NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’s Korner: Are Fans Buying Into The Analytics?

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Let me put this out right now. I am “old school” and I don’t “buy” many of these analytical formulas and concepts that have engulfed Major League Baseball. I’m wondering if the fans are buying in.

Are the fans quoting spin rates, WAR, UZR, and BABIP? I don’t hear much of that from fans who call the sports radio shows, or fans that I speak with. They cite the bottom line, wins and losses. Ask anyone who is an advocate of WAR to tell you what goes into that statistic and how it breaks down. I’ll bet they’ll have a hard time doing so.

Analytics are useful to an extent but Major League teams have been engulfed by these theories and that has led to an epidemic of inaction, not to mention a lack of fundamentals. Fans come to the ballpark to see home runs but they don’t come to the ballpark to see walks and strikeouts. According to a column by NY Post Baseball Columnist Joel Sherman, walks, strikeouts and home runs are already up from last season and have been climbing steadily the past few years.

In today’s game, on base percentage is valued more than batting average. The ol’ saying “A walk is as good as a hit” does not really apply anymore. It’s not. With a runner on third and two out, what good does a walk do. Oh, it’s better than an out but you’re leaving it up to the next guy. A .253 hitter is having a good year because their OBP is .350 but that .253 average catches up to a hitter when he faces a pitcher who throws strikes.

Players are looking to walk more but you still need legitimate .300 or .290 hitters to balance out the lineup and negate the abundance of strikeouts in today’s game.

Defensive metrics, especially in the outfield, do not accurately measure a player’s value defensively. There are some defensive metric formulas that are based on outfield assists, but what if a player has such a good arm that teams don’t run on him. Does that make him lesser of a defensive outfielder than one who gets assists because teams will test his arm?

Analytical types don’t believe in bunting or stealing, but those are two action occurrences that are not occurring like they used to. The analytical people claim that a runner on first with no one out has a better chance to score than a runner on second with one out. That may make some sense numerically but does it translate to winning. They’re discounting the fact that it only takes a single to score a runner from second while it takes an extra base hit to score a runner from first. What is more prevalent? A single or an extra base hit.

Another analytical theory claims the best hitter should bat second in the lineup because throughout the course of a season, they believe that will lead to more at-bats. I would rather have my best hitter at three so that gives him two chances to come up in the first inning with a man on base. The first inning is the only inning that someone who makes out the lineup can control. Every other inning is a result of chance. Those extra at-bats may mean squat in the long run and doesn’t a team want to set a tone for the game by scoring in the first inning.

Players who are hot are being rested with scheduled days off because the analytics say they’ll be fresher for later in the season. Why do teams play for later in the season when they have important games in April and May?

Today’s players are fundamentally poor. Are they receiving the proper instruction in the minor leagues? It doesn’t look like it when they come up. Players don’t know how to run the bases, they don’t throw to the right base and little things like that cost games.

So are the fans really buying in?

You tell me.

The Yankees are being decimated by injury so they’ll need to approach this season as if they’re not getting their key pieces back. They can’t count on Dellin Betances and Luis Severino returning as both could conceivably miss the entire season. If and when he comes back, will Aaron Hicks provide a spark for the line up. A return of Miguel Andujar will be a plus but it may not be enough. A 2017 version of Giancarlo Stanton would be a much welcome addition but the 2018 version will not.

J.A. Happ and James Paxton have not pitched well but I feel they can and will do better. The bullpen, which was supposed to be a strength, has not gotten the job done.

The pitching woes have masqueraded the problems with the offense. Yes, there are problems offensively.

The Yankees have to get creative with what they do have. That creativity should include shaking up the batting order and playing a little more “small-ball.” Aaron Judge has been in the two hole and has had 16 at-bats with a man on base. Judge should be moved to third and Brett Gardner should not be leading off. D.J. LeMahieu is hitting consistently, yet he bats lower in the order when he should be near the top. All you hear is that they’re not built to play “small-ball.” Well it’s one way to make their offense a little more efficient.

Last night, the Yankees were trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the 6th and had runners at first and second with no one out. With Austin Romine at the plate, the situation called for a bunt. Romine struck out and that essentially “killed the inning.”

The Mets’ offense may not feature as many big names as the Yankees but they are more balanced and are more efficient. The starting rotation will be fine as long as Steven Matz continues to do what he’s done so far and the bullpen will pitch better.

The Mets are coming through a tough early stretch in fine fashion. After last night’s win in Atlanta, the Mets are now 8-3 vs. NL East opponents and are 7-1 on the road, both numbers that project to having a successful season.

LAST LICKS: Rays and Mariners have been setting the early pace in the American League. Are both of those teams for real, is just one or are both just pseudo contenders. Tampa Bay is real but I’m not sold on Seattle just yet. Seattle caught Boston at the right time and took 3 of 4 in the first week of the season but they haven’t played any playoff contenders since that time. Seattle is hosting Houston this weekend in what will be an early statement series…..It was just a matter of time before the World Champion Red Sox would play better and they get a “Red Bull” by playing the Orioles this weekend. I don’t expect Boston to win 16 of 19 vs Baltimore again but I’ll be surprised if they don’t sweep them this weekend.


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