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Welcome to statistical heaven

author: harrison brooks | contributor

baseball
Flipping that graphite/ Brett Neilsen

All the baseball-related acronyms!

Stats, stats, and more stats. That is basically baseball in a nutshell. I’ve played the game since I was four years old and there are still stats used every day in baseball and I have no clue what they mean. Baseball is the ultimate stat lover’s sport. There is a stat for everything you can think of: WAR, VORP, WHIP, SLG, RISP. These sound more like retirement investment plans than sport statistics, but each one is a different way of describing a player’s skill, and his value to a team.

One stat I recently ran into isn’t a player evaluation stat, but a pretty interesting one about the sport itself. A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) study showed that the amount of actual ball-in-play action in a baseball game is, on average, around 17 minutes while the average length of a game is almost exactly three hours. That means only 9.3 per cent of an average baseball game is spent with the ball in play. So what exactly happens in the rest of the game if only 17 out of 180 minutes is spent with the ball in play? In the games looked at by the WSJ study, on average, one game will have about 42 minutes between innings. On top of that, almost an hour and fourteen minutes is spent just in the time between when the pitcher gets the ball back from the catcher and the next pitch. Even though there is technically a rule, which most umpires don’t enforce, stating that the pitcher has 20 seconds to make the next pitch after he receives the ball. On average, there are approximately 146 pitches thrown per game. So, if the 20-second rule was enforced, it would round out to about 48 minutes of time in between pitches, saving about half an hour and speeding up the game significantly.

The fact that about 90 per cent of the game time is spent with nothing actually happening is, to me, the biggest reason why baseball players have to be two things: One, the most confident, and two, the most mentally tough athletes out of all the major sports. I know from personal experience that confidence is essential to having any kind of success in baseball, and just as essential as confidence is being able to brush off any mistake that you make. If you can’t do this, then you are going to fall into a slump, which can last as long as a full season. Take hockey, for example. The game moves so fast that you don’t have time to think about your mistakes, thus your mistakes shouldn’t affect your play as much. In baseball where you are just standing around for up to 90 per cent of the game, there is loads of time to think and dwell on a mistake. Then the seed of doubt creeps into your mind, causing a string of poor plays and, before you know it, you are the Texas Rangers making three straight errors in game five of the ALCS, and losing the game, and the series.

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