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Tie Breaker Part I: Scoreboard Stats

Before I get to my tie-breaker proposition, I think we need to address the scoreboard stats first. By definition stats are just another way to present facts, and a "good" stat is one that most accurately represents and enhances the understanding of those facts. So let's grade the stats that are presented on every major league scoreboard.

Image result for baseball scoreboard diagram

Ball, Strike, and Out: These are listed for every at bat, and they're great. At a glace you can understand the current state of an at-bat and how that will affect the strategies of both players for the next pitch. Bonus points in that depending on where you're sitting, this may be the only way you can tell if a pitch was called a ball or a strike. Simple, accurate, and enhances your experience at the game: A+

Inning by inning runs scored: Since scoring runs is the whole point of the game, tracking it in detail makes sense. This gives you a pretty good outline of the story of the game. Bonus points in that it's a handy visual depicting how far the game has progressed in real time: A

Runs: The total number of runs is the single most important stat of the game, it ultimately tells us who won or lost. Points off for redundancy as the runs are already listed by inning, but nobody wants to do basic addition: A-

Errors: I'm going a bit out of order, but this is a bad stat that doesn't need much explaining. I appreciate that this was an early attempt at showing if the team was fielding well or not, but it doesn't do that very well. An incredibly fast outfielder may be able to touch the ball, but not catch it, so that's an error whereas a slower player would not even be close and receive no error. Or when there's a sloppy throw to first base, and the baseman doesn't field it properly. There will be an error, but who gets it? It's subjective, it's confusing, and it doesn't really help tell the story of the game. D

Hits: OK, buckle up.

Consider the following situations:

Event

Hit?

Out?

Runners advance?

Good or Bad?

Single

1

0

y

Good

Grand Slam

1

0

y

Very Good

Strike out

0

1

n

Bad

Walk

0

0

y

Good

Infield fly

0

1

n

Bad

Double play

0

2

n

Very Bad

Sacrifice fly

0

1

y

Good

Bunt (player reaches on error)

0

0

y

Good

Reach 1st, but thrown out at 2nd

1

1

y

Sorta Bad

Stolen base

0

0

y

Good

The Hit stat does a fine job of giving credit for singles, but it gives the same credit for a home run; so good and very good are counted equally. It gives the same lack of credit for walk (a good result) as it does for a double play (a very bad result). A strike out gets the same credit as a sacrifice fly resulting in the game winning run. If you augment it with a bunch of other stats, sure, it can be helpful, but does it deserve such a prominent place on the scoreboard? The Hit stat is not only a waste of space, it actively distorts our interpretation of events in the game: F

I propose we use that scoreboard space currently dedicated to the Hit stat for a stat that would give a better description of the events in terms of total bases. Unfortunately, there is already a hitting stat called "total bases" that doesn't include walks, steals, or advancing on other's hits. So for the sake of this article, we'll call this stat "T" for bags Taken. It will be objective and simple: any time you reach a base safely, your team gets 1 T. I don't care if you get on base by hit, hit-by-pitch, walk, etc. If you touch the bag, your team gets the T. Same applies to second; if you touch second because of your hit or someone else's, you steal or reach on an error, your team gets the T.

Here's the same chart, but with the Hits replaced by Taken:

Event

Bags Taken?

Out?

Runners advance?

Good or Bad?

Single

1-5*

0

y

Good

Grand Slam

10

0

y

Very Good

Strike out

0

1

n

Bad

Walk

1-4

0

y

Good

Infield fly

0

1

n

Bad

Double play

0

2

n

Very Bad

Sacrifice fly

1-3

1

y

Good

Bunt (player reaches on error)

1-3

0

y

Good

Reach 1st, but thrown out at 2nd

1

1

y

Sorta Bad

Stolen base

1

0

y

Good

*Technically a bases loaded, base clearing single would get 7 (3T from 1st to home, 2T from 2nd to home, 1T from 3rd to home, and the 1T of the batter getting to first) but this is unlikely to every happen.

As you can see, this does a much better job of aligning T with good results than Hits does. T also allows for you to better qualify just how good the at bat was. A double with two men on goes from 1H to 6T or 7T (depending on if the guy on first made it home or not). This gives you a much better impression of what happened.

I grant it would be difficult to assign T to the individual players. After all, going from first to home on a home run is all due to the batter's skill, but going from first base to home on a simple outfield single more to the runner's credit. But I'm trying for a team stat on the scoreboard, not a individual stat for the baseball card, and for that, it's a great improvement.

How will this affect tie-breaking? I bet you can guess, but you'll have to wait for part II to be sure.