August 31, 2011

Posnanski: Stats And Stories

Joe Posnanski:
Questions: Do statistics take the wonder out of our sports? Do statistics drain the humanity out of them? Do statistics pull our eyes away from the fields and diamonds and courts and toward the ledger book? Do statistics make us less appreciative of the most important things in life, qualities that we intuitively understand are important but are not easy to quantify such as leadership and guts and the ability to handle pressure and the willingness to be a good teammate? Do statistics make us turn away from the myth and joy and mystery that make sports fun in the first place? ...
The answer to all those questions is "no". Most intelligent observers of the game understand that there actually is no battle or feud between "statistics and stories" -- bloodless, advanced metrics vs the unmeasurable contributions of gutsy men, as Joe describes it. The stats people tell stories (and Joe does it better - with more awe and love and interest - than almost any other baseball writer out there) and the story people use plenty of statistics.

If you apply the snide arguments and insults used by some baseball columnists against those of us who are open-minded about learning more about the game to any other activity/hobby, the stunning ridiculousness of the "argument" is obvious. One example: Do people who tinker with or re-build cars actually have no interest in cars? Why don't they get out of the garage and just take a drive?

In his post, Posnanski has this interesting bit of information (and please keep in mind that Pos loves Mariano Rivera):
Since 1997, the New York Yankees have won 97.2% of the games they led going into the ninth inning. ... Obviously, Rivera did not finish all those games. But he finished 859 games over those years. He is largely responsible for that amazing record. ...

[W]ith a little more digging, I find that between 1951 and 1964 -- the last time the Yankees thoroughly dominated baseball -- the Yankees won 97.3% of the games they led going into the ninth inning. They did that without a closer. ...

1 comment:

laura k said...

When I studied literature, what I loved best was the "close read," the analysis of language held under a mental microscope. For me that's where the full beauty of the work emerged.

For most people with a passing interest in books, this would be boring, tedious work, a distraction from whatever might be interesting in the work itself. Only the connoisseur of literature could be bothered.

Of course the close read is not the only way to appreciate literature. But those who analyze literature to that extent know more about the work than those who don't.