Specially Selected Stats

Back when the Hall of Fame voting found itself at the forefront of the baseball telesphere and blogosphere there certainly was no shortage of articles or television programs discussing the candidacy of Jim Rice.  This post will not get into whether or not Rice belongs in the HOF but rather the major reasons those in his corner were explaining why they happened to be in his corner.  In an effort to avoid sounding exactly like everyone else expressing their opinions, many analysts and writers began quoting specially selected statistics in order to shine a different type of positive light on the former Red Sox slugger.
In this January 2nd ESPN column Larry Stone and Phil Rogers apparently e-mailed each other, completely without any editing, through an ESPN.com page in order to discuss Rice’s candidacy. In the “e-mail chat” they brought forth the most commonly found Rice HOF argument – Jim Rice was the most dominant hitter from 1975-1986.  He ranked first in the AL in just about every category including moustache grooming.  Other articles have posted arguments consisting of facts like Jim Rice is the only player in baseball history to get 200+ hits and 35+ HR in three straight seasons.
When referring to the 1975-1986 statistics, Keith Law said that “there was nothing special about that era.” Law continued to school the likes of Steve Phillips as to how these statistics in Rice’s favor were all specially selected to make Rice look better.  Regardless of your opinions on Keith Law, himself, he prevents a very valid point when discussing specially selected statistics. I cannot mention how many times I heard announcers and analysts mention these seemingly obscure statistics to shine a positive light on those who maybe have not felt the warmth of non-negative lights before. 
Though I am a devout Phillies fan, I’m going to convert strictly to a Japanese baseball fan if I hear one more person discuss how Jimmy Rollins was the first player to post 705+ AB, 40+ SB, 30+ HR, 200+ H, 20+ 3B, 38+ 2B, and 90+ RBI in the same season.  I love Rollins.  He had a remarkable statistical and non-statistical season.  He is probably my favorite non-Greg Maddux player, but when analysts and announcers quote these numbers as gospel it makes me sick.  You can get the same point across (Jimmy Rollins = good) by simply stating the fact that he finished 1st or 2nd in most offensive categories in 2007.  Doesn’t that sound less obnoxious?
It is not as if hearing those numbers is going to sway the opinion of someone who does not care for his style of play.  Those statistical combinations are tremendous but they are specially selected to prove a point.  With that being said, I thought I would take to the streets (or in sabermetrics terms, take to the Baseball-Reference Play Index) and apply the idea of specially selected stats to prove points about players in completely the wrong fashion.

  • From 1986-1987, Carlton Fisk was the only player between the ages of 38 and 40 who posted 10+ IBB, 10+ SF, and 10+ HBP!!!
  • From 1985-2007, of players between the ages of 23-30, and weighing 240+ pounds, Frank Thomas slightly edges Troy Glaus for the most home runs!
  • From 1992-1994, Reggie Sanders has the most home runs (49) of anybody with 15+ triples and 5+ GIDP, between the ages of 23-30.
  • From 1930-1998, of players with 500+ Total Bases and 60+ Caught Stealing, Otis Nixon and Jose Cardenal are tied with playing for the most teams (9)! I actually had Reggie Sanders pegged for that one.
  • From 1957-2007, of right-handed Relief Pitchers who have pitched in relief for at least 80 % of their appearances, with at least 100 decisions, and who was a free agent following the 2007 season, Latroy Hawkins has the most pickoffs (6).
  • From 1995-2003, of players with 200+ SB, Raul Mondesi had the highest Isolated Power (.216) by more than 55 points than the player behind him (Biggio, .161).
  • From 1988-1992, Sid Fernandez led all major league pitchers who had 100+ starts with a 1.07 WHIP.
  • From 1978-1996, Jim Poole recorded the Lowest Inherited Runners Scored % of relievers who appeared in at least 250 games, recorded at least 200 IP, and posted an ERA+ of over 120.

I hope you see what I’m getting at – you can make just about anyone look good with the right combination of specially selected statistics. As long as we hear the words “…leads in…” or “…the most…” we are programmed to think that the player in discussion did something great. While most of the players involved in the above stats are/were at least average players I highly doubt any sane GM will be interested in signing Reggie Sanders due to his league lead in the aforementioned criterion. If a player has value and had a great season or a great career we should not need to go in search of these specially selected statistics.  It is overcompensating in its finest form.
If you have any fun specially selected stats, please post them in the comments!

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5 Responses to Specially Selected Stats

  1. Gary From Chapel Hill says:

    How about this?
    Florida’s Hanley Ramirez had a major league leading 79 plate appearances in 2007 against pitchers that ended the season with an OPS allowed of 900+ and batted .448 against them. But that’s nothing. Mark Teixiera hit .512 (21 for 41) with 7 HR and 23 RBI against those “bad” pitchers (an OPS of 1.779).
    I’ve just loved these types of stats ever since I first heard about Pat Tabler’s ridiculous success with the bases loaded (the career .289 hitter hit .489 in 109 plate appearances with the sacks full).

  2. Pizza Cutter says:

    Being an Indians fan in the 80s, we all figured out that Tabler hit .500 with the bases loaded and about .126 when the bases weren’t loaded. Wonder whatever happened to that guy…

  3. Gary From Chapel Hill says:

    It appears that Tabler is now an analyst on Toronto Blue Jays broadcasts.

  4. dan says:

    He’s their all time leader in impromptu rain delay highlight recap shows on a wednesday night. Quite impressive.

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