Baseball more than any other sport is most easily examined and defined by statistics… but is baseball going a bit too far with it’s statistical self examination and over statisticizing itself?
From the simple world of the homerun, batting averages, earned run averages, wins, and losses the world of baseball now has VORPS, WARPS and WHIPS, BABIPs and OPS, Quality Starts, Defensive efficiency, and some exotic, almost algebraic, thing called PECOTA or Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm… oh my!
In fact, the list of every statistic, and it’s definition, that now exists in baseball probably would fill enough pages that a book could be created.
This week the crew tackle some questions on the tangled web of baseball statistics… plus some thoughts on Kirk Gibson, ARod’s HR bonus entitlements and in an Extra Inning discussion who they think are the four greatest living major leaguers…
1) Out of all the major sports, baseball is probably the most easily measurable by statistics… and to an extent, it’s arguing about statistics that makes baseball so much fun to follow. But can statistics and what is being measured be going a bit too far? Consider the “Hold” statistic in MLB. In this age of pitcher specialization, in some games a parade of relievers can come into a game maybe face one batter each and before you know it each has been awarded an “H” for “Hold”
What’s your opinion on the “Hold” stat?
Archie: The hold stats for me is going a bit too far. I understand that Managers/Coaches and especially “agents” like every good stat they can get their hands on to measure a pitcher’s ability. And, to some degree that is fine as long as those particular stats are kept in the bargaining room. I do NOT feel like they belong in record books creating yet another stat column to be tracked for the ages. And, there is no way to compare those to relief pitchers prior to this particular stat being introduced. So, I say no to that line being in the record books; yes, to it applying in the clubhouse and bargaining table.
Earl: I have to be honest. I am not a statistics guy. Math was my worst subject in school, so, I have little use for the stuff to be honest. As long as I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide I’m good. I can do that.
So, I have no idea what a hold is, and, frankly: I don’t care.
It essentially has no meaning… I’ve seen games where pitchers have come into a game maybe threw a pitch or two, left the game, another pitcher comes into the game gets his batter out and maybe two more pitchers all do the same thing… 4 pitchers, 1 inning, 4 “holds”.
The only thing/situation stupider is when a pitcher comes into a game; blows the “hold”, get credited with a blown save (which is actually correct) but then he gets out of the inning without further damage. His team regains the lead and never loses it again and that pitcher now gets the win although he never throws another pitch.
Steve: I actually like this stat because it gives relievers something to focus on. The middle relievers will get a few wins here and there in a season, but nothing to really show what impact that they have on a particular game. So, I do like this stat, and, in my fantasy league, pitchers get points for that stat.
2) Considering statistics… in your opinion does baseball sometimes go overboard in creating all sorts of stats? Simply put, does baseball, in its ability to so easily be enumerated sometimes over-measure and over-analyze itself? In a manner of speaking, does baseball sometimes “go a stat too far”?
As well as, if you go into MLB.com and look at all the sortable stats for a season there is definitely a plethora of stats one can get over inundated with. Sometimes they are valuable when one wants to find out how well a player does during a certain point in the season for those that like to play the “fantasy” sports, but, for the average user, they are way too overboard.
Earl: Absolutely, but, I think all sports go too far with statistics. These weird terms stat freaks apply go way over my head. I’d prefer if there were less stats in sports, and, just to keep it to the simple tried and true information we already know. I can’t get with all this new fangled stat geek crap.
Joe: Without a doubt… I go to Baseball.Reference.com and 25%-50% of the stats on any given page have no meaning to me. I tried figuring them out and all it got me was frustrated, so, I quit doing that. MLB.com is far worse, so, I won’t even go there except for the basic stuff… RBIs, Wins, Losses, ERAs, Batting Averages, HRs, etc…
I’ll stay with looking at the basics stats I grew up with. They were just fine for me figuring out who was good and who wasn’t so damn good as far as the game went.
Steve: There does seem to be a stat for everything now a days. But, honestly, it is just a stat, and I guess it really doesn’t matter just so long as people don’t start holding players accountable for a certain stat.
