March 24, 2010
The retired third baseman is a heck of a writer and he doesn't operate with many filters in the process of actually telling us something we don't know. Recent posts include slamming youth baseball for not letting kids be kids, explaining why his defensive positioning led to Albert Pujols'(notes) mammoth home run in the 2005 NLCS and detailing how you should plunk a batter if the need arises.
Ensberg is currently announcing college games for ESPNU, but it's probably only a matter of time before some network realizes his perspective would be a great asset in a big league booth. He's that entertaining and informative.
The reason I bring this all up is that Ensberg's current post on his sabermetric views — entitled 'You Can Throw All Your Calculators Away' — is making all kinds of waves through the blogosphere and spurring a good discussion on how players view the discipline.
"Sabermetrics verifies mathematically what it takes to win a baseball game. This analysis is correct. But baseball players have to help you identify nuances that can only be found by playing the game. Your genius will be perfected when you can show us the probability of bunting a ball in a location that baseball players know will move the runner 100% of the time. Your ability to prove if a batter should show a bunt early or late is the type of information we need."
Ensberg's view is very similar to what Chipper Jones(notes) shared with me down in spring training. Enlightened players can recognize the macro-level value of advanced statistics, but when it comes to the micro level — whether it be one game or one at-bat — they feel that they have to operate within the frame of the at-bat because their needs are not being met at such a specialized and isolated level.
Though some statheads are getting a bit defensive over Ensberg's post, I think including past and present players in the advanced statistics discussion is a fantastic thing. Their view is a unique one and hearing their needs could result in the evolution of the next new stat.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Ensberg expressed surprise that people are so "passionate about sabermetrics." Hopefully he'll see that passion as an invitation to stay awhile.
Like the rest of his blog posts, his perspective is a needed and welcome one.