Statistics as Spoiler


It was a lazy Saturday afternoon and so I was relaxing and kind of excited to see that the New York Yankees game against Cleveland would be televised yesterday.  So, I decided to check in and watch bits and pieces of it while doing other tasks.

Who would have predicted what happened?

The Cleveland Indians let loose in the second inning, scoring 14 runs en route to a 22-4 win.  Meanwhile, across town about 10 miles away, the New York Mets were winning their game against Milwaukee 1-0.  The commentators on the game were talking about the difference in hitting home runs between the two parks.  Yankee Stadium remains a batter’s dream while Citi Field is more pitcher friendly.

How could this be?

It’s a unique year in New York City.  They have two major league baseball teams which is exciting in itself.  However, both teams are breaking in new stadiums this year.  This is a rather unqiue time in history and I was curious to see the layouts of each.  After all, the old Yankee Stadium was such an odd shape as it was landlocked by city streets and Shea Stadium was round.  So, I fired up my favourite earth viewing utilities and zoomed in to New York City.  Baseball stadiums are unique in shape and so large that they’re easily identied from the air.  Shea Stadium, in particular, is very easy to find since it’s near LaGuardia Airport and Arthur Ashe Stadium which are unique in design by themselves.

I was disappointed to discover that all of my aerial viewing tools have not been updated with the newest images.  Instead of seeing the New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, we’re still able to see the old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium.

However, I was able to find images of the new Citi Field and Yankee Stadium at ballparks.com.


Citi Field from ballparks.com


Yankee Stadium from ballparks.com

In addition to these gorgeous images at ballparks.com, you’ll find all kinds of statistics about the design and opening of the parks.  If that’s not enough, turn to Wikipedia for specific details about Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

Now, sporting events are an endless source for statistical data.  You can find statistics on just about anything.  But unlike hockey where the dimensions of arenas are standard, baseball is especially unique in that the dimensions differ from park to park.  Add to that, the fact that you’re outside with environmental effects and the statistics become that more intriguing.  So, while right field at Citi Field is 330 feet, it’s only 314 feet at Yankee Stadium.  Citi Field is near Flushing Bay and Yankee Stadium is inland in the Bronx.  How can they be truthfully compared?

Now, as a left handed batter, I’m not about to say that the difference would make a difference to me, but I think about a home run that would just clear the fence at Citi Field would be well into the stands at Yankee Stadium.

Is it fair then to compare the results from a 22-4 game with a 1-0 game, given this?  Baseball players have long expressed their desires to play for a certain team, not only for the money and benefits, but from the physical layout of the park.  That’s why rosters have so many players with left handed and right handed pitchers and batters.

As such, there really is no way to compare statistics from one ball park to another.  It also makes it difficult to get a frame of reference.  While I’ve seen baseball played at SkyDome, it certainly doesn’t compare to the experience of baseball at Comerica Park.  I would suggest, then, that baseball statistics comparing one ball park to another are next to useless or at best debated in a social setting where the winner buys the next round.

If we continue to put everything under the microscope, it needs to be done under similar circumstances.  Let’s stop trying to analyse dogs versus cats.  What’s important is the score at the end of nine innings and the ability to enjoy everything that happens after the first pitch is thrown.  We seem to want to quantify everything and turn everything into a statistic with the goal of deeper understanding.  Just because a calculator or computer can do it, doesn’t mean that it always should.  It can’t always be done and, when done improperly, just spoils everything.

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