Get to know blaseball stlatistics with Firewall Andrews! If you’ve been curious about them but a little intimidated by all the acronyms and mysterious numbers, this is the episode for you. It’s a fascinating part of blaseball!
Check out his awesome article about why Workman Gloom is the best blaseball player of all time.
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Welcome to the Show by Kevin MacLeod
Breakdown by Kevin MacLeod
Upbeat Forever by Kevin MacLeod
Organic Grunge by Kevin MacLeod
KIMBERLY: Hey there listeners, it's Kimberly with a Forbidden Knowledge warning. This episode contains knowledge about things that happened in the past of blaseball that can't be found on the website today. So, if you don't want to hear stuff about that just give this entire episode a pass, honestly. Okay? With that, onto the episode.
[MUSIC: "Welcome to the Show" by Kevin MacLeod]
KIMBERLY: Hey there listeners, you are listening to Take Me Out To The Blall Game, the world's most data-driven blaseball podcast. I'm your host, Kimberly Dauber, and I use she/her pronouns. Today's episode is about blaseball by the numbers. In blaseball stlatistics, we can collect and analyze data about teams and players to strategize, make predictions, and better understand the game. But stlats can be a little intimidating to get into, so today, we're here with Firewall Andrews of Flangraphs and the Blaseball News Network, who will help us understand what's going on with all these numbers. And by the way, a lot of the stuff that we're talking about here can be found on blaseball-reference.com, so if you're able to look at that website while you're listening to this episode, you're gonna have a really good experience. So, I cannot wait to get into stlats with all of you - we will be right back with them after this short break.
KIMBERLY: This episode of Take Me Out To The Blall Game was splonsored by the Blaseball Baby Anti-Racism Resources. There is no bigotry in blaseball, but it takes effort to keep it that way. The good news is that you can help, by educating yourself about anti-racism. Some of the folks in the Blaseball Baby Discord server have created an amazing document, full of resources about anti-racism for blaseball fans of all sorts: writers, artists, roleplayers, LGBTQIA+ people, white people, people of color, and just everyone really. I looked into some of them, and there was enough content to keep me learning for months. Check out the link in the show notes, or ask for the Blaseball Baby Anti-Racism Resources document in the main Discord server, or head over to the #serious-business channel in the Blaseball Baby Discord. Thank you for helping to make the blaseball community a more welcoming place for everyone.
KIMBERLY: Hey there, blaseball fans, we are back! You're listening to Take Me Out To The Blall Game - we are currently talking to blaseball stlatistician extraordinaire Firewall Andrews of Flangraphs and the Blaseball News Network. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
FIREWALL: Hey, thanks for having me.
KIMBERLY: So Firewall, can you first introduce yourself - what should we call you, what are your pronouns, and is the Commissioner doing a great job?
FIREWALL: Yeah, so I go by Firewall, Firewall Andrews, I'm the lead writer at Flangraphs, and I use he/him/his pronouns, and... Sure, yeah the Commissioner's doing a great job, yeah, let's go with yes.
KIMBERLY: Alright, alright, thank you for that thoughtful answer. [LAUGHS] So, you're really into blaseball stlatistics - I'm just wondering, what's your background in this area? How did you get into it in the first place, doing all this math about baseball players?
FIREWALL: Yeah, so it's a kind of interesting story, and it ties into one of the biggest moments in blaseball history. I grew up in Los Angeles, and was an LA Tacos fan when they started, but that's because I was one of the kickball players that was originally in the area that got recruited to be the blaseball team, I just wasn't one of the ones who was tricked into signing up. So, I started just going to the games and then of course the Grand Unslam happened, the time-rift opened, et cetera, et cetera, and that sort of introducing different people into Los Angeles and one of them was someone who came from a plane where they had this thing called "baseball", and they told me how similar baseball was to blaseball, and taught me all the statistics about it, and so I sort of started studying and reading about it, and I... sort of went from there. Now I'm getting paid in peanuts (literally) by Flangraphs to study stats for blaseball, and it's pretty cool.
KIMBERLY: Wow, that's really really neat. Yeah I love that blaseball has managed to bring together people from so many different worlds, it's so cool.
FIREWALL: And realities, and timelines, yes.
KIMBERLY: Yeah, just everywhere. Okay, okay, so you got some pretty solid... You got some pretty solid blaseball - baseball, ugh, it's so weird to say - baseball background going on. Alright, well, you're here to tell us a little bit about it, so, just to start off with, what... Tell me some things that people are love about blaseball stlatistics, what's cool about them. If I'm mostly into blaseball for the stories, and the game, and team aspect, how can blaseball stlatistics improve my life and enjoyment of the game?
