Monday, August 7, 2017

Really dumb baseball stats

As any baseball fan knows, the geeks (and not a few scribes) have been hard at work lately coming up with stats from hell. Here are a couple and why they don't matter.

OPS. This supposedly stands for "on base percentage plus slugging". Gone are the days when we judged hitters on such things as batting average, homers, and RBIs.

OPS was created to make even marginal players look good in the stats department. The last guy on the bench typically has one of at least .700. That sounds a whole lot better than saying he's batting a woeful .200.

But if a guy hits a solo homer in a game, then comes up the next three times with the bases loaded and strikes out every time to see his team lose by a single run -- presto -- his OPS is a whopping 1.000. Four times up and four bases, even though he pretty well stunk it up.

Another scenario. Same guy gets hit by a pitched ball. Next time up, whiffs at strike three but the ball gets by the catcher and he makes it to first base. Then reaches base on an error by an infielder. Then grounds into a fielder's choice with less than two outs, so he's on first again.

Four times up, and four times getting on base. A perfect 1.000. Looks great on the stat sheet, but what has he actually done? Nothing.

Even more offensive is the dreaded WAR. This supposedly stands for "wins above replacement". The logical question would seem to be -- who is the replacement such player is being compared to?

Take Nick Castellanos, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, as an example. His WAR is somewhere around one, which is supposedly not so good. But we never hear of a negative WAR, as in this guy is costing his team games. NC is batting around .240, and has been a butcher as a third sacker. He may as well have a meat cleaver on his left hand as a fielder's glove. Plus he's slow of foot on the basepathes and prone to bonehead decisions.

It is telling that the Tigers recently offed a decent hitter, though pitiful outfielder in J.D. Martinez, and a so-so reliever in Justin Wilson -- to get back a couple "prospects", both of which are third basemen. Dear Nick's days in Detroit would seem to be numbered.

Comparing Castellanos to a really good third baseman via WAR would seem to dictate he show up far on the negative side. Conversely, comparing him to a cardboard cut-out playing third would likely have the opposite effect. Maybe.

Good grief, put a cardboard cut-out in the batter's box, and it will probably get hit or draw a walk once in a while too. Did I mention "on base percentage"?

Yet another is how pitchers get blamed for "mistakes". This typically happens when a batter smokes a pitch into the bleachers somewhere. But are they really mistakes?

Hey, somewhere along the line every pitcher has to throw pitches in the strike zone, or else every opposing batter would gladly take a walk.

I don't want to hear about 95 MPH fastballs. Every major league hitter can catch up with those.

But there's the thing. A pitcher can make the "perfect pitch", say on the outside corner at the knees, and a batter might hit it for a homer anyway. It happens. Or they can leave a hanging breaking ball up in the strike zone, typically a batting practice pitch, but the batter might swing and miss at it. So which was a mistake indeed?

Forget all this stat nonsense. Good pitchers find a way to get batters out. Good hitters find a way to hammer the ball. Good fielders make sparkling defensive plays. Good runners find a way of taking an extra base here and there.

None of that has changed.

It's like the political polls these days. Stats can be shaped to make somebody look good when they're actually terrible at their job.

Give me a starting pitcher that wins twice as many games as he loses and I'll call him a star. Give me a hitter that's batting somewhere around .300, can occasionally go deep, fields his position well, has a decent arm, a bit of speed, or lacking that, brains on the basepathes.

It's not the proverbial brain surgery, though the "metrics" zealots would have us believe so.

Baseball and its players are what it's always been.

Some guys are just better than others, and all the geek-stats in the world trying to make the below average ones into heros is nothing more than Pollyannish propaganda.

Such is the politically correct world these days, which yours truly thoroughly detests and will always rail against in the name of calling em like I see em, and let the chips fall where they may.

Thou shalt not call a bum a bum any more. So they say.

Ah, how I yearn for the good old days. because the da bums are still out there making WAY too much money.

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