Why I Love Baseball is a nine week series that will be posted on Tuesdays. The focus this week is on Baseball Statistics
I'm horrible with numbers. In fact, I can't do basic math without at least having a few minutes to figure out the answer. Yet, there's something different about baseball statistics that allows my brain to completely utilize its potential and come to a quick answer.
I still don't understand how I can explain the formula for VORP, but I can't tell you how to calculate the area of a circle. Perhaps it's because baseball is something that interests me, while trying to figure out how many apples Farmer John has does not.
Regardless for the reason that my inconsistent math skills exist, baseball statistics hold my interest. They are a part of the game's fabric.
Statistics describe baseball, they are the language of the game. Stats let us know who is a great hitter (.300) and who is below average (.200). They are indicators of our successes, our failures, and at times can tell us what to expect.
Statistics add to the dramatic story that is a baseball game.
If each game were a movie, then the player's stats would be the character development. When the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth people want the hero who is batting .315 with thirty home runs to step up and save the team, yet without stats, most of us would not know who that person is.
While we all love seeing the improbable happen with a walk off blast from a career .168 hitter, we would not fully understand the rarity of that underdog moment without stats.
Another fantastic thing about baseball stats is that there is basically a rule 34 for obscure statistics. If you can think of it, there's probably a statistic for it. Say you want to know the most home runs hit in a season by a left handed Shortstop in the modern era of baseball, the man being Dick McAuliffe, with twenty four HRs in 1964. It's only a matter of looking for it, because the statistics exists.
Another great thing about stats is the fact they can help settle arguments. well, maybe not all arguments, but somewhat.
As we all know, some people will continue to argue the contrary in the face of hard evidence. Yet, if you need to settle a dispute over who is a better hitter between two players, then all it takes is a simple review of career stats. A look at the batting averages, OPS and various other stats should help resolve the issue.
I believe right now with the rise of Sabermetrics and sites like FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus we're in a golden age of baseball statistics. I mean, the current influence of these once neglected stats is undeniable and it seems that a new type of stat is created daily. Even this blog created a stat.
I love baseball statistics because they're unbiased pieces of history. Sure, some may be flawed (see wins for pitchers), but they don't lie. And while I do love listening to different people's stories about baseball, I always know that it's slightly skewed by perception, even this series is.
Meanwhile, if I want to know who the greatest player in the history of the game is (Babe Ruth), all I have to do is look at the numbers.