Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Statistician Raises the White Flag

I love baseball.  I enjoy numbers.  I make my living with mathematics.

So naturally, combining the three seems a natural interest.  But there is an old saw that goes something to the effect of the following apocryphal story:
Two Hollywood producers are brainstorming over a new movie idea.  One says to the other, "Hey; everyone likes Abe Lincoln.  Everyone likes dogs.  Everyone is interested is fascinated by movies about doctors.  So let's make a movie about Abe Lincoln's doctor's dog."
But like the story above, the three often make for a nauseating combination.  And as a statistician who watches baseball games wherein we are inundated with cobbled-together and often meaningless meta-statistics, I raise the white flag.

Enough.  No more stats about how a hitter hit against a pitcher in a certain count in a certain inning, in road games, during a full moon.

Last night, the Toronto Blue Jays beat Baltimore, 6-5 in 11 innings.  (As an aside, thank God for the Baltimore Orioles, who year in, year out can be counted on to provide soft-landing cushion to keep the Jays out of the AL East cellar).  The game ended when Adam Lind hit a homer to lead off the 11th.

Sure enough; the ESPN laughing boys chattered about how Lind had hit a "walk off home run" to end the game.  The ubiquitous use of cliches like this are chronicled in a rant here about LeBron James over at National Review, but needless to say, this term (like many others) is well past its sell-by date.

But the folks at ESPN are not satisfied just to bore us to death with idiotic cliches like "Walk Off" this, that, or the other, the headline today for the game blared:

"Lind Ties Jays Record."

Hmmmm... The team is in the midst of its annual battle with mediocrity, so that's not the likely "record" they speak of.  Lind's homer was his 12th of the season, and sad as the team has been of late, that's not close to any sort of significance.

So, what 'record' did he tie, exactly?

Well, it's the third "walk off" homer of his career.

Boy, I wish I had been at the game and saved the ticket stub for posterity.  I could show my grandson in 40 years the evidence that I had been in attendance the night Adam Lind tied the team record for "walk off home runs."

It's a 'record' he now shares with Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, and Vernon Wells.

I wonder if Cooperstown want the ball?


Brian in Oxford said...


Do you have a subscription to You could easily create any "record" you'd like. Game-ending homers in June against last place teams! I do not have the time to make a subscription to the play index worth it, but perhaps in my retirement I will investigate how similar it is to devising SQL queries to justify my own biases towards/against certain players.

"Sure, JD Drew was a pansy, but he hit .631 over a seven-year stretch against righties' off-speed pitches in the seventh-inning or later in games decided by no more than two runs."

(Now there's a statistic, if not an outright damned lie.)

DWBudd said...

Gordo, I am sure that if one gerrymanders the stats carefully enough, you can make even Jayson Nix look like a productive player.

Frankly, it's the sort of feeling I imagine that the people in the middle ages had when they saw the architectural wonders of flying buttresses that made, e.g., the Cathedral of Notre Dame possible.