The Tin Age Of Gold

Submitted by Brian on January 21st, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Tommy Tuberville, 1/11/2010:

"We're going to air it out," Tuberville said. "We're going to keep the Air Raid. I think it's something that Tech has hit upon that gives them that identity to recruit."

Rich Rodriguez, sometime in 2008:

“We’ll adapt. I like winning too much not to adapt a little bit to our personnel.”

Brady Hoke, 1/14/2011:

"I think you'd be remiss as a coach if you don't know your personnel, and you try to implement something that maybe you're not quite ready for. There's a way to grow to it. So we're not going to try to put any square pegs in round holes."

Midway through Rich Rodriguez's first season it had become clear that Michigan was spectacularly bad at football for the first time since the 60s, and the blame started to go around. A large portion of it was directed at Rodriguez shoehorning Michigan's pro-style personnel into the spread offense, and it was all dumb. Very dumb. I wrote a post explaining how dumb this was called "The Golden Age of Tin." In brief:

  • Despite having NFL talent up and down the roster Michigan was about 70th in offense in 2007. All of that talent left.
  • Michigan had moved to a zone running game two years before Rodriguez arrived and he changed very little on the line.
  • Four of the five starters skill position starters were freshmen who had never played in a pro-style offense. (Brandon Minor would later return from injury/discontent/quasi-suspension and play pretty well.)
  • The run-pass split was almost 50-50 a year after WVU ran 70% of the time.
  • The quarterbacks were bad in any system.

A couple years later, Nick Sheridan is a grad assistant, a redshirt junior version of Steven Threet has a 18-16 TD-INT ratio for a 6-6 Arizona State team, and Michigan's spread offense is one halfway decent turnover margin/defense/kicker from being awesome. Rich Rodriguez did a lot of things wrong in his time in Ann Arbor, but installing the offense he'd been running for 20 years wasn't one of them.

Because of all the things he did do wrong, however,

greg-robinson-fail

he's in a sad car with sad child. Al Borges is now in charge of Denard Robinson, a bunch of slot receivers, tailbacks no one except Fred Jackson thinks much of, and… well… a pretty decent set of pro-style outside receivers, tight ends, and (probably) offensive linemen.

Borges is going to do the only thing he can do with this personnel: coach a pro-style offense with a vertical passing game. This is not going to be as good for Michigan as continuity would be, but the person to blame for that is the athletic director, or Rich Rodriguez, or some of the things Rich Rodriguez did wrong. Al Borges has not spent the last 20 years figuring out how to get mileage out of quarterbacks who double as drag racers in the offseason. He's spent it saying "no, I'm not Jeffery Tambor" and passing to open up the run.

Coincidentally, the best example of what happens when you replace a Rich Rodriguez-type coach with a more passing-oriented guy is when West Virginia replaced Rich Rodriguez with Jeff Mullen. Mullen was the QB coach responsible for turning Wake Forest into a miraculously effective offense through 2007 and arrived in Morgantown promising more balance in the Mountaineer offense. He got it:

OC Year Runs Passes Run%
Rodriguez 2007 628 265 70%
Mullen 2008 517 305 63%

Unsurprisingly, passes got less effective as they became more frequent. The thing that dropped WVU from a national title contender to just another top 25 team was that despite rushing less, rushes also got less effective.

OC Year YPC YPA Pass Eff
Rodriguez 2007 6.2 7.8 11th
Mullen 2008 5.3 6.4 28th

If you're thinking Steve Slaton's exit for the NFL may have had something to do with that, replacement Noel Devine actually rushed for 6.3 YPC. What happened? Burgeoning Wolverine Star has a table of its own that highlights the severe drop in productivity from quarterback legs that started as soon as Rodriguez left. Pat White's rushes were exactly as frequent—down to a tenth of a percentage point—as they were in 2007 but his productivity dropped alarmingly. White averaged 6.7(!) YPC under Rodriguez and just 5 under Mullen.

