The Loop

Behold the dumbest MLB stat of the Statcast Era (minimum 19 innings)

September 18, 2019

Listen, we get it. Baseball is a "thinking man's" sport. It's a game for accountants and political forecasters—a safe space where folks raised on a steady diet of atomic wedgies can enjoy the crucible of athletics without risk of further trauma. The MLB even rebranded an entire epoch of their sport—the Statcast Era—to make it more lab coat-friendly. And for the most part it's worked. Other professional sports leagues have scrambled to find their own Sabermetrics and office water coolers Slack channels are still rife with mansplainers fighting over OPSs and WARs like alley cats. But sometimes, the MLB's emphasis on cold, calculated numbers goes just a little too far, as it did on Wednesday night when the broadcast for Rangers-Astros ran this absolute doozy:

Ladies and gentleman, there you have it: The logical breaking point of logic—the point where reason becomes so impossibly reasonable that it begins devouring itself like some perfectly mannered ouroboros. What the hell am I talking about? Honestly, I have no idea, but I do know is this is the dumbest baseball stat in the long, dumb history of baseball stats.

It starts with the basic premise. Despite pitching on a dirt mound, Lance Lynn leads the majors in turf ERA. Yeah, yeah, I hear you, nerds. TuRf AfFEcTS gRoUNd BaLl pITcHerS. But why stop at turf? If we're going to pretend to take this seriously, we'll need to expand it to include Bermuda and Poa too. Hell, throw ivy and hedges into the mix too. Then we'll truly be able to judge a pitcher's AVERA (adjusted vegetation earned runs against).

Then there's the sample size: Minimum 19 innings. Not 15. Not 20. 19 innings. This makes one of those made up ESPN "stats" (this is the first time the Bengals have scored 18 points or more against another feline team on October 12th since 1991) look positively insightful by comparison. There's also the small matter of this clearly not mattering because the Rangers are trash and were going to lose to the Astros at Minute Maid anyway, dominant turf ERA or no. So take it with a grain or salt or gobble it up, but let's all agree on one thing: This stat is so smart it's stupid.