FIRE JOE MORGAN: You're not helping, Sporting News


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Wednesday, August 17, 2005


You're not helping, Sporting News

The Sporting News' cover story this week is a piece called "Playing the numbers game." And not unexpectedly, it's far from perfect.

There is, for instance, a sidebar led prominently by the words "This cheat sheet will tell you which numbers are worth crunching." Really, sidebar?

Then explain this horribly misleading "number worth crunching" inside of you:

Catchers' earned-run average, CERA (earned runs x 9 / innings caught). This takes into account a catcher's talent for handling a pitching staff and his ability to call a good game, plus more standard defensive skills such as preventing wild pitches and passed balls and throwing out runners attempting to steal. The Astros' Brad Ausmus (3.01) has the best CERA.

Ugh. Can anyone guess where the Astros rank in terms of regular ol' ERA? If you guessed first, you're awfully close. They're second. (To the Cardinals, by the way. Hmm, I wonder if Yadier Molina also has an amazing CERA?) This version of CERA is incredibly uninformative: it doesn't even attempt to control for the pitchers who are throwing! Ausmus has had the pleasure of catching Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and the absolutely inhuman Roger Clemens this year.

But of course, it must be his handling of the staff, his ability to call a good game, his prevention of wild pitches and passed balls and his skill at throwing out runners attempting to steal that account for his CERA. You know who probably sucks at all of those things? Jason Varitek. I bet his CERA is through the roof. Or how about noted defensive laggard Ivan Rodriguez? Since the Tigers' ERA is 4.24, I bet his CERA is atrocious.

And remember, this is from an article trying to convince people how statistics can be useful -- and furthermore, from a sidebar inside said article giving you the only statistics you should pay attention to.

Sometimes I wish all magazines would spontaneously combust.

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posted by Junior  # 11:08 PM
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