FIREWALL: Yeah, so, I think the main thing to consider here is, what I want to talk about today with you is not what a lot of people will refer to as, like, star ratings or what have you for the players. Lots of people assign these arbitrary star ratings to players, and that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is recording what the players do, and then measuring it after the fact to see how well they've been performing. And what that does, is that gives you the chance to see who does better than expected, who does worse than expected, how things change over time - and it sort of provides this source of information, outside of the times when, you know, the Shelled One is having a boss battle against the Shoe Thieves or, you know... Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It just provides an extra level of things to follow, so that when there is some downtime, you can kind of go see, "Oh, how is Jaylen Hotdogfingers doing as an actual pitcher," and not as a, you know, indebted being to a microphone or a peanut or what have you.
KIMBERLY: Yeah, yeah, it does sound nice and concrete, it's another part of blaseball that people can follow.
KIMBERLY: Alright, so we've got some of this data - I've noticed when I've looked through stuff like this, there's a lot of different acronyms and terminology that I don't... that I'm not really familiar with - can you tell me how I can get started with looking into blaseball stlats?
FIREWALL: Yeah, absolutely, so, I mean, first of all, when you're just watching a blaseball game you see some common words coming up, right? Like, you'll see that a pitcher has thrown a ball, or a strike. So, these are all the actions that are being tracked by SIBR, and by the site Blaseball Reference. And so, Blaseball Reference - when I refer to stats, that's what I'm referring to. And again, they're being compiled and added to Blaseball Reference and sort of combined into these composite stats that show how players are doing over time. So, in-game you have things like the fielder's choice, and the sacrifices, and those things may even be a bit of jargon that people who aren't familiar with baseball or blaseball don't know, so just real quick on those: fielder's choice means that someone hit the ball and the defense threw out a different runner than the person who hit it, and then the person who hit it got to first base safely. So, there was a hit, and there was an out, but the person who hit it isn't the one who got out. They happen a lot in blaseball, so there you go, if anyone was curious about that. And then, also sacrifice: sacrifice is kind of the opposite, it means that players moved up a base and scored but the person who hit the ball was out. And this is notable if people were watching the finals, between the Crabs and the Shoe Thieves - the ball was caught so far away from fourth base that they ran home before the ball could get there. And so, the hitters were out, but the runners got to move forward because they were able to run before they got tagged out.
KIMBERLY: I see, so the hitters sacrificed them being able to get to a base in exchange for somebody being able to score, or advance a base.
FIREWALL: Exactly. I think the big picture things that, if you want to know how good a player is doing, here's just a couple of things to look at: the first is... You'll see a lot of people use the abbreviation RBI?
FIREWALL: That stands for "runs batted in", and that is the number of balls that a hitter has hit and has resulted in scores. So, you'll even see some cute things - we were talking a little bit before the show about Chorby Short, for the Yellowstone Magic - the fans have a little chant, where they go "CHORBI", because it kind of looks like the end of her name, but yeah, the RBI is a common one because obviously, that's the whole point of the game, right, is scoring points?
KIMBERLY: Yeah, you wanna score. Score points, defeat the Peanut.
FIREWALL: [LAUGHS] Exactly.
KIMBERLY: So, there's RBIs, which are, how many times do I hit the ball and somebody scores, even if it wasn't me - what else can I use to follow blaseball stats?
FIREWALL: Sure - we're gonna look at OBP. which stands for on-base percentage. And that is the number of times you've reached base, divided by the number of times you've been up to bat. So, it's just an overall measure of how many times you've gotten a hit or a walk, versus something that caused an out instead. It can be confusing, because it's represented, instead of as a percentage (which it totally should be) it's represented as three numbers after a decimal point, so it looks imposing, but if you're a blaseball fan and you wanna see, "Oh, is my favorite player good at getting on base?" If they have an on-base percentage, an OBP, that is higher than - let's just say around like three thirty-three (and that's .333 when you're reading it on the site), that's very good. The elite ones are like .380, .390 - if you think that "Oh hey, my favorite player's on base all the time, let me go look at the stats," you may find that their OBP is very high. Or you may find that it's low, and you just happen to see them get on base all the time, which is also cool, but it just means that maybe you're a lucky charm for them, rather than them being genuinely good at it.
KIMBERLY: Okay, so these sound like they're for batters - there's RBI, which is "how many runs can I get my team to score when I'm at bat", there's OBP, which is "if I'm at bat how likely am I to be able to actually get on base from that" - are there any for pitchers?
