Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stats Ridiculous

Time was that TV and radio sportscasters had a statistician working with them who would thumb through record books to give them a bit of trivia that tied into something that happened during the game or related to a story one of them was telling. These days, massive tomes like The Baseball Encyclopedia have been replaced by a laptop with access to every bit of information ever collected, calculated, or crunched.

Often, the stat is interesting and you can understand the manager's thinking. How has a particular batter done against a particular pitcher over the years? (For example, if Alex Rodriguez has faced a pitcher seven times and has two home runs, two doubles and a single, you might want to play the odds and walk him. Or bring in a different pitcher.) How many inherited runners has a relief pitcher allowed to score? How has a pinch hitter performed with men on base? This type of information helps determine the strategy of the opposing teams.

Then again, some of the stats are just ridiculous. Last night, for example, one popped up late in the Dodgers - Phillies game. With Philadelphia ahead 10-4 in the eighth inning, we were advised that the last time the Dodgers came back from a six-run deficit to win a post-season game was in 1956. (Just for the record, it was Game 2 of the '56 World Series. The Yankees were up 6-0 after the top of the second and the Dodgers came back with six runs in the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers eventually won the game 13-8.) An interesting fact, but it is highly unlikely that Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges or any of their teammates were going to be coming to bat. And it's a safe bet it had no bearing on what Joe Torre or Charlie Manuel did last night.

Of course, all the stats in the world really don't determine what will happen in the current situation. Casey Stengel advised that "good pitching will stop good hitting and vice-versa." And Yogi Berra reminded us, "It ain't over till it's over." Perhaps, though, we need just remember the disclaimer in all the ads for investment firms: "Past performance does not guarantee future results."

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