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Real Statistics vs. Fake Statistics
By Bob Branco
April 27, 2018
When I was in school, math was one of my favorite subjects. I enjoyed algebra, trigonometry, statistics, and other advanced math courses which involved serious number crunching. I have also followed professional sports for nearly 50 years, and like many of you, I depend on statistics to help me judge how well players are performing. In baseball, I always want to find out players’ batting averages, their on-base percentages, how many home runs they hit, what a pitcher’s earned run average is, etc. I regard these stats as factual, because they are based on actual data which can be calculated as part of a formula. What else can statistics mean?
Recently, baseball decided to create fake statistics which can never, ever be proven as factual and mean absolutely nothing. Let me site two new stats which I have no use for: Wins Above Replacement, also known as WAR, and Defensive Runs Saved.
Supposedly, Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, calculates the number of wins that an outfielder helps a baseball team win compared with the performance of the outfielder he replaced. First of all, we don’t know who he is replacing. How can you calculate a stat by comparing a player with someone we don’t know? If Mookie Betts helped the Red Sox win 5 games based on his WAR, then who is the guy who wouldn’t have helped us win those games? We don’t know, because there is no default outfielder when determining WOR. Thus, WOR is a fake stat or an educated guess at best.
Now, let’s talk about Defensive Runs Saved. The other night, Betts made a terrific catch in the outfield, probably saving a run. Yes, I emphasize the word, “Probably”. If Betts played that ball on a hop, there may have been other factors preventing that run from scoring, but we’ll never know one way or the other. Therefore, Defensive Runs Saved is an educated guess, not a fact.
As I said earlier, math is one of my strong suits, so before anyone implies that I won’t accept the concept of statistics, I not only pointed out in this article that I depend on them, but I believe there’s a difference between real and bogus statistics. My question is: Why do those who love saber metrics take this stuff seriously? We don’t know if Jackie Bradley’s Wins Above Replacement is 5, 4, or even 3 games, because we don’t know if the guy he’s replacing is better or worse. We also don’t know how many runs Jackie saves because there are too many intangibles.
Keep the stats coming, but base them on actual data.
Originally published in Bob Branco’s blog
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MORE ABOUT BOB BRANCO AND HIS WORK…
Weighing Things Up, Book Two: More Essays on Trends, Technology, and Present-Day Society
by Robert T. Branco
C 2017 / 263 pages
In print ($12.95) and e-book ($3.99) from Amazon and other online sellers.
Like Bob Branco’s first book of essays, Weighing Things Up (C 2014), this book, his fifth, consists of more than 100 short essays. Many of them were previously published in magazines or on Ernest Dempsey’s blog, Word Matters. The categories are general social issues, government and politics, blindness and disability, education, science and technology, employment, medical issues and concerns, and sports. Editor’s notes give links to articles that provide additional information and sometimes present an opposing view.
The cover shows an old-fashioned, pan-style balance scale in gold on a dark green background. This style of scale is often used as a symbol of justice. All the cover lettering is in off-white.
Bob’s three other books that are still in print and their copyright dates are:
1. My Home Away from Home: Life at Perkins School for the Blind (C 2013)
2. As I See It: From a Blind Man’s Perspective, Revised and Expanded Edition (C 2013)
3. Weighing Things Up: Essays on Trends, Technology, and Present-Day Society (C 2014)
Note: The original, shorter version of As I See It is now out of print.
Full details of Bob’s books can be found on his website: http://www.dldbooks.com/robertbranco/
Editing, print layout, e-book conversion, cover design, and back cover text were provided by DLD Books Editing and Self-Publishing Services.