Alas Poor Stats

In an earlier post I commented on the decade. One thing I left out on purpose was the proliferation of statistics. My God, have they exploded into the public view. Most of them just say the same thing in different ways and many lead to the same conclusions. The problem with all of them is that they are flawed.

Pick a stat, any stat, and it’s flawed. Sometimes the flaw is obvious. I love runs produced (R + RBI – HR = RP). It gives you an immediate look at just how many runs a particular player gives his team. The flaw? Well, there are a couple. First, there is no context for the run. A run is a run is a run is simply not true. A run in 1965 is different that a run in 1995. Second, it leaves out contributions to runs that don’t actually produce an RBI or the run itself. A player leads off an inning with a double, is bunted to third (one out). The next man hits a sacrifice fly (1 run to the man on third, and RBI to the batter, two outs), then the next batter fans (third out, end of inning). So you have a run produced by the first and third batters, but what about the guy with the bunt? He doesn’t get it down, the fly only puts the man on third. The last batter strikes out and no run scores. Again, what abut the guy with the bunt? He gets no run produced yet his action is critical.

Some are more subtle. Take a look at WHIP. Nice stat, but knowing the number of hits a pitcher gives up isn’t the same thing as knowing the number of runs he gives up. A single that doesn’t score is 1 on the WHIP, so is a home run. Different result, but same stat effect.

 Some are just silly. There’s an old book called Super Stats that ends up with Gene Tenace as the greatest catcher ever. Oh, really?

Some come up with odd choices. A guy came up with WAR and tells me Bret Saberhagen was better than Sandy Koufax (not on Saberhagen’s best day and on Koufax’s worst maybe). I saw them both pitch and I know which was better.

So enjoy the new stats. Some are fun, some are silly, most are redundant. Just do me a favor, don’t take them too seriously and bet the farm on one of them.

Tags: , , ,


%d bloggers like this: