Categorized | Mark Timmons

What Sabermetrics Can’t Predict

I spent a couple of days last week going back several years and reading what the blogs who focus on baseball sabermetrics predicted about Dodger players, and what I predicted about those same players.

Without getting into a pissing match, what I found was that our batting averages were pretty much the same.    I had a lot of “swing and miss” projections and so did they.

Something to divert your attention

The bottom line is that I don’t believe sabermetrics is superior to good old common sense, but nor do I think the sabermetrics should be ignored.  I think you need a little of both. I am not saying “Death To Sabermetrics” but just saying that sometimes your gut can tell you more than your brain.   SOMETIMES!

Statistics are great for quantifying what a player HAS DONE is certain situations, and the longer the history, the more reliable the statistics become.  Humans are creatures of habit and frequently get what they’ve always got because they do what they have always done.  However, where sabermetrics are lacking is in predicting what a player will do going forward when they get tired of doing what they’ve always done.  Here are the kind of things ststistics cannot predict:

  • Whether Johan Santana will regain a few MPH on his fastball after his latest surgery or not?
  • That Jose Bautista, a player who had averaged 12-16 HR for 4 years would suddenly have two back-to-back years where he would hit 54 and 53 Home Runs and OPS .995 and 1.056 respectively.
  • That Jayson Werth would get healthy and become an impact player and then decline again at age 30.
  • That Matt Kemp would stop being a moody, mediocre  player and become the real MVP.
  • Whether Andre Ethier will stop being a moody, self-absorbed prima donna and realize his true potential again, which he already did in one magical season?
  • Whether James Loney can ever realize his power and hitting potential, which he displayed the second half of last season?
  • Can Juan Uribe bounce back and have a decent season or is he toast?
  • Whether Chad Billingsley can overcome his mental issues and become the pitcher his stuff shows?

That’s the kind of stuff sabermetrics cannot predict and if it could there would be no reason to play the game.  I like the stats.  I read ‘em, but part of the joy of baseball is seeing a player come “out of nowhere” and excel.  I mean, who doesn’t line “Linsanity?”

P.S. Who is in the photo?

About Mark Timmons

When you see the invisible, you can do the impossible!

13 Responses to “What Sabermetrics Can’t Predict”

  1. Gonzo says:

    Drysdale, Newcombe and Koufax. I agree with you Mark. Sabermatrics and common sense (old school scouting) should compliment each other. Like my mentor told me about education going through my principalship program not everything old is bad and not everything new is good, you always take the good in both sides to make your situation better.

  2. Glass Is Half Full Again says:


  3. Reggie says:




  4. Bob says:

    Please elaborate on Billingsley’s “mental issues”. Thanks.

    • Mark_Timmons says:

      Billingsley is not a nut case or anything, but it is obvious that he tends to reach points in games where he tries to “overthink” instead of just trusting his stuff. I am convinced that if C-Bill could master the mental part of the game, he would become a Great (not good) Pitcher. It’s not his delivery, it’s his mental approach.

  5. RogerCraig says:

    I love baseball because you never know what can happen. I will say it again: The Dodgers aren’t as bad as many people make them out to be. I am anxious to see what Loney and Ethier do this year.

  6. Michael says:

    I believe you are correct Reggie, I swear that is Tommy Davis.

    The thing with Chad is that “deer in the headlights look” he gets[usually on 3rd time through the order]. If I can see it on my monitor at home, the guy in the batters box sure as hell can. Heres to no more “dangling Chads”, out-think the hitter.

    I hope whatever Jose Bautista got is what has afflicted James Loney. I doubt he’ll bust out for 50 but I could see him doing a 330, 35 and 115 line.

    • Mark_Timmons says:

      I think Loney has 25-30 HR potential. Watch how he hits in BP. He is capable of that even though he\’s never done it. I don\’t look for 50, but I would not be surprised to see 25!

  7. Mark_Timmons says:

    Reggie was correct as it was Don Drysdale, Tommy Davis and Sanford Koufax.

  8. Xeifrank says:

    Almost all of your examples are totally unpredictable using both sabermetrics and gut feelings. There are always outliers and if some prediction method were to predict the outliers to happen would make it a bad method. Use your gut and project each Dodger player against the top forecasting systems. Good luck. :)

    vr, Xeifrank

    • RogerCraig says:


      (If I can call you that). I do not want to speak for Mark, but I tend to agree with him that your gut feelings are right about as much as statistics, however I do not have any empirical statistical evidence to back that hunch up. :)

    • Mark_Timmons says:


      I don’t know you well enough to call you X, but I think we agree with each other. If anyone had a gut feeling that Bautista would hit 50 HR they would be diagnosed as clinically insane and of course, the stats did not support that either. But you are a smart guy (I read you regularly), so, tell me: Does any stat say that James Loney can hit 25-30 HR? Of course not!

      What about your “gut” on that one? I am not saying he will, but my gut tells me he can…

      My only question is whether we will live long enough to see it. ;)

      • Xeifrank says:

        Sure, Loney can hit 25+ HRs. But think of all his seasonal HR possibilities as a bell curve with something like 15-17 HRs as the peak of the bell curve and 25+ somewhere on the downwards slope to the right. It is possible, just not probable.
        vr, Xei


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