April 15, 1991

Staturated

Baseball has percentages, ratios and averages in numbing abundance, but, the author asks, where are the stats when you really need them?

 PRINT EMAIL MOST POPULAR SHARE
 1 2 3

First, we bring back the Game Winning RBI. Then we work up definitions of Game Winning Assist, Game Winning Putout and Game Winning Basepath Sprint, to go along with the Pitching Win, Save (half a Win) and Hold (a third of a Win). Say a player had six GWTD (Game Winning Things Done) during a World Series in which the winning player's share was \$ 18,000. Disinflate that down to constant 1903 (first World Series year) dollars, which makes it a much more workable figure, say \$287. Now multiply \$287 by six and divide by a FTMILMLBS (Factor to Make It Look More Like a Baseball Stat), say 1,000. Round off a digit, and you come up with a 1.72 MPA (Money Playing Average). Whatever else may be said about this figure, it is less depressing to the average adult fan (who is 14.3 years older than Jose Canseco and makes 4.6773 million dollars a year less) than any other money number being tossed around in baseball today.

Many players claim that they play not for financial gain but for pride and personal satisfaction. These are hard nuts to break down. Nor is it easy to prove or disprove, statistically, players' contentions that they pay no attention to stats.

But, hey, it's also tough to force your team to renegotiate a contract that has three more years to run, or even to hit a slider. The players have their jobs, and we analysts have ours: to devise ever more sophisticated numbers for players to put up, whether they want to or not. Our dream is for these numbers to become so precisely and intimately significant that we can turn the process around and create players statistically. Conceivably, such players would not even have to be paid.

As anyone knows who is familiar with the story of Dr. Frankenstein, there will still be kinks to work out. But think how far baseball math has come since the days when sportswriters often lost themselves in frivolity and were capable of believing that crude stats like batting averages were enough. Back in that dark time, a veteran scribe once lurched into a press box just at the end of a game he was assigned to cover. He asserted his right to copy a sober young reporter's scorecard.

Concerned about making his own deadline, the young hand reluctantly went along. The vet made his way blearily but resolutely through the meticulous notations, until he came to a "6-3" with a line leading off to the margin, where a tiny glove was drawn. Beside the little glove was an exclamation point. The vet grimaced, glared at the neophyte and inquired, "What is that?"

"Well, it's my own symbol," the young man said. "It stands for 'great play.' "

"I'll be the judge of that!" snapped the vet.

That attitude doesn't hold today. There's no percentage in it.

 1 2 3
 ARTICLES GALLERIES COVERS STATS LLC 15 0 0 Roy Blount Jr. 34 0 14 Nolan Ryan 169 0 6 Frank Robinson 156 0 3 Casey Stengel 174 0 3