Analysis in new JQAS paper makes no sense
The new issue of JQAS came out a couple of weeks ago, and I'm starting to go through some of the articles. The first one kind of floored me. It's the longest paper I've seen in JQAS so far, at 64 pages. It's ostensibly about measuring the effects of NFL coaching. But I've started reading it, and it makes no sense at all.
Here's the link. It's "Quantifying NFL Coaching: a Proof of New Growth Theory," by Kevin P. Braig.
The paper starts out with some baseball arguments, but they're more numerology than sabermetrics. It starts by implying that, because the batter is one person, and the pitcher and catcher are two people, that the battery enjoys a 2-1 edge over the hitter. Also, you need four bases to score a run, and have only two outs to do so – which happens to be another 2-1 edge. (Braig knows you get three outs, but figures that since you're retired after the third out, you really only have two outs to expend.)
So baseball has an intrinsic 2-1 structure. And that's why, as Braig triumphantly notes, the historic Major League on-base percentage happens to be .333. See, it's two outs for the defense for every hit by the offense!
"On-base percentage confirms the battery's 2-1 design edge … in other words, hitters have succeeded at the *exact rate* that one would expect by taking outs from the hitters at a 2-1 rate."
That, of course, is ridiculous – the three numbers have nothing do with each other, and that each works out to a 2:1 ratio is nothing but coincidence.
Moving on, Braig figures out what would happen if a team gets on base at .333 – a regular .333, repeatedly alternating an "on base" with two outs. It turns out that if you assume that (a) the "on base" is a single, and (b) all runners advance one base on an out, you wind up alternating innings where one run scores (with a .400 OBP) with innings where no run scores (with a .250 OBP). From this, he concludes,
"These models show that baseball success emerges from the hitters' ability to make a base 40% of the time in an inning … as the hitters' OBP in an inning approaches .400, the hitters approach scoring 1 run."
Um, why is that? Why should we expect that the contrived example, that has so very little resemblance to real baseball, should give a correct result?
So far every step in this process is completely wrong, including this next one: Braig concludes that you can measure a team's "offensive efficiency" by dividing its OBP by .400. So the 1927 Yankees were 95.25% efficient (.381/.400).
And finally, one last leap of logic: because .333 is the "standard," its 2:1 ratio built into the structure of baseball, it must be that the contribution of the hitters ("human capital") to the results is only the difference between his OBP and .333. So the 1927 Yankee hitters, who were .048 above .333, were responsible for only 15% of the total offensive efficiency of the team.
At this point I pretty much stopped reading – all this took only the first seven pages out of 65. And there are additional glaring absurdities, even in those first few pages, that I haven't touched on here. This has got to among the worst psuedo-analyses that I've seen anywhere, never mind in a peer-reviewed publication.
If any intrepid readers want to check out the whole paper, to see if the football discussion has anything of value in it, please report back.