Friday, July 15, 2011

The Lord of the Pentagons

“They” say a picture is worth a thousand words.  “They” also say that there are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics (admittedly, a lesser-known “they,” but you can look it up if you don't believe me).  So if I use a picture to represent a statistic, does that mean I'm lying hundreds of times?  I’m prepared to take that risk. 

I give you…..........................

The Vigdergon!
(OK, the name needs work, but the thought went into the graph, not the name)

*On this graph: Astros outfielder Michael Bourn, Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena, and Reds first baseman (and last year's MVP) Joey Votto

*On this graph: Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, Nationals starter Livan Hernandez, and Tigers starter (and maybe the best pitcher in the American League this year) Justin Verlander

Many casual sports fans don’t want to see a bunch of numbers, because they either don’t have the frame of reference to know what they mean or have too short of an attention span to care.  The only reason I can handle looking at statistics so much is because I’m a turbo-nerd; I can’t expect anyone else to feel the same way.  So I tried to come up with a way to try to convey statistics without forcing people to pore over a list of numbers, or know much of anything about the statistics involved.

Vigdergons use 5 different statistical categories to represent a player's general skill in an easy-to-follow picture.  The premise is straightforward: the larger a player's Vigdergon, the better he is.  

The offensive categories are based on the following:
  • Hitting: Standard batting average (BA)
  • Plate Discipline: Walks per strikeout (BB/K)
  • Power: Isolated power (ISO), aka the amount of a player's slugging percentage that comes from extra-base hits only
  • Speed: As measured and tracked by, a stat that uses stolen bases and triples to measure a player's overall in-game speed
  • Fielding: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR; let's be real here, I have no idea how it's calculated, but suffice it to say that it's a well-respected modern measure of a player's fielding prowess)
The pitching categories are a little harder to compartmentalize, but here's what I came up with:
  • Raw Pitching: Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP), an effort by smarter people than me to measure what a pitcher's ERA would look like if everyone's fielders or ballparks were equal
  • Walks & Hits: Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP)
  • Control: Strikeouts per walk (K/BB)
  • Stranding Runners: Left-On-Base Percentage (LOB%), the percentage of runners a player allows that he prevents from scoring
  • Stamina: Innings Pitched per Game (IP/G; obviously, relief pitchers have an incredibly low IP/G)

The size of any particular section of the Vigdergon is based on how well the player is doing on that statistic as compared to last year's players (which, one would assume, are pretty similar to this year's).  So by looking at the first Vigdergon above, you can quickly see that Michael Bourn is really fast but really isn't great at anything else, while Carlos Pena hits for a lot of power and fields pretty well but is really slow and doesn't hit for a good average.  By contrast, Joey Votto is an all-around good player with few holes in his game.

In my next post, I will give a couple of examples of the Vigdergon in action.  This thing's going places, people.

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