The battle lines have been drawn. Opponents are choosing sides And it is a choice. Unlike true wars that are dictated by geography, race, political affiliation, religion, or vengeance, this is a war in which intelligent people must make a choice between two completely pointless, but equally fascinating, lines of thought.
Traditional, historic baseball statistics are in the blue corner.
Sabermetrics, advanced statistics are in the red corner.
Get your ring-side seat because this fight could be epic. In no other sport, in no other time, has there been a debate about statistics like the one currently raging in the baseball nerd community. The traditionalists feel baseball is being killed and cheapened by these new statistics, while sabermetricians feel stats should carry relevant meaning and those that they decide don’t should be done away with.
On one side, Joe Posnanski wrote about wins, It’s About Money, Stupid talked about RBI and WAR, and there are also those who wish they could be fence-sitters only to passively attack advanced metrics. (looking at you Buster Olney)
On the other, sites like Fangraphs and The Hardball Times dedicate themselves to the advancement of the new metrics. There are others like Jason Wojciechowski, who wrote a wonderful rebuttal piece to Joe Posnanski and inspired this rebuttal to all other rebuttals.
I wrote a piece a couple days ago, like a prophet preaching peace before an impending battle that no one knew was coming, and tried to remind us all that baseball is a game to be enjoyed in many ways. So I write again, teetering on the fence between tradition and the future. If forced, and that time will surely come, I know I’ll fall on one side over the other, but until then I am simply looking for a balance.The complete irrationality of the debate between what’s best, or what should be used, is what sports are built on, so I’m not surprised. Debates have raged over equally inconsequential ideas throughout time, but to allow this debate to let us lose track of the beauty of the game would be a mistake.
I am a fan of advanced statistics. I readily admit that. But I can see the line of thinking many of the biggest proponents seem to take. Baseball is a numbers game, a numbers business, and the details of what actually happen in the game don’t seem to matter. This is what we risk in this war of statistics. We risk the loss of joy. We risk the loss of art. The game that we loved as young boys has not changed, we have.
We’ve become smarter, more observant. We’ve become cynical, more stubborn. We’ve become everything baseball is not. The game has ceased being a game to some, but we can bring it back. The two schools of thought can co-exist and have intelligent conversation. Wars fought on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and ESPN should be forgotten. The media we use should be a forum for the advancement of a game falling dangerously far behind football in popularity. This forum, used properly, can foster both the debates we grow to love, and the passion we need to keep this game amazing.