FD Guest Lecture: Something About Robots
Ziller weighs on yet another urgent current event. But don't sleep on the Recluse's take on the Josh Howard situation. Really, don't. Or the ongoing, unspeakably awesome, Presidental 21 Tournament.
Gelf published a keen, damning piece on faux media-driven controversy in the ever-tiring baseball stats-vs-scouts war. ("Ever-tiring" because anyone who knows anything in that sport saw the light years ago. Those withholding belief have become a farce and their denials self-parody. Sort-of like everything about a particular presidential campaign.) In the Gelf post, Jake Rake notes the baseball war has basically moved to a cold phase, with mutual understanding overriding deep hatred despite the lasting media narrative. (I mean, damn, FJM's been dormant almost all fall.) That isn't the case in the NBA, of course, and it never will be. TIMELY NEWS HOOK: Gil.
Last year, no shortage of "scout" types basted Arenas because the Wizards had the audacity to play well without him. It's the fucking Ewing Theory gone mad: if a team is X units of good when player A is healthy, and X, X-1 or X+1 units of good when A is injured, A must be useless, overrated, not worth the currency he graces. Basketball, the most interdependent game in the whole universe ... and we'll leave out players B through E. NEVER MIND that one of the cornerstone pleas of the anti-stat basketball crowd is the nonlinearity and INTERDEPENDENCE of basketball. They argue that you can't measure a player's worth because there are too many variables. But when a player beloved by science doesn't get enough W's, it's all on that player's talent/production/performance. It's a completely two-faced argument.
Is it a secret that the formulas generally adore Gil? Dean Oliver rates Arenas highly. Same for Hollinger and the adjusted plus-minus set. (Berri hates scoring and thus is recused from the matter.) Almost all basketball seamheads consider Arenas an elite efficient scoring genius. So the opposing view from much of the anti-stats crowd -- elucidated so plainly in David Friedman's senseless assault on Gil last year -- is that all those points come at a cost to the team, as if Arenas scoring 30 a night on solid shooting dismisses the grit and effort and team play Washington trots out there when dude's off playing grab-ass with Beau Biden.
The argument aganst Gil from "basketball purists" (that term's loaded like a Kennedy) is that Gil gets his, but does not contribute to the team in any meaningful way. PROOF: the Wizards did well without him. The argument by the maths: Gil gets his, which helps the team. PROOF: the Wizards got good when Arenas came 'round, and basic arithmetic indicates Gil does many important basketball tasks (score, pass, draw fouls, shoot) extraordinarily well, which helps the team. There's no way to prove who's right, insomuch as there's no way to make irrational, anti-reality folk concede to fact when their heart's fixed on a narrative that feels good.
If someone isn't willing to believe Arenas is an amazing talent based on the proof which exists, you'll never change their mind. So really, the best this season of Gil could have provided to we of the pasty numberkind who have is an appendix of truth, a fuck-you synopsis of mathematical philosophy. All we lost was the chance to point at the scoreboard during a game without a mercy rule. So Gil's valiant ascent with Caron and 'Tawn to maybe first-round home-court has been dashed, and the thieved opportunity for a minor victory stings. But the war rages on. IN DIOGU WE TRUST.