Sunday, May 5, 2019

Charlie Blackmon vs. Statistics

Stats are weird, man.

Yes, that's how I'm starting what might me one of my more thought-out posts of the year so far. With something that might be a Lebowski-ism.

I'm not one of those guys that's studied Bill James, and gone into detail about mathematical possibilities and sabermetric outcomes and such, but...I have seen Moneyball. It is a great movie. I didn't understand it all, but I really liked it.

We're living in an era of baseball where the most important statistic is not batting average, or ERA, or home runs...but WAR. Wins Above Replacement. A statistic that seems simple to any mathematician or general manager, but...still baffles a lot of modern baseball fans. People will go 'wait, I don't understand, this player's only batting .260 with 3 home runs, why does he have a 1.3 WAR?', not accounting for fielding percentages, contact hitting, and on-base percentage (to use the immortal line from Moneyball, "does he get on base?").

The average baseball fan accounts more for power-hitting than he does for fielding...which is the exact opposite of the average baseball statistician, who argues that fielding is half the equation, and any overpowered batting number must be complemented by a fielding number, regardless of whether or not that fielding number is atrocious.

And that is where Charlie Blackmon comes into play.

Charlie Blackmon has remained one of the most consistent and likable hitters in the game, regardless of the fact that most of his work is done in a hitter's park. He can hit for contact, he can hit home runs, and he's never had a truly awful season.

...but according to stats, his 2018 was atrocious. Now, looking at it from one dimension, it doesn't seem so bad: he batted .291 with 29 home runs and a league-leading 119 runs scored. That's a solid season right there, especially for a pennant-contender like the 2018 Rockies.

On the WAR equation charts, his Runs Batting figure was a 14. Not as good as his 44 from 2017, but not bad. His Runs FIELDING figure on the other hand...was -28. Because he is a very slow outfielder, and not a very accurate outfielder. And because...he plays most of his games in a hitter's park, all the balls are coming his way and he can't always run to get there.

...which is a problem.

I'd like to tell you his 2019 WAR splits are better, but...not by much. He's currently got a zero Runs Batting, which is odd for a guy with a .287 average, and a -1 Runs Fielding. So...not a lot going on there, even if we are talking about a perennial all-star power-hitting team hero.

Hell, it doesn't even work for David Dahl either. Dahl's batting .315, he's doing great...and he has a -3 Runs Fielding variable. So THAT's screwing him over. At this point, I'm legitimately not sure if it's player skill or just the outfield in Coors Field in general that's dooming these two players. Because they're both great. Seriously. And these numbers, which are widely listened to in this sport, are stopping them from greatness.

Now granted, they're not the most important numbers in Denver right now (those would be 15 and 18, and also #28), but they're the ones that stood out for me.

And if you do think that stats like these are ruining the game, and that players like Charlie Blackmon should be allowed to get higher acclaim despite bad fielding numbers...well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

Coming Tonight- Okay, that was a weighty, educated post. So tonight, let's talk about the Orioles.

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