Friday, June 28, 2013

My Undying Love (And Sometimes Hatred) For Baseball Stats

There is a website called Baseball-Reference.com, which is to baseball statistics what the Sahara Desert is to sand. The information contained on this site is pretty much endless. Want to find out who led the American League in triples in 1958? No problem. Who came in fifth place in the National League Cy Young Award voting in 1993? Easy.  What was Rickey Henderson’s career batting average with one out and runners on first and third? It’s a cinch. (Oh, and for those interested, the answers to those questions are Richie Ashburn, Jose Rijo, and .319, respectively.)

When I first stumbled across this site six or seven years ago, I had to throw my shirt into the dryer about ten minutes later due to the several pints of drool that poured out of my mouth like a mini Niagara Falls. For baseball stat geeks like me, there can be no bigger time suck. In a world without adult responsibilities I can see myself looking at this site for 18 hours at a stretch. (If such a thing existed when I was in high school, I would surely not have a diploma today.)

In general I try to keep this addiction in check. For the most part I don’t look at this website more than once or twice a week, or as current baseball events necessitate. For example, when Torii Hunter hit his 300th career home run a couple of weeks ago, I felt compelled to race over to Baseball-Reference.com to find out how many current major leaguers have 300 or more homers. (FYI—17.)

But as much as I love combing through the statistical minutiae on this website, there is one factoid kept on this site that as of this year, I no longer enjoy looking at. That would be the yearly list of the oldest player in each league. This year the oldest player in baseball is Mariano Rivera, who will turn 44 on November 29, 2013…a little more than two months after I turn 44. Yup, that means for the first time in my life I’m older than every single player in major league baseball. How’s that for freakin’ sobering?

Yeah, I get it—it’s not that big of a deal. People age. Big whoop. But somehow, even though I never played baseball competitively, have absolutely no athletic ability, and haven’t swung a wooden bat in more than a decade, in the back of my mind I always thought that maybe one day I could be a professional baseball player.

Was I being overly optimistic? Perhaps. Delusional? No question. But now that toxic combination of optimism and delusions has been dashed away forever by raw statistics. I have to face reality—if Mariano Rivera, the oldest player in baseball and two months my junior, is retiring at the end of this season, it’s probably unlikely that my baseball career will ever begin.

And so, nobody will ever find information about me on Baseball-Reference.com; but whatever information they do find on that website, there is an excellent chance that I will have looked at it first.