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updated: 4/28/2013 9:58 PM

Lovers, haters of Sabermetrics shouldn't dismiss each other

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  • Ken Harrelson

    Ken Harrelson


Hawk Harrelson is not alone in his folly.

It was a bad week for the Hawkeroo, whose historical reference points and passion for his team I find genuinely enjoyable.

You've by now caught wind of his rant against "Moneyball," perhaps his ensuing accusations against a show on my station, and certainly his doubling down appearance on MLB Network.

Numbers are not evil. Decrying baseball's info revolution makes Hawk sound like a willfully na´ve, cranky old man. It's been sad.

But you see, anyone slavishly standing by only one side of the Sabermetrics debate comes off as a fool; even incredibly smart people. The push-back has been unsurprisingly toxic.

It is of course a blend of both that works best. On this, I'm a militant centrist.

Taking this discussion to opposite poles which refuse to acknowledge each other is absurd, for either side.

Personal makeup is hugely important. Desire, intelligence and passion for what you do should not be dismissed by informed bullies.

Lose this idea that the math is scary and weak. And, lose this idea that humanity is trumped forever forward.

The heart and the head always will matter.

•Adam Dunn's grand experiment appears over. Thankfully.

In Dunn's first 12 seasons, he finished in the top five in pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) nine times. He always has been an impressive worker of counts, an exhauster of pitchers, and a compiler of walks.

Dunn wasn't in the top 40 in P/PA as of one week ago.

Last year Dunn had the worst OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of anyone who'd ever hit 40 home runs. He was stretching the acceptable limitations of a "three true outcome" player.

This year he decided to swing and try to pounce earlier in his at-bats. Results were disastrous. The walks went away; the strikeouts remained.

I appreciate the desire to adjust. But eliminating walks is not the way to do it.

Over the last week Dunn has clearly locked back into a groove. Three walks. Two home runs. A double. Many other hard hit balls. And he has taken 4.46 P/PA, above his career average.

Find something else to tweak Adam. Keep seeing pitches.

•Theo Epstein pays a public price for staying on message.

The Cubs' president was on my radio show this week and was asked about the decision to not put more money toward a competitive big-league roster. He said emphatically that it is not a choice.

"The baseball department is spending every dollar that is allocated to baseball operations," he said. "Yeah, we're spending it in the draft and we're spending it in the minor leagues. There's only so much you can spend there.

"We're also spending every dollar we have available on the major-league payroll. We need a renovated Wrigley Field to produce more revenue. We need new TV deals so we can generate significant local revenue that way."

This is in in line with the big picture: Give the organization the renovation deal, and be patient until Big TV money comes. But it's difficult, for many fans, to hear the boss cry poor in the face of high ticket prices and enormous reported values and profit.

The important distinction is the wording: "every dollar that is allocated." That's a man subtly pointing sideways (business operations) and upwards (owner's decision).

Epstein appears to have limitations, and not just ones that he prudently self-imposes.

•I was witness to the continuing arc of a young pitcher this weekend. In fact, I was the proud uncle cheering behind the backstop.

I've written in this space about nephew Jack, now a freshman lefty with a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a circle change and a nasty curveball. His career and passion for the game continues, as does my joy about having an actual dog in a fight.

It's thrilling to have a constant perspective refresher on the game I love.

•Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670

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