Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I'll admit that I feel like a neophyte with baseball statistics. I believe in them, and I enjoy learning about them, but I'm still a little ways away from injecting acronyms like BABIP, EqA, and VORP into common conversation.

Murray Chass of the NY Times, however, will have none of that. In his latest column of "topics which should be off-limits this season," he writes:

[Off-limit topic:] Statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics.

I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t.

And guns don't kill people, people do! But I digress. Anyway, as Jon pointed out on Dodger Thoughts, Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus wrote a very classy response to Chass' piece. I agree with Silver, whether you like statistics or not, we are all baseball fans. Let's enjoy the national pastime in whatever language we want to use.

I should note, though, that Chass has shown a penchant for citing statistics like Marginal Utility of Righthanded Relievers Against Youngsters, as well as Contributing Hits As ShortStop. But again, I digress.