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On my reliance of analytics

For those who’ve read my writings at Bucs Dugout in the past – and thank you to those of you who have – you have probably noticed that my analysis often stems from what the “analytics” suggest about a player. I can be found making inferences based on certain stats and I also speculate about what’s to come for players whose classical metrics are vaunted, but their advanced metrics are more foreboding – or vice versa.

Because there seems to be this strange dichotomous thinking surrounding what we collectively refer to as analytics – some laud the advantages they give, others think of them as simply “made up” and useless – I wanted to clear the air regarding my personal use of the metrics when evaluating Pirates’ players, potential Pirates’ players, and everyone in between.

My journey in baseball has landed me multiple opportunities, even though my playing career ended many years ago. I’ve been hired to write at multiple outlets, to scout, and I held a position within an organization for two years. Even with my moderate amount of experience, I sometimes find it challenging to accurately assess a player using only my eyes. Even the best scouts in the game sometimes make mistakes on projecting what a player will become.

This is particularly the case at the major league level because players’ skill sets are already so refined and there’s not an incredible amount of separation between the greats, the merely goods, and the replacement players. In fact, I would venture to say that many of our readers have a keener eye than me.

Over the course of a long season, it can be difficult to “remember” how a player has performed throughout the season, particularly because we see the best hitters getting out 70 percent of the time. As such, it’s important for me to keep tabs on how these players are valued through statistical measurement. When analyzing a player, I feel as though the reader may sometimes lament the fact that I reel off a number of stats to try to paint a picture of the player being discussed.

If I break into a discussion with a friend or reader about how good a specific player is, I’m often relying not exclusively on what I’ve seen but what I’ve reviewed on spreadsheets. Similarly, if there’s a discussion about which hitter is better, I often ask: What was their fWAR, what about their wRC+? For some, that might not be the most fun conversation, but it’s how I operate, nonetheless.

For leaders in major league organizations, an overreliance on spreadsheets likely won’t pay the dividends they seek; it’s important to have a mixture of tools when evaluating prospects and major leaguers. But for somebody like me – somebody not in a front office and not in a decision-making position – it might be the best methodology I have to incorporate.

All this to say, I know the analytic boom has watered down the game in some senses, like the relatively newly coined three true outcomes: Walk, strikeout, home run. Within baseball, there’s been more discussion about how the game can change to being appealing to people again and to be made more exciting. I am of the belief that this game is cyclical, and we’ll ultimately see a reversal, in some ways, about how we think about the game.

Of course, there’s a chance none of you care about why I write the way I write, and I assume that if you prefer alternative types of analysis, you probably don’t read my articles anyway; but it also occurred to me that perhaps I should put a line of reasoning behind why so many different writers rely so heavily on more than just batting average, home runs, and RBIs. I simply want a fuller picture of what’s going on in baseball, so I’ll continue to implement the use of OPS+, wRC+, WAR, FIP, ERA-, and many others.