A PHD in Baseball

Now that my son’s season is in full swing, I’ve been watching even more Little League and Big League baseball than usual and paying even more attention to the more minute details of the game.

Like, what’s the difference between a 2 seam and a 4 seam fastball?   When is the best time to put on the hit and run?  And why do big leaguers seem to have their hands in their pants more than the even the average 13 year old boy?

Y’know.  Stuff like that.

You’re familiar with the phrase ‘paralysis by analysis’ aren’t you?

Doesn’t really matter what you do for a living, if you’ve ever sat in endless meetings looking at charts, diagrams, spread sheets and power point presentations absolutely OVER FLOWING with numbers and discussing the same topics over and over and over again without really coming to any kind of conclusion, then you’ve lived “paralysis by analysis’.

Unfortunately for fans everywhere, I’m really starting to think the trend has hit Major League Baseball in a big and bad way.

As an example, back when I was a kid, the only batting statistics I remember being significant were batting average and number of homers.  How many times did the guy get to the plate and how many times did he get a hit with a footnote for how many times he hit it over the wall in the outfield.

Pretty simple, right?

If you’ve watched any baseball lately, have you paid attention to the batting statistics that flash across the screen during a Major League telecast?

Forget simple things like batting average and RBI’s, nowadays we also have the ‘Slugging Percentage’- Total Bases Divided by Total At Bats, The ‘On Base Percentage’ which factors in not only hits but walks as well, the ‘RISP’, which is a player’s batting average with Runners in Scoring Position, the ‘BABIP’ which is Batting Average on Balls in Play, and the ‘GPA’ which stands for Gross Production Average-or 1.8 times on base percentage plus slugging percentage divided by 4.

Talk about information overload!

I can’t actually prove this but I’d swear that at this very moment, some baseball nerd who never made it past T-Ball in his career is sitting deep in an underground bunker in the Nevada desert developing the acronym  BAH7OTDEMDMJI. (Bah-70-Tdem-Dmiji)

You know what that stands for?  “Batting Average when hitting in the 7 hole on an odd Tuesday during a day game east of the Mississippi when dealing with a moderate case of jock itch”.

Well sure, why not?  That’s crucial statistical information, isn’t it?

I happen to really enjoy the game of baseball.

Sure it’s not always overloaded with excitement, but you just never know when the exciting moments are gonna come.  That’s why you gotta keep watching.

And I’m no enemy of Mathematics, but let’s try to avoid turning the National Pastime into just another example of statistical over-analysis, shall we?

If we get to the point that Major League Ballparks have to issue each ticket holder a Harvard PHD as a game day companion then we’ve probably gone a wee bit too far, haven’t we?

Or as the skipper in the venerable baseball movie Bull Durham said, “Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball.  You catch the ball.  You HIT the ball. Sometimes you win.  Sometimes you lose.  Sometimes it rains.”

That’s it. No numbers.  No spreadsheets.  No calculators.  And no PHD’s.

Play BALL!

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