Thursday, February 24th, 2011

A Numbers Game

When I was kid watching baseball games for the first time, a series of numbers would appear on the screen each time a player stepped to the plate. They were the same numbers my Dad knew back in the 1950s and 1960s. They were the same numbers my grandfather read in the morning newspaper in the 1930s and 1940s.

Batting average. Home runs. Runs batted in.

The combination of those three numbers determined whether or not the batter was a star, average or about to travel back to the minors. The same thing could be said with pitchers, too. But their numbers were different. The offensive production of a pitcher didn't matter, it was the performance of his arm.

Wins. Earned run average. Strikeouts.

Those were the numbers that defined players for generations. Even today, those six categories have a hint of romance about them. Sadly, those numbers fail to tell the whole story. In college I started reading about the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) and "sabermetrics." I began thinking that something was missing. Back in the 1990s, I started questioning which statistic held more meaning. Should we flash up on base percentage rather than batting average? Doesn't that stat tell more about a player than simply batting average?

When I played Little League, I remember our coaches always said, "A walk is as good as a hit." If a player reached first safely by blooping a single over the second baseman's glove, wasn't that the same result as if the batter took four pitches and walked? Both instances result with a baserunner standing on first.

As we get closer to the start of spring training, I'll be posting blogs about baseball stats. My goal is to highlight some of the deeper numbers behind the game.

I'm ready for the real games to start. Of course, we can expect three to six inches of snow this evening.

Tags:  baseball, numbers
1 Comment
The love of Statistics is one of the things that has kept Baseball a very traditional sport and it makes it harder to change its motive operandi than the other professional sports.
BeanCounter37   Thursday, February 24, 2011
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