It’s been over a decade since my hometown team, the lowly Baltimore Orioles, has had a winning season. During this time, the sport has progressed tremendously into new frontiers of analyzing talent. Youthful technocrats have begun to replace experienced former players in a new wave of general managers in the MLB. Objective statistics, dubbed sabermetrics, have taken an increasingly more important role in player analysis, which has diminished the long-standing tradition of subjective scouting. Oakland A’s GM groundbreaking book, ‘Moneyball,” written in 2003 by Michael Lewis about Billy Beane, brought these practices to the forefront of the minds of all baseball fans. The sport will never look back.

Statistics can provide insights that may be surprising to the casual baseball fan or even to most of the analysts on ESPN’s ‘Baseball Tonight.” I’ve outlined several things that I thought UR baseball fans need to know about mainstream baseball analysis:

Derek Jeter is not a premier fielding shortstop. He won three gold glove awards but didn’t deserve any of them. In fact, Jeter has been considered a below average shortstop in the field every season since 2003. Jeter suffers from ‘pretty-boy” syndrome, as I like to call it. During his reign as the gold glove champion, Jeter did an excellent job fielding the balls that he could. According to FanGraphs’s analyst Brian Cartwright, he let numerous grounders slip by him, either because he lacks athleticism or because he wasn’t willing to dive and try to record an out.

Until last season began, Manny Ramirez was perhaps one of the most overrated players in the Majors. Everyone knows that he was aided defensively by the Green Monster in Boston and that, almost always, his decisions in left field left something to be desired. Perhaps my favorite moment as an Orioles fan came in 2004 when Manny lunged to cut off a poor throw from center fielder Johnny Damon, which allowed the O’s David Newhan to score on an inside-the-park homer. For some reason, Manny not only decided to start playing like a normal left fielder last year, but he also tore pitchers up both with the Red Sox and especially so once he joined the Dodgers. This was undoubtedly his best overall season by far since leaving Cleveland after 1999.

When making a list of the best hitters of all time, Babe Ruth or Ted Williams might immediately come to mind. They likely are the top two pure hitters to ever play the game, but thrown into the same conversation is relatively little-known Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby played second base during the first part of the 20th century and won two triple crowns and two MVP awards. His career 1.011 OPS ranks eighth all-time, recorded near the end of the pitching-minded dead-ball era. Michael Schell’s Career Batting rating ranks Hornsby third all-time in terms of pure hitting ability when adjusting for competition, even edging out the steroid-laden slugger, Barry Bonds.

From analyzing trades, player contracts, minor league systems or the odds that a team will win the World Series, there are endless applications for statistics in baseball. GMs like Mark Shapiro, Josh Byrnes and Theo Epstein (among others) know this best, using a statistical-oriented approach to gain an advantage on player acquisitions and development. Unfortunately, by any objective measure you use, my Orioles are still going to be awful. Even though I know that my favorite team will struggle to even make it to fourth in the AL East, sabermetrics keep my interest in baseball year-round.

Wasserman is a member of the class of 2010.



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