Journalists Don't Need Statistics, They Need Statisticians

↵So Forbes put together a content package about "baseball's most overpaid players," and the guy who did it thinks this: ↵

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↵⇥Is Derek Jeter an All Star? Absolutely. Is he overpaid? You better believe it. With a batting average above .300 and an on-base percentage pushing .400, Jeter definitely earned his slot at Tuesday's game, but with a salary of $21.6 million, he's also pro baseball's most overpaid player by a wide margin. ↵⇥

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↵Ugh. Derek Jeter has a 125 OPS+—which basically means he's 25% more effective than the average major league hitter—and plays shortstop. He also plays for the Yankees, who have more money than God and need something to spend it on. Isn't Forbes a business magazine? Shouldn't they have an editor that laughs at this sentence… ↵

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↵⇥That Jeter rakes in eight times what an average starting shortstop does, while putting up only marginally better numbers, is the biggest disparity between a player and his positional peers in major league baseball. ↵⇥

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↵…and then smugly strikes it? Marginally better? Blargh. Look at all the weird grunty sounds I'm typing. I am distressed! ↵

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↵The problem here is the hugely simplistic math. Sabermetric Research, a blog dedicated to… well, sabermetric research, summarizes the issue: ↵

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↵⇥The [article's] idea being, if player X hits .300, and the league average is .270, player X's salary should be 11% higher than average. That's just plain wrong -- a .300 hitter is a lot more than 11% more valuable than a .270 hitter. You have to measure from replacement value. ↵⇥

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↵More details there if you want the nitty-gritty. ↵

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↵Why do people write things like this? As a snarky commenter on saber-God Tangotiger's site says: "It’s like they just decided to ignore whether research had been done in the player valuation field." It's one thing to be a Murray Chass and mutter darkly about anything more complicated than a batting average; it's another to take up stats—including OPS, which the article uses—and wield them like a monkey using the wrong end of a hammer. ↵

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↵Journalists have—or should have—expertise in one thing, which is getting people to talk about things and synthesizing others' expertise. When they attempt to reinvent the wheel it comes out some where between oval and square. Ping someone, plz. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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