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Nate Silver Turns His Eye To the American League 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the too-close-to-call dept.
Lasrick writes "Nate Silver is at it again. This time, instead of the presidential election, he's focusing on the baseball's Most Valuable Player race for the American league. It's a race that embodies the split among baseball fans between those who think of it from a mathematical perspective (the Moneyball generation) and those who prefer the traditional, feel-of-the-game perspective. Here's a quote: 'On Thursday, the American League will announce the recipient of its Most Valuable Player award. The winner is likely to be Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers star who won the league’s triple crown by leading in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and runs batted in (139). It might seem as if these statistics make Cabrera, the first triple crown winner in either league since 1967, a shoo-in for the M.V.P. But most statistically minded fans would prefer that it go to another player, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.'"
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Nate Silver Turns His Eye To the American League

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:43PM (#41984243)

    He first got well-known doing statistics-based baseball analysis (aka sabermetrics [wikipedia.org]), and only moved into politics later.

  • by InvisibleClergy (1430277) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:48PM (#41984319)

    ...founder of psychohistory. Welcome to the last Galactic Empire, folks.

    • Kudos to Foundation Series reference, too bad Hollywood hasn't tapped into his literary arsenal.

      • No Hollywood should never be allowed near a Asimov book again especaily foundation novels, well they can do the robot and maybe the empire series' but never foundation. foundation spans several thousand years hoolywood would ruin it. can you imagine how bad it would be think i robot and then make it three books longer.

        What would be great is a miniseries based on the second foundation series which expand Asimov universe and elaborated on Hari Seldons life and work.

        • by yotto (590067)

          What would be great is a miniseries based on the second foundation series which expand Asimov universe and elaborated on Hari Seldons life and work.

          No it'd probably end up on the CW and 90% of each show would be about who love whom more.

          • please don't scare me with that horrible vision again. get the guy that did the dune miniseries for scifi channel (back when it aired scifi) and throw as much money as he wants at it.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        After their foray into I, Robot, I'm quite glad that they're not making the Foundation series into the next big blockbuster. I can just imagine Michael Bay directing it. Forget the technology-as-religion approach to controlling their neighbors, the Foundation will just blast them to hell and back. Also, the Mule and Second Foundationers will all be Jedi, since the final confrontation with the Mule would be utterly unfilmable otherwise.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:50PM (#41984337) Homepage Journal

    Nate can use his statistical prowess to document and irrefutably show the bias Big 10 refs have for and against certain teams based on the number of blown calls or calls which should have been called compared to the other conferences such as the SEC and PAC-12.

    • by Krater76 (810350)
      News flash, the Pac-12 refs suck. They've sucked for years, easily back when it was the Pac-10, and most likely when it was the Pac-8.
    • by stewbee (1019450)
      MSU fan by chance? That is my alma matter too, and I feel like we have a pretty crappy reputation with the refs this year. ahem *Nebraksa game* ahem.
  • I think in parallel to this he should start placing bets with sports bookies or something.

    Put his money where his mouth is ... and, if he's been right on so many things, he can probably make a fortune on the side.

  • Since baseball stadiums are not a standard size, the distance that a ball must be hit to get a home run varies. If a player plays for a team that has a small stadium, the average stadium size that this player plays in will be smaller (since 50% of the games will be in the home team stadium). Thus, there is a significant advantage for home run count for players whose teams have smaller stadiums. How does this get factored into the statistics?
    • TFA talks about this, even noting Cabrerra tends to hit to Tiger stadium's shorter alleys, as opposed to the other guy who is more distributed.

      While TFA is a good argument, it has the feel of religion, where he keeps digging until he finds the "his" guy ahead, then stops analyzing.

      • by curunir (98273) *

        While TFA is a good argument, it has the feel of religion, where he keeps digging until he finds the "his" guy ahead, then stops analyzing.

        I didn't get that feel at all. I saw it as a good explanation of the divide between traditional baseball statistics and the more modern sabermetric statistics. Based on the traditional statistics, Cabrera is the clear-cut MVP...he did something that hadn't been done in 45 years. Based on the more modern statistics, Trout is the clear winner.

        The vote will really be a referendum on these new statistics and how well baseball writers feel they quantify a player's contribution. As a statistician, Silver has a cl

    • by mcspoo (933106)
      Considering that Cabrera plays in Comerica Park 82 games a year. The largest park in the league, where may sluggers get swallowed up by 'Comerica National Park'... The fact that he led the league in home runs is entirely remarkable in and of itself.
      No knock against Mike Trout. He's definitely the Rookie of the Year... but let's see him do it twice. Let's see if he's a flash in the pan.
      Cabrera? Not just this year, but ever since he's started, has been at the top of the league. Hands down, the best hitter
      • by schwit1 (797399)

        The article says this was true up to 2005 when the Comerica fences were brought in. Now it is the opposite.