FIREWALL: Yes, so, the big, big one for pitchers is ERA, and that is "earned run average". ERA is runs allowed per nine innings. So, if you go look at a player's ERA, it will be a number usually between zero and ten - it can be higher than ten, if it is that's very bad - it is just the number of runs that they've allowed, averaged out to "how many would this be per nine innings pitched".
KIMBERLY: Okay which is, like, approximately how many runs they allow per game?
FIREWALL: Exactly, yeah. Because some games go to extra innings, so you can't just say "per game", but it is a loose interpretation of "how many runs would this pitcher give up in a single game on average".
KIMBERLY: In a single nine-inning game.
FIREWALL: Yes. And again, this is similar to OBP, that .333 or less is pretty darn good - really, you kind of want under 4 to be considered, like, a solid, top-end pitcher, and then elite pictures are down in the high-1, low-2 range - like, this past season, Elvis Figueroa of the Philly Pies had the best ERA in blaseball, it was 2.06. And, if you think about that, it's not hard for the Pies to score two runs, so that puts him in position to win quite a bit.
KIMBERLY: Yeah. Okay, I'm starting to see how this could work. So, we've got three stlats that we've talked about, there's RBIs - how many runs does my team get when I am at bat - there is OBP, which is how likely is it that I'm going to get onto base when I'm at bat, and then there is ERA, which is earned run average, which is "if I'm a pitcher how many runs am I going to typically let the other team score in a single game," right?
FIREWALL: Let's just do one more then, for pitchers: if you're on Blaseball Reference, you will see it represented as SO/BB, which makes no sense to anyone.
KIMBERLY: No. [LAUGHS]
FIREWALL: So, that is a ratio of two different stats: that is SO for strikeout, and BB, which is another old baseball thing - it stands for "base on balls", and that is a really archaic way of saying "walk". So, if you ever see BB in pitching stats, or hitting stats, that literally just means walk. So SO divided by BB, this is called your "strikeout to walk ratio". And this is huge, because the two best qualities of a good pitcher are to get lots of strikeouts, and get very few walks. Like, those are the top traits of a good pitcher. Obviously, ultimately, not allowing runs is, but that's more of a by-product of the rest of your skills. So, if a pitcher has a really good strikeout to walk ratio... Let's just look, for example, at one of my favorite players: (and yes, I have favorite players, even though I'm a quote-unquote journalist, statistician, whatever) one of my favorite players is Gunther O'Brian, and he is exceptionally good at strikeout to walk ratio - his from Season 9 was 29.4/1, so for every one walk he got almost thirty strikeouts.
KIMBERLY: Holy crap!
FIREWALL: Yeah. And then Gunther of course finished with a 2.45 ERA, so two and a half runs allowed per game, and that's a really good measure of a quality pitcher, because even if you don't get a lot of strikeouts, if you limit the walks, your strikeout to walk ratio is very good, and that's ideally what you want to see from a good pitcher.
KIMBERLY: Yeah, yeah. Because, I guess, the outcomes for pitcher are someone hits the ball; or someone gets struck out; or somebody gets walked.
FIREWALL: Right, yeah, there are literally... From the pitcher's control, there are three things that can happen, and one of them is always good - a strike out - one of them is always bad - a walk - and one of them is totally random - a hit.
KIMBERLY: So if you compare the always-good ones to the always-bad ones, then that's a pretty good statistic.
FIREWALL: Yeah, when you can get thirty times more of the good one than the bad one, that's usually pretty good. Actually, one interesting note is, Sandoval Crossing of the Hellmouth Sunbeams went about sixty games a season without allowing a walk.
FIREWALL: It was really impressive. So keep an eye out for that, because there are some pitchers who are just very, very good at not allowing walks.
KIMBERLY: Alright. And we can watch all this on blaseball-reference.com?
FIREWALL: Yeah, you can head to Blaseball Reference, it's blaseball-reference.com, and they do a fantastic job - I think it's every hour of every blaseball day, at the fifty-minute mark they run an update, so you'll be able to see sort of in real-time how your favorite players are evolving, and how their stats are going, and you can just go straight to your team's page and see everything, so it's pretty great.
KIMBERLY: Alright, wow. Well thank you so much for this great introduction to blaseball stlats! I'm gonna have to check out blaseball-reference.com. We're gonna need to go to a break at this point, but listeners, we'll be right back afterwards with some information about what makes a good blaseball player and the end of the episode. See you in just a minute, don't go away.
[MUSIC: "Upbeat Forever", by Kevin MacLeod]
KIMBERLY: Today's episode of Take Me Out To The Blall Game was brought to you by a song I, Kimberly Dauber, a literal blaseball in the sky with a microphone, wrote about blaseball. Please enjoy!
