Ron Costello

Thursday, November 15, 2018

On Tuesday, April third, at the Phillies 2018 home opener, Gabe Kapler was booed when introduced onto the field.

It was the quickest boo job the Philadelphia Faithful ever rendered since Dick Allen tested out his 42 ouncer' on Frank Thomas' left shoulder.

Mr. Kapler got booed for lifting Aaron Nola five days earlier— with a five-run lead after five and-a-third innings and 68 pitches — at Atlanta's Sun Trust park. The Phillies lost that game on a walk-off three-run shot delivered up by none other than Hector Neris.

But the Faithful were not booing Mr. Kapler. They might not have realized it, but they were booing analytics. Because analytics were responsible for Nola's removal. 

The opener in Atlanta was the first taste of analytics and sabermetrics for the Phillies' Faithful. There were more to come, especially for the lineups Nick Williams said was being made out by a computer. There was analytics during the season that the Faithful wouldn't — couldn't — recognize. 

But what are the analytics baseball people use? Do we know? Not really. Peruse the modern analytics of the game quickly: 

BABIP: batting average on balls in play; BB% or BBr: base on  balls percentage or walk rate; BB9/W_IP: walks per nine innings pitched; BF or TBF: batters faced  or total batters faced; DRA: Deserved run average: deserved run average; DRS: defensive runs saved; FIP: fielding Independent pitching; FRAA: fielding runs above average; ISO: isolated power; K% or SOr: strikeout percentage; PA: plate appearances; PECOTA: a player position system: Pythagorean winning percentage: a complicated method of comparing runs scored vs runs allowed;  SIERA: skill-interactive earned run average; SO9/SO_IP: strikeouts per nine innings pitched; SO/BB: ratio of strikeouts to walks; WAR: wins above replacement; wOBA: weighted on base average; wRC+: weighted runs created; UZR: ultimate zone rating; Starcast: technology used by teams to gather data on velocity, spin rate, exit velocity and launch angle; defensive shifts: moving fielders depending on hitters' strengths and weaknesses; fly-ball revolution: hitting more fly balls to hit more home runs; park factors/park adjustments: factering in the deminsioins of ball yards; platoon splits: data on left-handed hitters facing left-handed pitchers, same with right-handed hitters and facing right-handed pitchers.

Look, here's the thing. If you want to look these up and try to understand them, be my guest. But you don't need them. And I'm not sure you could recognize any of them during a game, anyway.

It's not Mr. Kapler's fault, either. If he leaves tomorrow, another analytical manager will replace him fast as a dog will lick a dish. The next one might not be as open about his decisions as is Mr. Kapler, who is happy to explain anything, anytime.

So try to get comfortable with the following analytics — the fans'  analytics, at least for the time being: 
  • Most pitchers won't last beyond the fifth, and relief pitchers will come and go like runners in the Broad Street Run.
  • Defensives will shift like hurricane winds and most batters will not try to go the opposite way.
  • Home runs will be up as will strikeouts and walks. Batting averages will be down. Bunts, hit-and-runs, stolen bases, and moving runners will disappear faster than thoughts or time.
  • And lineups, like Mr. Williams pointed out, will be determined by computers.

But here's another set of analytics, one that we are familiar with: TS: tickets sold; and TR: television ratings. If they disappear like thoughts and time, so will baseball analytics.

A good friend — and a good baseball man — as he pointed first to his head and then his heart, recently told me, "analytics will never determine what's in here and what's in here."

So don't let it bother you and enjoy the game. 


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