Let’s Talk About Stats, Baby

Let’s talk about stats, baby,

Let’s talk about you and me.

Let’s talk about all the good things,

And the bad things that may be.

Let’s talk about…stats.

Yeah that’s right, I threw a little Salt-N-Pepa (with a twist) into this post you’re about to digest.  Baseball is a game of flavorful and perhaps less tasteful numbers. One ridiculous statistic I recently read across my laptop screen was this:

“He’s the first National League player to account for as many as 30 steals and 25 double plays in one season.”

NPR’s Frank Deford wisely responded to this saying, “steals and double plays together? This is like saying, “He’s the first archaeologist to find 23 dinosaur bones and 12 Spanish doubloons on the same hunt.”

I don’t know what led me to Google “ridiculous baseball stats” and “stupid baseball stats” but it proved to be educational, entertaining and enlightening. I think perhaps as fans we just might be more obsessed with the numbers game in baseball than most Major League Baseball managers and players. The reasons behind a team’s skipper making a tough decision in a game often does come down to the probability that his player will produce. Sometimes it’s merely gut instinct or luck. Or both.

'He hits better against right handed pitching, so pitch left-handed, to him.'

Let’s check out a few of the common baseball statistics: BA (batting average), BB (walks), HBP (hit by pitch), OBP (on base percentage) & ROE (reached on error).

BATTING AVERAGE:

Baseball is a game in which as a batter you are considered successful when you fail seven out of ten times.  How? Well, it’s simple math, sort of. My Google search I mentioned earlier was quite enlightening for me personally. I didn’t realize how much of a numbers nerd I truly was but I’m happy to announce that I only wear my taped spectacles when I’m studying baseball statistics. Dropping mathematics as soon as I could credit-wise in high school was a wise choice for me (this is not on my resume).

Anyways, for simplicity’s sake let’s take a batter having ten AB (at bats) and he gets three hits in those ten at bats. In America’s favorite pastime, this is quite successful and his average is .300 (3 divided by 10). ‘Mighty Miggy’, Detroit Tiger’s Miguel Cabrera had 205 H (hits) out of 622 AB which gives him a .330 BA for the 2013 season. Amazing.

Statistically, the beginning month or two of the MLB season are fairly unreliable in determining a hitter’s performance but they of course average out considerably in the end. Maintaining a .400 batting average is virtually unattainable nowadays and hasn’t been accomplished during a single season since Ted Williams did so in 1941. Notable others in that .400 club are Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby &  Shoeless Joe Jackson. Ed Delahanty, Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby all hit .400 or better three times in their careers.

BB, HBP AND ROE:

What isn’t included in a BA that not necessarily should be but that just doesn’t totally reflect a batter’s total potential or odds of getting on base are: BB (walks), HBP (hit by pitch) & ROE (reached on error).

It takes a good eye and a patient at bat and/or a pitcher not having too good of an outing on the mound for a batter to receive a walk to first base. You’d think a hitter would get some credit for that awarded base, right? And let’s take a similar situation of being hit by a pitch (ouch).  Doesn’t the struck batter get any compensation for the bruise he’ll be sporting awhile? Well, yes, on both accounts, the player does receive credit…kind of like, well, a store credit, if you will. They will have something to show for it but it’s tucked away in the aforementioned statistics like OBP and ROE.

I’m about to talk nerdy to you so put these glasses on because they’ll help you follow these next equations:

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Got your glasses on? Alright, here we go. OBP does NOT include errors such as fielding errors, fielder’s choice, dropped/caught third strike, fielder or catcher’s obstruction. In the last five years there has been arguments, whether weak or strong, that the on base percentage should include errors in it’s calculations. Here is the OBP formula:

OBP= H + BB + HBP divided by AB + BB + HBP + SF (For those of you unfamiliar: H=hit; SF=sacrifice fly).

So this begs the question: who decides an error or a base hit? Answer: The official MLB scorekeeper on duty during each game. From what I understand to be true, Major League Baseball official scorekeepers have the power to decide for example if a player has a hit or if a fielder has an error. Judgment calls are made all the time. Major League Baseball actually recruits their own official scorers.

“It’s always safer to call it a hit (than an error). The batting team is happy and the fielding team can be ambivalent…but you have to make the proper call.” -Stew Thornley, official scorer

Here’s another head-scratcher for you:

BABIP= H-HR divided by AB-K-HR-SF (For those of you unfamiliar, HR=home runs; K=strike outs)

Now, what the heck is this? Good question. The not-so-simple answer is batting average on balls in play. To explain further, it is how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits or how many balls in play against a pitcher go for hits, excluding home runs. And just FYI, a normal BABIP is around .300.

Do MLB coaches and staff actually implement these formulas through their 162 game seasons? Some will admit to “playing the odds” or “consulting the numbers” and others won’t say.

Will a manager late in a game, if his team is behind by a run, put in a hitter with the best batting average (BA) or does he opt to put in another guy on the bench with a higher on base percentage (OBP) for their best chance at a victory?