KIMBERLY: This is a song about blaseball. [COUGHS, SINGS] This is a song about blaseball/I wrote it because I'm a blaseball too/So if you wanna hear a song about blaseball/Have I got some good news for you/Cos this is a song about blaseball/I wrote it because I'm a blaseball too/So if you wanna hear a song about blaseball/Have I got some good news for you/Cos this is a song about blaseball/I wrote it because I'm a blaseball too/So if you wanna hear a song about blaseball... [FADES]
[MUSIC: "Upbeat Forever", by Kevin MacLeod]
KIMBERLY: That was a song about blaseball, by me, Kimberly Dauber. And now, back to the episode.
KIMBERLY: Hello there, listeners! Thanks for sticking around, you're listening to Take Me Out To The Blall Game, and we are back talking to Firewall Andrews of Flangraphs and the Blaseball News Network about understanding and really appreciating blaseball stlatistics. In the last half of the episode, we talked about "what are some of those stlatistics", and what's cool about them, and now in the second half we're going to talk a bit about what makes for a good blaseball player, and of course, we're going to find out what Firewall is love about blaseball. So Firewall, first off, can you tell me - what are the stlats or qualities that make for a good blaseball player?
FIREWALL: Yeah, so, I think that a good place to start with this (and to shamelessly plug myself) is... I wrote an article for blaseball.news, titled "Why Workman Gloom is the Greatest of All Time", and in that article I say that there's never been a better blaseball player than Workman Gloom. And the reason I say that is that, yes, York Silk, Jessica Telephone, and Nagomi Mcdaniel are all technically better, but they were all recipients of blessings buffs that made them way, way, way, way better than the normal player, whereas Workman did have a peanut reaction that was positive, but otherwise Workman got by just on their natural talent. And it was incredible talent, so, just to kind of give some perspective, all-time batting average, which is how many times you get hit versus how many times you try to get a hit: best of all time. On-base percentage, which we talked about earlier: second all-time. And even in terms of, you know, some of the other stats that are like counting stats, they aren't ratios, so to speak: Workman is still near the top of a lot of leaderboards for things that they haven't been able to compete in for two seasons now, Rest In Violence.
KIMBERLY: Okay - and this is all, of course, in the Workman Gloom article on blaseball.news?
FIREWALL: Exactly. Yes, so you can go check all that out there and kind of read, I got some... I got to talk to Beasley, Workman's dog, so it was very interesting, you should definitely check it out. But from a nerdy numbers perspective, I mentioned OBP earlier, and I said "Yeah, anything above .300's generally good, .333 is getting into, like, elite territory..." For their career, Workman had an OBP of .415. So, forty-two percent of the time, when they came up to bat they got on base.
KIMBERLY: Holy cow, that's a lot.
FIREWALL: And that's really good, that's really, really good, and one of the ways that you can sort of see that and appreciate that is, if the player gets more walks than strikeouts, that's amazing. If you know how to avoid getting struck out, and if you know how to take a walk, you're already off to a great start.
KIMBERLY: Right, because walks are always good...
FIREWALL: And strikeouts are always bad.
KIMBERLY: ...and strikeouts are always bad.
FIREWALL: Exactly. So, there's one more stat that I'll introduce, and this is a bit of a bonus stat, but it's a little more advanced, so I won't dive too deep into it, but this'll just be a "take my word for it". The stat is OPS, and you'll find it on Blaseball Reference as well - it is a combination of the on-base percentage and the slugging percentage. We haven't gone into slugging percentage, I won't explain what it is except to say broadly it's the amount of bases that you get per hit.
FIREWALL: So it's kind of this all-around stat, and it's a really good, like, one-stop shop of, if you just wanna see generally how good a hitter is, that's it. Only Nagomi Mcdaniel and Jessica Telephone have a better OPS then Workman, all-time. And all three of them have an OPS - along with Conner Haley of the Dallas Steaks and York Silk, formerly of the Hawai'i Fridays - have them above 1, and that's, like, absolutely elite. Like, if you see your hitter at any point during the season with an OPS of one point something, that's fantastic, they're having a career season. But consider that Workman, and Nagomi, and Jessica have done that for their entire careers.
KIMBERLY: Wow. Yeah. Okay, so that's for batters - what about pitchers? Like, okay, how about this: I'm gonna give you a pitcher, and you don't know what this is beforehand - I'll give you a pitcher, and you tell me how you evaluate whether this pitcher is good, what's your assessment of them. Okay, you ready?
FIREWALL: Sounds good.
KIMBERLY: Alright. One of the most critical pitchers coming up in the upcoming season, I think, is gonna be Sexton Wheerer of the Unlimited Tacos, given that Sexton is the only pitcher for the Unlimited Tacos currently. So what's your evaluation of this blaseball player, who's about to play a lot of games?
