Jonah Lehrer of Grantland talks about about sabermetrics and the like:
But sabermetrics comes with an important drawback. Because it translates sports into a list of statistics, the tool can also lead coaches and executives to neglect those variables that can’t be quantified. They become so obsessed with the power of base runs that they undervalue the importance of not being an asshole, or having playoff experience, or listening to the coach.
No one has ever said Sabermetrics were perfect, and in basketball and football, statistics can only tell you so much because so much of the game is a result of multiple players and not just one, like a hitter or pitcher in baseball. Even in baseball, it would be foolish to rely just on statistics, and it’s clear that even in baseball, managers and GMs don’t only look at Sabermetrics1.
But statistics are just analysis based on past performance, and not guarantees about future or situational performance. They are better served to determine who was better than who and who was overrated/underrated more than deciding who should play tomorrow.
The example Lehrer uses of JJ Barea adding value in the playoffs is what is referred to as a “small sample size.” I can give you a list a mile long of guys who performed well for brief stretches. I am not saying Barea wasn’t integral to the Mavericks winning the title, but his performance doesn’t somehow vindicate his perceived value when we have 82 games that says he’s probably average at best. The same way that Lehrer probably wouldn’t say “LeBron James isn’t really that good because he played so bad in the Finals.”
- If you don’t believe me, see White Sox everyday leadoff hitter Juan Pierre [↩]