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Friday, August 26, 2011

Gasper: The numbers game doesn’t always add up

Sports discourse has become strictly a numbers game. The only acceptable way to make a point in a sports discussion these days it seems is with a decimal point.

Whatever happened to the good, old-fashioned eye test or context? Formulating an opinion has been replaced by formulas when it comes to dissecting and discussing the games we love. Statistics have overrun sports the same way weeds spread through a deserted parking lot.

If the 1950s-‘60s-era debate about who was a better player Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays was happening today, fans would simply look at who had the higher OPS-plus (On base percentage-plus-slugging percentage adjusted for ballpark conditions). It was Mantle. Or they would calculate who possessed the higher average WAR (wins above replacement value). It was Mays.

Where’s the romance in that?

Sports have become a dictatorship of digits, the province of percentages, averages, probabilities and esoteric statistics. Fans and media (yours truly included) worship at the altar of the integer. If an observation or thesis doesn’t have a numerical value then it lacks value.

It’s reached a point where no one trusts their instincts anymore . What should be self-evident is disputed by numbers.

Thanks to Philip.

Repoz Posted: August 26, 2011 at 05:44 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, projections, red sox, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: August 26, 2011 at 06:03 AM (#3909333)
Wedgie.
   2. SM Posted: August 26, 2011 at 06:07 AM (#3909336)
Yes, the one thing you can say about sports fans these days - they all agree on who's better than who.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: August 26, 2011 at 07:05 AM (#3909351)
So who was the self-evident choice between Mays and Mantle?
   4. Fourth True Outcome Posted: August 26, 2011 at 07:37 AM (#3909360)
All this dang information is ruining my ability to have fun!
   5. Bhaakon Posted: August 26, 2011 at 08:38 AM (#3909363)
Numbers always add up. Unless they're negative, then they add down.
   6. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 26, 2011 at 08:54 AM (#3909364)
Mays is the superior player in AC% (Airborne Cap Percentage), but Mantle beats Mays in MAYPO.
   7. BDC Posted: August 26, 2011 at 01:08 PM (#3909424)
So who was the self-evident choice between Mays and Mantle?

Duke Snider. G'wan back to da Silk Stocking District and continue to debate amongst yez selves.
   8. villageidiom Posted: August 26, 2011 at 01:39 PM (#3909459)
If the 1950s-‘60s-era debate about who was a better player Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays was happening today, fans would simply look at who had the higher OPS-plus (On base percentage-plus-slugging percentage adjusted for ballpark conditions). It was Mantle. Or they would calculate who possessed the higher average WAR (wins above replacement value). It was Mays.

Where’s the romance in that?

...It’s reached a point where no one trusts their instincts anymore.

If the 1950s-‘60s-era debate about who committed a murder was happening today, police would simply look at DNA evidence. Where’s the romance in that? It’s reached a point where you can't just lock up the black guy.

EDIT: That's called a parody, for those whose parody detectors aren't working today.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 26, 2011 at 01:41 PM (#3909464)
Why would Rajon Rondo's shooting go down because of something Obama said?
   10. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 26, 2011 at 01:59 PM (#3909479)
If the 1950s-‘60s-era debate about who committed a murder was happening today, police would simply look at DNA evidence. Where’s the romance in that? It’s reached a point where you can't just lock up the black guy.


RACIST!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!

Funny though.

The except FTFA, I don't get it. What's the answer?
   11. zack Posted: August 26, 2011 at 02:13 PM (#3909493)
We wouldn't have to use all these numbers if you people weren't so damn wrong all the time.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 26, 2011 at 02:27 PM (#3909508)
Why even keep "standings"? Should it be self-evident which is the better team that should be allowed to go into the post-season? Why even keep score for that matter? It should be self-evident on a given night who was the better team.
   13. Cris E Posted: August 26, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3909515)
All this talk about hating numbers, and yet Gasper spends an entire column piling up the page hits. "Time was a man could just write about what he believes in instead of pandering to an interweb full of outrage and ad dollars."

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