Bernstein: Hawk Has To Be Right
By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) I’ve decided I’m with Hawk Harrelson.
This is a game, dadgummit, played by ballplayers that just need to want to win a game for ya – not some confusing math problem that needs solvin’. I’ve been around this game the better part of seven decades, and that’s the way it always has been and that’s the way it always will be.
That’s how it was for Yaz, and that’s all I need to know. (spits on ground)
Besides, that cyborg-metric mumbo-jumbo can be twisted all around to make it tell you whatever you want. Just look at our Chicago White Sox, for instance.
I know the Sox are a more-than solid offensive team, because they make themselves dangerous, have lively bats and show the will to win. But you take one look at those durn statistics, and you’d think they were one of the worst offenses in the game!
Just a quick glance at these overrated numbers at baseballreference.com says they are dead last in the American League in runs, hits, doubles, walks, batting average, on-base percentage and something called OPS. They are next to last in triples and slugging percentage.
See what I mean?
And then there’s their -1.2 aggregated offensive Wins Above Replacement, tied with the Marlins for worst in baseball, per Fangraphs.com. That means they would actually be better off trotting out a daily batting order made up of 0.0, replacement-level players — defined by a .294 individual winning percentage and described by Tom Tango as “talent level for which you would pay the minimum salary on the open market or for which you can obtain at minimal cost in a trade.”
You gotta be bleeping me.
Of the 30 MLB teams, not one is out more often than the White Sox. Their .276 on-base percentage can be seen as a .724 not-on-base percentage. Their hitters strike out in 23.9 percent of their plate appearances (third worst), but they balance that out with an MLB-worst walk percentage of 6.3.
Hawk told us all about the offseason acquisition of Jeff Keppinger, and about how his skill and versatility would help. Also best to stay away from statistical voodoo when evaluating him, and concentrate on his will to win. Keppinger has the honor of being the worst hitter in the game, ranked 593rd out of 593. He is batting .191, has an OBP of .188, and has ZERO WALKS IN 112 PLATE APPEARANCES. Adam Dunn is #588, and Paul Konerko is #575, so he has company in the fetid swamp of page 20 of the Fangraphs list.
So forget all that. Hawk’s right. What’s all that highfalutin’ book-larnin’ worth, anyhoo?
Show me the “hang wif’em” percentage, and we’ll talk. They keep hitting the ball hard, and the other team always has a man there. That’s just bad luck, since there’s no way opponents could possibly position their defenses based on data indicating where a player is likely to hit a certain pitch. That would be like cheating.
And come back to me when the “he just missed it” averages are available. I tell ya, if I had a nickel for every time a Sox hitter just got one off the end of the bat or was a little underneath it…
It’s nice here, in the stat-free zone. Much more comforting to employ the subjective over the objective, extrapolating cherry-picked anecdotal evidence to make myself feel better. I can see something I like, declare it an eternal, universal truth, and that’s it. No need to cross-check anything, either.
Once the White Sox increase their desire to win, they’ll be fine. They must not have that will, yet, I guess.
Besides, all that those pesky advanced numbers have done is get a bunch of people fired.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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