Don’t Ignore All The Old Baseball Statistics

I was talking with a friend of mine recently and the topic turned to baseball, and in particular, the overwhelming number of statistics in today’s game. Most are relevant, but others are too much. Does anybody really need to know David Wright’s slugging percentage on afternoon games played on Tuesday?

I’m old school, and my first three statistics in evaluating a position player are average, homers and RBI. The game has evolved and there are far more elaborate and sophisticated methods to measure performance. That doesn’t mean all the traditional numbers are obsolete.

I understand the significance of WAR and OPS, but sometimes that’s thinking too much and not as accurate as one might argue.

You plug several numbers into a formula to get WAR and OPS, but there are factors overlooked, in that those numbers – and all statistics, actually – are compiled under different circumstances. To be totally objective, shouldn’t all players be evaluated under the same conditions? However, that is impossible, as each player performs against different pitchers; in different stadiums with different dimensions; some on artificial turf while some on grass; day and night; and different weather and environmental conditions. The list could go on indefinitely.

The fact is statistics are compiled under different conditions tainting the argument of total objectivity. This includes some of the old standbys, which unfortunately have been discarded by many in today’s world of Sabermetrics, two in particular are RBI for hitters and victories for pitchers.

I maintain both are still instrumental in properly evaluating a player.

The objective of the game in its simplest form is to score more runs than the other team. That makes runs – and preventing runs – as the statistics connected most to winning. In that vein, RBI, which is driving in runs, is arguably one of the top three offensive stats, which obviously includes runs scored, and on-base percentage because you can’t score unless you’re on base.

Talk to me all you want about OPS and WAR, but are either more important than the basic of runs scored or driven in? Which are most relevant when it comes to winning?

Home runs are important, but lose value when they come without runners on base. And, home runs aren’t as important when they are countered with an abundance of strikeouts. I’d rather have a hitter sacrifice power if it meant more productive at-bats and fewer strikeouts. Over the long haul, that would lead to more runs.

If you’re Mark Reynolds, your 30 homers don’t mean much if you’re striking out close to 200 times. That’s why I believe cutting down on strikeouts and increasing walks are the two most important stats this year for Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

As far as pitching wins are concerned, isn’t the object of the game to win? Realistically, wins for relievers are overrated because they often come with a blown save, plus the obvious of being in the right place at the right time.

However, they still carry weight with starters because they translate directly into your team winning the game. To get a win, a pitcher must go five innings, which means the pitcher must work more than half the game to get the victory. I would argue for a rules change that would require the pitcher to go at least six innings, which is half the requirement for a quality start.

Even so, working five innings – for the most part – puts your team in position to win the game, and that’s what is most important. I concede this doesn’t always translate into an effective outing, but if a win comes out of it isn’t it more effective than the other pitcher?

I appreciate WHIP because they measure effectiveness, but for a starter so does ERA and runs allowed.

Yes, cherish the new numbers, but remember there will always be a place in the game for some of the old statistics.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Ignore All The Old Baseball Statistics

  1. Did they ever change it from 6 to 5?

    Somehow I remember it being 6.

    Either way if your starter is not going into the 7th on a regular basis he is hurting the team. And I agree. It may be luck, timing or what have you. But a pitcher who wins 20 games is almost always better than one who wins 15.

    I also agree with your reasoning driving in or scoring runs is the name of the game. Offense tends to be collected in stats. It is the defense that is lacking. How do you objectively measure defense? I have seen the scorers give a guy who tries but fails to make a play an error, but one who doesn’t try gets a pass.

    • dave: Usually, if a player touches the ball on a seemingly routine play it is ruled an error. … I totally agree with you on the pitching. If your starter is out of the game before the seventh it’s not a good sign. … Defense is hard to measure. It’s mostly errors. There should be team errors, such as when a ball drops in between three fielders and nobody touches it. … Somehow, I’d like to measure mental errors, such as throwing to the wrong base or not backing up a play.-JD