It’s March, one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is starting to change, which in Texas means we’re gone from our season of kind of cool to somewhat not cool. It’s also the start of one of my favorite sports of all time: baseball.
Now let me clarify something before we go any further. I am not athletically inclined, nor a “jock” in any sort of the word. Years of smoking and drinking have killed my athletic career. Much to my father’s chagrin, I was more interested in the lastest Broadway musicals and reading fantasy novels growing up instead of learning how to throw a fastball or develop a hook shot for basketball. This last fact annoyed several high school basketball coaches too. I was 6’5″ and could not dribble to save my life.
However, something magical happened in the city of Philadelphia in 1993: the Phillies were good. I mean, really good. After years of being the laughing stock of baseball, the ’93 Phillies were showing the country that baseball wasn’t dead yet in the City of Brotherly Love. And I became hooked to the delight of my father. We actually had something to talk about. I could tell you what Curt Schilling‘s ERA (Earned Run Average) was (4.02 for 1993), how many people in the lineup had 100 walks or more that season (four), or why even though Ben Rivera sucked, how he helped the starting rotation of pitchers set a record (all five had won 10 or more games that year).
Since that magical season, I could quote you batting averages, number of home runs hit, and ERAs for most major league players year after year. However, after a few years, I began to learn that there were two types of baseball fans: those who loved the game for the beauty and strategy of it, and those who would break down every single possible play a little bit too much. These folks had statistics for just about every possible scenario. These two groups reminded me of another set of people: those who loved fantasy and read fantasy novels, and those who loved fantasy and lived it out through playing Dungeons and Dragons. If you’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, trust me, there are stats for just about every single thing. And you roll dice to determine what happens for every instance.
What do I mean, you may ask? Well, if you are a casual baseball fan, you may not have heard of some of the newer stats out there. For instance there is the WAR stat. This stands for Wins Above Replacement. What does that mean exactly? Good question. From my understanding, it stands for how many more games a team would win if a particular player replaced a standard, fictitious player. How do they figure out the stats of this player and figure out how this real life player affects a team? It’s at that point that my eyes tend to glaze over and I begin wondering if I left the gas on at home.
There’s also a statistic called BABIP, which stands for Batting Average on Balls in Play. In other words, how many balls a batter hits actually become a base hit. This apparently primarily applied to pitchers and their effectiveness. I always thought that the statistic of opponents batting averages against a certain pitcher were good enough. Apparently, it did not satisfy the need of some fans.
Do people who devour these stats have too much time on their hands? Maybe. Will I memorize or learn any of these new numbers? Doubtful. Will this detract from my love for the game? Only when people start talking about how many hit points Albert Pujlos has or Roy Halladay‘s armor class. (You D&D nerds know what I mean. Feel free to explain it to the others.)
Until then, I will continue to watch and root for my favorite teams, the Phillies and the Texas Rangers. When I need to find my d20, or roll a 2d6 when my favorite player gets a base hit, then I may have to turn to golf. There’s no die hard fans (or any fans really) that I know of for that sport. I should be safe there.