FIREWALL: [LAUGHS] Yeah, I mean, Sexton is in a very interesting position, and it is one of the things that is important to know about stats, is if you go to Blaseball Reference, on the leaderboards page, and you go to "Earned Runs" which is just the number of runs allowed, you'll see Sexton is way ahead of everyone else, and that's a bad stat. But that's not representative of how well Sexton played, because when you play more games, you allow more runs. That's just how it goes, and that's why there are so many stats that are ratios, that have decimals in them, because that levels the playing field. So yes, Sexton Wheerer allowed 564 runs in Season 9, but finished with a 6 ERA. So, that's still not great, but that means that they only allowed six runs per game. Especially with a pitcher like this, you need to look at the stats that break it down by "per nine innings", "per inning", et cetera. And the real problem is, and it's what we were discussing earlier, is strikeout and walk ratios. Sexton threw four and a half strikeouts per nine innings, and 2.8 walks, so that's only a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.6, and that's very low. And so, that's where Sexton needs to take a step forward this season, if they want to have a good season for the Tacos, is the strikeouts need to go up and then the walks need to come down. Using the "per nine" or "per inning" measurements on Blaseball Reference, that's a great way to sort of gauge if they're doing better or worse, because yeah, they will be very important to the Tacos' success, obviously, and I think that, you know, with the Tag Team Pitching blessing they should at least be able to do a little bit better than they did in Season 9.
KIMBERLY: Alright, so it sounds like we've actually got some of the knowledge that we need to evaluate pitchers, if we understand ERA and we understand strikeouts to walks ratio.
FIREWALL: Yep! That's almost everything that's available - the one thing that's left, and it's pretty easy to figure out if you go on Blaseball Reference, is just home runs allowed - there's a column that's just how many home runs per nine innings they allow. Now, Sexton wasn't great at that either, unfortunately: gave up almost two per nine innings, whereas the league leaders were under a half per game, so... Definitely some room for improvement there.
KIMBERLY: Definitely some room for improvement there. Well, best of luck to Sexton Wheerer and the Tacos in that area - we're almost out of time, I think we've got time for one more question for you, Firewall and that's: As you know, we are all love blaseball, so I would like to know, what are you love about blaseball?
FIREWALL: I mean, it goes without saying that I love the stats. I love to get nerdy about the stats, I love to dig into all these things, and quite frankly I love to learn and see new stats emerging from SIBR and from all the great, smart minds in blaseball. I want to see more: I want to know what Conner Haley's exit velocity is, I want to know what Jaylen Hotdogfingers' xFIP is, I want to know what Richardson Games' Defensive Runs Saved is - I want to know these things, and I think that one day we will, but for now we just have to settle for what we've got. But even then, there's great references on Blaseball Reference, and a nice little trick here: if there's ever anything that you come across that seems confusing, you want some context for it, et cetera... If you go to the leaders page, not only does it list the players who did the best in each category the past season, but each header has the stats spelled out instead of in abbreviations.
KIMBERLY: Oh, that's so useful.
FIREWALL: So you can just use it as a cross reference as you're using Blaseball Reference if you do get confused, because not only does it show you what the abbreviations stand for, but it shows you what the leaders in each category have done, so you can say like, "Oh hey, my favorite player hit ten triples, is that good?" and then you go and see that Jesús Koch hit 31 for Canada and say "Eh, okay, maybe ten isn't that great." So it's a good point of reference if you are kind of looking into what your team's favorite players can do.
KIMBERLY: Alright, yeah, that's a great tip. Alright, well, thank you so much for being on the show, Firewall, it was great to have you here. Listeners, that is all we've got for today - hope you've enjoyed learning more about stlatistics. Firewall, if our listeners are in love with stlats now, and they want to know more from you, where can they find you?
FIREWALL: Well, my personal Twitter account is @firewallandrews, no spaces or underscores or anything, but I also manage the Flangraphs account, which is where I do most of my work, and that is @flangraphsblase on Twitter, and you can also find all of my work on blaseball.news.
KIMBERLY: Fantastic. Alright, listeners, remember to subscribe to Take Me Out To The Blall Game wherever podcasts are found, follow us on Twitter @blaeballpod, and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org - you can send in a question, dedicate a soulscream, or suggest something that we should interview you about! And finally, if you know someone who would enjoy this podcast, please do them a favor and tell them about it - I bet they'll be glad that you did. I am Kimberly Dauber, you have been listening to Take Me Out To The Blall Game, and thank you for participating in the cultural event of blaseball.
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Transcribed by Emma.