FIP is easy to understand and it does the job it's supposed to as well as anything else proposed. It isn't perfect, but it does everything a measure like SIERA does without the extra baggage, so FIP is what you will see around here going forward.
OK, to be fair, you need some background here. SIERA's inventor, Matt Swartz, just moved to Fangraphs, Prospectus' main competitor, and unleashed—no joke—a five-part series about the tweaks he'd be making to improve SIERA (Skill Interactive Earned Run Average). at Fangraphs. And Fangraphs and B-Pro have been at WAR (sorry) for some time about which has better stats.
But, really, Wyers' piece was an exciting thing for all of us who merely dabble in dorkdom. (The nerd watchdog site Praiseball Bospectus reacted with glee.) Implicit in his resounding—and, yeah, numbers-heavy—repudiation of SIERA was a new, clearer thinking that the movement should have adopted a long time ago. Namely: numbers-inclined writers waste their time by creating increasingly complex models and statistics that barely (if at all) improve on existing options. FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching) is quick and easy to calculate, and Wyers proves here that it's just as good as SIERA at predicting future ERA. SIERA has oodles of terms, FIP is (13*HR+3*BB-2*K) / IP + 3.2.
Of course, this particular debate doesn't excite us as much as its broader implications do. We have long hoped stats writers would worry less about whose formula is one-tenth-of-a-percentage-point better, and think more about how to convince the general baseball-loving population to adopt statistics. We think this is a good sign. Five years ago, BP had one of the best baseball-writing teams the web's ever known. In recent years, they've hosted a lot more quasi-scientific quibbling, and Fangraphs has offered the same. And we ask why. Fight the real enemy.
What we're watching: Crap, the WNBA All-Star Game already happened? Well, then how's about Dontrelle Willis starting for the disappointing Reds, against sizzling Atlanta, on Sunday Night Baseball? I'm told there will be free Bobby Valentine.
No, this is not the guy from Backyard Baseball: "Amir Khan made it look easy. He used his speed and his height advantage and thoroughly dominated Zab Judah. And that was before he landed a hard right hand on the beltline and knocked him out in the fifth round to unify junior welterweight titles Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center." [ESPN]
No, no, no: "Howard Eskin of WIP radio in Philly reports that the Eagles could sign quarterback Brett Favre as a backup to Mike Vick, after Kevin Kolb is shipped out of town. Sources told Eskin, who serves as a sideline reporter for the team's radio broadcasts, that it's "possible" the Eagles will sign Favre." [Pro Football Talk]
Posnanski, doing his Hall thing: "Still ... this is all just the prelude. We are about 18 months away from the craziest Baseball Hall of Fame election ever, the one that I think will define Cooperstown for future generations. This class will be even crazier than the FIRST Hall of Fame election, I think. Six remarkable players will become eligible for the Hall. All six may end up in the Hall of Fame. Then again, none of the six may end up in the Hall of Fame. It all depends on how the wind blows." [Joe Blogs]
Kemoeatu was flagged for two holds during the ceremony: "In all, there were 20 members of the bridal party - including Steelers players Willie Colon and Brett Keisel and Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner - and one flower girl. The Steelers' Trai Essex, Ramon Foster, Chris Kemoeatu, Doug Legursky, Maurkice Pouncey and Max Starks were ushers. So were former Steelers running back and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge and state police Trooper Edward Joyner, who has worked as a personal assistant for Roethlisberger." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Freestyle Gofer Cakes interlude:
Midnight in Pittsburgh: "For the second straight day, Pittsburgh bombed in front of a sellout crowd in a performance that had to remind the 39,102 of many of the previous 85 games between the teams at this ballpark — the Cardinals are now 56-30 here." [AP]
We are all Dave McKenna CLV: Here's your daily link to Dave McKenna's brilliant "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," which we'll be posting until Snyder's dumbass lawsuit gorges itself on Gofer Cakes but doesn't get cut because Mike Shanahan is stubborn.
Oh, shut up, Conine: "Dan LeBatard Show: Does Jeff Conine get frustrated by Hanley Ramirez?
Conine: On a nightly basis.
Dan LeBatard Show: Because?
Conine: I don't know. I just, I don't know. I think that obviously Hanley is a phenomenal talent. But as a guy that - I'm probably jealous too, because I didn't have that kind of talent, but I had to work extremely hard on a nightly basis to put my talent on the field. I think there are some nights where he doesn't try as hard as he should." [Miami Herald]
So there's something at stake, then: "While the Tour de France outcome looks settled in favor of Cadel Evans, sprinters are still under pressure with both a prestigious stage win and the green jersey at stake on the Champs Elysees on Sunday." [Reuters]
Wait, really?: "So it's rather strange to watch Phelps settling into Shanghai for the 2011 world swimming championships this weekend trailed by more curiosity than awe. At the moment, he doesn't appear to be the best swimmer in his own country, let alone in the world. That distinction belongs to a free spirit by the name of Ryan Lochte, a two-time Olympian out of the University of Florida, who has muscled past Phelps since the last world championships in 2009, winning more titles, more international acclaim and the distinction of being the most accomplished swimmer on the planet in 2010." [Washington Post]