Posted 6/14/05I feel very sorry for you.
This is a little long, and I apologize for that, but please do me the favor of reading through it. Let me give you two hypothetical examples. Bear with me, because I really think I have a point to make here about the way you look at things.
Example 1: There's a kid living in a project house in Brooklyn. Let's call him Steve. Unlike most kids in Brooklyn, he's actually played baseball before, actually knows how many strikes it takes to make an out. Actually, he's amazingly good at baseball. He's 16 years old, and he plays in a regional league with guys five and six years older, and absolutely kills them. Doesn't play for his high school team, because he dropped out of high school. Nevertheless, scouts have no choice but to take notice of him. The kid hits over .800 in league play, and gets a home run in half of his hits, even when they play in huge, minor league parks with major league fence distances. He plays shortstop, and fields like Ozzie Smith on speed. NOTHING gets by him on his side of the field, NOTHING, and he's got a cannon arm and hands like butter. At the plate, when he's not hitting homers out of the park, he bashes excellently placed line drives left and right, and never swings at anything outside the strikezone. In short, he's the perfect ballplayer. Scouts salivate at the kid's potential, and as soon as he's old enough, the Mets snatch him up with the second pick in the draft. The only reason he didn't go first was that the first pick belonged to Minnesota, and Carl Pohlad knew that there was no way he was going to be able to afford the kid's bonus. Lucky break for the Mets.
Anyway, the kid plays that summer in rookie ball, and absolutely tears up the league. He continues to hit well over .500, smashing homers everywhere with perfect plate discipline. But it's his fielding at SS that really stands out. Nobody's ever seen anything like it. The next year, the kid gets invited to Port St. Lucie to try out for the Mets big league club, and there are rumors that he's the favorite to land the starting job, even though he's only 18 years old. In Spring Training, he lights up the league pitchers like no one has ever seen before. Johan Santana looks like a slow pitch softball geezer against the kid. Nobody can even remotely come close to stopping him, and, again, his fielding brings shocked silence from the crowds whereever he plays. The managers and scouts look at the kid and swallow hard. He makes ARod look like Angel Berroa. The scouts don't say that he could be the best player ever. They say that he's already the best player ever. He gets the starting job with ease, even though he's only 18. He leads all Grapefruit Leaguers in every major statistical category.
The Mets open that season at home in Flushing. The night before his first game, he goes back to the project house in Brooklyn to see his old friends and get himself psyched up for his first major league game. That night, he's sitting outside his apartment house drinking a soda while chatting with his oldest friends, when he gets hit with a stray bullet from a drug deal gone wrong at the next building over, and dies instantly.
Where do you rank this kid on your all time lists? My guess is that you say something to the effect of: "I don't. I can't rank somebody on potential or what they should have done. I can only rank them based on what they actually did do on the baseball field, not. Sure, it was only random chance that the guy happened to die then, but I can't give the guy credit for what probably would have happened, only for what actually did happen. 49 times out of 50, he doesn't get shot there, but this was that one time, and we can only go by what did happen. Even though it wasn't his doing that there was a drug deal and a shooting going on at the next building over, sometimes a guy falls into circumstances that prevent him from doing what he should have done. Too bad."
Example 2: It's October 1960. Bill Mazeroski is a light hitting second baseman known for his defense. As a hitter, he's a heck of a defensive second baseman. He only missed three games all year, but only had 64 RBI. He comes to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 7 of the World Series, and hits a Series winning home run.
What kind of bonus credit do you give Maz for this home run? My guess, and forgive me if I'm mistaken, is that you say something along the lines of: "I don't give him credit for this any more than for any other home run. He wasn't solely responsible for his team being in a situation where a HR would win the WS for them anyway. For his career, he only hit a home run in 1.6% of his PA's. 49 times out of 50, he wouldn't have hit a home run, and he can't be given extra credit just because this happened to be that one time out of fifty by random chance."
Now, let's look at these two situations.
In Steve's case, he should have been the greatest player ever, but through the absolute worst of luck, random chance and circumstances outside of his control, he wasn't the greatest player ever. He gets no credit for it.
In Bill's case, he shouldn't have won his team the WS, but through the absolute greatest of luck, random chance and circumstances outside of his control, he was the guy who won the WS for his team. He gets no credit for it.
Now, here's my question. In Steve's case, he gets no credit because you can only give him credit for what actually happened on the field, even though he should have been the best ever if not for random chance. In Bill's case, he gets no credit because, even though by what actually happened he was the WS hero and won his team a title, he shouldn't have done so according to the probabilities and it was only luck that he did.
How can you reconcile this? How can you say that in Steve's case, what should have happened didn't matter and you can only go by what actually happened on the field, while in Bill's case, you can't go by what actually happened on the field and have to rank him according to what should have happened?
BRING BACK EL HALO!!!This is just a simple fact. Are you familiar with the concept of Schrodinger's Cat?
If not, I'll give you a quick hypothetical. Assume that one in five people is allergic to bees, so that if they get stung by a bee, they'll die. Assume that if you lock a person in a linen closet with a bee, there's a ten percent chance that the bee will sting the person. You have no idea if your wife is allergic to bees. You lock her in the linen closet with a bee, and go out to the bar to get obliterated.
Question: One hour later, is your wife alive or dead? Statistically, you can know that she's got a 98% chance of surviving her ordeal in the linen closet. But she can't be 98% alive. She's either alive or dead... it's binary, either or. She can't be 2% dead. You're at the bar, you can't hear her screaming, so you have no idea whether she happened to get stung. You know that she probably survived, but if someone asked you to give a definitive answer, yes or no, is your wife alive, you can't do it.
Because, while statistics can give you trends and probabilities of what happened, they can never tell you what happened in any particular instance. You can't get 30% of a hit. In baseball, you either get a hit or you don't. If I tell you that a leadoff hitter has a .350 BA, and then ask you whether or not he got a hit in the first inning last Thursday, you can't tell me. Pretty simple fact.
Anyone know what happened to him? Guy posts 10,204 times in 5 years and then vanishes.....