While it's possible the schedule was tougher and the team weaker after Owen Schmitt and a few others graduated, Devine's numbers suggest the most likely explanation for that huge drop is that Mullen didn't know what the hell to do with White.

-------------------------

So. Michigan fans wishing to protect their soul-tingly-bits would do well to regard quotes like these from Borges as gentle untruths created for public perception: 

"I've been doing this for 24 years. I'm no genius and I do not pretend to be one, but I have a hell of a lot of experience with a lot of different types of quarterbacks."

But when Borges goes on to compare Robinson to Michael Vick and what he's doing with the Eagles…

"They said Michael Vick couldn't be a West Coast-style quarterback, and he's one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. Why? Because they put him in situations to run and throw. Denard is 6-feet tall, like Michael Vick. He can run and he can throw and make things happen. If Michael Vick can do that with the Philadelphia Eagles, why can't Denard Robinson do that at Michigan?"

…he suggests that "a lot of different types of quarterback" boil down to guys running NFL offenses with various scrambling add-ons. This is not a fluke. Borges has an array of quotes along those lines. It's also not very realistic. Vick's long and winding journey to becoming a good NFL quarterback took ten years of intensive coaching. When he was three years out of high school (like Denard will be next year) he had a 9-7 TD-INT ratio; VT ran 74% of the time. Their offense was a grab-bag of spread 'n' shred mixed with pro-style that featured a heavy dose of option and even more "Mike Vick makes one read on seven-step drop and starts running." It was pretty effective, but it was even more run-heavy than Rodriguez's Pat White days and took the most outrageously athletic player in the last two decades to make it go.

I'm not sure Denard is quite that, and if we're talking about putting Denard in positions to run or pass that just sounds like a lot of rollouts. And here's the weird thing about Robinson: the guy hates running the ball when he's not explicitly directed to. When he got to the edge this year he invariably chose to throw even when it was third and three and there wasn't a guy within six yards of him.

run run run run run nooooooo okay [ninja stuff] wooooo

Maybe that's because Michigan's offense revolved around Denard running 25 times a game and he didn't want to put any more tread on his tires, but seriously, how many times did you scream "run!" at the TV or field last year?

Maybe this will work out. Maybe Michigan will run four verticals at opponents until their safeties scream for help, whereupon Denard will be able to enact one-read-and-scramble. It would be easier to imagine this happening with Braylon Edwards on the outside, but Michigan did have some success throwing deep in the bowl game and I'm guessing Denard's going to spend most of his offseason throwing fly routes.

But if it doesn't, there's no alternative. Coaches are old and crotchety and just are who they are. They have a very specific, gradually moving corpus of knowledge and when they deviate from that performance suffers. Borges is an effective coordinator with a certain sort of offense. Without it he's probably going to be a version of Jeff Mullen. This is no one's fault, really, just like it wasn't anyone's fault three years ago when Rich Rodriguez surveyed his offensive personnel and felt the crevasse beneath him inch open for the first time.

Tommy Tuberville, 12/27/2010:

"I still believe in running the football," he said. "More than what they did in the past. That's the biggest difference. We want to be a bit more physical and be able to run the ball, which will help throwing it down the field, too."

RIP, air raid. RIP, spread 'n' shred.

BONUS: we should put together a pool for when and where the first column approvingly citing Borges's ability to adapt relative to Rodriguez by comparing their first seasons shows up. Bonus points will be awarded for the most irritatingly shallow glossing over of the difference between junior Denard Robinson with seniors around him versus freshman Threetsheridammit surrounded by fellow freshmen.

DISCLAIMER SECTION: I expect these things next year: Denard is a better thrower, turnover margin is a lot better (fourth year running, that prediction), all yardage metrics drop, scoring drops slightly from 25th but is better distributed across the schedule, FEI plummets. Improvement from the defense and, god willing, kicker will mask a drop in offensive power.

