Last winter in January, around the time Yu Darvish was officially set to sign with the Rangers, I was at work perusing ESPN when I stumbled upon their Sweetspot Network. I scrolled the various teams, and finally came to Texas site called Baseball Time in Arlington. I’m sure some of you — if not many of you — are familiar with it, even if only to be a random passer-by.
The page was originally ran by Jason Parks, who is now one of the heads at Baseball Prospectus, and the individual who currently operates it, Joey Matschulat.
Before reaching this illuminating stage in my baseball-fan life, I was one to focus squarely on batting average, home runs and runs batted in, and on the pitching end, wins and losses still meant something. After all, my dad was the one who taught me how to play catch, how to hit a ball, and what to notice during a baseball game; it was all I knew. BBTiA used concepts like WAR, wRC+, wOBA, xFIP and SIERA — entities essential to the sabermetric universe, which were basically a foreign language to me at the time.
These new principles were difficult to digest, and, more importantly, they challenged the antiquated ideas I had known. It brought me to a veritable fork in my road: do I attempt to learn and practice these fresh theories, or do I reject them simply because I don’t know what they mean?
It took me back to the time I was taking a poetry class at Virginia Tech, reading and analyzing a cornucopia of old poems that didn’t mean a damn thing to me. There were all these writers, all writing about different things — mainly love, sex, and other obsessions — and my job was to read between the lines to find the themes, motifs, symbols … literary devices. One day the professor spoke in a profound sort of way, though, like I said, it didn’t mean anything at the time.
He said, “These writers are not ambiguous for no reason. They give us the clues. Our job is to catch up and attempt to speak their language with them.”
That’s the way I see sabermetrics, or, at least the idea of sabermetrics. Had I been younger, or had my mind not been as open as it happened to be at the time BBTiA found me, it would have been easier to reject all the noise that disagreed with my innate senses. Baseball is such a great metaphor for life in the aggregate, because it never stops evolving. It also offers us an escape from reality. To shun new ideas is to say you are done learning, which we all know isn’t the case — for anybody.
Every day we go to new places, see new things, meet new people, try new foods, ingest new alcoholic beverages; it’s like we’re entering a brave new world each time we wake up in the morning. We extract every last atom of information we can take in, and the product of it is who we see in the mirror before getting ready for the new day. Back when I used to venture off into other galaxies within my own mind, one of the conclusions I came to was that we, as individuals, will never stop growing up. We will be learning and growing until the day we check out.
Looking back over this, I’m not quite sure what my point or reasoning was, so I suppose you can just chalk it up to more food for thought.
Oh, and “Go Rangers.”