  • Why the hell is this story tagged with "axlotltanks"? Or it there something fishy with Nate Silver? :)
  • miss the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:43PM (#41985075) Homepage Journal

    The thing that makes Nate Silver is not so much that he uses Math. Lots of people used math to predict the outcome of the election, including Princeton's Sam Wang and the pollsters at PPP (who were the most accurate polling organization).

    What makes Nate Silver valuable is that he can write. He explains what he's doing and why. He describes his model in detail and lets us in on what elements go into his predictions.

    There are probably a fair number of handicappers who can do as well as Nate Silver in the predicting department, but while we can make money betting their predictions, we're not going to gain any valuable insights. You can learn from Nate Silver.

    • It's his commitment to openness that makes him special. It's WHY he writes. But it also gives him more credibility.

      Kind of like Linux.
  • Easily Cabrera (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Krater76 (810350) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:06PM (#41985315) Journal
    Mike Trout is a great player, no doubt. He should definitely be on the short list for MVP. The problem is that this isn't just a statistical/quantitative award, there's a qualitative measurement as well. Were you just 'good' but on a terrible team? Were you 'great' but on a great team? These things matter. Felix Rodriguez got the Cy Young award even though he had barely a winning record as a pitcher. His team gave him ZERO help but he was the best pitcher in the AL that year.

    What is all comes down to is the Triple Crown. The last guy to do it was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Of 16 Triple Crown winners, only 14 players have ever accomplished it (two of them did it twice). In this age of hitters that are specialists, it's incredible that someone accomplished the feat. I honestly never thought I would see it in my lifetime.

    So unless Nate Silver can put some weight on the psychological importance of the title - Triple Crown - then his calculation will be flawed. Knowing that Nate Silver is a baseball fan, I assume he is well aware of the importance of the feat.

    CABRERA 2012!
    • by sconeu (64226)

      So if Josh Hamilton had had a slightly better series against Oakland to finish the season, Cabrera would not have the Triple Crown. Therefore, what Josh Hamilton did or did not do affects how valuable Cabrera and Trout are.

      *THAT* is the problem with saying, "ZOMG!!!! TRIPLE CROWN!!!!"

      • by Krater76 (810350)

        Therefore, what Josh Hamilton did or did not do affects how valuable Cabrera and Trout are.

        Absolutely. Had Josh Hamilton hit just one more home run, or maybe not have missed a couple games during the season, or maybe the yen did this, or maybe the weather in Pamplona been just a little better, Cabrera woudn't be a Triple Crown winner. What if, but he did.

        *THAT* is the problem with saying, "ZOMG!!!! TRIPLE CROWN!!!!"

        It's not a problem, it's just the way it is. It just shows another reason why it's so hard to accomplish.

  • by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:20PM (#41985465)
    As a baseball fan, I have read literally dozens of articles and hundreds of message boards rants on this subject. If you're interested, a little wading through Baseball Think Factory [baseballthinkfactory.org] will allow you to relive the endless re-hashings at your leisure. More generally, this sort of statistical talk is very common among a certain segment of baseball fandom, and is (as has been mentioned before) the milieu from which Nate Silver emerged.

    What's interesting about this specific issue is that Cabrera vs. Trout has been painted as a traditionalists vs. stat-heads vote, but an argument for Trout can be made with no reference to advance statistics. It goes like this:

    Trout's traditional "slash line" (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) is very similar to Cabrera's. Cabrera hit for more power, but otherwise they are nearly equal. Trout's home ballpark is harder to hit in than Cabrera's. Trout led the league in stolen bases with 49, Cabrera had 4. Cabrera grounded into 28 double plays, most in the league. Trout grounded into 7. Cabrera is a poor defensive player, Trout is an outstanding defensive player. Trout's team even had a better record than Cabrera's, even though Cabrera's Tigers made the playoffs and Trout's Angels didn't.

    Nothing in that argument requires anything more complicated than the division required to work out batting average and the like. The fact that Trout's candidacy has been painted as just the result of statistical mumbo jumbo is ridiculous.

    (It should be pointed out that there is a lot of mumbo jumbo in baseball's defensive statistics. They are not at all mature yet, and are heavily influenced by very subjective inputs. This is part of why I prefer the non-statistical argument for Trout. When someone says that Trout's glove was worth 2.1 wins above a replacement player (the number given at Baseball Reference [baseball-reference.com] he is speaking with a false precision. Silver, it should be noted, doesn't fall into this trap, and I should say that Sean Foreman at Baseball Reference doesn't believe that his 2.1 win number is anything more than an educated guess.)
  • Was hoping there would be data visualization. Disappointed.

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