Monday, May 19, 2014

Bob Ryan Gets Flak For Reasonable Stat Views

Let's get my bias out on the table right away: Bob Ryan is the greatest sportswriter of our generation. Period. Nobody else even comes close. When I read Ryan's Sunday Globe column about the over-reach of the New Breed Stat Guys (NBSG) in baseball, I felt it was a well-thought-out, moderate criticism of the clear over-reliance on statistical information in today's game. Just look at the moronic defensive shifting that seems to happen for every batter on every team nowadays. Ryan's basic thesis can be summed in the following excerpt: "I’m guessing that most fans are oblivious to all the new statistical stuff. They just want to watch and enjoy a game. They will continue to evaluate players and teams by giving everyone the Eye Test, just as their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather did. If this means they are then wallowing in some kind of statistical ignorance, then so be it." So, when I read the reaction of the NBSG crowd, I was a little taken aback. It's as if Ryan was questioning the validity of global warming science or something. You know, you can literally get burned at the stake for that in today's free-thinking America (a solar-powered burning stake, of course). Look, there's obviously a vital place for innovative statistical analysis in baseball—but it's also possible for the trend to get out-of-hand and start ruining what Ryan terms the "aesthetics" of the game. He's right. As usual. Lighten up, geeks.