The following is, more or less, useless. It’s meant to be NotGraphsian more than FanGraphsian. It’s meant to be fun, if your definition of fun involves parodying something that’s already incredibly niche (NERD). It’s like if you time travelled to ancient Phoenicia and saw a minstrel play acting as a Hittite. That might not make sense. You will find that COOL does not make much sense in general. Just enough to make you wonder.
COOL scores are to the uninitiated baseball fan as NERD scores are to the statistically-minded baseball fan. They serve a purpose at opposite tails of a made-up bell curve, one with COOL at the tail representing the least baseballsy people and NERD at the other tail for wannabe sabermetricians. NERD is meant for the aspiring baseball savant and COOL is meant for the unaware baseball ignoramus. Someone who’d rather be playing Call of Duty, doing their nails, or eating at Sbarro than watching baseball.
But why have COOL scores at all? What use are they? Well, as baseball zealots it’s our job to brazenly preach our zeal to the unenlightened. Our joy cannot be contained, our cup overfloweth, our fountain runneth over, we are rivers of joy, etc. But our wives, girlfriends, loser younger brothers, and hip co-workers don’t listen to us. Instead they maim our reputations with insults like “nerd”, “loser”, and “wastrel.” Which is why we must resort to craftiness. We must become the Jamie Moyers of proselytism, precisely throwing junk on the corners of life’s strike zone, hoping our feeble heaters and lazy curves are received and not pummeled. All we want is for people to see beauty in the competitive handling of balls on a field (ahem). So as crafty lefties or crafty righties (some of us may be Moyer, others Livan Hernandez), we can use all the tools we can get. COOL is one such tool. It can work like this:
Nerdlet van Nerdinger: Salutations, Cooldred Coolson!
Cooldred Coolson: Hey, nerd.
NvN: Would you love to join me for a baseball viewing?
NvN: But I have a pseudo-scientific way of determining that it might be fun!
CC: Did you say science? I totes trust that shit.
CC: Zowie! I can’t wait for homerz, hottiez, and giant racing weinerz!
NvN: And I can’t wait to foster companionship/copulate with you!
There ya go. Sorkin-esque dialogue. Not that we, the baseball loving community, are friendless poon-hounds. I’m just talking about tools, here. Tools at our disposal, like Custom Leaderboards, a wrench, or a Desert Eagle .50.
La-dee-da. COOL stands for the Coefficient Of On-field Lustre. Or how likely it is for a non-fan to think, more or less, “Ooo! Shiny!” when watching the game. The fact that this number isn’t technically a coefficient is not a thing I want to address or think about. These are the components of COOL, and how they are determined:
TV Announcer Charisma
The Cooldred Coolsons of the world never listen to the radio. Otherwise Bob Uecker alone could swell the baseball fanbase to billions in seconds (seconds!). Alas, holding the attention of a baseball mongrel requires Visual Stimuli, accompanied by Aural Pleasantries. This is why TV Announcer Charisma is included in COOL. To determine this variable, I took Charisma scores from the Broadcast Rankings, and finagled the z-score of each team’s home announcer. I multiplied this factor by 1.5 because: Science.
Lineup Attractiveness and/or Virility and/or Youth and/or Sexiness
There is something unbelievably compelling about watching a fine human being being fine, and human. I’m not even talking about sex, though sometimes that’s compelling, too. Watching beautiful people being beautiful is mesmerizing. Unfortunately there’s no easy way to rate the attractiveness of whole teams. One method I considered was using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to crowdsource ratings of individual players’ headshots. People (Turks, perhaps) would simply rate the face as “attractive” or “not attractive,” and after a few thousand responses we’d have a good idea if a player was good looking. Alas, this was too much work and required money. Instead I took a massive shortcut and figured that, in general, youth=attractiveness, sorted all teams by age, rewarded young teams, and penalized old teams. I divided it in half because my methodology is shitty.
