Strauss: Baseball’s numbers game drives lots of decisions

From Joe Strauss at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 3, 2014:

Baseball’s vocabulary is an evolving animal. Terms like banjo hitter, can of corn and free-swinger have yielded to line-drive rate, batting average on balls in play and wins above replacement. Any impression can be validated or contradicted by a number is a “metric.”

A hitter with a low BABIP may be described as unlucky. An 18-game winner with an elevated CERA — component earned-run average — comes in as a fortunate son.

Numbers are serious business. There are outliers and peripherals. A player coming off an extraordinary season should be expected to “regress to the mean,” a rather sophisticated way of saying “things tend to even out.”

Advanced metrics make pitcher wins obsolete, even misleading, say those fluent in the alphabet soup containing dERA, DICE, DIPS and ERA+. They may have a point, though pitcher wins often require the starter to stick around for more than five or six innings. A starting pitcher can’t curse some middle reliever for blowing his decision if the starter works the seventh inning himself.

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Originally published: April 3, 2014. Last Updated: April 3, 2014.