published: Friday, December 28, 2012
Baseball gets even crazier
For those of you who love those weird little baseball facts and get caught up in crazy stats, I read a piece by ESPNs Jayson Stark the other day, and there were some phenomenal ones from this past Major League season.
Such as the fact that there was a rain delay in Milwaukee, which might not seem surprising until one remembers that the Brewers play in a domed stadium.
Granted, it's a retractable dome, so either a weather front moved in unexpectedly and/or the person who gets that roof closing was a little slow on the uptake - but still, a rain delay at a domed stadium.
Also at one point this past season, the Pittsburgh Pirates hit back-to-back home runs that both hit off the same foul pole.
Cincinnati outfielder Todd Frazier took a swing at a pitch, lost his grip in the midst of it and essentially wound up throwing the bat at the ball - and hit a home run.
Brewer catcher Todd Lucroy, with barely more than 200 games under his belt as the year began, had two seven-RBI games.
Chipper Jones, the recently retired Atlanta Brave and future Hall of Famer played 2,499 games in his career and never had one game with as many as seven RBI.
On the pitching side of things, in the first six seasons of the 2000s, there were seven no-hitters thrown.
This year, there were seven pitched in the six months of the season, two by pitchers who had once been traded for each other, Philip Humber of the White Sox and Johan Santana of the Mets.
Santana's no-no was the first in the Mets history whereas, during that span, fellow 1962 expansion team Houston had 10 in its' history.
There are some more doozies in Stark's column, but one segment got me to thinking about a particular movie I finally got a chance to see in recent weeks, "Moneyball."
Well, that's not entirely true in that I caught glimpses of it on a flight back home last summer.
But I'm more of a sleep-traveler (unless I'm driving of course) and therefore didn't purchase the required headphones, so I merely viewed various scenes with no sound before fully dozing off.
Now that it is on the cable turntable, I've seen it full way through a few times recently and though I basically knew the story, from when it happened, I got a better understanding and appreciation of what Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane and his sabermetric, stat-nerd cohort (named Peter Brand in the film) were trying to do.
As a smaller market team, the A's were stuck with limited payroll potential and faced the fact that they were likely going to be also-rans in both bidding on big-name players and, as an assumed result, in the standings as well.
But Brand, loosely based on Paul DePodesta, an assistant to Beane at the time, was part of the new generation of baseball minds that looked deeper into the numbers, came up with some new ones, and had a new philosophy on what was the best way to evaluate players.
Basing it less on the traditional statistics, batting average, home runs and RBI, and more on the underlying stats like on base percentage.
It, of course, goes far deeper and much more number crazy than that, but for brevity's sake, that is the predominant principal - the more often a runner gets on base, the higher percent chance he has of scoring.
Load your team with many players who get on base a higher percentage of the time, the probability of scoring more runs goes up.
So then, guess who had a better season, along those lines, for the 2012 Chicago White Sox?
First you have outfielder Alex Rios, with a .304 batting average, 25 home runs, 91 RBI and 93 runs scored.
Sure seems like a much better year than that had by Sox teammate Adam Dunn, with his .204 batting average and whopping 222 strikeouts.
Add in some other stats and the difference gets even more glaring.
Dunn had twice as many strikeouts as hits (110) for the second year in a row (first time that's ever happened), and as late as Aug. 5, he had more strikeouts than the league's leading pitcher.
Now we all know that Dunn is a power hitter, so his 41 home runs and 96 RBI on the season might not be too surprising, and they do somewhat close the gap on Rios - even if Dunn hit his 30th home run before he hit his 30th single.
But part of what the current thinking is, regarding stats, is making fewer outs.
Now consider Rios grounded into 18 double plays this past season, Dunn hit into eight.
And here comes the kicker.
While Dunn struck out a lot, he also drew a boat load of walks, 105 to be exact, while Rios drew just 26 bases on balls.
So while Rios' batting average was 100 points higher, Dunn actually reached base two more times than Rios did and their on base percentages wound up just one point apart, with Rios at .334 and Dunn at .333.
Which only goes to show, as odd as baseball already can be, sabermetrics is adding on a whole new layer.
Dan Hoehne is the News-Sun Sports Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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