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Jeff Ma

Jeff Ma

Posted: July 26, 2010 02:28 PM

Why Bobby Valentine Should Stick to Sandwiches

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During last night's ESPN Sunday Night broadcast between the Cubs and Cardinals, we were subjected to a nauseating four hours of commentary by Bobby Valentine.

Valentine obviously knows a ton about baseball having experienced success as both a player and manager, however neither of those roles has made him qualified to be a broadcaster.

The pinnacle of his stupidity highlights an epidemic that I write about in my new book, The House Advantage . In chapter six, I coin a term called "pseudo-statistic", defined roughly as a number used in mainstream media that lies. After a very well executed sacrifice bunt by Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, Valentine spews out a pseudo-statistic, commenting that a pitcher who bunts well can improve his record by four games -- "changing a 8-8 record into 12-6".

First off, this math doesn't work out. And this isn't calculus -- it's subtraction. 8-8 record changed four games would be come to either a 10-6 or 12-4 record depending on how you look at it. 12-6 doesn't make any sense.

Secondly, how in the world does he even make this statement to begin with. The difference between a successfully executed sacrifice bunt and a failed one is marginal at best. The most extreme case is when men on are on 1st and 2nd with no outs and a successful bunt would result in men on 2nd and 3rd with one out versus men still on 1st and 2nd with one out. In this extreme case the difference in run expectancy is almost 0.5 runs. But this situation is an extreme and in most cases the successful bunt only adds about 0.2 runs over the unsuccessful bunt. Over the course of 16 games (Valentine's hypothetical situation), the additional runs caused by successful bunting (using this formula) would add at most one win (this is using the extreme case of an extra .5 runs per game).

In fact to validate Valentine's ridiculous claim, a pitcher's successful sacrifice bunting would need to add almost a full run and a half per game to their team's scoring expectation. That would seem ludicrous even to Valentine.

This is the problem with numbers. Valentine's is trying to strengthen his argument by attaching numbers onto it. Yet the numbers he's throwing out have zero basis behind them.

I'm sure Valentine is a nice guy and I'm indebted to him for his invention of the wrap sandwich but he should leave the numbers alone and just speak in his normal annoying hyperbole, avoiding statistics totally. At least then we wouldn't be able to prove how dumb his statements are.