Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Most unfair baseball stat

On the occasion of today's All-Star Game in St. Louis, it's time to announce I've come to the conclusion that the most unfair statistic is baseball is "defensive indifference."

You know, when a runner -- usually on a team trailing by several runs -- apparently steals a base in the late innings of a one-sided game and the defense makes no attempt to throw him out. The official scorer often rules "defensive indifference," rather than crediting the runner with a stolen base.

Officially, Rule 10.07(g) states that the official scorer "shall not score a stolen base when a runner advances solely because of the defensive team's indifference to the runner’s advance." This usually happens when the pitcher chooses to concentrate on the batter and runners are free to take bases at their leisure.

I've never understood this stat. I know a lot of commentators will say that the runner generally represents a run that is "unimportant" or that there is more to be gained in concentrating on the batter. But isn't the whole point of baseball to score runs? And isn't one of the reasons baseball is great because there is no clock, and every run can become part of a slow developing rally?

More importantly, isn't it the job of a defense to get outs? A runner stealing second -- or advancing on "defensive indifference"-- with no one else on reduces the potential options for a force play by 50 percent. More importantly, the run is at least 90 feet closer to scoring. Nothing that gets a runner into scoring position should be so handily dismissed as "indifference." A defense may indeed chose to concentrate on a batter rather than a runner, but any runner that advance makes the defense's job all that much harder.

When Carl Crawford (left) stole six bases on May 3, it was one of the more exciting individual feats in recent baseball history. But I recall some discussion at the time as to whether some of those steals show be defensive indifference. Way to denigrate a great feat -- steals should be embraced in this post-steroids era and I hope that "defensive indifference" be eliminated from the baseball lexicon as soon as possible.

Maybe "Moneyball's"Billy Beane thinks stolen bases are over-valued. I think the opposite, and I think that any advancement by the runners makes things harder on the defense and players should receive full credit.

No comments: