Take the two common reactions to the term, “FIP.”
1. Frank reads the word “FIP” in a story about Jonathan Papelbon’s performance.
2. Frank’s eyes feed the term “FIP” to his brain.
3. Frank’s brain processes “FIP” as Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that combines a pitcher’s strikeout, walk, and home run rates.
4. Frank’s brain reacts with a judgment about Jonathan Papelbon’s ability to produce strikeouts and limit walks and home runs.
1. Joe reads the word “FIP” in a story about Jonathan Papelbon’s performance.
2. Joe’s eyes feed the term “FIP” to his brain.
3. Joe’s brain reacts by telling him to write a poorly punctuated and improperly capitalized email telling David Murphy to go bleep himself and that we need to go back to the days where pitchers were judged on the things that actually matter, like striking batters out and limiting runs and walks.
Because we are readers of Baseball Prospectus, most of us are prone to Reaction A. But that does not mean that we are operating with brains that have evolved to the point where they are immune from Reaction B. For example, how would your brain have reacted if I had started this column off by telling you that, since 2006, no player in the major leagues has more RBIs than Ryan Howard? And what if I told you that I was going to use part of my allotted space to defend the RBI as a legitimate part of a player’s record? If I read those words from another writer, my internal siren would have started flashing, “Fraudulent! Fraudulent! Fraudulent!”