Well, whether you believe statistics in baseball to be out of control or not, maybe you’ll find this to be true:

“Baseball isn’t statistics – baseball is (Joe) DiMaggio rounding second.” – Jimmy Breslin

Sports statistics are not in and of themselves misleading but they just might be an acquired taste. The inferences one may choose to draw from them, or be quietly led to draw from them, can be dangerously out of touch with reality. Factual as they may be, the only way to really digest a stat is with a grain of salt.

And remember baseball is a team sport so each individual player’s statistics are not going to be solely based upon his performance no matter how you add, subtract, multiply and divide. 

Alright, I’m checkin out for the night, time to take off my nerdy glasses.

Love and Laces,

Belle of Baseball

 

 

Love Covers All the Bases

***NOTE: I WROTE THIS ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14TH, AS THIS HORRIFYING EVENT’S DETAILS WERE CONTINUALLY BEING RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC***

Comfortably reclined on my sectional couch with my fingers poised I took notes on my laptop as I was glued to the TV news throughout the day Friday.  Anyone else find they were unable to function at times as details of the Connecticut school shooting streamed through your media devices?  This tight-knit town of Newtown, CT had a very low crime rate and is a place where everyone knew everyone.  Truthfully, my stomach is still upset.  I knew without a doubt, even though I had long durations of sitting there frozen, that I would write about this tonight.

My 3-year-old daughter, Lylah, sat curled up next to me watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on my tablet-a much happier program than the one unfolding before me.  This led me to think on the sweet innocence and joy children have within them, such gifts from God.  To witness the fatality count of elementary children was heart-wrenching and it truly did leave you asking…”why?”  What causes the alleged 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, to shoot not only all these children and adult school faculty staff but also members of his family as well?  You will hug your loved ones a little more often today and ask yourself whether you and your family are as safe as you once thought.

News teams scramble to get the most updated information to give answers to the questions all of us watching have.  Admittedly, I was on the edge of my couch cushion trying to put the pieces of this horrible tragedy together as they became available.  It seemed the more information relayed to the public, the less it all made sense.  I found myself relating the compassion I felt for the people affected by this tragedy to my passion for the game of baseball.

We desperately try to analyze what went wrong to cause this horrific shooting by gathering any and all facts relating to the suspect(s), victim(s), gun control is again brought up, school (and other public places’) security revisited and so on.  And this is done not only to prevent future sickening incidents like this one in Connecticut but also to ensure those responsible for the crime are brought to justice.  Baseball players (and teams as a whole too) analyze their individual/team struggles in order to learn from it, fix the problem(s) and continue to put them into practice to record the most wins they can in the 162 game season.  Each player has their individual stats but they add up to team stats.  They each contribute to make their team the best they can.

Likewise, the people in Newtown make up their small community ‘team’ in Connecticut.  From what I understand, people seem to care about one another, they know one another, they help one another out in times of need…and they suffer this tragic loss together.  People step up to plate in love to take care of those that need healing.  The aftermath of a senseless crime like this brings people together and we are already witnessing this as they are backing each other up in comfort, love, prayer and tears.  This should be the main focus for this quaint town as they begin the healing process.

The answers we all seek and especially asking why as we look back really shouldn’t be so focused on.  I realize by saying this it probably isn’t too popular.  I do truly understand the need/want to try to prevent these tragedies however I believe we can’t completely predict human behavior, we can only theorize what could happen.  Trust me, I was audibly asking why with tears in my eyes sitting in the living room with my daughter too.  Our minds are intricately complicated, along with the emotions created within us and even those differ by gender, upbringing, personality etc.  Truth be told my friends, just as a bad season for great baseball players happen, there are awful things in this world that happen that we have no explanation for and no control over.  I challenge you to be a light, an outstanding teammate in your community because you know what happens when you are?  You expose the darkness around you.  You can be the light to someone’s inner darkness with prayer, a kind word, a good deed…you never know how much of a difference you can be.

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I DO KNOW THIS: Love covers all the bases. LOVE covers a multitude of evil in this world.  If I have a decision to make (a more substantial one than how I’m wearing my hair to a special event or which shoes should go with the fabulous new outfit I bought), I strive to lean towards the side of love.  I literally ask myself, “What would be the most loving response?” or “how can I best show love here?” I have to constantly remind myself to put on love and control my reactions just like everyone else and more times than I care to admit, I fail.  It might sound cheesy but even if it doesn’t produce positive results or if I never know the result, I’m good with knowing I chose love.

Perhaps instead of why, we can ask in the present, how?  How do we move forward from this point?  How can I help the people where I live?  And regarding the shooting, I believe the people of Connecticut will soon move forward to asking themselves how to help heal those family and friends affected.  Hope is always alive!  Jim Leyland, Detroit Tiger’s manager, always encourages his team by saying, “we play hard 9 innings.” The game isn’t over until the last out is made, in baseball, you can be behind 5 or more runs and comeback in the 9th inning to win-which are extremely exciting games to watch, assuming it’s my Motown Boys with the comeback win!  However, you win and lose as a team.

Keep the hope going; pass that onto others with genuine care, encouragement, love and prayer.  Tragedy often brings people together and I believe the folks of Newtown will mourn this loss together.  Press on as a team, one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time.  Let your team know that you have their back for the full 162 game season, through the good and the bad.

Hug your loved ones today. I am grateful to have both a personal and professional support team in my life!

Until next game,

Belle of Baseball