Comments

Papochronopolis

January 21st, 2011 at 1:03 PM ^

Denard is a better thrower, turnover margin is a lot better (fourth year running, that prediction), all yardage metrics drop, scoring drops slightly from 25th but is better distributed across the schedule, FEI plummets. Improvement from the defense and, god willing, kicker will mask a drop in offensive power.

Sounds like a better offense in terms of W-L than the one we had last year.  I think the big difference will be in the ability to cash it in when we are in the red-zone.

fatbastard

January 21st, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

that might have mattered if we kept the ball from the other team or scored. 

Rodriguez' offense could have been great, if it scored.  It did not consistently score against good competition. 

As much as I like the idea, Oregon couldn't score against Auburn either.  Against better and bigger opponents, Michigan and Oregon seemed to have a problem punching it in.

Ultimately, that led to RR's demise here.

michgoblue

January 21st, 2011 at 2:11 PM ^

Sorry, a great offense doesn't put up 7 against OSU and 14 in the bowl game (all in the first quarter) and then go away once the other team makes adjustments.  A great offense can score in the better B10 defenses when the game is close, not just when it is out of hand.

Our offense was dynamic, but it was far from great.

AlbanyBlue

January 21st, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^

Five pages of commentary, and this sums things up well. I'd say, though, Rodriguez's offense was great, except against the top half of the Big Ten, and that's just not good enough. I was fine with him being retained, albeit with a new defensive staff, until the blowout in the Gator Bowl. After that, there was no other choice.

No problem here with Hoke being hired, and it seems like Mattison will get the D righted in due time. The offense, though, will definitely struggle unless the skill positions emerge as pro-style threats AND the OL shows it can block in a more conventional scheme. Those are big IFs in my book, and those looking toward Borges' comments would be wise to understand that things are often said simply for PR. What's he going to say? "We're going to force Denard to become a pro-style passer, or he'll have to play another position"? He's not going to say that.

You may very well see DG as your starting QB against Western.

msoccer10

January 21st, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

The argument that the offense got a lot of yards but didn't score is bullshit. We were 8th in yards and 24th in points. However, if we had a competent kicker we would have finished around 11th in scoring. Those are raw numbers unadjusted for strength of schedule. If you do the FEI thing, then we are #2.

For example, do you think Auburn had a good offense. If so, consider that they only scored 17 points on Miss. State. But Michigan only scored 14, you say. We missed a field goal and failed to convert on 4th down in field goal range in the first half. So we should have scored more points on MSU than Auburn did in the first half alone!

Good competition is good because they are hard to score on by anyone. Auburn had a good defense, that is why Oregon had a hard time punching it in. Not because there was anything wrong with Oregon.

It is very likely our offense will suffer because Rodriguez is gone. It will still be a decent offense because of the personell and a decent coach, but I will always be dissapointed and wonder what our offense could have done if he had stayed in charge.

fatbastard

January 21st, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

and I agree it could have been great.  It wasn't becuase against good competition they did not score consistently enough to win games.  Believe it or not, I was "all in" for a fourth year until getting blown out by OSU and not that MSU. 

The job fo the head coach is to put his team in a position to win.  Our offense did not do that this year against MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, OSU or MSU.  We didn't even stand a chance in one of those games. 

I'm sorry to see him go, becuase he brought great promise. I am disappointed he did not adapt to the talent that was here when he began, recruit better players on D and hire (keep) a competent D coordinator.  Had he done so, he would probably still be here.   

Ziff72

January 21st, 2011 at 2:29 PM ^

What other teams scored 30+ against Wisconsin this year?  Against Iowa we scored a ton of points and was a tackle on a 3rd and 8 away from tying it.  

 I'm sick because I know you are not that stupid so I think simple explanations could change your way of thinking, but it doesn't you hate to hate despite information sitting right in front of your face.  So I sit here and bang my head against the desk.

How many times did we have the ball in scoring position against Miss St.?   Does the offense not work when guys drop the ball wide open?    The offense didn't score every single time because our qb was a sophmore making his 1st year starting  and we had 2 seniors on whole fucking 2 deep.  We return 10 starters and every single WR and RB on the roster. 

