Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rating Baseball, Scoring Legislators

There must be a way for the media to cover politics with more depth and substance so that politics is as interesting as sports. Certainly the West Wing did that. Now how about doing that for our legislators and other elected officials. And posting stats that give us real information.

Well, this all came from first spending a week at the Anderson trial and then having my son show me this baseball stats website.

This site that rates baseball
not just individual ball players, but also teams. It goes way beyond the standard baseball statistics, tweaking them to get more meaningful data.

Here's a list of the different basic statistical charts they have:


Batter's Quality of Pitchers Faced
Double Play Rate for Batters
Equivalent Average
League Batting by Position
VORP for Position Players
VORP for Rookie Position Players


Miscellaneous Pitching Stats
Pitcher Abuse Points
Pitcher Expected Win-Loss Records
Pitcher's Quality of Batters Faced
Relievers Expected Runs
Relievers Expected Wins Added
Starting Pitcher Bullpen Support
VORP for Pitchers
VORP for Rookie Pitchers


League Batting Averages
League Pitching Averages
Pitcher Defensive Efficiency
RBI Opportunities
Run Expectancy Matrix
Umpires Report
Win Expectancy Matrix


Current Adjusted Standings
Playoff Odds Report
Playoff Odds Report (ELO adjusted)
Playoff Odds Report (PECOTA adjusted)
Postseason Series Odds
Team Defensive Efficiency
Team Record by RA
Team Records By RS
Team Streaks
Team record by Run Difference

For example, if you go to "Equivalent Average" above under "Offfense" the charts will have (among many others) a column labeled RARP. It defines this as:


[ Return To Top ]

Runs Above Replacement, Position-adjusted. A statistic that compares a hitter's Equivalent Run total to that of a replacement-level player who makes the same number of outs and plays the same position. A "replacement level" player is one who has .736 times as many EqR as the average for the position; that corresponds to a .351 winning percentage. Used when fielding data is unavailable.

The site is trying to more closely refine the statistics so they take into consideration more of the things that affect the quality. Comparing players to RP's - Replacement Players - who are somewhat below the average player for that position is one way to do this. They are trying to find how much of a real impact individual players have on the team.

They also rate whole teams and look at things like what do teams get for what they spend.

After a week of trial listening to lobbyists talking about how they find ways to gain influence over legislators, the baseball stats got me thinking about how much time people spend on sports stats and how much people know about sports, but how little they now about political stats and politics. What if there were information about politicians like there is about sports? Of course, the basics of sports is easier to keep track of and there are great statistics for each player. While there are election stats, there aren't great stats for how good a legislator is.

I did some googling and mostly what I could find are ratings based on votes. Various special interest groups pick certain legislation and then give legislators points for voting "the right way" on bills they are interested in.
For example:

Holding Lawmakers Accountable
Paychecks Hawaii Gives Some of the Harshest Ratings Yet to Legislators Who Hurt Business
By Hawaii Reporter Staff, 6/6/2002 1:34:32 AM

Paychecks Hawaii, an independent, non-partisan political action affiliate of the small business advocacy organization Small Business Hawaii, just released its annual ratings of state legislators, with those in charge of rating legislatohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifrs saying this is one of the worst yet legislative sessions for business.

Clean Water Action Michigan 2005-2006 Legislative Environmental Scorecard

There are a few sites that collect those interest group vote ratings so that you can look at a legislator from lots of different perspectives. But these are really rough numbers compared to what we have for baseball. I've got links to a few sites to let you see some of what's out there.


CRC Updates History

Each "report card" is an easy-to-understand graphical report that shows how closely the position on legislation of a member of Congress matched the position on legislation of one or more advocacy groups over the period of up to six years .

For members' position, we use either

* the members' voting record (how they voted on the floor of Congress), or
* the members' cosponsorship of legislation (whether they have officially signed up as a sponsor of a proposed piece of legislation).

We extract the voting record and cosponsorship data from the Congressional Record.

The groups' position comes from the groups' publications that we monitor. The advocacy groups analyze the legislation they consider important and publish the results of their legislative research.

Kathleen Carlisle Fountain, Political Science and Social Work Librarian Reference Librarian at California State University, Chico (kfountain@csuchico.edu) maintains the website "Political Advocacy Groups" which includes a Directory of United States Lobbyists. On the page on Rating Congressional Members, she writes:

On the subject category pages, groups who routinely rate members of Congress are identified by this image: . Project Vote Smart and Voter Information Services each offer a list of who conducts "performance evaluations." The Voter Information Services site even provides the numerical ratings by some organizations.

Further down on her page she has a list of the groups on her site that rate Congress.

Project Vote Smart is a comprehensive site that bills itself as non-partisan and gives lists of ratings from all different groups that rate candidates. It pulls together a lot of information but it's up to the reader to go through it all and do the analysis.

PollingReport.com gives lists of polling data from different polls (AP-Ipsos, CBS, Newsweek, Gallup, etc.) on %Approve and %Disapprove of Congress from September 2005 to the present.

Then are sites that critique the ratings:

And then there are criticisms of the ratings:

Maine House Democrats analyze the Maine Economic Research Institute ratings:
MERI and the Politics of Distortion

The Maine Economic Research Institute (MERI), issued a scorecard last year which rates each legislator on his or her “supportiveness” of business. The group updated and reissued the scorecard over the summer. While MERI claims to behttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif “scientific” in its approach, it is clearly and blatantly biased against and far from scientific.

The Wilamette Weekly takes a totally different approach:
Every two years, as the Oregon Legislature winds down, WW allows anonymous sources to rate Portland-area lawmakers.

Why have we done this for 32 years?

Because there's no better way to assess the region's 38 legislators as good, bad or awful than to ask the lobbyists who know them best—and because nobody has less incentive than lobbyists to speak candidly.

We recently sent more than 120 surveys to lobbyists for business and unions, advocates for single causes and contract lobbyists who represent all comers. These are the people who mingle with legislators each day, buy them meals, drinks and Hawaiian junkets, and finance their election campaigns. And we also checked in with legislative staffers and members of the legislative press corps.
But Norman R. Luttbeg's article in Legislative Studies Quarterly examines "The Validity and Electoral Impact of Media Estimations of "Best" or "Worst" State Legislators" The abstract says the ratings matter:

Many news organizations have ranked or rated state legislators in their state as "best" or "most effective" and "worst" or "least effective," sometimes using several groups of informants, such as legislators, lobbyists, agency heads, and capital correspondents. Other organizations merely give the impressions of reporters. Obviously those rated worst are displeased with this evaluation and at least somewhat anxious as to what it will mean when they next face an election. This study assesses the validity of these rankings and their impact at the polls. The media rankings cannot be dismissed as invalid, and legislators cannot dismiss their impact at the polls. It helps to be ranked as among the best and it hurts to be among the worst, although the effects are small.

So this really calls for getting much, much more sophisticated ways to measure legislators and to get more bi-partisan websites that have credible objectivity to evaluate the data. I'm going to think on this for a while. So let me know what other better stats exist already.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.