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Tell your statistics to shut up

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While trying to think of something interesting to say about the Sotomayor hearings for the purposes of paid journalism (no luck so far), I found my mind wandering back toward Pete Rose. Here’s a question: Has the increased sophistication in the analysis of baseball stats over the past 25 years had an appreciable effect on the probability of things like Pete Rose’s 1983 season being allowed to happen?

That year, Rose played 151 games and had 555 plate appearances. He hit .245 and didn’t hit a homer, while racking up a total of 20 extra bases on hits for a nifty .286 slugging percentage. He stole seven bases in 14 attempts, and had an OPS of 69.

Given that he was a lead-footed 42-year-old first baseman with essentially no defensive value this represents, I submit, possibly the worst season ever by a regular on a pennant-winning team.

Now of course even at the time it was widely recognized that Rose’s stats were bad, but I think today it would be somewhat less likely that either the relevant decision makers or public opinion would tolerate all the nonsense about intangibles and grit and hustle and character that made it possible for a first baseman who was hitting like a backup catcher to hold a starting job on a good team for an entire season.

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