The offense next year would have been the top offense in th country.   I'm not discounting Borges the way Brian does, but he has some high standards to live up to.

Ziff72

January 21st, 2011 at 4:08 PM ^

I turned off talk radio because of morons and I tried to stay above the fray, but people are too much.  

So RR doesn't teach fundamentals?  That is idiotic.   Almost all coaches teach the same shit.  They all preach the same crap about toughness, fundamentals, aggressivness blah, blah, blah.   Stupid fans lap it up with a spoon.  Do you know who has the toughest teams?   The best teams.  Have you ever heard a 2-10 team referred to as tough? 

No one can accept reality.  They always have to blame.  That is our society.  

wolverine1987

January 21st, 2011 at 9:01 PM ^

clearly they did not teach them well, because ours were awful. And before you scream "youth!" it is a coaching fact that young players can be taught to line up well and tackle. It is you and those that constantly scream youth that are the ones not accepting reality--we should have had very low expectations for the defense--but our defense UNDER-ACHIEVED those low expectations. Lining up properly can be accomplished by FCS freshmen. Ours did not. Another example: do you know how hard it is to have horrible negative turnover margins three years in a row-without regressing to the mean? It's tough. And I have heard of 2-10 teams referred to as tough-they are called Army and Navy-teams outmanned in every area that don't beat themselves by stupid errors.

I also wanted RR back with a new DC and staff. But to deny that something-beside youth-was going wrong with our team is to firmly place your head in the sand and keep rotating.

msoccer10

January 21st, 2011 at 3:41 PM ^

The way I look at it our team was not good because we had a terrible defense and kicker. True, we didn't score enough to win games, but I still don't blame the offense for that. I estimated in a diary that we should have scored 6 more points per game on average by just having a competent field goal kicker. Defense and special teams have a huge effect on points scored. Rodriguez is absolutely to blame for most of those problems, but the offense just isn't a place I think to place any blame.

For example, if you look at the teams we played and their season avg. ppg allowed we scored more than their season average against everyone except Michigan State, Ohio State and Mississippi State and essentially broke even against Wisconsin.

You brought up Iowa, but we scored 12 more points against them than their season avg. and they were a top 7 seven defense. OSU was #3 in ppg allowed. Against OSU and Miss State we scored 6 below their season avg. allowed, but again, if we have a kicker, we don't go for it on 4th down in the red zone and that score is at least at their season avg.

Maybe not great, but we did not have a problem scoring. It just felt that way because we would get so far behind these good teams and we hoped our offense could overcome any other weaknesses the team had. Obviously, it couldn't.

Papochronopolis

January 21st, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

But it was nowhere near the place where it was absolutely impossible to stop.  If you look at scoring in just conference games we were 4th in the Big 10 behind Wisc, OSU and Illinois.  If you take out the 22 points we got in 3OT against Illinois we are behind MSU too.  That places us at 5th...not where we should've been in year 3 of the RR era...

Blue in Seattle

January 21st, 2011 at 4:08 PM ^

Yes, Michigan was #2 in FEI, and Auburn was #1 and Auburn only put up 3 more points on Mississippi State.

BUT if you look at the scores in FEI instead of rank, you will see that Auburn's statistic is 0.805 while Michigan is 0.603.  #3 in FEI is Arkansas with a score of 0.561, and if you drop down about 0.200 from Michigan's stat you get Virginia Tech at #11 (0.406).  Oregon is #15 at 0.338 !

So I don't think you can use the statistics to prove the transitive property of Teams playing different teams on different days in different places.  Cause how does 0.200 points of efficiency above the norm in separate equate to 3 points?