3) A final statistics quiz question: Recently a Giants fan petitioned the commissioner to “asteriskize” Arod’s 660 HR which tied him with Willie Mays for 4th on the all-time HR list. It’s not going to happen but in his plea to the commissioner he said “Out of respect to the “Say Hey” kid, and as an unprecedented action for one of baseball’s greatest players, #24 Willie Mays, it’s time for Major League Baseball to acknowledge that baseball statistics are more than just numbers”
Are they? Are statistics more than just numbers and do they have some other intrinsic and/or subjective value than just objectively stating a player’s position in retrospect to other players throughout the history of the game?
Archie: This is still yet another great debate all in itself. The comparing of achievements across the entire 140 years of pro-baseball with all of its changes, economic struggle periods, World Wars that took players away, equipment and ballpark improvements one just simply CANNOT use the numbers solely to compare those greats from the past to those of today.
However, having said that, I do not think we should diminish those achievements by the players of today. Players today are way more dedicated to living a healthier lifestyle. They are way more physically stronger and bigger due to better workout habits; and yes, that is even without steroids.
I have come to accept and even like the whole Sabermetrics way of looking at the numbers and for the most part I use those more so than I do the old standards of measuring the numbers. But in the end it all comes down still to one basic or final thing and that is “How did the player stack up against his peers?” IF he dominated in his day of play then no numbers for those that followed diminish the accomplishments of those that preceded. And, the same is true for today’s players, if, they dominate now, then they are among the best and deserve to be recognized as such.
Earl: Well, you already know my statistics position from my answer to the first two questions, but in regard to 660, A-Rod, and his place: that steroids cloud that will continue to be over his head has already damaged his case. While Willie was very diplomatic in his statement over A-Rod reaching 660 home runs, I think, in the mind of most fans, the number means nothing. However, overall, I do think numbers and records do mean something to fans. We seem to pay more attention when players reach one of those unattainable stats or records.
Joe: Yes and no… Statistics are a way of measuring how players stand up against one another. Really pour through a player’s career stats and a picture of what kind of batter or pitcher he was is formed.
However there are some stats that have that certain je ne sais quoi… Home runs (60 in a season; 600 for a career), some batting averages (such as the .400 plus season BA) ,wins (20plus in a season or 300 plus for a career), hits (200 in a season or 3000 for a career)… these stats have a qualitative significance to their reality… attainment of certain levels are historical markers and place the player usually in a different classification apart from all other players on some level or another.
There are some records that in some fans’ minds are open to discussion. Like the Home Run for instance, where Roger Maris and his 61 Home Runs is still considered the record by many fans, despite Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs in a season, Mark McGwire hitting 70 in a season, and Sammy Sosa hitting 66 in a season. Which is ironic, since Maris’ had an asterick by his name up until 1990.
And, most people still consider Hank Aaron as the all time Home Run King despite Bonds having a higher number in the record book.
So, yes, while a statistic it just a number, everyone can have their own opinion on who the record holders are. In some respects, there will always be a controversy.
4) Background per ESPN: The addendum to contract with ARod calls for 5 payments of $6 million for reaching the following home run milestones: 660 (Willie Mays’ total), 714 (Babe Ruth), 755 (Hank Aaron), 762 (Barry Bonds) and 763, which would break Bonds’ all-time record.
Rodriguez reached the first milestone with his pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of a 3-2 Yankees win over the Red Sox.
A source who was involved in the drafting of the agreement told ESPNNewYork.com that the numbers are explicitly spelled out in the contract; the Yankees contend that the bonuses are contingent upon the club’s ability to market the accomplishment, which they contend is impossible now due to Rodriguez’s admissions of, and punishment for, illegal PED usage.
The GM, Brian Cashman, says the team will not pay the bonus because due to Arod’s extensive PED use and suspension the benchmarks are no longer marketable. ARod’s group says a deal is a deal is a deal. Cashman says “We’re going to honor our responsibilities of the contract,” Cashman said. “(But) how it’s been reported… and what the contract actually says are two different things. It’s not ‘you do this, you get that.’ It’s completely different. It’s not all of a sudden, we’re choosing not to do something. If we choose to pursue something we’ll choose to pursue it. If we choose not to, it’s our right not to. In both cases, we’re honoring the contract.”
The burnt bridges ARod left behind when he was suing everyone in sight are well documented and it is easily understood why anyone involved, The Yankees, MLB, as well as the Union itself, aka MLBPA, would be angry with ARod. Yet, the union will assist ARod in an appeal to fight the denial of his bonus and MLB, itself, through the commissioner’s office say he paid his debt and is welcome to rejoin the game…
So… why the decision by the Yanks to stonewall paying out what, to them, is essentially pocket change? What’s it really all about? Any ideas?
