Hawk Harrelson on Sabermetrics: “It’s all about ‘TWTW’ — The Will To Win”

MLB Now featured a “Hawk” Ken Harrelson vs. Brian Kenny segment days after Harrelson, the Chicago White Sox announcer said that were people that lost their jobs because of sabermetrics, so immediately that’ll tell you he might not be the biggest proponent of the use of advanced equations evaluating players. I’m sure they’ll have an embeddable video highlight of this interview later, but you want your news fast, and you want it now. Highlights from what was said:

HH: “Was there anything in Moneyball that struck you as odd?… Pitching is the first line of defense.”

BK: “Did you read the book?”

HH: “No, I promised my wife I wouldn’t.”

Hawk then used a Ken Burns “Baseball” quote talking about the beauty of the game. We all love baseball, that I can agree with the man on.

HH: “There is a place in baseball for numbers, but it is the most overrated thing in baseball… Maybe in 40-50 years it’ll be ready. When [a stat called] ‘TWTW’ comes along, then I’ll approve. ‘TWTW’ is ‘The Will to Win.'”

BK: “Are you basing your critique on Moneyball?”

HH: “No. [Sabermetrics] has got people fired, scouts, managers, general managers.”

BK: “Wouldn’t you want to play the percentages? Wouldn’t you want as much information possible”

HH: “No! The more numbers you bring into the game, the more you can take out of the game. Sometimes you get bogged down.. this is a kid’s game, and all about the ‘TWTW.'”

BK: “Don’t you want to measure the performance [of players]?”

HH: “The measure is the ‘W.'”

HH: “You didn’t mention the most important characteristic — leadership.”

Hawk on pitcher wins: “How can the team get their ‘W’ if the pitcher doesn’t get his ‘W'”

HH: “The first rule in baseball is catch the ball, not hit the ball.”

On Brian Kelly saying sabermetrics helped the Tampa Bay Rays and their success, Hawk says, “You keep believing that.”

There was plenty more that I couldn’t catch the exact quote about, but I think Hawk has put up a pretty thick wall against the advanced numbers, and if he put that wall down, he might like it more than he thinks he would. Brian Kenny acknowledges, and we know, too, that defensive metrics have a ways to go, but the pitching metrics aren’t too bad, and the offensive ones are pretty good. What would be a nightmare is if Hawk was the play-by-play guy for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Anyway, this was a pretty funny segment, and Kenny seemed like he was getting pretty angry, so for his sake, I hope they don’t do it too often. It also is a shot of the dynamics of the intangibles vs. the numbers schools of disagreement, but it really feels like they are on two very opposite sides. While some intangibles are important, if you ran your club based off of it, as time goes on, chances are you’re probably going to face more opposition than you would have 40-50 years ago.


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