What people are wearing while they play sports appears to be very important to my mother. She frequently comments on the “get up” of athletes, while I frequently comment on the “get out” of a fly ball, while you are probably contemplating a “get the f— out” at this stupid article. The outward aesthetics of baseball are hugely important to the uninitiated. As nice as it is look upon a beautiful human in the buff, even a properly adorned Tom Gorzelanny can hold the eye and make it tremble (with desire, not nystagmus). So to determine the Objective Beauty of a team’s uniform, I took nine 2013 uniform rankings that I found online (science!) created by people of varying bias and credential (Jim Caple, myself, user pittsburghsport16 on sportslogos.net, etc.), averaged the rankings, assumed a normal distribution and pooped out z-scores for each team’s uniform appeal. Simple, easy, and deeply flawed. I multiplied uniform appeal by 2 because my mother holds great sway in the way I form opinions/conduct science.
Home runs are the most easily understood event in baseball. Anyone can understand a home run and appreciate it. Home runs are great. They are saffron. They are sex. They are Super Saiyan. I used team HR% for this one. It’s not park adjusted because I am simple, and don’t know how to do that. It’s also accounted for in PARK, which is next. I briefly wondered if I should have used team HR/FB, but I’m betting it would give me a similar result. I also briefly considered halving the zHR% value because while HRs are great, they’re not altogether that common, and hinging your crude buddy’s enjoyment on the doorframe of dingerdom… well that’d be foolish. Better to hinge it on something more reliable, like what people are wearing. Science. But that made the end values less pretty so it remains whole.
Where a team plays matters. To us it matters because where a park is and how it’s arranged can greatly affect the way baseball happens. To them it matters because they might see people running at full speed dressed as giant pierogies. Baseball is wonderful. I took the average Yelp ratings of each ballpark from Nate Silver’s 2011 article on ballparks, then upgraded the Marlins (based on my own subjective approval of the home run monstrosity in their new park), scaled the scores from 0-2, and then multiplied them by average %attendance to reward well-attended parks, and by each park’s 2013 HR park factor because: I’ve already covered this. Fun!
The Invisible, the Intangible, the Unknown, the Ghost in the Fandom Machine
Sometimes something unknowable seems to drive the affection of the masses. Often it’s success, or tragedy, or beauty, or infamy. Sometimes people just love things. Like screaming goats. I wanted to isolate the je ne sais quoi of team appeal, and decided a team’s road attendance best approximated their enigmatic allure. And apparently the Giants are just dripping with Mystery Honey, drawing fans like bees to their away games across the country. Is it because they play in a well-attended division? Because they won the World Series? Because they score runs? Because people still think Barry Bonds is around to boo? Possibly. But I’m not one to dig too hard for the truth. After all, I created COOL scores. This variable is merely, mightily, the z-score of %attendance at road games.
This is the final formula:
(zSEX/2) + (zCHAR*1.5) + (zUNI*2) + zHR% + PARK + z???+Constant
The constant ensures an average score of 5. I refused to floor/ceiling the scores at 0 and 10 because I’m not entirely a plagiarist of NERD, and feel like this can be one, small, passive-aggressive way I can assert myself. Also laziness.
The COOL Leaderboard
It’s the Los Angeles Yasiel Puigs at the top! Page views! Interestingly, the Rays are beloved by NERD (a 10!) but hated by COOL with a .054. That seems true to life. And everyone hates the Marlins (0 NERD, -1.17 COOL). So: this measure passes my smell test. But I have a terrible sense of smell due to allergies. So use your own noses.
Of course COOL is in its infancy. It’s zygotic, even. If my “research” is accepted, there will be time for revisions. I also have a Pitcher COOL score in the works, and there will be an umpire strike call flamboyance factor that can help us calculate games scores.
Despite numerous flaws, I still get the sense that COOL is telling us something. Even if that something is completely useless. Which was the point of this whole exercise from the beginning: To create a watchability measure for the people least likely to ever visit Fangraphs. Useless.
Finally, COOL is entirely inspired by Carson Cistulli’s work on NERD, obviously, without which I am a lost, vagrant, nothing–a malodorous abyss, obviously.
That’s it. Go resume Life.
Zach is an egregious malcontent whose life goal is to literally become the London Tube. @itszachreynolds.