What was a quiet week turned into a tsnuami of love after I wrote this column lamenting the growth of numbers in baseball that I fear is taking over the game.
Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead took me to task saying, "It’s actually a very lazy, navel-gazing column that offers little to the reader."
Here are some of the highlights from my many Twitter fans: @nategearhart human body most certainly was meant to run 26.2 miles. Inapt (sic) comparison to pitch counts.
@pizzacutter4 I would like to publicly apologize to mac engel for ruining baseball. Sorry.
@Sbrangerfan you are a very bad writer. That's well known.
@commnman I'm pretending you're not a hack who relies on clichés & can't write paragraphs with more than one sentence
These were some of the nicer ones. Some people went a bit further to roast me, most notably Mr. Tim Baffoe, 31, who is from Chicago. Tim is a life long Chicago Cubs fan, and a fan of stats in baseball. He is also an high school English teacher.
I reached out to Tim to do something I've never done before: Engage in a discussion with a reader about a column. He was nice enough to agree, and the following are the highlights of our chat:
Big Mac Blog: Your initial reaction to my column was what - you can say
whatever you want, you're not going to hurt my feelings.
Tim Baffoe: I just thought, this seems really clueless. Especially with the aspect of statistics in respect to pitch count, which I thought it was not a very controversial statistics.
Big Mac Blog: It's not that I thought it was controversial it's the obsession
and worry. As a Cubs fan, are you rooted in the idea that former Cubs manager
Dusty Baker killed pitchers, specifically Mark Prior?
Tim Baffoe: It's a notion that is still widely accepted in Chicago, especially among Cub fans. That Baker is a guy most Cubs fans really dislike, partly because of the Prior stuff and to an extent Kerry Wood as well.
Big Mac Blog: Stats are out there for everything, but when it came to pitch
counts we are obsessed if a guy hits 110, or 130. Yu Darvish hit 130 against
the Tigers in mid May and everybody was in a panic; my thought is that there
are some guys are above the numbers. Nolan Ryan, David Cone and others
and we are so caught up with it that we are scared to death. My thought is
that guys are going to hurt regardless, at 50 pitches or 105 pitches. And that
we can't quantify everything - do you personally think there are some numbers
that managers shouldn't go to?
Tim Baffoe: It depends on the pitcher and the organization has decided on. Since Nolan's career ended, salaries have inflated and organizations aren't willing to take the risk that maybe Player X does have the arm stamina and we aren't going to find out and potentially lose a massive investment.
The Big Mac Blog: Have you embraced the Sabermetrics way of watching a game?
Tim Daffoe: I am very new to it and I would not call myself a Sabermetrician by any means. I don't, not in the way you wrote about it, I hate math. I teach English. I put a lot of faith into people that I trust and consider smart with numbers who will say the numbers say this and the odds are this is going to happen. I trust it.
Big Mac Blog: When I wrote that column I know I used some language that was
almost cartoonish and it blew up in my face. For me all of these numbers are
overkill. The influx of statistics, as a fan, do you ever say this is too
Tim Daffoe: I'm cool with all of it. I think there can be a cohabitation between the beautiful game of baseball and the highly analytical aspect to it. I think if you compartmentalize both. Smarter fans don't just rely on the eye test, but that is a part of it.
Big Mac Blog: But doesn't math say that since 1908 the Cubs would have won at
least one World Series? I ask that tongue in cheek.
Tim Daffoe: Yeah, but math can't predict everything. In 100 years, the Cubs should have had one World Series.
Big Mac Blog: But did you make it all the way to the end?
Tim Daffoe: I actually did.
Big Mac Blog: After talking do you have a better idea of how I see this numbers
thing in baseball?
Tim Daffoe: I actually do. I get where you are coming from. There are many, many people who are scared of the game being overrun by numbers. The super stat heads don't want the game to be played by robots, where the manager is a giant computer. Nobody wants that. The stat heads want to understand the chances of something happening. Where you're coming from, and a lot of other people, I say no one is trying to take away the baseball you love.
Big Mac Blog: Last thing - of the non-traditional statistics that are
available, what is the one you go to the first?
Tim Baffoe: One that I can understand the best and bridges the gap between old and new school is WAR. Wins Above Replacement. It's not perfect but I like it.
Big Mac Blog: I had never done something like this and I really appreciate you
writing about it and talking to me about your thoughts on this.
Tim Baffoe: I appreciate you being a good sport about it.
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