Schizophrenic Earwig Men

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hi. My name, for all intents and purposes, is Vladimir Partridge, and this is my blog.

Schizophrenic Earwig Men (this blog) will be primarily concerned with statistical analysis of sports, and my own particular views on music. When I discuss baseball, I will explain in detail all of the statistics I use, although I assume that most people will understand the vast majority of them. I will occasionally sprinkle in some random analysis or some of my own virulently leftist political views. So, without further ado:

One thing that really pisses me off is Batting Average. It infuriates me that many baseball fans and even scholars continue to use this outmoded statistic as the be all and the end all of batting performance. The batting average, with its simple formula of hits divided by at bats, is useful for a quick and dirty analysis, but it can be very easily misleading. Consider the following true baseball players' seasons:

Gene Tenace in 1977 batted only .233, with 102 hits in 437 at bats. On the contrary, Doc Cramer in 1943 batted a cool .300, conisdered the mark of excellence by the batting average. He had 182 hits in 606 at bats.

On the surface, it appears that Cramer had the better year. His batting average was far higher, he played more, and he was a more skilled defensive player (a good center fielder as opposed to a poor catcher and first baseman). However, what the batting average leaves out is the equally important statistics of extra base hits and walks. Tenace had 43 extra base hits, 15 of them home runs, while Cramer had only 23, with one homer. Furthermore, Tenace walked 125 times, for an On-Base Percentage of .415 (hits plus walks plus hit by pitches divided by at bats plus walks plus hit by pitches plus sacrifice hits). Cramer only walked 31 times, for an OBP of .335.

When their statistics are tabulated Tenace's OBP and SLG (slugging percentage, total bases divided by at bats) are .415 and .410, clearly superior to Cramer's .335 and .348. Their Runs Created (an incredibly complicated formula that can best be approximated as total bases times on-base percentage) are 72 for Tenace and 71 for Cramer, even though Cramer played so much more. Cramer's On-Base plus Slugging was 94% of the league average, while Tenace's was 133% of his league average. There are many such examples of players like this; One must always make sure not to overestimate the value of the batting average; look instead at OBP, SLG, Runs Created, and Bill James' all-encompassing statistic, Win Shares.

Second on my blogging agenda is music. My taste in music varies greatly, but I am most intrigued by punk rock, pop rock, alternative, and emo. The following constitutes my strongest musical opinion.

My biggest frustration in the world of music is when I am told that Green Day, my favorite band, sold out to the pop and rock world with the release of their hit album American Idiot in 2004. These critics say that Green Day left behind their punk roots with the release of hit singles that more closely fit the standard rock format.

Just because a punk band becomes popular in the mainstream does not mean that they have lost their edge. They do not control their popularity, and it is simply an attestment to their skill and appeal to Americans. I own four Green Day albums: Dookie, Insomniac, International Superhits, and American Idiot. While it is true that the oldest albums contain a higher concentration of angry, punky anti-melodies and lyrics, American Idiot is not without its share of angst as well. The entire premise of the album, as a punk rock opera, is a story of disaffected youth. The title track, American Idiot, not only has the punky, dark rhythm of Dookie, is a scathing indictment of President Bush and his government. Other tracks, like St. Jimmy and Letterbomb, have this rhythm as well. Even one of the major hits, Holiday, is easily recognizable as driving punk rock, as well as asserting Green Day's anger towards Bush. Some of the songs are calmer than Dookie, but who's to say that a punk band can never have ballads? Consider Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), possibly my favorite song ever, also by Green Day. It does not detract from their punkiness, but simply attests to their ability to reach out to different audiences. The fact that The Who wrote the beautiful quasi-ballad Behind Blue Eyes does not mean that they were not angry punks on drugs. I credit Green Day with helping to introduce punk rock to a greater audience (including me; because of Green Day, I now count The Clash and My Chemical Romance as two of my favorite bands).

If anyone reads this, please feel free to comment attacking my opinions, supporting them, or presenting your own.

War in (peace out), so long, good night, see you next time.


At 7:45 AM, Blogger Fred Montas, Jr. said...

Vlad--You're absolutely right about the batting average. It's entirely useless for making many important baseball decisions. Nevertheless, for the casual fan, batting average is useful for keeping up interest in the game. Since the simple act of hitting a baseball is so hard to accomplish, there is some value--again, for the casual fan--in having a statistic that simply calculates how often a player gets a hit.

Also, since it is a historical value with particular records attached to it (e.g., last man to hit .400, highest batting average in MLB history, and so on), we should neither entirely obliterate it nor lose interest in it. The next player to hit .400 for a season should be duly feted (so long as he isn't a DH), whether he hits like Ted Williams or Rod Carew.

Nevertheless, you're dead on right about the exaggerated value of the batting average. Fortunately, OPS is on the rise in the public consciousness.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Fred Montas, Jr. said...

Addendum--What do you think of the ERA and WHIP? I'm thinking particularly of the notable difference in ERA yet similar WHIP of Pedro (2.88 and .93) and Clemens (1.77 and .97).


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