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An Interview with Bill James

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  • An Interview with Bill James

    Here is a great interview with Bill James from December 2004. It is in three parts. Enjoy.

    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives...kfast_with.php
    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives...ast_with_1.php
    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives...ast_with_2.php
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  • #2
    many thanx, wags.
    i copied and will read after the holidays.
    "you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. just get people to stop reading them." -ray bradbury

    Comment


    • #3
      BJ: Stats are backward looking by nature. That is one of the limitations of them. One might be able to step from the stats to an assessment of the skills in a more pure form. It's debatable whether there is an ability or a skill involved in hitting with runners in scoring position so at that point, you might cut that off. As long as you are simply dealing with what the stats mean, they are always backward looking. The danger is that because stats are backward looking, if you're not careful, you could be the last person to see something.

      There may be a pitcher who adds a pitch and the scout may see immediately that, wow, that pitch looks good and it's going to make him into a totally different pitcher. But, if you are just looking at the stats, you won't see that until two years later when the value of it has gone...so there are some situations in which you need to be aware of that.



      This argument sounds vaguely familiar.
      THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

      In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

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      • #4
        James is too linear and analogue...he's not a real statistician.

        Statistics are only backward looking if you use direct explanatory stats rather than make a real attempt to understand probability theory and how it applies to FORWARD looking analysis.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by SABR Matt
          James is too linear and analogue...he's not a real statistician.

          Statistics are only backward looking if you use direct explanatory stats rather than make a real attempt to understand probability theory and how it applies to FORWARD looking analysis.
          James has never claimed he was a "real" statistician, whatever that means. He uses "stats" as mearly tools to write about baseball history and its inner workings. My favorite James' books have always been the more historical books.

          The first half of the Historial Abstracts
          The Politics of Glory
          The Manager's Book
          Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

          Comment


          • #6
            I know James has never claimed to be a career statistician...my point was that he shouldn't be looked at as an expert in the field of statistics and how they can be used.

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            • #7
              I know James has never claimed to be a career statistician...my point was that he shouldn't be looked at as an expert in the field of statistics and how they can be used.
              Although I haven't always agreed with the answers he came up with, I have always admired Bill James for asking the right questions. That's a large part of being a successful analyst. And on top of that he is a great writer.

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              • #8
                Again...agreed. He asks the right questions and he's one of the most engaging writers I've ever had the plpeasure of reading in the field of baseball analysis...but that doesn't mean he should be taken seriously when he claims that statistics are by definition backward looking.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by SABR Matt
                  Again...agreed. He asks the right questions and he's one of the most engaging writers I've ever had the plpeasure of reading in the field of baseball analysis...but that doesn't mean he should be taken seriously when he claims that statistics are by definition backward looking.
                  Show some respect Matt. :o The man is one of giants of sabermetrics, the Isaac Newton of his field. Since you are only 24 years old I think James might know a "little bit" more than you about sabermetrics since he's been doing it since before you were born. Disagreeing with him is fine and welcomed of course, but your "he doesn't know what he is talking about" mentality is a little over the top.
                  Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
                    Show some respect Matt. :o The man is one of giants of sabermetrics, the Isaac Newton of his field. Since you are only 24 years old I think James might know a "little bit" more than you about sabermetrics since he's been doing it since before you were born. Disagreeing with him is fine and welcomed of course, but your "he doesn't know what he is talking about" mentality is a little over the top.
                    I didn't say he didn't know what he was talking about. Don't put words in my mouth. I don't think he's done any research into the field of predictive sabermetrics beyond the favorite toy, though...and he himself would tell you that.

                    I have. I'm still way far away from producing anything workable...but my early models worked pretty impressively for just scratching the surface. And no...I'm not saying I know more about everything than him...he's got a lot more experience...duh. But James has a tendency to write off what he hasn't researched in detail...he's doing it again here.

                    I *STRONGLY* believe predictive sabermetrics can and will get much MUCH better than they currently are...and that at the forefront will be developing an understanding of FORWARD-LOOKING statistics.
                    Last edited by SABR Matt; 12-09-2005, 07:51 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SABR Matt
                      I didn't say he didn't know what he was talking about. Don't put words in my mouth. I don't think he's done any research into the field of predictive sabermetrics beyond the favorite toy, though...and he himself would tell you that.

                      I have. I'm still way far away from producing anything workable...but my early models worked pretty impressively for just scratching the surface. And no...I'm not saying I know more about everything than him...he's got a lot more experience...duh. But James has a tendency to write off what he hasn't researched in detail...he's doing it again here.

                      I *STRONGLY* believe predictive sabermetrics can and will get much MUCH better than they currently are...and that at the forefront will be developing an understanding of FORWARD-LOOKING statistics.
                      Fair enough. I look forward to reading your PCA stuff in the future.
                      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        what does it mean that the stats are "backward looking" and "forward looking" ?
                        ...we came in
                        it's time for dodger baseball!
                        is this where...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          James was saying that when you look at the kinds of stats he's familiar with...the common stats associated with baseball (even ordinary sabermetrics like Win Shares)...they describe what has happened...even explain (if properly analyzed) why it happened...but that's all...no view toward the future.

                          A forward looking statistic is one that rather than explaining what has already happened...gives you a lot of information about what will probably happen in the near future. Using the laws of probability, and properly analyzing the existing "current" data and how it fits into the great pattern that is the history of baseball (from 1871 to 2005)...you can paint a reliable picture of what is likely to happen in the future...the entire frontier of probability theory is as scarsely researched in sabermetrics...James himself has done some work on log5 probability (a little complicated to explain here)...but only as it applies to single-game match-ups within a season...I'm presently (very slowly) working on extending the idea to a much grander scale, but the overall point here is that the light work done in predictive sabermetrics to date does not represent its potential and I believe James is beginning to get left behind in that regard if he truly believes statistics can only look backward.

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                          • #14
                            Matt,

                            I respect your drive and sincerely hope that you achieve your goal. But what James was really saying was not to ignore things that happen outside the stat sheet, things that happen even off the field, in the offseason, etc.

                            No stat will tell you if a pitcher has developed a new pitch. No stat will tell you whether a player who exceeds expectations did so as a fluke, or did so because he changed something in his approach or mechanics.

                            James is not a pure statestician or sabermetrician. That is actually one of the reasons why he is such a good analyst. He understands the numbers, hell he developed a bunch of them, but knows full well that understanding the game is not limited developing metrics. In my opinion, James does a great job of combining several different perspectives in his analysis.
                            THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

                            In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I wouldn't argue against the idea that you have to pay attention to the game on the field and try to come up with explanations when players do significantly better or worse than expectations that go beyond 'it was luck and it won't repeat". Players grow and change with time and things change about their approach...no doubt about it.

                              I still think James is underestimating the potential for sabermetrics to look forward rather than just backward.

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