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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

VORP is Absurd

Was tipped off to this little ditty from Murray Chass of the New York Times.

Statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics.

I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that's their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t.
Talk about a lack of intellectual curiosity. Whither Chass' colleague at the Times Alan Schwarz?

To me the idea that attempting to appreciate the game on a different level somehow diminishes the enjoyment one receives from the other levels is what is truly absurd. People aren't that one-dimensional and one could certainly argue that quantitative analysis in many respects enhances our appreciation for the human element of the game by helping us see in a different way the range of human abilities that come into play and how those abilities interact with, among other things, random chance.

While one would hope that new sources of information and new ways of knowing would extend in some way to everyone, this piece reinforces the notion articulated by Max Planck and quoted in Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

"a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generations grows up that is familiar with it."


David said...

Sounds to me like Murray Chass is feeling a bit threatened that he may not know as much about the game of baseball as he thought he knew.

Anonymous said...

How can he say, "How absurd," and then say, "I don't know" what it means.

How can a person judge something to be absurd when he doesn't know what that thing is?

What's more irritating is that crap like this gets published in a major newspaper.

Dan Agonistes said...

Regarding your last comment, I thought this was appropriate:

Red said...

He said, "I asked some colleagues whose work I respect" - perhaps he doesn't respect Alan Schwarz?

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