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Seven statistical cliches used by baseball announcers

Chance News points us toward this list of statistical cliches in baseball:

New York Times, April 3, 2005, Section 8, Pg 10
Alan Schwarz

The author writes: with statistics courtesy of Stats Inc., the following is a user’s guide to the facts behind seven statistical cliches. We [Chance News, that is] have included excerpts from his explanation and recommend reading his complete discussions.

(1) HAS A 75-6 RECORD WHEN LEADING AFTER EIGHT INNINGS

Teams leading after eight innings last year won about 95 percent of the time (translating to a 77-4 record in 81 games); that 75-6 record would be two full games worse than average. Even after seven innings, teams with leads typically win 90.1 percent of the time.

(2) HOLDS LEFTIES TO A .248 AVERAGE.

Middle relievers have become ever more important in baseball, particularly left-handed specialists who jog in to face only one or two left-handed hitters. Last year, left-handed middle relievers held fellow lefties to a .249 collective average, 18 points lower than the major league-wide .267 average in all other situations. Someone yielding a .248 average sounds good but is merely doing his job.

(3) HAS HIT 9 OF HIS LAST 12 GAMES

Last year, each game’s starting position players finished with at least one hit 67.1 percent of the time. So across any 12-game stretch, simple randomness will have almost half of them hitting safely in eight or nine games. More than half will wind up with hits in eight or more.

(4) HAS 31 SAVES IN 38 OPPORTNITIES

Relievers who were considered closers converted saves 84.8 percent of the time last season — 32 times for every 38 chances.

(5) HAS STOLEN 19 BASES IN 27 ATTEMPTS (70%)

Players batting first and second in their lineups, usually speedy table-setters, stole bases 73.7 percent of the time last season.

(6) LEADS N.L. ROOKIES WITH A .287 AVERAGE

Interesting, perhaps, but most people do not realize how few rookies play enough to be considered for this type of list. Last year, six rookies reached the standard cutoff of 502 plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

(7) HITS .342 ON THE FIRST PITCH

The stat line many people use to make these claims reads on 0-0 counts What people do not realize is that on 0-0 counts includes only at-bats that end on the first pitch; in other words, the hitter put the ball in play. Removing every time a hitter swings through a pitch or fouls it off will make anyone look good.

I’ve seen some of these before but this presentation (by Alan Schwarz, edited by Chance News) is particularly crisp. I like how they don’t just mock the “cliches”; they actually provide some data.

2 Comments

  1. Bob O'H says:

    I guess you don't realise how all this reads to someone who has never followed baseball. Why fast waiters should be continually stealing bases is beyond me.

    Bob

  2. Bear says:

    One of my favorite misleading statistics is the won-lost record of a closer. The rules about wins and losses are complex but mostly boil down to, if you're pitching when your team goes (ahead/behind) for the last time, you get the (win/loss).

    What does this mean for a closer? Well, a team usually brings in a closer in save situations — when the team is ahead by 1-3 runs in the 9th inning. Under those circumstances, a loss means that you blew the save, and a win means that you blew the save but your team came back to win and saved your bacon. So it's quite possible for a closer with a lot of wins to have done a very bad job.