Monday, July 20, 2009

A New Arch Nemesis has Emerged!

Norman Chad, you just made the list. If you are not familiar with Norman Chad, he writes a column called Couch Slouch for If you want to read this inane drivel without my comments, you can follow this link.

I almost hate to do this, but here we go:

Sports' statistical debris piling up

This ought to be be good...

I was watching a regular-season baseball game on TV the other night -- granted, it was a stupid thing to do and I'm already paying the price -- when the following piece of data streamed across my screen:

"Todd Helton is only the seventh player in MLB history to possess a .325 career batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .575 slugging percentage."

You could've knocked my socks off with that one, except I was already barefoot and drinking PBR out of a can.

The Helton factoid is what I would call statistical debris.

Ha! Look at that phoney slice of redneck Americana. Barefoot and PBR in a can. Genius!

In the old days, a garbage truck would come by twice a week to haul that stuff away, but nowadays this sporting trash is piled up so high so often, it's too costly to dispose of on a regular basis. And so it is heaped into our living rooms and we must learn to live with it, like an evil mother-in-law who's moved in indefinitely.

I want to know what type of subdivision you live in that offers statistical debris pickup twice a week. I sure could use service like that.

For years, ESPN has led the statistical avalanche. But it has plenty of company now. The Wall Street Journal covers the world of business and the world at large pretty adeptly; however, when it comes to the world of sports, the Journal has turned into USA Today, with bigger words. The Journal reduces all of sport to numbers, graphs and pie charts -- it's a statistical junkyard, with spare parts nobody needs.

Zing, USA Today. ESPN has hardly been on the leading edge of this statistical avalanche. For example, ESPN employs a baseball commentator by the name of Joe Morgan. Mr. Morgan rarely cites statistics over anecdotal evidence. What's with ripping the Wall Street Journal in a sports column? You really go to the Wall Street Journal for your sports news? I used to go to seemingly reputable sources like
Furthermore, I thought you were an all-American, barefoot, PBR drinking kind of guy. Now you read the Wall Street Journal?

The Journal even offers daily predictions. For instance, "
Los Angeles Lakers 103.2, Houston Rockets 90.9" or "Philadelphia Phillies 5.2, New York Mets 4.8." "Scores are based on the average of 10,000 game simulations," we are told, "and rounded to 1 decimal point." I am somewhat thankful, for both my own emotional well-being as well as the emotional well-being of my unborn children, that the scores are not rounded to the hundredths or thousandths.

I don't get it. If there was such a thing, would you have decimalphobia?
Did a decimal point kill one of your close relatives in an apparent mugging gone bad?

(I have another problem with the Wall Street Journal. Recently, it started a Monday feature in which someone watches TV all weekend; it's called "The Couch." Really? The Couch? Last I checked, I am The Couch Slouch. Have been for quite a while. Is there not some intellectual infringement here -- well, assuming there was any intellect attached to becoming The Couch Slouch? Couldn't they've been a bit subtler about stealing my shtick -- maybe call the column "The Sofa" or "The Ottoman"? Why doesn't the guy just sit in my lap, eat my Fritos and take my third wife? Please!)

I doubt I or the Wall Street Journal have ever heard of you and your column before this monstrosity. I don't think they copied your shtick. Third wife? Fritos? There you go again with the "every American" persona. Please, I need more furniture jokes.

The Journal ran a story earlier this year detailing how a couple of University of Pennsylvania professors studied 6,500 NCAA basketball games from 2005 to 2008 and concluded that teams have a 51.3 percent chance of winning when they are behind by a single point at halftime. In other words, when you're ahead, chances are you will lose; apparently, you are more motivated when you are behind.
Geez, using that theory, the Washington Nationals should be undefeated, no?

No. You are missing the point of the Penn study. They concluded that teams between 2005 and 2008 had a 51.3 percent chance of winning if they were down one point at halftime. Your application of this study to baseball was horrible. It would be more like "Baseball teams between 2005 and 2008 had a 51.3 percent chance of winning if they had been pitched one more strike than their opponent through four innings."

Baseball remains the biggest sports-by-numbers perpetrator. ESPN litters the baseball screen with updated, situational numbers on every pitch -- with a magnifying glass, you can figure out how a hitter does better when the count is 2-0 rather than 0-2. Speaking of which, I read the other day that the Dodgers have increased their "pitches per plate appearance" from 3.63 in 2007 to 3.81 in 2008 to 3.96 in 2009, which puts them second in the majors.

Most reasonable people use statistics or "numbers" to compare two or more things. Take measuring for example. I could look at two lengths of wire from a distance and say, "I think the black wire is longer than the blue wire." Then I would measure them and find out that the blue wire is 156 cm while the black wire is only 154 cm. In this case I would be wrong because I didn't obtain good data before throwing out a guess.

Here's an actual sentence from a recent USA Today story: "Earned runs are constructed from a confluence of events." Frankly, I thought I had stumbled onto a crime story and was about to digest a police toxicology report. But it was an article on ERA and what affects it. It included the following words on Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens:
"...a low 5.2 strikeout rate and 1.6 K/BB ratio are worrisome. His .260 BA-BIP and 84 percent strand rate are both primed for regression. Jurrjens' 5.03 xERA is nearly three runs higher than his actual ERA, an ominous indicator."

Just because you can't understand big words doesn't make the USA Today wrong. What makes the USA Today wrong is the horrible writing.

Heck, I'm scared.

You should be, moron.

Okay, folks, here's a stat for you:
Nobody gets out alive. Nobody. So enjoy it while you can, and I'll see ya 6.0 feet under.

You really are a massive bonehead. It would be a stat if you said that 100 percent of humans die at some point. What you wrote is just idiocy disguised as a sports column. should really reconsider having you on their payroll.

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