Your verification ID is: guDlT7MCuIOFFHSbB3jPFN5QLaQ Big Computing: Scientific American writes about Sabermetrics...sort of

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scientific American writes about Sabermetrics...sort of

In the June 5 issue of The Scientific American there is an article about baseball that looks at the chances of a batter being hit by a pitch. I am not sure that there is much significance to the finding of correlation between being hit by a pitch and temperature. I doubt there is even enough data in one season to make the kind of statements that the authors of this article make. However, if I was pitching and it was 95 degrees, I might bean the batter to get thrown out of the game and sent to the nice air conditioned locker room.

A couple of things jumped out at me in this data. First that less than .8% of at bats resulted in a hit batter. This number seemed much lower than I would have expected. The temperature choices also looked kind of arbitrary to me ( 95F and 55F). I mean starting with those temperatures couldn't you also draw a correlation that there are more hit batters in the middle of the season than in the beginning and the end. I also do not see a control for bias by ballpark or team which would have been interesting.

Just for fun I looked up the Don Baylor's and Craig Biggio's hit by pitch percentages which are 2.8% and 2.6% respectively. If Walter Johnson had been pitching to these two they would have gotten beaned every time they went to the plate. Although in Walter's defense he hit less than 1% of the batters he faced. When two players show such a deviation from the mean there must be more going on here than temperature because these two played even in cold whether.

I think the idea of looking at hit batters is an interesting one, but here I believe there was a strong desire to find a relationship with temperature. It would have been more interesting to look at all the potential factors in a hit batter (player, pitch, game situation, ball park, teams, weather, etc) and see what correlations existed.

Overall I am glad Scientific American took a shot at Baseball, but I wish they had taken a deeper dive into their chosen topic