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Player Valuation: Blind Spots

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Monday's exercise highlighted observational valuation by us - rank amateurs. And a lot of times, the masses paint a pretty accurate picture. Tangotiger's Scouting Reports are determined by fan votes, and have been extremely valuable. Especially in cases where statistics haven't yet progressed to the point of complete reliability, human eyes are still the best judge of value.

In his Afterword to 3 Nights in August (paperback), Buzz Bissinger laments that the "Moneyballistas" have taken the human factor out of baseball. I found this ironic coming after a profile of Tony LaRussa, king of the splits, but nonetheless, I thought about what he was saying. Yes, in its essential element, baseball is man against man, and results will always come about on the field, not in a server room. But all the same, the new wave of statistics have helped fans become more informed and more intelligent when watching their favorite players.    

Even the most mainstream baseball broadcasts now have placed On-Base Percentage alongside old standbys Batting Average and Runs Batted In. So when Adam Dunn steps to the plate, the viewer sees his pedestrian .252 average, but then sees that he gets on base at a .378 clip. Wins and Losses are still bandied about as the ultimate in pitching, but once obscure statistics like Inherited Runners Held and WHIP are entering the fray. Why are these statistics appearing? Because they help the viewer get a more accurate picture of the players on the field. That's not taking the human element out of baseball, it's the player even more life-like.

To go back to Monday's task, did you feel hard-pressed not to insert some statistic in your player's description just to add some emphasis? There's a lot of words in the English language at our disposal, but we still don't have a word for a .300/.380/.540 hitter. It's a grouping of numbers, but for hardcore baseball fans, it carries the same weight as whole sentences of scouting reports. And while scouting will always have its place in the game, statistics have bridged a lot of the gaps that eyes haven't penetrated. Some may be frightened of this, but I think it makes watching a game an even more rewarding experience.