Thursday, January 22, 2009

PBP Exclusive: Interview With David Pinto

David Pinto is the author of Baseball Musings and a columnist for The Sporting News. Having both written for Baseball Prospectus and been a lead researcher for ESPN's Baseball Tonight , Pinto is one of the most well-respected baseball names in the game. Recently, he graciously granted my request for a (short) interview, where we talked stats, SABRmetrics and fencing.

PBP: Say I’m a 13 year-old kid. I love baseball, playing it, watching, whatever, and now I’m about to start playing fantasy baseball. I want to buy a guide which will give both the best information, and make it the most accessible to someone that’s still not taken algebra. What should I look for in a guide?

David Pinto (DP): There's a big difference between playing fantasy baseball and evaluating real players. At this point, rather than buying a guide, I'd buy a subscription to Baseball Prospectus [because] BP does the math for you and tends to put things in terms of runs and wins, which is what you want to know. They will also hold chats in which you can ask about players. Sites like Sporting News also do near daily fantasy columns during the regular season, so it might be worth subscribing to those.

In general, the best players should also be the best fantasy players. Sometimes you get someone like Alfonso Soriano who is better in fantasy than real life, but those are rare. Also, different providers have different rules, so it's tough to find a one-size fits all publication.

PBP: Many serious statisticians or baseball people pay more attention to park-adjusted statistics than they do the “regular” stats. When, if ever, do you think the MSM will tend towards the park-adjusted stats?

DP ESPN already publishes park adjustments on their web site, and you can't get much more main stream than ESPN. Park adjustments come up when you are comparing players, for example, Jake Peavy vs. Roy Oswalt. Jake pitches in an easier park than than Roy, so you need to give Roy a boost. I'm not sure that the MSM needs to be more intense than that...I wouldn't want to see park adjust OBA popping up when guy comes to bat.

PBP: You don't want to see people using [park-adjusted stats] too much, then?

DP: Not in a broadcast. I'd like to see it in award stories and Hall of Fame stories, and of course, when broadcaster talk about comparing two players.

PBP: What batting statistic is the most overrated, and why? What about underrated?

DP: I still think OBA is underrated, but it's made great strides. People still tend to look at batting average first, and that's due to years of drilling it into people's heads that it's the most important stat. Most parks and broadcasts now do post OBA, however.

RBI is the most overrated in my opinion. RBI are due both to the ability of the batter and the ability of teammates to set him up.

PBP: OBA... I'm gonna have to [sheepishly admit that I need to] look that one up. It's wOBA without the weight adjustment, I'd take it...

DP: OBA is On-base Average, often written OBP today. It's (hits+walks+hit-by-pitch)/(at bats+walks+hit by pitch+sacrifice flies)

[As for overrated,] people attribute RBI just to hitters, which should not be the case.

PBP: There I go, confusing simple things again! So, to continue, what about pitching stats? Which would you feel are the most underrated and overrated?

DP: Wins are the most overrated, for the same reason as RBI.
It's a team effort to get a win.

Underrated is tougher. People appreciate strikeouts and walks, and even home runs allowed. It may very well be something that isn't really a stat, but the efficiency of a pitcher.

Greg Maddux had such a great career because he didn't waste pitches. That allowed him to stay in games. So pitches per inning is something we should track.
good point.

PBP: Do you think someone will figure out how to turn it into a stat?

It almost doesn't seem stat-y enough for the stat heads, but it makes a lot of sense. And I say stat heads with love and kindness in my heart.

DP: Kindness accepted.

PBP: All right, next question and maybe the most important one...

Say someone on the street comes up to you and asks you to explain Sabrmetrics and what it has to do with fencing. How do you respond?

DP: I would respond it's the organization and mining of data that helps describe the sport.

So in fencing, what would be the thrust/hit ratio? How well does someone retreat? How well does someone block?

PBP: That's an awesome analogy! I think I'll need to use that from now on.

DP: Maybe I should start a fencing stats clearing house. Part of what made companies like STATS, Inc. successful is they started collecting data no one else did. I bet they're not collecting enough fencing info.

PBP: I'd love to see them do it for a sport like hockey, but I don't think anyone does it to the extent they do it in baseball. Anyway, last question--do you think in time we’ll start to see American high school players and use Sabrmetrics to the extent that they're used in the MLB? Do they use them already? Do you think it would be too much pressure on a kid?

DP: Oh yes...With computer programs available for PDAs that track all this information, it should be fairly easy at this point to track the kind of hit data we have now.

PBP: Do you think it would be too much pressure on a 15, 16 year old kid?

DP: No, they just want to play. It will also make it easier for scouts to find the best players, so I would think the good ones would welcome the chance to have their skills better analyzed.

PBP: Interesting take! Clearly you didn't go to my high or else...

DP: In my opinion, more information is always better.

PBP: Which would explain your chosen career path....


  1. I love Pinto, the questions were pretty fluffy.

  2. Don't listen to these guys. I thought it was interesting: you managed to get DP and that's impressive enough. Good job.