Also how about those "pro style offenses"?  Well if you lump Wisconsin and Stanford into those categories you will find yourself looking at the #5 and #6 FEI Offenses in 2010.  If you compare the "explosive drive metric" of FEI you will find that Wisconsin and Stanford are all very very close to Michigan.

link to NCAA Offense FEI

Michigan - EX - 0.197

Stanford - EX - 0.187

Wisconsin - EX - 0.172

OK, so if you are with me so far, I think this tells me that the scheme of the offense does not dictate the excitement potential of the offense.  "BUT WAIT" you are wailing, "what about the fact that Rich Rodriguez has handpicked the players to ONLY work in his scheme?!?"  Well, if you are in alignment with Brian in this post, Rich Rodriguez didn't really change the OL training, didn't really affect the Running Backs, so primarily he has WR a little too short for fly route striding and CB over leaping ability, Slot backs who are even shorter, and a running QB who has decent to good passing ability, but possible only has technique experience of throwing 30 feet away or less?

Will it be difficult for Denard to hone and emphasize a new set of passing skills? Yes.  Will he have to continue adjusting to the speed of the game and his progressions? Yes but that was going to be needed anyway, since as Brian points out he had opportunities to run, but he was still indecisive on whether he was done with his progressions.  Also I think Rodriguez coached him to threaten run so he could open up a 10-15 yard pass, which is statistically the better choice, because despite all the hyperbole Robinson cannot out run his own passes.  If he threatens run and nothing opens up, then he needs to run, but the video example Brian showed was a good choice by Robinson, taking a higher percentage chance at 15 yards throwing it 15 yards then running.  I know we all expect ever time Robinson runs it's a TD, but that just isn't the case, and he made the right choice.

I expect that completely throwing out the read option, allowing Denard to make the scramble choice sooner AND not clutttering up the field because it was 3-4 fly routes may actually create more opportunities for Denard to be running to the end zone.

Denard does not need the laser accuracy of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, because he is Denard. 

I'm not sad to see the run option go away, because it really seemed like we still didn't have the complete package to make it successful.  Either it's no longer innovative, thus defenses know how to defend, or we still didn't have a second Denard as the running back to make it truly a "damned if you do damned if you don't" defensive decision.

And Maybe Hoke and Borges don't have that answer either, but there will be chances for it to be exciting, and I think (hope/pray) that the defense and special teams will actually show up and level the field, as well as provide better field position.

Yes it was a statistically awesome offense, but from the beginning everyone knew it had to be, and it still wasn't enough.  I'd rather have Wins and some exciting plays, then a mountain of Stats and some exciting plays.

I think the Stanford QB ran a fair bit, at least in the Orange Bowl, the only Stanford game I took the time to watch.  It made it easier imagining the red jerseys as blue.

 

 

 

jamiemac

January 21st, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

Running a Pool? I like the sound of that.

I've seen a few mgousers already talking and hyping a more adaptable head coach, so based on that we'll see those actual news columns sooner, rather than later

I figure we'll see at least one in the Sunday morning papers the day after the Spring Game. If not, after we beatdown Western, who, of course, is the same as 2008 Utah.

Anyway, now that my duties running the Tate Forcier Transfer Date square game are done, I'd be more than happy to produce a pool on this and other msm memes.

Big Boutros

January 21st, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

I guess I'd agree with the dour nature of this post if Rich Rod's offense wasn't melted ass against opponents with a pulse. I don't feel like we're throwing away something beautiful or even highly functional here.

fatbastard

January 21st, 2011 at 1:16 PM ^

the only thing an offense is responsible for is scoring points and eating clock.  That's right, eating clock.  I was fine with Rodriguez high flyin', no huddle offense if it scored points.  But, stalling out in the red zone, after using 2 minutes of clock and turning it over to a terrible defense is not what football is supposed to be about.   Had they been able to score against the superior competition this would not have been as big a problem.  It was.

AAB

January 21st, 2011 at 1:24 PM ^

that effect an offenses ability to score points that are completely (or largely) out of the offense's control.  

