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Bull Penned

by Archives September 29, 2009

The summer has officially expired. Baseball has traversed a series of tired clichés to reach this point. The “boys of summer” have survived the “dog days of August” to make it through the “September stretch.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. The end of September means one thing: stats! I love stats. What I don’t love is redundancy, and baseball is diving head first into a bubbling pool of it.
If you have a lust for numbers, baseball is about as complex as they come. The traditional stats line of a player can have upwards of ten numbers, each offering a unique look at their performance. That is partly why I love the sport. It is wide open for interpretation. Call me a nerd, but I adore statistics. I’m no mathematician, I just obsess over arguments and stats are like evidence. I even read nutritional information on cereal boxes to determine who’d win in a fight between Cap’n Crunch and Count Chocula. I personally say it’s the Cap’n.
The most intriguing stats to look at are the hitters’. So much registers when a bat hits a baseball that you can lose your mind. Is it a single, a double, a fielder’s choice, an error, and on and on. It is such a murky world out there that a player can get on base and not even appear to have shown up at all, according to an abridged stat line. The problem is that it seems baseball’s official statisticians are reaching real far up their backsides to come up with new statistics that may sound important, but honestly mean about as much as wedding vows to Britney Spears.
If you’ve ever watched a game into the late innings, you’ll find a downward spiral of relevance when it comes to numbers and relating them to actual performance and game-play. Batting average, RBIs, slugging percentage, these are all straightforward and applicable statistics to rating a player. Even gauging a player’s statistics with two-outs and runners in scoring position can seem like an interesting tidbit. But please, stat monkeys, relax and have a banana. No one wants to know about how many walks a hitter has against lefties on Tuesday afternoons, with light rain at a visiting ball-park. Who cares?
Frankly, these types of stats – which do exist and appear on national broadcasts, by the way – would get laughed out of any other sport’s broadcast booth. Imagine if I told you that Alex Ovechkin had most of his goals on even numbered dates. Or that LeBron James averaged more rebounds when opponents wore black shoes. Will this honestly cause you to question their actual abilities? Hardly. There is a difference between a statistic and recording a series of coincidences that are about as useless as Donald Trump’s comb.
This phenomenon of asininity won’t go away, however. As long as baseball games trudge over three hours long, and seasons last 162 games, broadcasters will be looking for anything, absolutely anything, to fill up the air time between pitches. Now if only we could get Kanye West a job in baseball commentating, we would have a fail-safe when undeserving stats make unwanted appearances.

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