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Hate 'made up stats like WAR?' Better be consistent

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

If using numbers for either one of these guys in last season's MVP argument, you needed a calculator. Sorry.
Old-school and new-school numbers factored in to last season's Cabrera-or-Trout MVP argument. (USATSI)

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I hate stupid, made up stats that don't mean anything.

Go get your calculator, dork!

Do you live in your mother's basement?

The above are common refrains by some self-glossed "old school" baseball fans who are averse to advanced statistics, or sabermetrics. I'd like to tackle the top one in this very space because I continue to see it -- even though the 2012 AL MVP race between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout is firmly in our rearview mirror.

I'll start with a very simple statement: If you hate "made up stats," then you have to hate batting average, wins, saves, ERA, RBI and several more old-school stats that are held in high esteem to the old schoolers.

Let me prove as much, and please go in with an open mind. Imagine explaining stats to a person who knows nothing about stats but does know baseball.

Batting average: With this, you divide the number of hits by the number of at-bats. If a batter draws a walk, you don't count it. If a guy hits a long fly ball all the way to the center field wall and the fielder drops it -- the hitter is safe and gets on base -- this counts as an out in batting average, so you add an at-bat but not a hit. If the hitter gets out on a fly ball and a runner scores, you count nothing. It's like it never happened, much like a walk. Same goes if a player gets hit by a pitch or decides to bunt and move a runner over. But if the player bunts and the other team throws out the lead runner, it does count as an out.

Runs batted in: This is simple. Or not. If a hitter hits the ball and a runner scores, the hitter gets an RBI. Unless he hits into a double play. Then he doesn't get an RBI, even though if he struck out or popped up a run would not have scored. Also, even though it's called run "batted" in, the hitter gets an RBI for drawing a walk or hit-by-pitch that forces a run home. If a hitter puts the ball in play with two outs and a fielder makes an error -- which allows for a run to score -- the hitter does not get an RBI.

Wins: A pitcher gets credited with a win when he's in the game for the team that takes the lead for the final time and eventually wins the game. Unless he's a starting pitcher and doesn't throw at least five innings. Then he gets nothing, even if he leaves with an injury after 4 2/3 shutout innings. Then the next guy usually gets the "win," even if he only records one out. If a pitcher enters the game with two outs in the top of the ninth and his team leading by one run, and then allows a game-tying home run before recording one out -- only to have his team score in the bottom of the ninth -- he gets the win. Not that starting pitcher who threw 8 2/3 shutout innings.

Saves/blown saves: A pitcher gets the save if he finishes the game for the winning team and either throws three full innings, throws one or more innings with his team leading by three runs or less, or enters the game with the tying run on deck. So a pitcher could enter the game with a five-run lead and the bases loaded and get one guy out and get a "save," but if he throws two full innings with a four-run lead, he does not get a save. A blown save means a pitcher had a chance to get a save but lost the lead. He can get a blown save for allowing the tying run in the seventh inning, even if the team obviously has a pitcher who will relieve him.

Earned run average: This is the number of runs allowed divided by innings pitched and then multiplied by nine. Only it's not runs. It's "earned" runs. Which means if the official scorer deems that an error has allowed a run to score that shouldn't have, we don't count it. Note that if a fat and slow outfielder can't get to what should be a routine fly ball, that's not an error. But if a scorching ground ball hits a fielder in the glove, the fielder bobbles it and the runner reaches base by the slimmest of margins, that is sometimes an error. But sometimes it's not. One person in each stadium gets to decide that based on personal discretion.

So how would those sound to someone who knows baseball but doesn't know those stats? I know that person is likely impossible to find, but please just imagine the hypothetical.

Can you honestly, with a straight face, say those stats are not completely "made up stats?" Be serious. They are unbelievably made up, but we love them because they're ingrained in us. So, essentially, the only reason the hard-core old school crowd thinks these stats are better than some newer ones -- which may be more accurate in judging who the best players and teams are -- is because they've been around longer.

Look, I'm not a sabermetrician. I believe in many old-school tenets, but I also believe in many new-school tenets. I don't think everyone has to take a side here. I, instead, don't understand why we're supposed to out and out dismiss something just because it's new -- especially when technology has provided so many advances in other walks of life. Do the people who scream about how stupid WAR or FIP are still have rotary phones?

Perhaps in thinking things through, we all might realize more information is better and it doesn't hurt to learn more about some advanced metrics. Maybe if you learn more about them, you might learn you love some and hate others. That's OK. But at the very least, there is zero reason to scoff at those who use them.

I know, I know ... I'll get back to my calculator like the geek I am in my mother's basement -- calculating ERAs and batting averages.

 
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