Thirty years ago, I created the statistic Total Average. Now I'm almost ashamed to have been one of the original baseball geeks. Where did we go wrong?
This week, Albert Pujols won the NL MVP Award. Why? Mostly because he had a better OPS and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) than Ryan Howard. Say what? Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Phils' first baseman had 48 homers and 146 RBI to Pujols' 37 homers and 116 RBI.
Earth to my baseball writing buddies: We all love the new numbers, but lets not worship false idols. When I published my Total Average numbers, I'd always emphasize that while stats were wonderful, common sense was better. When stats WILDLY contradict common sense, always doubts the stats. In the case of the goofy gap between Pujols' VORP of 96.8 and Howard's 35.3, my reaction is "Time to revisit VORP. If it can be this wrong, it's not as good as I tought it was."
When stats WILDLY contradict common sense, always doubts the stats.No. This is very, very, very wrong. I know I've emphasised this over and over and over again, but it bears repeating: the proper way to use statistics is not to break them out when you already agree with them. The proper way to use statistics is to develop a model or a test that describes something useful a priori and then to let the results speak for themselves.