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1688Re: [APBR_analysis] Re: Cross Generational Simulating/Comparisons

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  • bchaikin@aol.com
    Jan 23, 2003
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      Gould was arguing for the reduction of variation among professional baseball players, by looking at batting averages. If we do the same for FG%, we can see that there is a small trend towards greater variation.

      i have not seen this small trend towards greater variation, but if that is the case, then are we saying that the increase in variability is a sign that overall play has diminished in some way? i don't know if i agree with that - i'd have to look at a number of other stats other than just FG%, as gould did not look at any other stats other than batting average...

      I agree that different generations can be meaningfully compared -- maybe even simulated. But Gould is talking about something different: the "improvement" he mentions takes place when the variation in true ability becomes smaller, dragging the mean level of play higher. We see a different pattern in basketball, where variation has at best remained constant, and maybe increased.

      i fully understand what gould is trying to show. i too am a geologist, and quite familiar with paleontological studies, including cladistics. but using stats for predator-to-prey ratios (such as bakker did to show his evidence for dinosaur warm-bloodedness) and converting that to baseball i'm not sure about yet. but assuming for the moment he is correct, he'd have to look at a number of other stats and take into consideration other factors to prove his point to me. yes i can see his point that variation in a process decreases as the process
      is streamlined so to speak, but does that automatically mean an overall increase in the "effectiveness" of the process? that is a discussion for another group i believe...

      It's important not to forget why this is relevant: the people who disagree with you by claimng that cross-generational comparisons are not very useful claim that the game is not the same as it once was. They can point to the greater variation in FG% as evidence showing that the players entering the league vary much more than  they did previously, and therefore the level of competition is not what it once was.

      if the level on competition is not now what it once was (sometime earlier), does that not insinuate poorer overall play now? not sure of the point you are making. gould has shown (suppossedly) that baseball is not the same in the late 1800s as it is in 1980, i.e. it was better in 1980, beter overall play. but he did not show that for the eras of 1940 to 1980, and we are looking at basketball from the mid-1950s to today, a similar time period, when athletes had to endure similar non-playing conditions (travel, medical treatment, etc)...

      Bob:
      this is very important for our discussion for basketball, where the
      conditions of the game haven't changed very much

      Ed:
      how does this effect your argument? If conditions haven't changed, then any differences we see across the years are due to the players themselves being different -- making comparisons more difficult, right

      on the contrary. bill james shows (contends) that because of influences other than the actual game on the field, stats changed. larger stadiums and other factors (rules changes, etc) were more responsible for a dominance in pitching in the 1950s to 1960s, other factors for the 1990s (to favor hitting). but he states that hitters were not better in the 1990s than in the 1960s, but he states that the conditions of the game had changed. we don't have this problem in pro basketball, as far as i can tell, i.e. there were no changes to the court itself for instance. if for example the court was lengthened by 10-20 feet for a couple of years you might see a difference in stats that we can relate to that occurring. but we don't. the closest thing we have was the bringing in of the 3pt line showing more 3pters taken, but that had little affect on the game overall, as did the first bringing in the 3pters in 79-80. if we raised or lowered the rim by 6 inches for a season, we might see changes in stats that we could directly relate to that change, but the changes in stats over the past 45+ years cannot be accorded to any physical change to the game itself - again as far as i can tell. if anyone thinks otherwise, please inform me...

      You are reading too much into what Gould was trying to say. His argument was only about the decreasing variation in true ability among baseball players -- I think he used fielding percentage as an example, too -- and how that could account for the disappearance of extreme hitting percentages. This is relevant to his argument about the diversity of life that follows the baseball chapters.

      no i fully understand what gould is saying. my point is that someone else used gould's study to make a point, and i tried to show that his study actually helps to verify my point of view - i.e. he shows little change in baseball from the 1940s to today in terms of the variability of batting average, the same time period (or close) to the time period for basketball we are discussing. also his study needs to consider more stats and not just batting average to make his point...

      Well, I won't be the one to claim that conditions are so different that comparisons become meaningless. I am completely agnostic on that issue. However, I do wish to preserve Gould's argument in it's proper context: he only tried to show that variation had decreased over time. That's it, he had nothing to say about differing conditons because they were irrelevant to his argument.

      to be more exact he was trying to show that "...a variation decrease in time means an overall increase in general play...". the fact that he does not take into account conditions in the game that james has shown altered the statistical results in predictable way means gould did not go far enough to prove his point...