Field position is an overwhelming factor in scoring offense.  An offense that routinely starts at midfield will score a metric crapload more points than an offense that always starts inside its own twenty.  We had a terrible defense, forced no turnovers, and had a non-existent return game.  Our field position was atrocious all year, which means we had many 60 yard drives that didn't end up in the end zone.  An offense that has moved the ball 60 yards has put together a good drive.  That it didn't end in the end zone is, in part, a function of circumstances the offense had no control over.  

In the same vein, we had the worst kicking game in the history of the world.  This means that many of Michigan's 60 yard drives didn't even end up with 3 points, because we were forced to go for it on 4th and 9 from the 25 yard line.  Again, nothing to do with the quality of our offense.  

Lastly, turnovers are at least somewhat random, and a large part of the piece that isn't random is caused by youth, which we had at pretty much every position across the board. And "burning the clock" isn't an offense's job any more than offensive rebounding is a basketball offense's job.  It's a reflection of style, not quality.  

fatbastard

January 21st, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

If I knew how to block quote, I would.

You said: "This completely ignores the variablesthat effect an offenses ability to score points that are completely (or largely) out of the offense's control. "
 
I'll try not be rip you personally.  But, if you watched Michigan this year (i did) then you'd know that we consistently failed in the red zone.  I don't care what the percentages and variables are (you are undoubtedly correct that there is a correlation between field position and scoring drives) as it pertains to Michigan 2010 because what is clear is that we could not consistently score in the zone.  I'm not going to bother to relive the failed important scoring drives because it would take all day and  I don't want to get more depressed about Michigan wasting three years than necessary. 
 
Let's start with MSU (that MSU).  I recall at least two failed red zone drives which ended in turnovers.  Those failures are one of the key reasons that we lost that game -- together with our defense' inability to stop MSU.
 
I'll end with MSU (not that MSU) in the Gator Bowl.  What happened on the MSU's first possession of the second half?  They turned it over.  Michigan started with the ball on MSU 20-25 yardline if I recall.  No score. 
 
Take your pick against Wisconsin, Iowa and OSU.  The same pattern is there.
 
Turnovers, huh? 
 
Brian's bandwagon for the last four years has been randomness, blah, blah.  I remember that even he has backtracked on that.  If you watched us play, and if you compare our play to the previous ten years, you will undoubtedly agree that RR's offense is turnover prone.   It could not be clearer.  Had the turnover-prove, high powered offense scored against good opponents at the clip it moved the ball, the turnovers would have been a reasonable cost of doing business. 
 
In the end, the lack of points, the inability to use clock and keep the defense off of the field, and the turnovers, yes turnovers, resulted in the costs of the Rodriguez offense outweighing its benefits.  It's not complicated, and if one removes their head from the statistics about how incredibly awesome those yardage totals are, one sees the effect those costs have on the overall football TEAM.

Baxter

January 21st, 2011 at 2:23 PM ^

And those turnovers in the red zone (especially the ones against yes-that MSU)?  

Let's start with MSU (that MSU).  I recall at least two failed red zone drives which ended in turnovers.  Those failures are one of the key reasons that we lost that game -- together with our defense' inability to stop MSU.

They were mostly poor reads by a freak athlete who happened to also be a first-year starter at QB, when the correct read was open for touchdowns.  This was a great offense that would have been outstanding this upcoming year if it was given a chance to continue evolving.  It was not an outstanding offense this year, despite FEI numbers, but it was a great offense, nonetheless.  

(PS. if you want to block quote something... select it and press the button that looks like a giant "....)

In general, great offenses score less points against great defenses.  Oregon and Auburn scoring ~20 points each against each other is a good example.  So is Wisconsin scoring 19 against TCU, 20 against Arizona State; or OSU scoring 18 against Wisconsin and 20 against Iowa.  Overall, we scored less than the average team against our opponents on 3 occasions - MSU (5.3 pts less), OSU (7.3), and MSU2 (5.8).  We averaged 5 points more per game than the teams we faced gave up (not including UMass, Bowling Green, or the 22 overtime points against Illinois; including BG and the OT points that number balloons to 9.4).  We were a great offense; saying anything else has no evidence of support (anecdotes are not evidence).  Way to be a RR hater for no reason; he's gone now.

