Brilliant Reader Elmaquino5 just put into absolutely perfect words why I find that anti-stats crowd so baffling. He puts it it perfectly in back to back sentences in a comment, the first sentence his own, the second sentence a famous quote by Vin Scully:
First sentence: “That’s why I’m content with averages, HRs, etc. I just don’t see why you have to get too specific.” Second sentence: “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support, not illumination”. –Vin Scully.
Why do people who so dislike advanced baseball statistics not realize that counting home runs is figuring a statistic. Batting average is a statistic. Wins — statistic. RBIs — statistic. Not only that, they are statistics first figured by the cellar-dwelling, skivvies-wearing drips of the late 19th century and early 20th century. They are the best statistics people had before computers, before the Baseball Encyclopedia, before Bill James, before Pete Palmer, before Rob Neyer, before Fangraphs, before Baseball Reference, Retrosheet, before smart people did a little figuring and determined, “These statistics are fuzzy, and they are often unrevealing, and they can lead us in the wrong direction.”
I’ve often heard people do what Elmaquino does — use the poetic Vin Scully quote to defend their own desire to avoid and jeer at the advanced statistical world. And that’s fine. I’ve always said that people should enjoy baseball the way they want to enjoy baseball. It is a sport, and it is meant to be loved, and if you love it by doing spreadsheets, if you love it by sitting down the third base line with a beer and without even knowing the players names, if you love it for its history, for its pace, for its drama, for its familiarity, for its connection to spring, for its apparent simplicity, for its apparent complexities, for the way the game reveals character, for the way the game reveals talent, for the way the game rewards consistency, for batting average and wins and RBIs, for UZR and Runs Created and FIP, for whatever … that’s great. Love the game your own way.
But Vin Scully did not first say that quote. It was probably — though this is somewhat hazy — Scottish poet Andrew Lang who said, “An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts — for support rather than illumination.” Lang died in 1912, long before WAR or VORP or xFIP or wOBA or Win Shares or any of the other stats people try to mock with the quote. Even when Vin Scully first said it, that was also before WAR or VORP or xFIP or wOBA or Win Shares.
In other words: Stick with batting average if you like. Quote wins if you want. Enjoy the game because, damn it, that’s why they play the game. But I would suggest that at the very least you keep the superiority levels to a minimum. Because there’s a pretty good chance when you quote batting average and wins and RBIs and the like as definitive and authoritative and certain … well let’s just say you probably ought to hold on to a lamp-post.