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Statistics Are Ruining Baseball

Illustration for article titled Statistics Are Ruining Baseball

Back when I was a kid, you didn't need to bring a calculator to the game. You went, you cheered, and if you were lucky, the third base coach would share a pack of Chesterfields with you. But now everyone has computers, and stat guys, and the game has become unrecognizable.


Take a look at some of these statistics, and tell me it's not like reading the Dead Sea Scrolls in the original Aramaic. "Earned Run Average?" I didn't flunk pre-algebra just to spend September evenings trying to count up all the players who scored against a pitcher, only to have to divide that by nine. Why nine? I'm sure I'll get tons of emails telling me that nine has a basal coefficient and is therefore the most telling, but I don't want that. When I watch Justin Verlander pitch, I don't need some basement-dweller with his TI-86 graphing calculator to know that the man can flat-out pitch. ERA? More like an era of stupidity.

I'm not so keen on this "Wins" stat either. Have you ever made yourself a refreshing gin rickey and actually read about wins? It takes 700 words to describe. A pitcher has to start the game, unless he doesn't, and he has to be sitting in the dugout when his team scores more runs on offense, even though that has nothing to do with him, and all of this has to happen after a specific inning, unless it doesn't, and then someone at MIT decides whether or not the pitcher should qualify. I was talking to an old scout at Toots Shor's the other day and he told me, "Barry, these kids can keep their 'wins.' I scouted Hal Newhouser, and let me tell you, I didn't need to calculate his 'wins' to know his team would be getting handed a trophy from Will Harridge one day." Wins? More like losing your mind over numbers.


I used to spend many long summer evenings arguing with my school chums over who was better. What do kids do now? One says Matt Kemp is better. The other says Rick Ankiel's better. They log on to their Gateway computer, and that says that Kemp has 100 more hits than Ankiel, and the argument's over? Where's the magic? No wonder baseball is dying. It's only for the stat geeks.

I long for a simpler time. When contracts were given out for moxie and pep, not "OPB" and "RBI." When the only number that truly mattered was Mickey Mantle's BAC. Sabermetrics? Marty Bergen is the best catcher of all time, and he used an ax to kill his family, not a saber. The game used to be decided on the field, not on Billy Beane's scrap paper.

When the "Moneyball" movie hysteria subsides, I hope the sabermeticians STFU.

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