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November 7, 2017

Reading Between The Lines

Sabermetrics are a part of the equation, but not the only part

As of the 2017 inductions, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, has 220 former Major League players. I have yet to meet a person who can claim that guys like  Ruth, Gehrig, Robinson, Mays or Williams weren’t incredible baseball players.

How could we possibly know this? They played long before we had sabermetrics. Yes they had  numbers to help evaluate how great they were, but even without the numbers, those who watched them play everyday could tell. Just as easily as they could step outside and know it’s a nice day without looking at the barometer.

Since the 1950’s MLB scouting has been used as a key indicator as to whether or not a young player has what it takes to make it to the big leagues. Many of them claim they could tell simply by the sound of the bat hitting the ball, but most let their eyes be the judge. Has it been a perfect science? Of course not. The bottom line is though, many years before sabermetrics existed, experts could determine who were the great players and who weren’t.

Stats like batting average, RBI’s and ERA were the types of numbers we’d look at to back up what we saw. Again, not a perfect science, but I didn’t need stats to tell me that Tony Gwynn, Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar were great players. I watched them both in person and on TV and it was fairly simple to tell they were much better than average.

To claim, as some have, that prior to sabermetrics, players were wrongly evaluated, is ridiculous. Do things like WAR, OPS, FIB and WHIP help us determine the quality of a player? Sure they do. So too does the human eye.

Baseball continues to create new stats, yet when it comes to handing out the yearly hardware, they’re based on the old school numbers. Even with that, I’m not going to discount sabermetrics, so let’s not go the opposite way and claim they are the end all and be all. The funny thing is, for the most part, these metrics simply reinforce what we already knew.

If the way we’ve been doing things since Ty Cobb was the first person inducted l in 1936, is wrong, maybe it’s time to clear the hall and start fresh. That’s never going to happen and shouldn’t.

I’m not saying you should dispute the facts, but sometimes you need to look beyond the numbers. Baseball , after all, is played on a field, not a laptop.

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