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Bill James Q &A in the NY Times
Posted by Chris Liss at 4/2/2008 12:17:00 PM
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Some good stuff in here:

Q: Generally, who should have a larger role in evaluating college and minor league players: scouts or stat guys?

A: Ninety-five percent scouts, five percent stats. The thing is that — with the exception of a very few players like Ryan Braun — college players are so far away from the major leagues that even the best of them will have to improve tremendously in order to survive as major league players — thus, the knowledge of who will improve is vastly more important than the knowledge of who is good. Stats can tell you who is good, but they’re almost 100 percent useless when it comes to who will improve.

Q: Is clutch hitting a repeatable/retain-able skill?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Shouldn’t in-game strategic decisions be made by a computer? Or, more to the point, isn’t there always a correct choice?

A: It is totally impossible to isolate the correct strategic choice in almost all real-life situations, for the simple reason that all real-life strategic situations involve dozens of variables, many of which have not been thoroughly tested by trial. People who think that they know when a manager should bunt and when a manager should pitch out and when a manager should make a pitching change are amateurs. People who have actually studied these issues know that the answer disappears in a cloud of untested variables.

But it's worth reading the entire chat.


That was enormously interesting. I thought my favorite answer was this:

Q: How important are good-hitting pitchers to the success of an offense in the N.L.?

A: Exactly as important as good-fitting underwear on a long drive.

Until I read this:

Q: Has looking at the numbers prevented you from actually just enjoying a summer day at the ballpark? Have we all forgotten the randomness of human ballplayers? By reducing players to just their numbers can we lose sight of the intangibles such as teamwork, friendships, and desire.

A: Does looking at pretty women prevent one from experiencing love? Life is complicated. Your efforts to compartmentalize it are lame and useless.

His answer about lefty/righty matchups (they matter) reminded me how unique Ichiro is. Since 2001, no one has a higher batting average against LH-pitching than Ichiro. He's that one percent -- James' estimation -- that doesn't fit the norm.

And definitely click the link in the Q&A to read his Slate article on his system for knowing when a basketball game is over. I'll be using that this weekend.
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 4/2/2008 2:26:00 PM
This was my favorite:

Q: Billy Beane, G.M. for the Oakland A’s, has made sabermetric stats a major part of his “value” philosophy when building a baseball team. He’s frequently said that his method will build regular season winners but it doesn’t seem to work in the playoffs. Do you think that this is simply a result of a small sample size or the wrong statistics being used, or is it something more fundamental about “unmeasurable” statistics, like the ability to perform under pressure and “heart?”

A: Oh, I thought people had stopped asking that. Blast from the past there. Look, there’s a lot of luck in winning in post-season. You’re up against a really good team, by definition, and you’ve only got a few days to get it right. It takes some luck.

Are there also types of players and factors that are helpful in that situation? Of course. It’s like asking a physics professor whether there is a God. Scientists don’t know anything more about whether there is a God than morons do, because it’s not a scientific issue. This isn’t something I can measure. It’s a matter of faith.
Posted by Erickson at 4/2/2008 3:04:00 PM
Gotta love the Freakonomics blog.

Posted by spianow at 4/2/2008 5:16:00 PM

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