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Stats of the Union

Yesterday's blind grope for posting ideas bore fruit. I've never put down my feelings on stats in words, and there were a couple of folks who hoped for some sort of statistical primer. I'd be more qualified to post instructions on how to assemble a couch, and the last time I tried to assemble a couch a special plastic surgeon had to be flown out from Sweden on Ikea's dime. Peg A into Slot B, my ass.*

I can't tell how VORP is calculated or the relative merits of PECOTA over ZIPS. I vaguely know something about pitchers not being too responsible for allowing hits, and how proponents and detractors of the theory both shoot blood out of their ears trying to convince others that the theory is right or wrong. A lot of bright people come to a lot of different conclusions when trying to measure defense. That's about the extent of my knowledge.

Yet this site does attract its fair share of statheads. They don't run screaming from my ignorance; they don't stick around solely to try and convert me. Maybe a few of them just can't avert their attention from the train wreck that is my Peter Gammons-meets-Bob Saget style of baseball writing, but I can't be too offensive with my ignorance. The reason is that I follow the 8-Step-Guide-of-Things-to-Remember that Ensure-Harmony-Between-Statheads-and-Baseball-Purists:

  1. Outs are bad. They are the only finite thing in every game, and they should be treasured.
  2. Home runs are good. So are singles, doubles, and triples, but home runs are the bestest.
  3. Pitchers who don't give up a lot of runs are good, but be careful of the ones who stop striking people out or begin walking too many. Don't trust the pitchers who don't give up a lot of runs but don't strike many people out.
  4. Anyone who can throw above 90 MPH has the potential to put up 60 innings of 3.00 ERA relief work. Don't get too excited when it happens, but remember this when bemoaning the state of any bullpen before a season even begins.
  5. Players who have been good in the past are likely to be good in the future. The reverse is also true.
  6. A player with 20 home runs in Fenway Park is not the same as a player with 20 home runs in Petco Park.
  7. Some positions are harder to fill with good hitters, especially middle infielders, catchers, and centerfielders.
  8. People who wear too much cologne or perfume should be euthanized.
That's the foundation, and I'm sure there's stuff I missed. Team speed isn't referenced, for example. I think Bill James had a similar list. But those points are usually the basis for almost every argument I make. When the Giants were looking to sign Gary Matthews Jr., my inner dialogue hopped around the list before making a snap judgment:
Let's see...Matthews has really only had one good year (5), he doesn't really excel at getting on base (1), and he isn't that great of a power hitter (2). The power he did have might have been boosted by the Rangers' home park (6). Even though he's supposed to be a good centerfielder (7), I can't see why a team would spend $55,000,000 on him.
There might be other considerations, but those are what will form the snap judgment. The same dialogue went on when considering Barry Zito:
He's had a good ERA in the past (3 and 5), but he's scaring me with his declining strikeouts and rising walks (3). And, really, pal. This is a commuter train, not some club on Ibiza. Do I have to smell you from across the car? (8)

I generally don't reference much more than batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage for simplicity's sake. Those three can give a great -- though incomplete -- thumbnail sketch of a player. If anyone has an argument for a specific advanced stat, this would be a good place to inform the rest of us.

* You are right to wonder how literally you should take that last sentence. Maybe a colon would have been more appropriate than a comma.**

** You are right to wonder if the use of the word "colon" had a double-meaning just then. It did not.