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Just The Sports: Random Musings

Just The Sports

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Random Musings

There will be neither rhyme nor reason to the things I am about to write. They are just thoughts that have been running through my head and that I wanted to write down before I forgot them. Consider yourself warned.

Athletes and Box Scores
Every so often you will hear an athlete say something to the effect that he doesn't pay any attention to what the sports media says about him or even look to see what stats are. I can completely understand not listening to what the sports media says. For the most part, they are fools who are not held accountable for their foolishness. What I do not understand is why any player would shy away from looking at his own stats during the course of a season. What is better than stats for telling a player how productive he is and what he needs to work on? It would stand to reason that keeping up with his own stats would help the player in the long run.

For example, let's say a baseball player is going through a slump where he is struggling to get on base. So he gets the bright idea to compare how many pitches he saw per plate appearance when he was getting on base regularly to how many pitches per plate appearance he is seeing now during his slump. Then, after comparing the data, the aforementioned player would see his that when he was doing well at the plate, he was seeing more pitches than when he wasn't doing well. Therefore, he goes back to his days of having plate discipline and works his way out of the slump. Moral of the story, players, is to check your stats.

A Suggestion For Sports Networks
Since forever, when a baseball player comes up to hit, the network shows the player's batting average, home runs, and RBI total. Unfortunately, two of these three statistics, batting average and RBI total, are grossly misleading. There has been exhaustive research done to show that both of these statistics are overrated and neither gives a clear picture of how good a hitter a player is. Take batting average for example. To get some idea of how little batting average tells anyone, tear a photograph into thirds and then show a stranger one-third of the photograph and ask them to guess what the rest of the photograph looks like. Chances are they will not be able to. Nor does batting average give you a complete picture of a hitter. On-base percentage and slugging percentage do a much better job.

As for RBI, I cannot stress enough that RBI tells you nothing about how productive a hitter is because it is not even an individual statistic. To get an RBI means a player has to be lucky enough to have a teammate in base who is fast enough to score off a base hit. In addition, a great hitter may not get many RBI at all because his teammates are not getting on base so he has no one to drive in. Are we then to say he is inferior to a player who has teammates with good on-base percentages who are always in scoring position? Of course not.

And while I am on the subject, networks who show games should also refrain from showing a pitcher's win-loss record, as if that is any indicator of how good a pitcher is. Wins, like RBI, are a team statistic, not an individual one. Case in point, a pitcher can pitch a complete game where he only gives up one run, but his teammates score him no runs. And the pitcher loses. Is the pitcher who lost this game worse than a pitcher who gave up four runs, but got five runs in support? Not at all. A pitcher's WHIP, home run rate per nine innings, and strikeouts per nine innings are much better indicators of talent and production.

Intentional Walks
Why would any baseball manager intentionally walk a player so as to purposefully put him on base, you ask? Well, that is a very good question, especially since is probably only one instance where it is smart to intentionally walk a batter. However, I will venture a guess. Managers intentionally walk batters because when they played their manager intentionally walk players and the managers before those managers did the same. Hopefully, there will soon come a day, probably when managers are no longer former players, where the intentional walk is no longer seen as a smart option.

That being said, I have a word of advice to baseball managers everywhere. Stop walking Barry Bonds. If you are going to be dumb enough to intentionally walk someone, at least do it right. The point is to give a free pass to the batter you fear in order to allow your pitcher to pitch an inferior hitter. Well, when the batter behind the player you're intentionally walking has an on-base percentage of .371 and is slugging .618, it might just be a good idea to stop.


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