This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: La Scala Opera House.
Just kidding. It's a Norman Chad article
I like Norman Chad, kind of. He really doesn't interfere in my life that much, and the only time he does he's calling the WSOP and making 30 jokes per minute about his ex-wives, and there's something kind of reassuringly corny about his gormless self-depreciation. But then he had to go and write this:
I was watching a regular-season baseball game on TV the other night — granted, it was a stupid thing to do and I'm already paying the price –
...? Why? Why is that bad?
— when the following piece of data streamed across my screen:
"Todd Helton is only the seventh player in MLB history to possess a .325 career batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .575 slugging percentage."
"Wow," I said to myself. "Todd Helton is a good baseball player." Then I finished watching the game and went to sleep, because nothing interesting or noteworthy had happened. The End. Love, Norman Chad.
You could've knocked my socks off with that one, except I was already barefoot and drinking PBR out of a can.
See? Gormless self-depreciation. It's cute.
The Helton factoid is what I would call statistical debris.
In the old days, a garbage truck would come by twice a week to haul that stuff away, but nowadays this sporting trash is piled up so high so often, it's too costly to dispose of on a regular basis.
I'm lost. This is a metaphor, right? Or is Normie's PBR-addled brain mis-remembering how garbage removal works?
And so it is heaped into our living rooms and we must learn to live with it, like an evil mother-in-law who's moved in indefinitely.
A recent study of the Ju'hoansi San – also known as the !Kung – who live on the Namibia-Botswana border, determined that their distinctive clicking sounds have links to the most primitive language in humanoid history, which traces back over 40,000 years. A thorough examination of these sounds, cross-referenced with the fossil record and an extensive examination of similar languages and proto-languages, has determined that it is literally impossible to tell a joke older than "my mother-in-law drives me nuts!"
For years, ESPN has led the statistical avalanche. But it has plenty of company now. The Wall Street Journal covers the world of business and the world at large pretty adeptly; however, when it comes to the world of sports, the Journal has turned into USA Today, with bigger words. The Journal reduces all of sport to numbers, graphs and pie charts — it's a statistical junkyard, with spare parts nobody needs.
Which is why nobody watches ESPN or reads the Wall Street Journal. When will they learn to be more in line with Norman Chad's worldview? It will totally help them be better at business.
Also, USA Today is his idea of a publication with too much complicated information? Nobody let Norman Chad see FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus. His fucking head will explode.
The Journal even offers daily predictions. For instance, "Los Angeles Lakers 103.2, Houston Rockets 90.9" or "Philadelphia Phillies 5.2, New York Mets 4.8." "Scores are based on the average of 10,000 game simulations," we are told, "and rounded to 1 decimal point."
You know what I'd like to "simulate?" Strangling my mother-in-law!
I am somewhat thankful, for both my own emotional well-being as well as the emotional well-being of my unborn children, that the scores are not rounded to the hundredths or thousandths.
You know what I'm thankful for? My mother-in-law is leaving tomorrow! (Okay, I'll stop.) (But not until I make you read the following paragraph in full, because it gets really good at the end.)
(I have another problem with the Wall Street Journal. Recently, it started a Monday feature in which someone watches TV all weekend; it's called "The Couch." Really? The Couch? Last I checked, I am The Couch Slouch. Have been for quite a while. Is there not some intellectual infringement here — well, assuming there was any intellect attached to becoming The Couch Slouch? Couldn't they've been a bit subtler about stealing my shtick — maybe call the column "The Sofa" or "The Ottoman"? Why doesn't the guy just sit in my lap, eat my Fritos and take my third wife? Please!)
Take my third wife – please.
How stunning, that a guy who quotes a Henny Youngman joke from the 1930's isn't super psyched about advances in statistical analysis.
Also, you didn't invent the word "couch." Nor were you the first man to put a couch in front of the television. But you should still sue.
The Journal ran a story earlier this year detailing how a couple of University of Pennsylvania professors studied 6,500 NCAA basketball games from 2005 to 2008 and concluded that teams have a 51.3 percent chance of winning when they are behind by a single point at halftime. In other words, when you're ahead, chances are you will lose; apparently, you are more motivated when you are behind.
Geez, using that theory, the Washington Nationals should be undefeated, no?
Ha ha ha ha ha! No! Because those are not real games!
I find that stat very interesting and counter-intuitive. It has added to my enjoyment of sport. Unlike those bags of peanuts on airplanes, which are so hard to open.
Baseball remains the biggest sports-by-numbers perpetrator. ESPN litters the baseball screen with updated, situational numbers on every pitch — with a magnifying glass, you can figure out how a hitter does better when the count is 2-0 rather than 0-2.
Suggestion: put down your magnifying glass, disregard information being presented to you free of charge, continue to drink PBR, enjoy game as per normal.
Speaking of which, I read the other day that the Dodgers have increased their "pitches per plate appearance" from 3.63 in 2007 to 3.81 in 2008 to 3.96 in 2009, which puts them second in the majors.
Hilariously, this fact is presented as meaningless statistical chuffah. In 2007 they won 82 games. They've won 84 already this year and should easily pass their 2007 runs total. In 2007 and 2008 they were 6th in the NL in OBP, and this year they're #1. In 2007 they were 12th in the league in walks, then 10th, now 4th. The team has gotten more patient. They are walking more. They are winning more. (Walking isn't by any means the only reason. But it sure ain't hurting.)
Here's an actual sentence from a recent USA Today story: "Earned runs are constructed from a confluence of events."
Da-whaaaaa?! What kind of insane word jumble is that? "Earned runs?!?!?!" "Constructed?" Is that even a word?!?! "Confluence?" Are you kidding me? Why not just say "gorbledee borbledee flerm! I mean, does anyone in the world this side of William Safire even know what these words mean?! "Events?!" "Are?!" "Of?!" Raise your hand if you've ever heard the word "of" before.
Frankly, I thought I had stumbled onto a crime story and was about to digest a police toxicology report. But it was an article on ERA and what affects it.
So, just to be clear: you are familiar enough with the phrase "police toxicology report" to use it as a lame joke, but the phrase "confluence of events" sent your brain spinning around in your brainpan.
It included the following words on Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens:
"...a low 5.2 strikeout rate and 1.6 K/BB ratio are worrisome. His .260 BA-BIP and 84 percent strand rate are both primed for regression. Jurrjens' 5.03 xERA is nearly three runs higher than his actual ERA, an ominous indicator."
Heck, I'm scared.
Well, sure. Cavemen are always scared when they see things they don't understand. Like wheels, and such.
Okay, folks, here's a stat for you:
Nobody gets out alive. Nobody. So enjoy it while you can, and I'll see ya 6.0 feet under.
What an incredibly depressing way to end a piece of light sports prose.
"So I guess you could say that this year's Hot Dog Eating Contest truly was a lot of bun for everyone! And one final note: there is no God, man's search for meaning is a cosmic red herring, and we're all going to die. See you next year!"