AAB

January 21st, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

and hitting with runners in scoring position is not an actual skill.  

The point of advanced stats in both baseball and football (and any other sport) is that they control for the things that people think matter, but that actually are just random variance and luck.  

I Blue Myself

January 21st, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

If a batter consistently, over the course of a career, has a batting average with RISP much lower than his regular batting average, I'd say he has psychological issues, not bad luck.

Maybe the sample size with the offense this year was too small to rule out luck as a possible explanation, but how about this:

good defenses realized that Michigan's offense was capable of really big plays, but if they had to run many plays over the course of a drive, they would eventually make a mistake and turn the ball over, or have a Lewan personal foul.  Also, opponents knew that Michigan couldn't kick field goals.

So defenses played to take away the big play, content to give up 5-6 yards per play, knowing that most of the time, Michigan would self-destruct before getting to the endzone.  Presto, an offense that gets a lot of yards without scoring a lot of points and looks great in FEI without actually being the #2 offense in the country.

I Blue Myself

January 21st, 2011 at 2:30 PM ^

I don't follow baseball statistics that closely, and I'm sure you're right about RISP.  I just meant it as a hypothetical example.

With Michigan's offense this year, I see two possible explanations for the disparity between points and yards.

1. Bad luck.

2. Opponents played bend-but-don't-break defense, and it worked, because Michigan was prone to making a drive-killing mistake before scoring.

Maybe you can't rule out bad luck, but you can't automatically say "We gained lots of yards and FEI said we were #2, so we obviously must have had an awesome offense."

BLUEOkie

January 21st, 2011 at 4:24 PM ^

Well of course, it's called knowing the game.  Smart baseball players are consistent in clutch situations because they know how to work a count, read the pitcher, and understand the situation resulting in similar numbers with or without runners in scoring position.  Saying "batting avg. is a terrible stat" and "hitting with RISP is not a skill" is one of the dumbest things I have heard someone say about baseball.  That's like saying it shouldn't matter who's up when the game is on the line because it's just good or bad luck.  I know I would rather have someone like Pujols up late in a close game, with a runner on 2nd, and 2 outs because he is a smart player and the odds of him bringing that runner in is pretty good.  Over a guy like Carlos Pena who in the same situation is probably going to go up there and swing at bad pitches hoping to make contact and the ball finds some grass or it goes over the fence.

AAB

January 21st, 2011 at 4:40 PM ^

if you want pure hitting stats, use wOBA, which is just a linear weight of the value of each kind of way to reach base.  If you want overall value, use WAR.  

You want Pujols up because his wOBA is insane; he hits for crazy power with a crazy OBP.  You should be fine having Pena up there as well though, because his OBP is really good and not making outs in that situation is really valuable.  

zlionsfan

January 21st, 2011 at 7:27 PM ^

because apparently you have played the game, but there are two reasons why batting average is a terrible stat:

1. Every hit counts the same. Obviously, within the context of the game, a home run is clearly superior to other types of hits, etc.

2. Only hits are taken into account. Getting on base is also a significant part of the game, yet some ways of getting on base are completely ignored.

It's probably better to say "Using batting average and RBI as primary statistics to evaluate a hitter's performance is foolish", but given the vehemence with which some people will defend those stats, I can understand the shorter version.

Back when they didn't even bother to put all the traditional stats on baseball cards, it made sense to talk batting average, but that really shouldn't be the first thing that anybody quotes now. If you insist on talking about a percentage stat, use on-base percentage or slugging percentage.

OTOH, from what I recall, the thing about hitting in clutch situations is not that it doesn't exist, but that it's not measurable or predictable. There are some people who just do and some who do not ... I don't think it's accurate to say that the skill itself doesn't exist.