With the release of “Moneyball” this weekend, it got me thinking about the whole sabermetrics nonsense that is spreading through baseball, and that baseball writers and websites quote like it is gospel. As loyal readers of this site know, I have no use for these alleged advanced statistics. Some of them are helpful, some of them are useless. Give me home runs, batting average, RBIs, wins and ERA. Oh, and get off my lawn you crazy kids!
One of the mantras of the Moneyball set is bases on balls. Drawing walks drives up a player’s on-base percentage, which is all-important, they say. Then they say this which drives me crazy: “A walk is just as good as a hit.” This cannot be further from the truth.
Yes, when the bases are empty, a walk is the same as a hit. But everything changes when a runner is on base. If a runner is on first, a hit could advance him to third. A walk will only advance him to second. If a runner is on second, he stays there in the event of a walk. A hit scores him or at least advances him to third. And of course, a runner on third scores on a hit, stays put with a walk.
Depending on walks can also lead players to be less aggressive at the plate. Remember when Barry Bonds was destroying pitchers in those (allegedly) steroid-induced years? He walked a couple of hundred times a year. Some of those were intentional, some were because no one wanted to pitch to him. But the majority of them were because Bonds refused to swing at anything if it was even a millimeter off the plate. He was content on drawing the walk. Don’t you think his team would have been better off if he drove some of those almost-strikes that he easily could have handled?
Just how important are walks? I’ll tell you — the Mets led the league in walks this season. Are they printing playoff tickets in Flushing? The Brewers were 12th in walks. They won more than 90 games and their division.
Walks are highly overrated, unless the batters who walk are consistently driven-in. Oh wait, the sabermetricians think the RBI is the most useless statistic there is. It relies too much on other players, they say. I’ll take a guy who drives in 100 runs every year over a guy who walks 100 times a year every time.
“Runs batted in is the most important statistic.” You know who said that? Ralph Kiner. He knows a thing or two about baseball.