Tag Archives: Sabermetrics

Are the Milwaukee Brewers a sabermetric team?

Ben Baumer recently wrote a terrific piece for ESPN.com in which he ranked Major League Baseball teams based on their openness (or reluctance) to using advanced analysis and statistics. According to Baumer, the Boston Red Sox are on top of the sabermetric food chain while the Philadelphia Phillies, as expected from a caveman-esque team, writhe on the bottom.

The Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile, fell under the “One Foot In” category. Baumer writes:

Despite GM Doug Melvin’s background in scouting and old-school reputation, the Brewers are definitely not in the dark on analytics. Melvin calls himself “a big believer in ballpark effects,” challenges his analytics staffers to bring him useful information, and cites their work when they’ve helped him make a move.

Still, the Brewers aren’t all the way in the sabermetric movement.

All of this does not mean the Brewers live on the cutting edge. Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke could hardly be described as true believers. While the Brewers have a relatively large analytics staff, including two analysts and three programmers, the overall approach in Milwaukee appears to be less sophisticated than that of the top sabermetric teams.

Baumer also talks about how the team values Jonathan Lucroy‘s pitching-framing abilities and their knack for infield shifting. But their lack of analysts and programmers troubles me. As a big believer of sabermetrics, I want my team to believe as well, and it frustrates me to see them tripping over their shoes when they completely ignore the stats (i.e. signing Francisco Rodgriguez). Maybe it’s time to hire more stat nerds, Doug. Yet, as Baumer mentions, the Brewers do somewhat utilize sabermetrics, just on a much lesser scale than their competitors.

So, based on the information I have available to me — which is the same information you have — I’m going to see in what instances the Brewers have used sabermetrics and what instances they’ve ignored it. I’m sure I’m missing a ton, but here are few I can think of.

The Brewers used sabermetrics when…

  • When they shift, and they shift a lot. In fact, as of Sep. 9, 2014, Milwaukee had shifted 634 times, which was ninth-most in Major League Baseball and second among National League teams.
  • When they signed Lucroy to a five-year, $11 million contract extension in 2012. They locked up a phenomenal pitch framer and OBP-guy for way less than what he’s worth.
  • When they platooned Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks last season. The two combined for 3.0 WAR.
  • When they reeled back on steal attempts in ’14. However, Ron Roenicke has recently said he intends to implement aggressive baserunning once again.
  • When they refused to match Zach Duke‘s $33 million offer from the White Sox. He had a career year and is sure to regress at least a little.

The Brewers didn’t use sabermetrics when…

  • When they signed K-Rod to a two-year, $13 million deal. His WAR has declined in four consecutive seasons, not to mention the Brewers already have at least two capable closers.
  • When Doug Melvin said he’s not smart enough to figure out WAR. He went on to say he doesn’t really believe in it.
  • When they bunt their non-pitchers. Since 2011, Milwaukee’s position players have bunted 380 times (second-most among MLB).
  • When they brought back Yuniesky Betancourt after he posted a 0.0 WAR with them in 2011 and a -1.0 WAR with the Mariners in 2012. After the ’11 season, Melvin said he thought Betancourt played “better than what the critics said.” Betancourt accumulated a -1.9 WAR in 409 PA over the course of his return.
  • When they preach a swing-first approach. Yes, this helps Carlos Gomez, but taking pitches and working counts is Sabermetrics 101.
  • When they batted Gennett leadoff (23 times) and in the two-spot (43 times) during the ’14 season. A team’s leadoff hitter and two-hole hitter are supposed to be either the first- or second-best hitters on the team, something Gennett is nowhere near.

For the most part, as Baumer stated, the Brewers don’t seem to be a team that relies too heavily on sabermetrics. Melvin believes in certain aspects of it, but clearly isn’t all-in. Roenicke is an old-school guy who likes bunting far too much, particularly suicide squeezes. But at least he shifts his players quite often.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on if the Brewers are a sabermetric team. Am I missing anything from my list?

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A plea to Adam McCalvy: Start using sabermetrics

I hope most of you already know who Adam McCalvy is, but if not, here’s a little background. He covers the Milwaukee Brewers for MLB.com and is a fantastic follow on Twitter. And that’s about it. Well, there’s actually probably a lot more to him, but I don’t want to bore you. No offense, Adam.

But on a more serious note, he’s a top-notch writer. However, he does have one glaring flaw; he fails to use advanced statistics in his articles. Now, we can’t place full blame on McCalvy for this. Sabermetrics is still a relatively new theory and people question the audience for it, so maybe McCalvy’s bosses want him to shy away from metrics and use well-known stats like pitcher wins and batting average to get his point across. On the other hand, maybe McCalvy is weary of the sabermetric movement, and chooses to ignore it. To be honest, I really don’t know, but he did tweet this earlier in the year:

Before I go any further, I must reiterate that I’m not trying to criticize McCalvy’s work or call his credibility into question. Brewers fans should feel lucky to read his stuff every day, as he is great at educating and entertaining.

Back to the tweet. McCalvy acknowledges that Quality Starts are flawed, but then uses the statistic anyway to make a point. A start  is considered quality when a pitcher throws at least six innings and gives up no more than three runs. That translates to a 4.50 ERA, which never should be considered quality. Therefore, Quality Starts, or at least how they’re defined, are completely useless. He also uses wins when it comes to talking about a pitcher’s performance, but then again, almost every other beat writer does so as well.

McCalvy, along with the rest of baseball media, should consider using sabermetrics in his blogs. I can just see it now; Adam McCalvy: A Sabermatician. Sabermetrics is growing more and more popular by the day and site’s dedicated to advanced metrics, like FanGraphs and Beyond the Box Score, are thriving. We don’t want to see McCalvy get lost in the shuffle from his inability to adapt. We are already too accustomed to that as Brewers fans.

The three statistics I would like McCalvy to start incorporating are wOBA, wRC+ and FIP. None of those are difficult to explain and even the old school guys would be able to wrap their head around it. By doing this, McCalvy would not only give his readers a better understanding of how a player is performing, but he’d sound smarter. And everyone wants to sound smarter.

I’m pleading to McCalvy because I don’t think there’s a chance in a unicorn’s horn that Tom Haudricourt would take up arms in the sabermetrics movement. I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed. At least I have a small chance of convincing McCalvy (I think).

So please, Adam, give more insight to your readers and jump into the world of awesome statistics. The people will love you for it. I know I will.