      Bob:
      ".....Wade boggs would hit .400 every year against the pitching and fielding
      of the 1890s, while wee willie keeler would be lucky to crack .320 today...."
      (page 125)

      this is a preposterous statement. what would wade boggs have done when he got
      sick, or just a cold, back then? how about a pulled muscle? a broken finger?

      Ed:
      Because, of course, no modern athlete has ever tried to play through an injury.

      what is your point? that conditions of the game of baseball were the same back then as today? if so explain why because i fully disagree...

      Gould's point, in context, was that the very greatest hitters of today stand as close to the extreme limits of human ability as those of yesteryear -- and that hitting percentage was not a measure of true ability, but only relative ability against the opposing pitcher.

      that's gould's general point, but not the point he makes in this example. gould here is blatantly saying that a great player (high average hitter) today would be better, if not much better, than the best great players (high average hitters i should say) of keeler's time. no player back then hit .400 every year (keeler did once from 1894-1900), and to insinuate that boggs would if placed back in that time fully ignores the conditions of the game as they were back then, as gould has ignored throughout his study. for christ sakes they weren't cavemen back in the late 1800s - they were athletes, the best baseball players of their times, and the best ones got paid very well for their time....

      keeler was the best hitter in baseball from 1894-1900, batting .383 during that time, a time when the league averaged .289. burkett and delahanty were not far behind, and as far as average goes those three were the best (others were over 10 points less). boggs best 7 years were from 1982-1988, when he hit .356, and the league averaged .259. both were just under 100 points over the league average for their time. for all that gould said about boggs, i could easily say that if you put keeler into today's game, let him train on weights every day, have 2-3 hitting coaches (as in spring training, saunas, hot tubs, great nutrition, medical treatment, like boggs did, maybe he would have hit .400 every season. now does that make any sense to you? it doesn't to me, but its a similar arguement...

      remember gould talked about athletes hitting that proverbial right wall, and then bonds goes and tears up the league like noone has ever done and not one but several players blow away the ruth/maris HR record. what does that say for gould's study?...

      until a study is done similar to what gould did, showing the standard deviation of not just FG% but a multitude of other stats have had convincingly shrinking variation thru time from the mid to late 1950s to today in pro hoops i certainly do not see any evidence that the game has changed to the point that the players cannot be compared directly based on their stats...

      FT% is the only unambiguous indicator of at least one ability, since the question of defense is removed.

      and that one statistical parameter that is unambiguous hasn't changed over the past 45+ years, has it?...

      In basketball he would've said that Shaquille O'Neal's best seasons stand next to Wilt's, even though the raw numbers are different..

      no he is blatantly saying boggs would be much better than keeler...

      in my humble opinion i don't think there's any question that o'neal could score more if the team wanted him to, upwards of 35 maybe 40 pts/g (jordan scored 37 pts/g in 86-87 and the bulls won only 40 games, and he was a guard)? this was the problem with chamberlain. he admitted in writing that the team owner wanted him to score as much as possible to draw fans...

      consider hockey - gretzky came along and blew away every record conceivable in the NHL in the early 1980s, and his teams won big. does this mean the game was not being streamlined (overall increase in general play) as gould says baseball was at that time of say the 60 years prior to gretzky's arrival. this is similar to what bonds did in baseball, yet gould is saying that it shouldn't happen as the process of the game is "leveling out"....

      I agree that Gould soft-pedals this point. But I hardly see how your argument is strengthened -- after all, if players are bigger, stronger, faster than before, wouldn't this make comparisons more difficult?

      gould shows that batting averages haven't changed at all (no variation in the standard deviation) from the 1940s to 1980 (but did from 1875 to 1980). i'm saying similarily that there is no discernable variation in the stats from the mid to late 1950s to today for basketball stats - about the same time period of 1940-1980 where gould finds no change) where athletes of both sports had similar off-the-field-conditions for weight training (or lack of it), nutrition, travel, etc. the one person in this discussion group that looked at the standard deviation of FG% also did not find any discernable pattern to say one way or the other if in-game conditions had changed. bill james contends the game of baseball is pretty much the same in the 1960s compared to the 1990s, when most would look at the numbers and say otherwise. i'm saying the same for basketball, and that you can thus simulate directly the eras...

      bob chaikin
      bchaikin@...
























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