Archie: None. I was actually shocked when I saw the ticker tape release. IMO the Yankee’s should have to pony up the money. I think they might be balking due to A-Rod’s legal threats and law suit deals but in the end; I honestly believe IF it goes to a court, and I think it will go to an arbitrator to adjudicate, then the Yankees will have to pay up.
Earl: It’s all about ego here. Alex crossed the Yankees every chance he got, before he finally broke down and played nice, because he had no choice but to. I don’t think the Yankees organization forgot anything A-Rod and his attorneys did. They have the power to stall him out, and that’s exactly what they will do. Alex has no leg to stand on. Who’s going to defend him? The Players Union? They can’t stand his ass either.
Joe: The only answer I got is somebody’s panties are in a bunch (Hal Steinbrenner’s?), their ego is bent and they are just being putz’. I think they have an argument, but, hell, they knew, or at least had a strong inkling, that ARod was using PEDs… they just wanted to hear the ka’ching go off numerous amounts of times signifying the cash rolling in as ARod got closer and closer to replacing Barry Bonds as the HR king.
Like the saying goes “Lie down with hippies wake up with fleas.”
This is about pissing A-Rod off so that he tries to leave the team. The Yankees have not been shy about the fact that they do not want him on the team, and, this is just another way to show it.
Kirk was a hell of a player and went on to play seven more seasons but no other AB compares to that walk-off homerun in the WS.
Joe: As far as memorable home run? What else? His one and only plate appearance in the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. He had hurt both legs during the NLCS, and, he was not expected to play at all in the World Series. However, in Game 1, the Dodgers trailed by a score of 4–3, a man on first, and, two out in the ninth inning, manager Tom Lasorda sent Gibson up to the plate. Gimpy Gibson, limped to take his at bat and fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it back to 2-2, fouled off a pitch and then it was 3-2… next pitch, using pure upper body strength, he took it over the wall…
As far as his career he was a decent enough right fielder who could bop one out in sometimes dramatic fashion, combined fair power with good speed.. almost stole 30 bases and hit 30 homers one season… fell 1 homer short in 1985. But, overall I think he was a memorable player who is in the Hall of the Very Good as opposed to being in the Hall of Fame.
I was only 8 years old when Gibson limped up to the plate, and literally with one arm, took the ball over the right field wall and the Dodgers won game 1, 5-4, and, ultimately, won the World Series in 5 games.
There’s a couple of polls going around right now by Fox and MLB…
One is who, on your favorite team, are the top Franchise Four players…
The other poll is who are the Four Greatest Living Players in Major League Baseball history?
Archie: I have actually been tracking this and found it to be quite an interesting debate. The four living greatest is easily the toughest debate simply because of our favorites and placing those players like Pedro Martinez pitted against the likes of Johnny Bench or Hank Aaron. Having said that my top four, in no real particular order would be Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and (I KNOW there will be those that think I have lost my mind on this one but…) Roger Clemens.
As for my favorite team top four franchise players, and my team of course being the Braves, I have to go with Hammering Hank, Chipper Jones, Warren Spahn and John Smoltz. I do remember and really liked Dale Murphy. Murph was the heart and soul of the team for many years, but they never won anything with Murph.
In my opinion they are Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza. Yeah, you can tell I’m an 80’s baby since the only one I listed that I never actually saw play as a Met is Seaver.
Four greatest living players of all time? Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, and Hank Aaron. Three Hall of Famers and a man who should be in the Hall.
Four greatest living MLB players? this is an impossible question to answer… but here goes… Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Pete Rose (despite my personal feelings about Rose… the all-time hit man in MLB was the greatest utility player ever… all-star at 1st, 2nd, 3rd, LF and RF) and Yogi Berra.
1) Greg Maddux – Who arguably is the greatest pitcher of all time. 2) Tom Glavine – Another phenominal pitcher even though he did have a short stint with the Mets, I’ll forgive him. 3) Hank Aaron – How can you leave off the greatest legal home run hitter ever. 4) Steve Avery – He is a personal favorite of mine as I grew up watching his early dominant years. I’ll never forget his performance in the 1992 NLCS.
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